Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vancouver Police Department launched Sister Watch, a community program aimed at keeping women of the Downtown Eastside safe, on Monday. The program’s unveiling follows recent criticisms that the city has mishandled cases of missing women from the Downtown Eastside.
Mr. Robertson said that violence against women is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed.
“It’s alarming to hear of the ongoing beatings, head-shavings and torture reportedly carried out by drug dealers that plague this community,” Mr. Robertson said Monday. “We all need to do more to end this horror.”
Sister Watch, previously called the Guardian Project, features a telephone hotline where individuals can call in to report cases of violence against women.
Sister Watch posters will be posted on 18 local bus shelters and throughout the Downtown Eastside. Electronic traffic signs with the tip line’s phone number will also be set up in the neighbourhood.
The program’s launch comes on the National Day of Remembrance and Action to end violence against women and follows recent criticisms of police-led investigations of missing women’s cases from the Downtown Eastside.
In July, the Vancouver Police Department publicly acknowledged, and apologized for, their failure to act faster in missing women’s cases filed in connection with serial killer Robert Pickton.
More recently, residents held protests against the police’s investigation into the death of a Downtown Eastside woman, Ashley Machiskinic, in October.
Ms. Machiskinic fell from a hotel window in the Downtown Eastside in September. Initially, Vancouver police incorrectly concluded that her death was a suicide.
Vancouver police are now handling Ms. Machiskinic’s death as a possible murder. Any individuals with information on Ms. Machiskinic’s death have been urged to call the Sister Watch hotline, according to the program’s website.
“Our offer of a $10,000 reward for information concerning the sudden death of Ashley Machiskinic remains a key part of Sister Watch,” Vancouver Police Chief Constable Jim Chu said on Monday.
Still, some Vancouver residents think the city isn’t doing enough about women’s safety.
“The government needs to be more proactive. They have mothers. They have sisters,” Shajila Singh said at an event commemorating female victims of violence in B.C. at the Vancouver Art Gallery, on Monday. “Everyday in the news you hear about women missing and nothing’s done.”
Ms. Singh grew up in the Downtown Eastside. She believes that more outreach programs are needed to stop the violence.
“These women living on the street grew and lived in violence,” Ms. Singh said. “We need to go and reach out and help them to get out of it, not to stand from a distance.”
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
A very tragic misleading "program" that was caused by an incredible lack of
poor coordination of police forces and their attitude towards missing women.
Yes, the police need to make dramatic changes in their attitudes towards missing women but notice that this is now turned into a "domestic violence program"?
The police are now blaming men, that's right, those non police males who must be abusing women right?
The BC police need to deal with their own incompetency before jumping on the dam the man program.