December and January were busy months for the Social Justice Team. In early December, Cecilia Gruber and Yvonne Marcus co-hosted a Write for Rights online discussion. The main goal of the Write for Rights yearly campaign is to use the power of letter-writing to help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for expressing their opinion, stop the use of torture and end other human rights abuses. Writing a letter can make a difference! Please read about these success stories documented by Amnesty International. It is not too late to participate! Amnesty has created an online letter writing tool that gives you the opportunity to let your voice be heard by sending a pre-written letter. You need only enter your name, email address and country and click submit. To access this tool, click here and then click on “ACT NOW” for each individual case.
Later in December, the SJ Team issued a statement to condemn the violent RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory. The statement was posted on the UCV website and a letter was emailed on Dec 21 to Premier Horgan, PM Trudeau and several provincial and federal ministers. The letter condemned the violent arrests and placed the onus on the provincial and federal governments to prevent future violence by respecting the rights of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their promise of implementing UNDRIP. The letter was written on behalf of the Social Justice and the Environment teams.
At the end of January, the SJ team co-sponsored a panel with Story Money Impact to discuss the themes explored in the documentary: No Visible Trauma. This film revealed some graphic examples of unchecked police brutality and detailed how the justice system has allowed this to exist. The panelists included UCV member and former Vancouver police officer, Lorimer Shenher and Jacqueline Hanuse, Women’s Support Coordinator at Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre.
The subject of police reform is very touchy. Many people fear that reducing the number of police officers will lead to an increase in crime that will put themselves in personal danger in their daily life. Those who are advocating for police reform are focusing on the mis-match between what the police are trained to do and the needs of society. For example, the police are tasked with enforcing laws that exist to make the city look clean and respectable on a surface level. These laws result in the harassment of homeless individuals who are struggling to survive on a daily basis. For instance, a homeless person’s possessions may be legally confiscated by police because they are occupying public space. This leads to many individuals being robbed of their shoes and warm clothing in the midst of winter by those who are tasked with “protecting” the public. This is just one example of the many tasks police are given that, rather than keeping people safe, actually put members of society in more danger. One panelist likened the situation of police reform to the situation of the fossil fuel industry. In each case there is a workforce that is currently trained to perform jobs that are no longer beneficial to society at large. In both situations, many of the workers are defensive about the need for change. In both cases, change can only occur if there is dialogue and education.
The Social Justice Team intends to continue this important discussion about police reform and we welcome others to join us. Please enter your name and email address on this form if you are interested in attending or want to help with planning future events.
Our Plans for February
On February 14th, please join the IBPOC+Allies group and the Social Justice Team as we march together to honour the lives of the missing and murdered women and all gender-diverse peoples’ lives lost in the Downtown Eastside. We will meet at the NW corner of Main St. and Hastings at noon on Monday, Feb 14th. For more information, see the event posted on the UCV website. Whether or not you are able to attend the march, please watch acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh’s compelling documentary, Finding Dawn. This film puts a human face on our national tragedy – the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. This documentary is available for free viewing here.
Submitted by Yvonne Marcus, Social Justice Team chair