How Not Collecting Race-Based Data Is Impacting MMIWG

How Not Collecting Race-Based Data Is Impacting MMIWG

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EPISODE SUMMARY

We look at why the RCMP doesn't collect race-based data in missing persons cases, and how it impacts missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We also speak to a friend of Lisa Marie Young, an indigenous woman who went missing from Nanaimo in 2002.

EPISODE NOTES

We look at why the RCMP doesn't collect race-based data in missing persons cases, and how it impacts missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We also speak to a friend of Lisa Marie Young, an indigenous woman who went missing from Nanaimo in 2002.  

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Disclaimer: These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Jackie: My name is Jackie Lamport. Today is Thursday, May 6. Welcome to the Capital Daily Podcast. Wednesday was Red Dress Day, a symbol to recognize the missing and murdered indigenous women in the province. Today we look at why BC has more missing people than any other province, why the province doesn’t collect race-based data, and how that impacts marginalized communities.

Jackie: Yesterday, May 5, marked the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Children and Men. To mark the day, people take to hanging Red Dresses outside to honour and call home murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Capital Daily Reporter Jolene Rudisuela wrote about missing people in British Columbia and why RCMP’s data collection is potentially harming murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in the province. We speak to her about what she learned in her research and conversation with the President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Judith Sayers. Then, we’ll speak to a friend of Lisa Marie Young, an Indigenous woman who went missing from Nanaimo in 2002, about how the community deals with the losses and what she wants to see happen next.

Jackie: First, Capital Daily reporter Jolene Rudisuela. Jolene, welcome back to the podcast.

Jolene: Thanks for having me.

Jackie: When it comes to missing people, how does BC stand up compared to other provinces?

Jolene: BC actually has way more missing people than the rest of the provinces in Canada. It has about 40% of Canada's total missing persons case. Even the next closest province, which is Ontario, BC, has about double the missing persons cases each year, which is pretty crazy.

Jackie: Do we have any idea why this may be?

Jolene: There are theories. One of the big ones is just the topography of BC; there are so many mountains, forests, and an ocean, so many places that people can get lost. That's definitely a factor, but the reality is that there are just so many missing parts to the data. The data that I was looking at about 70% of the cases, the reason why the people went missing is actually listed as unknown. So there are some pretty big data gaps, which makes it hard to put a finger on why BC has so many more missing persons cases.

Jackie: Do we know why the RCMP doesn’t collect race-based data?

Jolene: The reason that I was told by a BC RCMP spokesperson for the island is that they're promoting bias-free policing, so they don't keep race data or faith data for missing people.

Jackie: The island has a large Indigenous population, and I understand that you spoke with the President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Judith Sayers, about Indigenous folks going missing. What did she say about not collecting race-based data?

Jolene: The big thing is just that they really do want race-based data collection to happen because there are no real numbers on how many Indigenous women and girls go missing every year. That's a huge gap in the data, and since BC RCMP doesn't keep that race-based data, it's been really hard to pinpoint how big the problem is. So they do really want to have that data, and I know the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council does keep their own statistics and data on the number of their own members that have gone missing and murdered but not every First Nation has the capacity to do that.

Judith Sayers (audio clip): Well, we need to know how big the problem is. How many of our women have gone missing? Because what it does, it allows us to work with the government, and the RCMP, on addressing the issues that these are real things and our women are going missing. Unless we have actual statistics to bring to the RCMP's attention, the government's attention, they're not gonna want to do anything. Or we can just say that there's, within our knowledge, like within the Nuu-chah-nulth, we have 55 women who've been missing or murdered, you know, because we've been tracking that data as best as we are able. We have a lot of women that live on the streets, and we don't always have the statistics. We don't even know if it's an accurate number, but at least it's one we can work from.

Jackie: What did Judith say were some of the reasons that Indigenous folks continued to go missing at a higher rate?

Jolene: When we spoke, she said that one of the big factors is the ongoing racism that Indigenous people and Indigenous communities are still experiencing to this day.

Judith Sayers (audio clip): I think that racism and the lack of services for people who need it the most and that's addressing violence, drugs and alcohol, all those things that play a part in women having to leave their homes or their home communities, or when they're out in other communities, you know, being more vulnerable. There are some really big social issues that we have to deal with and recognize they're at the base of it. It's going to be massive to try and address all of these things.

Jolene: She also mentioned that there are other systemic issues that do play a major impact. So those are things like a lack of housing, lack of services, and things like that.

Judith Sayers (audio clip): I think the core issues even fall at the First Nation level, we don't have enough houses, we don't have daycare, we don't have work. So women leave, and where do they go? They may go to a place where there might be more vulnerabilities, and maybe they have their own housing. I really wish the federal government would address some of those basic needs in our communities to keep our women in the communities and be valuable community members.

Jackie: What changes did Judith want to see?  

Jolene: Judith told me that what communities need is, first of all, more race-based data. They also need more funding for services. The National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was a really good start, but there were a lot of recommendations that have yet to be put into action.

Judith Sayers (audio clip): We have Prime Minister Trudeau saying, “yes, there's racism in the justice system,” and the BC government has recognized there's racism. So what are we going to do about it? What educational programs do we need to put in place to show people how valuable we are as Indigenous people as Indigenous nations? Because that goes way back and way deep into this country, and it's becoming more known that the whole system have to change.

Jackie: Wednesday was Red Dress Day. Can you explain the symbolism there and how this got started?

Jolene: Red Dress Day is a day national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. An Indigenous woman from Campbell River named Stephanie Rivers Elickus told me that red is the only colour spirits see in her culture, so “we hang red or wear red so the spirits can see us. We hang the red dresses so we can call the missing women home.”

Jackie: Tell me about Lisa Marie young. How long ago did she go missing, and what was her story?

Jolene: Lisa went missing on June 30th, 2000, so it's been 19 years, and she went missing when she was 21-years-old. She had been out at a house party and got into a vehicle with a man she didn't know, and she hasn't been seen since. Red Dress Day was actually her 40th birthday. So over the weekend, her family and loved ones went out onto the roads and streets all across Vancouver Island with signs that said “We stand for Lisa” just to show that they still remember her, love her and want answers because it's been 19 years, and they still haven't found her.

Jackie: Jolene, thank you so much for all your reporting on this. It's really important, and you did a great job.

Jolene: Thank you.

Jackie: Now we speak to Cyndy Hall, a friend of Lisa Marie Young, an Indigenous woman who went missing from Nanaimo in 2002. Her case remains unsolved.

Jackie: Thank you so much for taking some time today with me. I really appreciate it.

Cyndy: You’re welcome.

Jackie: Cyndy, can you please explain your relationship with Lisa Marie Young?

Cyndy: I met Lisa when I was a teenager, I would have been around 16-years-old, and I met her because my best friend at the time, and still my best friend, Carolyn, became Lisa's foster sister. So when Carolyn moved into the foster home with Lisa and her other foster sister, that's how I met Lisa.

Jackie: When did you find out that she was missing?

Cyndy: I would have found out the next morning when her mom Joanne called everyone in Lisa's address book.

Jackie: What were your initial feelings?

Cyndy: Shock and then fear because I had a feeling something was wrong.

Jackie: How did that experience change you going forward?

Cyndy: Well, I didn't realize at the time how much it changed me. I was really upset, but I regret not taking an active role in searching for Lisa and raising awareness. Then when her mum died, I think it was around four years ago. I don't know what changed. It just hit me different that Lisa missed out on so much, and there's no justice. Lisa isn't home, no arrests, and her mum died without her daughter or knowing for sure what happened to her. So it just made me want to raise awareness. I started with contacting Carolyn, Lisa’s sister and seeing what she thought of us holding vigil for her and then I connected with Lisa's aunt, Carol Frank.  

Jackie: Since then, how have you connected with other people who have gone through similar things?

Cyndy: So once I started doing that, I also started helping with other missing groups, being like a moderator admin, and posting missing people. Just from posting on social media a lot, you start connecting with other advocates in other families of missing or murdered people. Sometimes, not often, I will reach out to certain families if I can tell they need like guidance or support. Other times, families contact me, and I give them resources; if they need a missing poster made, I can do that I can share online. I try to support them in any way I can because there's not a lot of support. I think it's just advocates that help families with missing or murdered people.

Jackie: How is that work? What is it like interacting with families and seeing this happen over and over again?

Cyndy: It's really painful and really sad because you see the pain when you face the person and talk to them. Even talking to someone online through Facebook Messenger, the pain in not knowing and the sadness it comes through in you, you feel it.

Jackie: How often do you think about Lisa and her life? How much has that impacted you?

Cyndy: Every day. I think of her every day. I do something for her probably every day, and I think of her constantly when they do things. I think of what we can do to raise awareness, what she missed out on, and if her killers harmed other people after her. So yeah, every day has become, I guess you can say, an obsession because no matter what is going on in my personal life, I will still do Lisa stuff.

Jackie: In your experience, working closely with families and connecting with people who are going through similar situations, what do you think needs to be done to ensure that Indigenous people stop going missing at such a high rate?

Cyndy: Working on prevention, such as the racism in how women and girls are viewed and sexualized. People's perceptions of Indigenous people have to change.

Jackie: Do you think that the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls inquiry has resulted in anything that you can see? Or is there anything that has come from that?

Cyndy: Not from what I can see or hear of. Paul Manley is with the Green Party in the name of Lady Smith, I believe. I don't know if you're aware of this, but he spoke in the House of Commons about Lisa and about how he's advocating for a task force to look into her case. That was one of the recommendations with the report. So he's been working with us in Lisa's family to make that happen, and if it does happen, Lisa's case will be the first as far as I know.

Jackie: What would it mean to you if you found justice for Lisa?

Cyndy: I can't even put into words how much that would mean to me because right now, that is my life's goal, to have Lisa home, where she belongs. Her loved ones, like right now, on her 40th birthday, we're all grieving independently and doing our own thing because we don't have a grave or somewhere to go for Lisa. But if Lisa came home, we can move on to the grieving part of this, and to have her killers stop harming people would be huge. Think of all the people that might have been killed or harmed after Lisa was murdered because of 19 years without justice. So I couldn't even put it into words. I don't know if it'd be happiness or sadness; there'd be many emotions, but maybe relief. I don't know how it'd be, I think of how it would feel, but you don't know because there are so many ups and downs.

Jackie: Cyndy, I just want to thank you so much for taking some time out of your day. I really appreciate you talking to us.

Cyndy: Thank you for caring about Lisa, this issue and for wanting to talk to me and to let people know that Lisa was a person and she does matter. Same with the rest of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and our men and boys. So thank you so much for this opportunity.

Jackie: Like Cyndy, Judith said that this work is something she'll never give up on.

Judith Sayers (audio clip): Because if we give up, nothing will ever change. I think the worst thing is living with uncertainty. “What happened to our daughter?” Or, “what happened to our sister?

Jackie: You can find Jolene Rudisuela’s full story at capitaldaily.ca

Jackie: In today's Capital Daily news review, Victoria may limit off-street parking for new commercial and residential buildings. Today, city and staff are recommending to council that the city apply for provincial funding earmarked for improving development approval processes. The ensuing regulatory changes would then reduce or eliminate the minimum amount of off-street parking that developments must provide and could institute maximums. Instead, those moves hope to cut down on the amount of space given to parking in order to increase green space and make affordable housing development cheaper and more cost-effective. For more stories like this in your inbox every single morning, make sure to subscribe to the capital daily newsletter at capitaldaily.ca. For your West Shore-specific news, make sure to subscribe to our West Shore newsletter at thewestshore.ca. Thank you again for joining the podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please feel free to leave a rating and review and share and subscribe so that you don't miss any episodes going forward. We post new shows every Monday to Friday. My name is Jackie Lamport. This is the Capital Daily podcast. We'll talk to you tomorrow.