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While we wait for an inquiry

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I was driving home and had just turned off Jarvis Street when I spotted the guy in the car.

He'd turned from the back lane in front of me so it was easy to pull up beside him at the four-way to get a better look. He looked familiar. Did I know him?

He didn't notice me checking him out. He had that distracted, on-the-hunt look about him. He was definitely a "john" on the lookout for a sex-trade worker.

I remembered him. I'd seen him looking for sex trade workers awhile back.

I joined a group of people who were patrolling parts of downtown, the west and North End, to keep an eye on the girls and write down licence plates. Our group disbanded when one of the leaders moved away. I stopped going out once I had my baby.

This "john" was memorable because he was wearing his work clothes the first time I saw him -- a city bus-driver uniform. This time, no uniform.

It bothers me to see these guys trolling around for years in their fancy cars, and all the while girls keep going missing.

That's not to say all the women murdered in the past few years were sex-trade workers and all "johns" are serial killers. A few girls killed were sex-trade workers, but some were just girls who trusted the wrong person. Some media outlets have generalized and said the women killed were sex-trade workers. That's wrong -- and troubling, considering the families of the victims get victimized all over again.

People tune out when they hear about the "problem" of missing women because we've given victims this stigmatized label of sex-trade workers. I knew one of those missing women and she never worked the streets in her life.

It's also part of the problem when society doesn't value a group of people enough to give them the same fair treatment afforded other groups of people.

Serial killer John Martin Crawford murdered First Nations women in Saskatoon for decades because he knew it would be easier to get away with it. You probably never heard of him because he went to trial at the same time as the murdering duo of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

It's good to see so many events and vigils calling for a public inquiry in Manitoba on the missing and murdered women.

We need to send the message that aboriginal women are not expendable.

Launching an inquiry or inquest is a good start, but I don't think it will give anyone the full justice or answers they deserve.

Just look at the long, drawn-out Missing Women's Inquiry in British Columbia that wrapped up last month.

To say it was a fiasco is an understatement.

The B.C. inquiry report won't be released until October, but we may be able to glean some knowledge from it.

My guess is we'll have to wait until more women go missing and it gets harder for everyone to ignore before an inquiry is called in Manitoba.

So we wait.

Maybe another girl will be killed, or a girl who isn't aboriginal.

Maybe it will take the death of a very young girl to cause enough of an uproar for all of us to finally say enough is enough. Then the province will have to act.

They'll spend a few million dollars, which is the usual price tag. The inquiry will run for several months and take another few months to draft its report and recommendations.

Then it will take another decade to implement half of the recommendations. Change comes slowly when it involves acting on official recommendations.

So, until we get an inquiry, here are a few things we can do in our own lives to help change things.

Let's help each other in the community and look out for each other's children, especially our young girls.

Teach our girls and boys from a young age that women deserve equal respect. Show your kids love every day.

If you see your sons, uncles, fathers, brothers or cousins mistreating a woman, then blast them, tell them it's wrong.

Sexual, mental and physical abuse is unacceptable in any home towards any member of a family. Speak out if you see it happening. Verbal abuse is just as hurtful as hitting a person. Don't do it.

Teach your daughters to speak their mind -- and trust their instincts. Talk to them about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and how there are people out there just looking to take advantage of them.

There's no guarantee you can keep your girls safe, but these things are worth a shot.

Let's just raise proud girls who will grow into strong women.


Colleeen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 J6

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