Opinions: Vancouver provides short-term solutions to long-term problems

Temporary Refuge


Vancouver is now the first city to offer a temporary refuge to families during the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The move has been well met by the community, but is making some wonder if this could be done more regularly or even permanently in support of Indigenous people dealing with inquiries such as this.

Like every country with a history of colonization, Canada remains in a constant state of reparation, ever hopeful that the history of neglect and abuse of Indigenous peoples will be fixed in a way that it cannot be. In this vein Vancouver is now the first Canadian city to provide a semi-permanent space for survivors and families. The Temporary Refuge Centre, which was undertaken in part due to a request made by Vancouver’s Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee, will be located in the Downtown Eastside.

Unfortunately for the Indigenous communities of Canada, the issues raised are ongoing and they are left continuously engaged in a fight for the government to recognize their needs. Spaces like this could be beneficial in a long-term capacity for a number of reasons, not least of which being that they may allow some reprieve to focus on the issues at hand. The process of reconciliation is no small task and those affected should be able to have, at the very least, a consistent space to deal with it.

Though the hearing will be held in Richmond, the refuge is certainly a step in the right direction. Given that those affected by the inquiry are not necessarily residing in the major cities in which it is being held, it’s necessary to provide a space where they can connect with others affected and have the necessities provided for.

The space is decorated with the art of a Nisga’a artist and provides the occupants with counselors as well as elders. It is a small token for these individuals and families, but one that makes sense. In a Vancouver Courier article, Vancouver mayor Greggor Robertson said, “It will be a sanctuary to those using it,” which rings true, but also brings into question why this has not been done earlier.

Inquiries such as this are not uncommon in Canada and can run for remarkably long periods of time. The content and process of these is extremely stressful, and the need for them comes from neglect on the part of the Canadian government. Hence there should be no question of how much support is required over the duration.

Previously the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, it is being discussed that the space may be leased to an Indigenous-related organization at the conclusion of the inquiry. While both are beneficial investments for the community, one should not come at the cost of another. There should be space in the community for both refuge centers and other Indigenous-related organizations.

While the question of whether this is enough lingers here in Vancouver, the rest of the country should certainly be taking note of the city’s small steps toward easing the load for affected Indigenous peoples. There is certainly more that could be done, but any support that can be provided should be. The courage it takes to face perpetrators head on is something that should always be acknowledged and supported.

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