Over the last 36 hours, we have mourned Linda Beardy’s death and raged at the discovery of her body at the Brady Landfill; watched the Vancouver Police Department and city staff employ militaristic violence to remove people living in encampments from the Downtown Eastside; and watched RBC board members dismiss Wet’suwet’en leaders and community members’ legal claims regarding their territories as snipers were trained on land protectors demonstrating outside.
As Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, stated “The destabilizing of the downtown east side today will increase violence for women in this neighborhood. Women, and particularly Indigenous women and women of colour, are already at a higher risk for violence than their male counterparts, and being unhoused is a particular risk. Safe and secure housing for women in the Downtown Eastside and throughout Vancouver is desperately needed. Poverty is not a crime, and neither is being unhoused.”
Homelessness is a consequence of a history of policy decisions. Last year the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative reported that between 2011 and 2021, Winnipeg lost 24000 private rental units under $750. 1 The increasing cost of living and housing itself in Vancouver is well known. However the policy decisions that produce housing precarity and homelessness also include active displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands, and underfunding of reserve communities to the point of human rights violations. Criminalising people who have lost their homes, and subjecting them to violence is not only wrong, but ignores our collective participation in creating the problem in the first place.
Similarly, violence against Indigenous women is a consequence of a history of policy decisions. In responding to news of Beardy’s death, Nahanni Fontaine paraphrased the Hon. Wally Oppal’s words in the 2012 Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in BC: ‘Often people will say Indigenous women and girls put themselves at risk. And he says that’s not what is happening. In fact it is society that puts Indigenous women, girls and two spirited at risk. Because of the lack of supports, because of the gaps in services, and because of the absolute hate for Indigenous girls and two spirited. So we have to put measures in place that not just protect Indigenous Women and Girls, but allow them to thrive and be able to live fully, and we’re not doing that right now.’
We don’t know about Linda Beardy’s life, or the close circumstances of her death. But we do know that her story is a part of larger context that we can do something about. We can prevent it from happening again.
These stories are happening far a part, but they are very much connected, and we encourage those who support our work to see their connections, speak out, and work together towards solutions.
Actions you can take:
Show support for Linda Beardy’s family tomorrow by joining the community march and rally from Portage and Main to City Hall, beginning at 5pm. https://www.facebook.com/events/176090398594841/
Read and act on the 231 calls for justice in the MMIWG Inquiry: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Calls_for_Justice.pdf