The leaders of several Indigenous organizations are speaking out after RCMP described the reports of attempted abductions of women in the Lower Mainland as an “unproven rumour.”
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) includes the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The union says that not only did the Coquitlam RCMP dismiss the fears of women across the Lower Mainland, but they also dismissed the fear and trauma that plagues Indigenous women due to the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis.
Last weekend, the Coquitlam RCMP issued a statement addressing the allegations of attempted abductions in the Tri-Cities area. And while one official report was received by police, RCMP said that they are “unproven stories” that should “not be trusted.”
“In their response, the RCMP failed to address the fear, mistrust, and colonial forces that compel women to depend on social media mobilization instead of the police for their safety,” says the UBCIC in a statement.
Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC, says the Coquitlam RCMP should have used the opportunity to call attention to “systemic issues of violence, discrimination, and misogyny” that have plagued both the MMIWG crisis as well as missing women cases.
“By putting out a statement that fails to respect the real concerns and experiences of the women in our community, the RCMP are greatly discouraging people from coming forward in the future to share their stories of violence, victimization, and discrimination,” she says.
“Furthermore, they are contributing to the silencing of the issue of sexual violence that has long infiltrated our community and made women, girls, and people of marginalized genders fearful and hyper-vigilant.”
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After sharing their initial statement, Coquitlam RCMP issued a clarification saying that they “regret the use of the term ‘rumour'” and understand that it’s left people feeling angered and dismissed.
“Any direct report of an attempted abduction that is made to the Coquitlam RCMP is taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly,” reads an updated police statement. “When we ask you to avoid spreading rumours, we are referring specifically to someone who is not a witness or victim and then shares social media posts written by someone else.”
Corporal Michael McLaughlin, Spokesperson for the Coquitlam RCMP, added that they’ve heard from people who are afraid to go jogging, work a night shift, or walk down the street by themselves.
“We want to assure those people that your community is safe,” he stresses. “There is no information to date that supports a spike or trend in abduction rumours.”
The UBCIC says that they’re committed to ensuring that colonial tactics are never used to deny or discredit the experiences or truths of Indigenous women.