Honouring Bea Starr

Bea behind the desk of the DTES Women's Centre. As testimony to Bea's value to the community also see her portrait in the bottom corner of this issue's cover collage (pic. Cecily Nicholson)
Bea behind the desk of the DTES Women’s Centre. As testimony to Bea’s value to the community also see her portrait in the bottom corner of this issue’s cover collage (pic. Cecily Nicholson)

We are sad to note the loss of Beatrice Lucy Starr, wolf clan of the Heiltsuk from Bella Bella, who passed away this June 14th in the company of family. As a community member, an organizer with the Power of Women group, a long-time volunteer of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and as a mother, auntie, grandmother and sister, she left a legacy to celebrate.

Despite her experiences of violence, grief, racism, poverty, pain, precarious housing and displacement—from her home territory, and within the Downtown Eastside—Beatrice Starr managed to take a stand. In fact, she took many. Early struggles led to her sobriety, successful battles against child apprehension and to the reunification of her family. In later years Bea became a strong voice for women of the DTES neighbourhood.

Bea was a part of community fronts in defence of women, and particularly for the dignity and power of Indigenous women. In a press release following the 2009 homicide of Lisa Francis, she explains, “My sister was murdered many years ago and to this day it remains unresolved. The police always push the cases of women in the DTES to the backburner because it is not seen as a societal priority. We are not going to stand by and let Lisa become another statistic.” In 2010, along with other workers in the community, she occupied the Vancouver Police station to demand proper attention be given to the death of a 22-year old woman from Kawacatoose First Nation found brutally murdered in the DTES. Bea was also part of a dignified community response to the BC Government’s Sham Inquiry into the deaths of disappeared women.

Linking issues of colonialism, violence and housing, Bea also spoke out for decent shelter and accessible social housing. She helped organize the Annual Women’s March for Housing, anti-Olympic protests and participated in countless actions and was a frequent speaker at housing justice events.

“They should be building homes for people, not spending it on the Olympics,” she said in an interview following the blocking of the 2010 Olympic torch relay from travelling through the DTES. “So we sat right in the road there. Yup. And I’d do it again.”

“When they give homes to people, that’s when I’ll be happy. Not shelters but homes, where they can have their privacy and live like real human beings.”
Gratitude to Beatrice Starr; rest in power.

Some of Bea’s words

We have seen too many of our daughters, family members, friends, and neighbours go missing or be murdered. We are a community ravaged by violence and we are no longer willing to allow the VPD to treat missing and murdered women with the same apathetic, racist, and unjust response that has been the standard of the last twenty years
– 2010 interview with turtleisland.org

We demand justice for all the women—especially Native—whose murders in this province have become a closed chapter for the government
– 2009 interview with Georgia Straight.

For more, see Bea’s story published through the Power of Women Group’s 2011 series called “In Our Own Voices” on Vancouver Media Coop.

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