Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Ramsey horror: inquiry needed into whole affair

VICTORIA - There's no way former judge David Ramsey's jail sentence for sexually assaulting and beating girls and young women girls should end this case.
Ramsey's actions were inhuman. He preyed on young aboriginal sex trade workers and then sat in judgment on them in his Prince George courtroom.
One girl was 12 when Ramsey picked her up and paid her for sex. Three months later, he sat on the bench as the girl was brought before him to face minor charges.
And weeks after that hearing - when he had learned of her age, her past sexual abuse, her hard life, her vulnerability - Ramsey recognized her and picked her up again. That time, he paid for rough sex that ended when she fled.
"Go ahead, tell someone," Ramsey told the child. "No one will believe you - once a whore, always a whore."
He was very nearly right. The abuse started in 1992. The RCMP heard rumours of a bad judge in 1999 - although it's hard to see how the information wouldn't have been floating around in a town of 80,000 much earlier.
But even with the specific and persistent rumours, it took three years for the police to identify the judge and lay charges. The officer in charge said they just had rumours to work with, and other cases to investigate.
In fact the case didn't really move forward until another of the victims, appearing before Ramsey in a hearing that would decide whether she could have custody of her child, collapsed outside court and agreed to testify against him.
Attorney General Geoff Plant said the government will review Ramsey's decisions. That's appropriate. Ramsey made decisions affecting these young women. He sentenced other people for sexually abusing young girls, and for pimping - and then went out and preyed on other women.
But it is not nearly enough.
First Nations want a full inquiry, and they are absolutely right.
The RCMP need to explain exactly what they heard, when and what they did about it. The public needs to know how this could continue for at least eight years. Where were the social agencies who worked with the girls? Why were children able to sell themselves on the streets of a small city? Are there more victims? (Native health workers have said they have heard from another 16 girls with similar stories.)
And how did the fact that the girls were aboriginal and sex trade workers affect the handling of this case?
It's not an isolated incident.
Similar concerns have been expressed about the Vancouver missing women's case, including complaints that police were given warnings that should have raised alarms much earlier.
But sex trade workers don't count as much as the rest of us. No reasonable person could believe that if 50 women from Vancouver's suburbs had gone missing over the same period much more would have been done by police. (And much more attention would have been paid by the media.).
It's tempting to call for a much broader inquiry. First Nations' leaders have complained of a two-tier standard of justice which treats crimes against aboriginals less seriously. Sex trade workers - and remember, prostitution is not illegal - have raised similar concerns.
But looking at those broad issues through a formal inquiry would likely be long, costly and inconclusive.
Instead, et's get answers to how this happened in Prince George, through a public inquiry with the power to call witnesses and compel them to testify. Let's give everyone in the community a chance to come forward and tell what they know.
Ramsey counted on the powerlessness of his victims, which is in turn a product of our willingness to pretend they just don't exist as people, as someone's lost children.
If there is no inquiry, we are saying that he was right. We don't care.


Life in Victorola said...

While the plight of the missing Vancouver sex workers wallowed in not so benign neglect, after the fact the government ommitted to spending some $20 million dollars. That's a lot of detective overtime.

In a town the size of PG. with accusations going back to '92 involving a sitting member of the bench, don't you think alarm bells ought to be ringing? The system isn't perfect but defending those who can't defend themselves should be the top priority, not busting compassionate grow ops or other ridiculous law and order sideshows.

Hazel said...

Thank you for Paying Attention!
I've been following the cases of the missing women, specifically Native women and girls across this country.

My research has led me to a better understanding of exploitation, prostitution, and the economic and social framework of our country that allows such abuses to run rampant in our society.

I have come to believe what we are experiencing is definately systemic racism and misogeny. We are experiencing an extermination based on gender, race and socio-economic basis, and I for one believe Canada is in a large part responsible for allowing this to go on.

I'll be adding your blog to my blogroll in the hopes of disseminating this very important information across the borders and boundaries.

Thank you for adding your voice to the growing number of people protesting the plight of our most vulnerable members of our communities.