COPE wants independent Indigenous representative in Vancouver City Hall

A COPE Candidate wants a representative for Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people at Vancouver City Hall. As @KierJunos reports, the person in this role would be able to investigate public complaints about harms perpetrated against IWG2S people.

Keeping city hall accountable to its commitment to protecting Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, a party candidate from the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) is calling for a dedicated Indigenous advocate in Vancouver.

“We want to have an independent officer of City Council,” candidate Breen Ouelette said Wednesday

The representative would have a three-pronged role, Ouelette explained.

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“The first is education for the city and all of its departments. The second is to provide crisis intervention services, and the third role is to investigate complaints from the public about harms perpetrated against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people by the city.”

This position would be the second of its kind in Canada — Ouelette helped create the first in Saskatoon, Sask.

“It’s still very early stages. So Vancouver has a real opportunity to get on board and make changes at the beginning,” he said.

COPE’s announcement comes in the wake of numerous Indigenous women and girls found dead in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

In May, 14-year-old Noelle O’Soup was found dead in an SRO on Hawkes Avenue in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. That same month, 20-year-old Tatyanna Harrison was found dead on an old yacht in Richmond.

Chelsea Poorman, a 24-year-old woman, was found dead in an empty home in Shaughnessy — where she lay for over a year before being found in April.

“With Chelsea Poorman’s family, Noelle O’Soup, Tatyanna Harrison’s family – I have seen so many flaws and racism within the departments of Vancouver, the City of Vancouver,” Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls advocate Lorelei Williams told CityNews.

Williams is glad Ouellete is putting forward the idea of appointing a dedicated city advocate – but stresses – the job must tackle the police.

“I’ve seen the racism in the police department. That’s probably the number one place that I would focus on is the police department, because they have to take these cases seriously,” she said. “When police aren’t taking these cases seriously, predators know that and they will target us. And that is still happening to this day.”

However, Ouelette knows that would be a challenge.

“The Vancouver Police Department would have to voluntarily agree to be under their jurisdiction,” he said. “I think it’s crucial that the police are held accountable for their contributions to making Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people vulnerable in Vancouver. I definitely would like to see them also fall under the jurisdiction of the representative.”

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