Tuesday, February 28

BC government puts officers on case of missing women

B.C. government puts officers on case of missing women along highway of tears

Canadian Press

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

VICTORIA (CP) - More than 35 RCMP officers are investigating the disappearance and murders of several women along the so-called highway of tears in northern British Columbia and more may be added later, the province's solicitor general said Tuesday.

But John Les said police continue to maintain a serial killer is not believed to be involved. "These tragic deaths have shocked and saddened people across the province," Les said.

"A targeted police team will help ensure that we have the resources and tools to find out what happened to these women so that justice is done and the communities can start to heal."

Twenty-two officers have been working on the case of Aielah Saric-Auger, 14, after her body was found outside Prince George earlier this month. Police have said her death may not be connected to the highway cases.

Another 15 officers have been working on investigations into the disappearances or deaths of eight other women, dating back to 1990.

All but one of the women are aboriginal.

Rena Zatorski, a councillor with the Lheidli T'enneh Nation in Prince George, welcomed the addition of more police officers to the case, but she said such a response has been a long time coming.

"There still is an element of frustration and anger in the communities here. Part of that anger and frustration is because the government has taken so long and part of it stems from not fully understanding what the RCMP is doing or have done," Zatorski said.

There's also a feeling that the issue hasn't been taken seriously enough because most of the missing and murdered women are aboriginal, she said.

"Aboriginal women seem to have become the aboriginal minority and therefore they've become prey."

On Wednesday, community leaders will meet to set a date for a symposium in March to discuss ways to deal with the case, Zatorski said.

Part of the problem they'll discuss is the disconnect between aboriginal youth, who tend to choose dangerous lifestyles, and the larger community, she said.

"Because this is happening within our aboriginal communities, our aboriginal youth, it's up to the aboriginal leadership and communities themselves to deal with these issues."

Response to the symposium from various organizations, including women's groups, the University of Northern B.C. and other First Nations groups, has been overwhelming, Zatorski said.

Les said the government will match funds pledged for the symposium.

He will also attend the symposium, where the RCMP are expected to outline the progress of their various investigations.

© The Canadian Press 2006

Monday, February 27

Group calls for probe of killings

Group calls for probe of killings
Eight women found dead along Highway of Tears


VANCOUVER -- The native-women's group that organized a memorial in Ottawa on Saturday to draw attention to B.C.'s so-called Highway of Tears killings has thrown its voice behind a call for a public inquiry into the eight unsolved murders.

"What we want is a national inquiry into this issue," says Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. "We also need to see resources put into communities to address the issue of violence against aboriginal women - and for the police to take this very seriously."

Eight women have been found dead along the highway, which stretches from Prince Rupert on B.C.'s northwest coast to Edmonton.

"All of the victims (who went missing along Highway 16) were aboriginal women except for one," Jacobs said. "We're told (by the RCMP) there are no connections to any of these cases, but it's quite obvious to us there (are)."

Jacobs' call for an inquiry comes on the heels of comments by Jagrup Brar, public-safety critic for the provincial NDP.

He called on the province to address safety concerns along the highway.

Jacobs said the gruesome discovery of the body of 14-year-old Aielah Saric-Auger on Feb. 9 on Highway 16 has fuelled fears a serial killer maybe working the highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Prince George RCMP Const. Gary Godwin calls the investigation into Saric-Auger's death "very, very active" but concedes there are no firm leads.

"We have a lot of personnel working on it," Godwin said. "We've talked to all her friends and family and gone to all the places she would have gone - all the basic investigative leads we can follow."

Godwin redirected questions about whether a serial killer may be at work to E Division Headquarters in Vancouver, where Cpl. Tom Seaman said each case is investigated on its own and also compared with other killings.

While some contend police must do more, the Saric-Auger families have issued a statement saying they are content with the murder probe.

"Contrary to what has been reported in the media, the RCMP have been readily available to them and have gone over and above the family's expectations," the families said through spokesman Cheryl Kosy.

"We have been informed that there is no indication that what happened to Aielah is connected with the Highway of Tears and we believe this to be true."

Missing or found dead along the highway since 1990 are Tamara Chipman, 22, Lana Derrick, 19, Ramona Wilson, 15, Delphine Nikal, 15, Roxanna Thiara, 15, Aleisha Germaine, 15, Nicole Hoar, 25 and Deena Braem, 17. Only Hoar is non-native.

Wednesday, February 22

Fundraiser held for funeral

Fundraiser held for funeral
B.C. mother can’t afford to bury her daughter in northern Alberta

February 22, 2006

VANCOUVER -- The mother of murdered teen Aielah Saric-Auger is struggling to pay for her daughter's funeral expenses.

A teacher at Saric-Auger's school, Gail Morong, said the girl's mother has run into hard times.

The teacher has started a fundraising effort to help the devastated family.

Morong said Saric-Auger's mother and her four teenage children moved from northern Alberta to Prince George so she could study social work.

But she was unable to afford tuition and was forced to quit school last May and start full-time work as a cleaner.

Morong said the woman's eldest daughter fell seriously ill in January and was rushed to Vancouver for treatment.

When the mother got home she lost her job and was evicted. A day later Aielah disappeared, she said.

Aielah's body was found Feb. 10, off Highway 16 near Tabor Mountain, 17 km from Prince George.

Morong said the Saric-Auger family wants to bury Aielah in northern Alberta, but can't afford to at present.

Anyone wanting to donate money to help the family can contact the Prince George Native Friendship Centre.

Meanwhile, First Nations leaders are calling for a more co-ordinated approach to police investigations into the cases of eight women missing or murdered along Highway 16, the so-called highway of tears that runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

"No one wants to repeat the mistakes of the investigations into the missing or murdered women on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver," Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said yesterday.

The lessons learned from that tragedy, he said, could yield positive results in the Highway 16 investigations.

The First Nations Leadership Council recently sent a letter to the RCMP calling for a more co-ordinated approach, by combining the expertise of all past and present RCMP officers who worked on the cases over the years.

Edward John, Grand Chief of the First Nations Summit, said the First Nations Leadership Council is confident the RCMP is willing to strengthen its response to the issue, in order to provide answers and peace of mind to the grieving families.

Seven of the eight victims who disappeared or were found murdered along the highway since 1990 were aboriginal.

Police have repeatedly stated there is no evidence to link the cases, which are being fully investigated by more than a dozen officers.

Big bounty renewed

Big bounty renewed

Edmonton Sun
Wed, February 22, 2006

A $100,000 bounty remains on the head of a serial killer preying on city prostitutes.

Project KARE, the RCMP-led task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of more than 80 people who led "high-risk lifestyles" - including prostitutes - confirmed yesterday it had renewed the reward indefinitely.

"We're getting closer every day," said KARE spokesman Tamara Bellamy.

The cash is put up by the Criminal Intelligence Service of Alberta and the Solicitor General's office and will go to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for crimes Project KARE is investigating.

Since 1975 the bodies of 25 people have been found in the Edmonton area. Cops believe one person is responsible for some, but not all, of the deaths. The offer of the reward has brought a number of tips to police and cops have developed a list of "persons of interest."

Sunday, February 19

All that's missing in this court case is the serial killer

All that's missing in this court case is the serial killer
Prosecutor has spent year getting ready for trial

Chris Purdy
The Edmonton Journal

Sunday, February 19, 2006

EDMONTON -- If Project KARE investigators happen to catch the city's serial killer tomorrow, the case is ready to go to court.

Crown prosecutor Clifton Purvis has been working full-time for more than a year with the joint police task force, advising officers about search warrants and other investigation issues, as well as studying a mountain of evidence so the case can quickly go to trial -- hopefully without running into any hurdles along the way.

It may seem odd: building a criminal case before the killer is even captured. But Purvis says the case is so big, it would take a prosecutor new to the file more than six months just to go through it all.

Investigators believe the unknown serial killer is responsible for the deaths of some of the 12 prostitutes whose bodies have been found on the outskirts of Edmonton since 1988. There could even be more than one killer at work.

"I can't underscore how big the case is. It's huge," Purvis says. "It would be almost impossible for a new prosecutor to get up to speed in the investigation if someone was arrested tomorrow morning."

But because he knows the case inside out and has already organized evidence and documents for disclosure to defence lawyers, Purvis says he's ready.

"As ready as you can be."

Not being prepared and organized proved to be the downfall for federal prosecutors when Edmonton's giant gang case collapsed in 2004.

The case, which began with 40 accused, cost $36 million over five years but never made it before a jury. A judge tossed out some charges because the trial hadn't taken place within a reasonable amount of time. Soon after, prosecutors put an end to the entire case.

Officials said prosecutors weren't prepared for the staggering amount of paperwork and recommended that others tackling big cases be more organized from the start.

The concept, which Purvis calls "front-end loading," is new in Canada but has been in practice for several years in the United States.

Purvis says he's also being careful to act independently of investigators so he doesn't develop "tunnel vision."

That problem plagued former Crown prosecutor Arnold Piragoff in the double-murder trial of Jason Dix in the late 1990s. Dix won more than $715,000 for malicious prosecution and Piragoff was reprimanded by the Law Society of Alberta because he delayed giving information to the defence and misled a bail hearing about a crucial piece of evidence.

RCMP Insp. Michael Sekela, commander of Project KARE's 50 team members, says Purvis has been a valuable asset. He joined the task force in late 2004, nearly a year after it was assembled.

As well, federal civil prosecutor Bruce Hughson occasionally aids the task force when searches for information bump into privacy act legislation and subsequent liability issues.

Besides search warrants, Purvis says he can offer investigators legal advice with wiretap requests, although he couldn't confirm or deny they are being used in the case.

He is also taking Telus to court for failing to comply with a Project KARE request for cellphone records. Shortly after the telecommunications giant was charged in December, it agreed to co-operate and hand over the necessary information.

But Purvis says the charge won't be dropped, and a trial has been set for April. A conviction carries a maximum six months in jail and/or a $250,000 fine.

"I feel it's still in the public interest to proceed with a prosecution at this time."

Purvis, a senior prosecutor who once specialized in prosecuting pimps, also volunteered as a speaker at john school for five years.

Prostitutes are particularly vulnerable members of society, he says, and they deserve full protection under the law like everyone else.

"This is a case that's not only very important to me, but to all the investigators. It's a very great responsibility."

Alberta Justice has committed Purvis to Project KARE for as long he can contribute to the investigation.

"If that's until there is an arrest, then so be it," says government spokesman Mark Cooper.

Purvis and Sekela won't say how close the team is to catching the serial killer. It could be a day, a month or another long year.

But Purvis is ready for the day when that one elusive phone tip could lead to an arrest.

"We're one call away from solving it."


© The Edmonton Journal 2006

Solving murders on highway of tears not just a police matter

Solving murders on highway of tears not just a police matter
How many more young women are going to end up dead in a ditch?

The Province

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The discovery of yet another young victim on Highway 16 near Prince George has prompted calls for a public inquiry into the shocking history of missing and murdered women along what has been appropriately dubbed the "highway of tears."

Aielah Saric-Auger, aged 14, becomes the eighth female whose fate has fuelled fears that a serial killer is preying on hitchhikers on the often-

lonely highway connecting Prince Rupert to Prince George and Edmonton.

Of the eight, only one, treeplanter Nicole Hoar, was non-native -- and the significance of that fact cannot be overstated.

It is an unwelcome and unpalatable truth, but aboriginal women in Canada suffer disproportionately from brutal aggression.

Amnesty International Canada claims that young native women are five times more likely than other women of their age group to die as the result of violence.

Volunteers who work with abused women in Prince George say one of reasons native women are vulnerable to attack is an ugly racism that allows predators to view them as easy targets.

It is a common tactic to heap the blame on police for their alleged inaction in cases involving native people.

But there is no evidence that this is true in Prince George, where many officers are keenly pursuing the highway of tears investigation.

If the Mounties are to be faulted at all, it may be that they have failed to communicate as well as they might the dangers communities face.

But the problem is much broader.

Poverty, broken families and a lack of

employment opportunities are all factors that combine to make many young people ripe for exploitation.

When governments cut back on social programs, as has been happening in B.C., the first to suffer are those in greatest need.

Geography doesn't help, either. In the isolated communities of the north, public transit doesn't exist. When young people hitchhike, they don't do it for fun, but out of necessity.

As Clarie Johnson of the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre told us: "We say to young people, 'You need to be careful.' But what we should be saying is 'Let's stop the murdering'."

Solving the killings on Highway 16 is one thing; solving the complex social issues inextricably linked to them, quite another.

But if we don't do it, and quickly, how many more young women are going to end up dead?

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Saturday, February 18

The Safer Sex Trade

A documentary by Carolyn Allain

The Safer Sex Trade is a TV one-hour documentary exploring the double standard at work today in the sex trade industry.

The notorious Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC, is ground zero for the pioneering efforts of harm reduction. It is home to North America’s first shooting gallery for intravenous drug users and no stranger to the trials and tribulations of the sex trade. Canada’s antiquated sex trade laws, combined with an increasingly marginalized street walker, have made the women at the front lines particularly vulnerable - a danger that made headlines around the world last year with the arrest of Robert Pickton. The alleged fact that he systematically murdered dozens of prostitutes at his pig farm right under the noses of the police forced the issue into the light of day. While the public clamors for answers, the problem is becoming painfully clear.

Not everyone in the sex trade is at such a high risk. The yellow pages are filled with advertisements for escort agencies. High-class hookers continue to perform their services in the penthouses of the downtown core. Taxed and operating under tacit approval of the police, they have no reason to draw attention to themselves, while the often impoverished and drug addicted "survival" sex trade workers are driven to the vacant warehouses and alleys of skid row. The Safer Sex Trade will explore this double standard at work by putting faces to the women who represent both perspectives: life in the high rise and on the street. Yet although they have differing views on the subject, they are united by one compelling concern: the safety of women and the stigma of the sex trade.

While documenting this piece, camerawork and lighting will be of a more "cinematic" style, employing techniques more commonly associated with drama, we will seek the beauty in the moment. For although the trials and tribulations of women in the sex trade may be of particular interest In Vancouver, these issues are timeless and all-inclusive.

The broadcast licence has been granted and September 15th is the delivery date for the final cut of the documentary.

Broadcast date is yet to be determined but it will either be later in 2006 or in early 2007.


Serial killer stalked Highway 16, two former RCMP officers say

Serial killer stalked Highway 16, two former RCMP officers say
Bernice Trick, The Canadian Press
Published: Saturday, February 18, 2006

PRINCE GEORGE -- A serial killer is involved in at least three of the disappearances of females along Highway 16, say two retired RCMP officers.

Fred Maile, who now works on a contract basis for the RCMP in Grande Prairie, Alta., said his theory is that four of the girls who disappeared between 1990 and 1995 met foul play at the hands of the same individual.

In late 1995, Maile attended a Prince George meeting with a group of crime profilers looking into the disappearances of five First Nations girls between 1990 and 1995. At the time, Maile was working on behalf of the Missing Children's Society of Canada.

"We spent three to four days going over every detail (of the cases). As a result, the consensus of the group was that three, we could say, appeared to have the same individual responsible," Maile said.

The three were Ramona Wilson, 15, Roxanne Thiara, 15 and Alishia Germaine,15.

But Maile, who now works as a private detective, said he would also add Delphine Nikal, 16, to that list.

"There's no doubt in my mind Ramona Wilson and Delphine Nikal are connected as well," he said.

Delphine, from Smithers, disappeared in June 1990, and has never been found.

Ramona, who is also from Smithers, vanished in June 1994. Her remains were found in April 1995 in a wooded area near Smithers.

Roxanne went missing in July 1994, from Prince George. Her body was found in August of the same year along Highway 16 near the Burns Lake airport.

Alishia was found in December 1994 behind an elementary school in Prince George.

"There's a certain scenario that this type of rapist, serial killer adheres to. They look for an opportunity like young girls hitchhiking," said Maile, who suggests the killer is familiar with Highway 16, the communities along it and perhaps makes himself familiar to the young girls and is able to persuade them to get into his vehicle.

Maile did not want to speculate as to whether a serial killer is responsible for any of the missing cases after 1995, such as that of 14-year-old Aielah Katherina Saric.

Her body was found Feb. 10 on Highway 16 East, about 15 kilometres east of Prince George.

Ron MacKay, a retired RCMP forensic behavourial analyst who headed the group of profilers in 1995, said he concurs with Maile's analysis.

MacKay said the profilers felt there "was enough similarities at that time to show that two, and possibly three, of the girls could have the same offender."

Since 1990, nine women have either been found dead or are missing.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006

Highway of Tears
Find Nicole Hoar



69 women missing - the remains of 31 found so far The bodies were put in a grinder and fed to pigs Neighbours ate bacon made from farm's pigs

Ryan Parry In Vancouver, British Columbia
February 18, 2006

MIST creeps over the giant mounds of mud and manure, giving the now deserted pig farm an atmosphere as sinister as the horrific events that took place here.

A ramshackle barn once stood on this 10-acre plot on Dominion Avenue, Port Coquitlam, 20 miles east of Vancouver. But it has been reduced to rubble along with other outbuildings - demolished during a two-year hunt for forensic evidence of an obscene crime.

Police believe the barn was where 69 women, who vanished from Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside district, met a gruesome end. So far, the remains of 31 missing women have been discovered among the dirt and pig excrement.

The man they believe is responsible - 56-yearold pig farmer Robert "Willy" Pickton - is now on trial at the British Columbia Superior Court.

Last month he pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of 27 women over a 23-year period. If found guilty, he will go down as Canada's most prolific serial killer.

Sickeningly, he is thought to have butchered his victims, putting their bodies through an industrial woodchipper and then feeding the minced-up remains to his pigs. Some of those pigs were later sold to be made into sausages and other pork products.

One neighbour tells the Mirror: "I've eaten his bacon - it's horrifying. We used to walk by the farm and Pickton's house looked like it was straight out of a horror movie. Now it turns out that what went on inside was worse than a horror movie, and I was right next door."

Several locals describe long-haired Pickton, who liked to be known as Willy, as "weird" and "slow", someone who kept himself to himself. He hung out with Hell's Angels and was a regular customer of the prostitutes in downtown Vancouver.

He and his brother Dave, who lives a few hundred yards away, ran an underground drinking club called Piggy's Palace in an outhouse. The farm itself was a bleak place, with a sign at the entrance that read: "This property protected by pit bull with Aids".

Pickton would trawl the Downtown Eastside at night and invite prostitutes back there for drug-fuelled parties. These drew female addicts like a magnet, knowing they could get a fix there. Chillingly, some would never leave.

His brother Dave denies knowing anything about the missing women. In a phone conversation with the Mirror, he says: "I was out of town all the time. I don't know anything about what went on. As I say, I was out of town a lot."

It is thought that Pickton's alleged killing spree started in 1983 when Rebecca Guno, a heroin-addicted vice girl, vanished from the streets of Vancouver. She was not the last. But even though friends and relatives of some of the missing had alerted police to strange goings-on at the farm, it took them until February 2002 to start their investigation.

Pickton was even known to police. In 1997, Wendy Lynn Eistetter, a drug addict and prostitute, was stabbed during one of the Piggy's Palace parties. She managed to get away and Pickton was charged with the stabbing, although the charges were later dropped.

BUT when they finally searched his property nothing could have prepared them for the horrors they found. There were body parts in the freezer and human remains in the pig feed.

Forensic experts and archaeologists spent the next two years sifting through 370,000 cubic metres of mud and manure. Every few weeks, more bone fragments or teeth would turn up and DNA samples would tie the remains to one of the missing.

More than 100,000 DNA swabs and thousands of pieces of forensic evidence have been processed since the investigation began.

One couple who are incensed that the police took so long to act are Lynn and Rick Frey of Campbell River, Vancouver Island. They had their suspicions about the pig farm ever since they started investigating the disappearance of their 24-year-old daughter, Marnie.
The Freys last spoke to Marnie on her 24th birthday in September 1997, but then never heard from her again. She was reported missing two weeks later.

"But the police just didn't want to listen," insists Lynn, 52. "They kept saying she had probably gone to another town and just forgotten to call home. We refused to believe that. Marnie always called home a couple of times a week."

Marnie was living in Downtown Eastside - the heart of the Vancouver drug trade, populated by dealers, pimps and prostitutes. Lynn believes this is why the police refused to take her disappearance seriously.

ANGRY that nothing was being done, Lynn started her own investigation. She spoke to dozens of prostitutes in the area and soon realised that Marnie wasn't the only girl who had vanished.

"I met other people who were looking for someone," she recalls. "Then one woman mentioned a pig farm outside the city - girls were terrified to go there because they'd heard stories about a scary guy in a beaten up truck.

"I called my sister Joyce who recognised the place. It was a mile down the road from where she lived. We drove out there at three in the morning and tried to get over the fence, but I cut myself and was scared off by the guard dogs. We told the police but they wouldn't listen."

Lynn was later told that the police had visited the farm but found nothing. That was in 1997. Her worst fears were confirmed five years later, when a section of Marnie's jaw-bone was found at the farm and Pickton was charged with murder.

Wayne Leng, a friend of Sarah de Vries, whose remains were also found there, was also frustrated at the police's unwillingness to act.

"We will never give up until there has been a public inquiry," says Wayne. " The police need to be held to account for their actions."

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in Vancouver is poised to hear one of the most gruesome cases in its history. A publication ban on any evidence that emerges has been imposed until a jury is selected.

As for Pickton's farm, it's believed that developers plan to transform it into a housing estate - along with a children's park.


Thursday, February 16

14-year-old girl murdered in northern B.C.


14-year-old girl murdered in northern B.C.
Last Updated: Feb 15 2006 03:46 PM PST

The RCMP have launched a homicide investigation into the death of a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl whose remains were found on the outskirts of Prince George last week.

Aielah Katherina Saric had been missing for more than a week, and had been last spotted alive near a bar in the inner city.

Her family had reported her missing, and had plastered the downtown area with missing posters, asking for any information as to her whereabouts.

A passing motorist found Saric's remains while travelling on Highway 16 east of Prince George last Friday. The RCMP were called in and an investigation was launched.

RCMP spokesperson Const. Gary Godwin now says she was murdered.
"At any time we have a homicide, this is a major crime. The fact that it is a 14-year-old female is tragic indeed."

The highway has a history of tragedy. At least six young women, five of them Aboriginal teens, have gone missing along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert in the past 15 years.

One of the most high-profile cases involved 25-year-old tree planter Nicole Hoar, who vanished while hitchhiking west from Prince George along Highway 16 back in 2002.
Her disappearance triggered a massive search and the offer of a $25,000 reward. But no sign of her was ever found.

RCMP have repeatedly said they cannot rule out the possibility that a serial killer could be preying on women along Highway 16. But they also say they've found no evidence to link the cases.

Police also say they won't speculate on whether Saric's death is linked to any of the missing women files.

Copyright © CBC 2006

Find Nicole Hoar

Tuesday, February 14

New suspicious death along 'Highway of Tears'

New suspicious death along 'Highway of Tears'

Updated: Tue. Feb. 14 2006 10:48 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday on the remains of a woman found on the side of Highway 16, east of Prince George, B.C. on Friday.

While no cause of death has been released yet, police say they are treating the case as a suspicious death.

Prince George RCMP have said they will not release the identity of the woman until the next of kin is identified.

At least six women, mainly aboriginal teens, have gone missing over the last decade on the stretch of highway known as the so-called Highway of Tears.

"This is just ringing that bell a little bit louder," said Clairie Johnson, of the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre told CTV Vancouver. "I think we're all … just kind of waiting and dreading what we're going to hear."

One of the most high-profile cases involved 25-year-old tree planter Nicole Hoar, who went missing while hitchhiking on the stretch of highway in 2002.

Police have said they still don't know whether the cases of the missing women are linked.

"To my understanding, they haven't been connected yet. They are all single investigations," said Const. Gary Godwin of the Prince George RCMP.

Meanwhile, it was a day of remembrance for dozens of women who were murdered and went missing from Vancouver's gritty downtown Eastside.
About 800 people marched through the streets of one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods for the memorial march that is held every year on Valentine's Day.

Robert Pickton has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 27 of the women. He pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of first-degree murder at the end of January.

Some elders and family members attired in traditional First Nations garments beat drums and sang native hymns as they marched. Others stopped along the route at sites where some of the victims are known to have died, to lay roses and conduct a cleansing ceremony.

Lori-Ann Ellis of Calgary told The Canadian Press she was marching in the procession to honour her slain sister-in-law Cara Ellis.

"We want people to remember that these are human beings and they cannot just pass away or be murdered and go missing and not be remembered," Ellis said, of her third consecutive year marching in the procession.

"As long as there is breath in my lungs we will come every year," said Ellis.

Pickton has been charged in the death of Ellis, who was last seen in 1997 when she was 25.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Kate Corcoran

March for missing Vancouver women draws hundreds

March for missing Vancouver women draws hundreds

Camille Bains
The Canadian Press

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

VANCOUVER -- About 800 people, many crying and hugging, marched through the streets of the gritty Downtown Eastside on Tuesday to remember up to 90 women murdered and missing from the area.

Some carried colourful banners bearing the names of the women through the drug-riddled part of town where women began disappearing in the 1980s. Many of the missing women from one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods were First Nations sex-trade workers whose lives were snuffed out in and around nearby hotels.

Robert Pickton has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 27 of the women. He has pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of first-degree murder.

Some elders and family members dressed in traditional First Nations attire beat drums and sang native hymns as they marched. They stopped along the way at sites where some of the women are known to have died to lay long-stemmed roses and perform a cleansing ceremony.

Lori-Ann Ellis of Calgary said she was marching in the 15th annual women's memorial march to honour her slain sister-in-law Cara Ellis.

"We want people to remember that these are human beings and they cannot just pass away or be murdered and go missing and not be remembered," Ellis said of her third straight year marching in the procession.

"As long as there is breath in my lungs we will come every year," said Ellis, who wore a red T-shirt with the inscription Cara Ellis R.I.P.

Ellis was last seen in 1997 when she was 25. Pickton has been charged with her death.

Before the march, an overflow crowd of about 300 family members and friends gathered at a community centre to hear people talk about their loved ones.

Maggy Gisle said 54 women she met on the streets and in detox centres and recovery houses between 1983 and 1998 had gone missing.

"I'm here today to remember my friends because they were so much more than prostitutes and junkies," Gisle said crying.

Gisle said she is a former drug addict who straightened out her life after she had a child.

"I have a beautiful six-year-old daughter and not one day goes by that I don't think Cara should be here. Cara should hear my daughter's laughter. Cara should see the sunset."

Robin Ashton held a photograph of her daughter Kandace Kemp, who she said was beaten to death at a hotel near the community centre by her boyfriend when she was 19.

One woman said her sister's remains were found near Highway 16 in Prince Rupert, the so-called Highway of Tears from where a number of women have disappeared over the last decade. At least nine women are missing from Highway 16.

© The Canadian Press

Sunday, February 12

Police first suspected Pickton in `97

Police first suspected Pickton in ‘97
Vancouver police and RCMP argued over resources and territory: Source

Greg Middleton and Steve Berry
The Province

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Police had accused serial killer Robert "Willy" Pickton in their sights years before he was arrested, The Province has learned.

Police sources have revealed for the first time that he was investigated in 1997 and 1999 in connection with the disappearance of more than 50 women from the Downtown Eastside since 1983.

"He kept cropping up," said one source who, like others, would talk only if guaranteed anonymity.

More than 30 of the women have disappeared since police first looked at Pickton as a suspect in 1997.

The Vancouver Police Department's secretive surveillance squad, Strike Force, watched Pickton for a week in 1997.

Police had information he was picking up prostitutes and taking them to his Port Coquitlam farm.

"The working theory was that he was killing them and running them through a wood chipper and feeding them to the pigs," said a source.

But the surveillance uncovered no evidence and it was called off.

The source said Vancouver police could not get the support of the RCMP, who had more resources, to continue the investigation.

Vancouver police argued the farm, in Coquitlam, was in RCMP territory. The RCMP said there was no hard evidence a crime had been committed, and the women had disappeared in Vancouver.

"It became a pissing contest to see who wouldn't do it," the source said.

In March 1997 Pickton was charged with unlawful confinement and assault with a weapon in the stabbing of prostitute Wendy Lynn Eistetter. The charges were stayed in January 1999.

Later that year, Pickton came under intense scrutiny at a summit of police investigators from across the Lower Mainland.

He had been identified as a suspect in a case where a man had attempted to drag a woman into his truck in New Westminster. Police suspected the vehicle was Pickton's.
A "joint-forces operation" was proposed to run surveillance on Pickton. New Westminster police, Vancouver police and RCMP from Coquitlam, Richmond and Burnaby were at the meeting, said a source who was there.

But the woman in the case failed to identify Pickton as her assailant and the case died. The joint operation never went ahead.

Another police source said Pickton was identified as a suspect after he was seen picking up prostitutes in New Westminster.

The source said police had surveillance on Pickton in 1999, but the farm was difficult to watch because there were no easy, yet discreet, vantage points.

"All the Picktons did was work." the source said. "You could watch them for days and nothing would happen."

Vancouver police formed a team to review files on the missing women in September 1998. But that investigation stalled.

The RCMP formally joined the investigation in September 2001 when the Missing Women Task Force was established.

Pickton, 52, was arrested Feb. 22 and is now charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. His brother Dave, a co-owner of the farm, is not a suspect.

An intense search of the Port Coquitlam farm is continuing. Twenty-six archeology students are sifting through excavated soil and a team of police and forensic experts are on the site. A nearby piece of property is also being searched.

Vancouver police spokesman Det. Scott Driemel would not comment on the investigation "as it may well be part of the evidence that is presented during the criminal process."


© Copyright 2002 The Province

Heavy prep work needed for Pickton trial: lawyer

February 12, 2006

Heavy prep work needed for Pickton trial: lawyer


NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - The four years between the arrest of accused serial killer Robert Pickton and the start of his trial reflects the magnitude of material the defence faced in preparing for a case that is on a scale matched by few others in Canadian history, says Pickton's main lawyer.

Peter Ritchie has practised law for more than three decades and has worked on hundreds of civil and criminal cases as a prosecutor and defender.

"The volume and workload in this (Pickton trial) probably surpasses all others with the exception of a very few in Canadian history," he told The Canadian Press during a break in court proceedings.

Even with at least seven lawyers working on the defence team, Ritchie conceded there are "considerable challenges to organizing a defence."

"We have received hundreds of thousands of pages of disclosure from a very long and complex investigation and we have to set about organizing all of that," he said.

Pickton, 56, was arrested in February 2002 after police went on to a property in Port Coquitlam owned by him, his brother and sister. He was initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder and that later increased to 15.

Last year, the Crown added 12 more counts. He has pleaded not guilty.

Pickton is accused of killing women, many of them sex-trade workers, who were mostly from the tough Downtown Eastside. More than 60 have disappeared from the neighbourhood since the early 1980s.

The trial in B.C. Supreme Court in this city southeast of Vancouver is hearing legal arguments on the admissibility of evidence. This stage, which is taking place under a publication ban, could last several months, after which a jury will be chosen to hear the case.

Despite the huge task of organizing a defence, Ritchie discounts any notion his defence team is at a disadvantage.

Defence lawyers sometimes can reasonably claim a disadvantage if legal aid systems are strained for funds or defence teams aren't given the financial resources enjoyed by the Crown, he said.

"In this particular case, because of the manner in which the funding was organized, I would say that we do not complain about having a disadvantage and that we should not complain about having a disadvantage."

He said that the trial is "being funded by the government after our client ceded all of his interests in his property to the government and so indirectly it's being paid for by the client."

A Canadian Press story last August outlined how the B.C. government had put a mortgage worth $10 million on the property to cover his defence. Pickton owns one-third of the property along with equal shares for his brother and sister.

Ritchie said the large defence team is necessary.

The alternative would be waiting several more years for his trial to begin, he said.

"If Mr. Pickton only had one lawyer, that lawyer would be reading this (investigation's) disclosure material for years and the matter would never get to court," he said.

"So there are efficiencies that have to be engaged here."

Ritchie told reporters outside court at the start of the trial on Jan. 30 that the defence team has to deal with 750,000 pages of material disclosed by the Crown, a judicial prerequisite in any trial.

"'We look at this material, analyze it, work at it very hard and try to maximize efficiencies. One lawyer couldn't do it for years and years, many more years than have gone by to date."

The prominent Vancouver lawyer, who earned his law degree at Osgoode Hall in Toronto and was appointed Queen's Counsel in December, suggested the case has had its share of tribulations.

"We have had numerous difficulties in dealing with what we think the Crown should disclose and what the Crown thinks they should disclose."

Those discussions, however, have been played out much more in private meetings between the two sides, thereby avoiding even more court time.

"'We've worked most of that out through lengthy meetings with the Crown so we haven't had to take the matter to court very much," said Ritchie.

Pickton is required to attend court. He sits stoically each day in the prisoner's box. The courtroom and public gallery are separated by a bullet-proof glass wall.

He has not yet elected whether to be tried by jury or judge alone but Ritchie has said outside court that he will have a jury trial.

Friday, February 10

March to remember the fallen women

March to remember the fallen women


February 10, 2006

Marlene Trick will not say the woman's name, describing her only as a native woman who in 1991 joined a staggeringly long list of prostitutes murdered in the rotting jungle that is Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The woman, Trick explained, could easily have become just another anonymous statistic, but instead the ghastly circumstances of her death became emblematic of the soul-killing horror of Canada's sex trade.

In late January 1991, people in the neighbourhood discovered her dismembered corpse and body parts strewn over several blocks. Despite the gruesomeness of the crime, the grisly killing got barely a mention in the local media.

More dead hookers, no matter how spectacular their deaths, were hardly newsworthy anymore, it seemed.

But for some in the Downtown Eastside, it was the final straw. For decades women had been culled from their midst, never to be seen again, but no one outside Canada's poorest and most marginalized neighbourhood seemed to care. They organized a protest march to draw attention to the issue of more than 70 missing or dead women in the area, most of whom were prostitutes.

"We used to name her," explains Trick, who works with the Carnegie Community Centre, which operates programs for the area's huge homeless, prostitute and drug addict populations. "But her family asked a few years ago for us to stop using it. They said they needed that in order to move on, and we're honouring that."

Every Feb. 14 in the 15 years since her death, a memorial march has gone through the Downtown Eastside, right down the middle of the streets. This year, with accused serial killer Robert Pickton's court case on the front page, Trick expects 700 marchers, including families of the victims, to be there.

"We do it to inconvenience people for a few hours, to force them to stop and take notice," she says. "The women in the community were getting fed up and they felt they needed to do something so the world would notice."

Her voice tinted with weary sadness, Trick adds: "So few women in the (sex trade) make it to 65 years old."

Now the idea is going national, with similar marches planned for Toronto and Edmonton.

"I only found out about the Vancouver march on Jan. 19, but I figured we just had to do one here, too," explains local organizer Danielle Boudreau, who grew up with Rachel Quinney and Ellie May Meyer, whose bodies were discovered in fields just outside the city.

Boudreau is one of the people behind seenmelately.ca, a local website and discussion board devoted to missing women across Canada, but particularly those here. Since it was launched last August, the site has had thousands of hits.

Webmaster Bekkie Fugate says while the site's been around for months, it's only had its own domain name for a few weeks. Now that it can be found through search engines like Google, she expects traffic to grow dramatically.

Given how little time she's had to get everything together, Boudreau doesn't expect Edmonton's march to have nearly the numbers there'll be in Vancouver. She estimates 50 to 150 will take part. But it's a start, she explains, and she hopes it will become an annual event here, too.

They don't plan to disrupt traffic, sticking mainly to sidewalks in the Alberta Avenue area.

The march will begin at 7 p.m. and leave the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, 11205 101 Street, wind its way east to 93 Street and then back.

It will be followed by a gathering in the friendship centre, where family members of Edmonton's missing women will have a chance to speak.

"I was delighted to hear from Danielle," says Trick. "There are so many parallels with what's going on in Edmonton and what's happened here."

Pickton film spurs outrage

Pickton film spurs outrage


February 10, 2005
An Internet petition is trying to block the Canadian release of an American horror film said to be based on the case of accused serial murderer Robert Pickton.

The film, titled Killer Pickton, was reportedly made by West German gore director Ulli Lommel and produced by a California B-film studio, Shadow Factory.

It doesn't yet have a distributor or a release date, either for theatres or home video.

The petition organizers claim to be women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the crime-riddled slum where many of Pickton's alleged victims worked in the street sex trade. They accuse the film's makers of showing a "total disregard for the humanity of the women."

"As a family member of one of the missing, presumed murdered, I am outraged," wrote one woman who signed the petition. "God help the person who harmed our women, and may God help your sanity if this goes into making a movie ..."
The daughter of one of Pickton's alleged victims, former Enoch resident Georgina Papin, said she was appalled at how quickly an exploitation producer jumped on the Pickton case.

"I mean, the trial just started. Why do they always have to turn the deaths of women into entertainment?" said Kristina Bateman, 21.

A synopsis of the film on Shadow Factory's website describes it as based on the "real-life horror" of the serial murder case, and claims to depict the deaths in grisly detail.

Mounties have been investigating whether the film might violate Canadian law.
So far, said RCMP spokesman Staff Sgt. John Ward, investigators haven't been able to talk to the producers.

"So we don't even know for a fact the film has been made," he said.

Vancouver MP Libby Davies, who knew many of Pickton's alleged victims, called the decision to make the film "disgusting and reprehensible."

"To have to endure the prospect of a horror film based on this ... do these filmmakers have any sense of decency, of respect for the dead? It's cheap exploitation."

It's also illegal on this side of the border - at least for now. Pickton, 56, faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of 27 women.

He's pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Pickton's trial - scheduled to run more than a year - started late last month under a sweeping publication ban which is expected to last months.

A West Coast lawyer acting for several media outlets covering Pickton's trial said any film based on information which came out during the preliminary hearing portion of Pickton's trial would violate the publication ban. But even if Killer Pickton escapes the ban, he said, it would invite a contempt-of-court charge if it were distributed in Canada because Pickton has not been convicted of murder.

A Pickton movie?

February 10, 2006

A Pickton movie?

An Internet petition is trying to block the Canadian release of an American horror film said to be based on the case of accused serial murderer Robert Pickton.

The film, titled Killer Pickton, was reportedly made by West German gore director Ulli Lommel and produced by a California B-film studio, Shadow Factory. It doesn't yet have a distributor or a release date, either for theatres or home video.

The petition organizers claim to be women from the Downtown Eastside, where many of Pickton's alleged victims worked in the street sex trade. They accuse the film's makers of showing a "total disregard for the humanity of the women."

The daughter of one of Pickton's alleged victims, former Enoch resident Georgina Papin, said she was appalled at how quickly an exploitation producer jumped on the Pickton case. "I mean, the trial just started. Why do they always have to turn the deaths of women into entertainment?" said Kristina Bateman, 21.

A synopsis of the film on Shadow Factory's website describes it as based on the "real-life horror" of the serial murder case, and claims to depict the deaths in grisly detail.

Mounties are investigating whether the film might violate Canadian law. So far, said RCMP spokesman Staff Sgt. John Ward, investigators haven't been able to talk to the producers. "So we don't even know for a fact the film has been made," he said.

Wednesday, February 8

Coming clean on the sex economy

Coming clean on the sex economy
Artist wants to open up discussion on our role in the story of missing and murdered women

Gilbert A. Bouchard, Freelance
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2006


When: Tonight, 7 to 9
Where: Room 1-05, School of business, University of Alberta

Moderated by: Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters. Panel members will also include artist Femke van Delft; Kate Quinn of Prostitution Action Awareness Foundation; Dawn Hodgins of Survivor of Violence and Prostitution; Muriel Stanley Venne of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women; and representation from the Project KARE Task Force
- - -
EDMONTON - No one can accuse installation artist and photographer Femke van Delft of not being community oriented in her artistic exploration of Canada's sex economy.

Instead of having a typical artist's talk where she would pontificate about her Harcourt House Gallery show -- Missing: A Guerrilla Mapping Project, a multimedia installation seeking to address the "missing" topics of discussion about the murdered and missing sex trade workers in Vancouver -- she decided to host a broad-based round table on the topic.

Entitled Violence Towards Women on the Streets and in our Community, the round table -- being held tonight at the University of Alberta's school of business -- will include participants from various community and policing groups concerned with violence against sex trade workers, including the Prostitution Action Awareness Foundation and the KARE task force.

"It (the round table) started when the people at Harcourt House asked me who I'd want to come to the opening and to the artist's talk. I suggested various aboriginal groups and people working in the missing women's case and also suggested that they share the stage with me," says the Vancouver-based artist.

"It's not very often that you see a city that actually recognizes the potential of art to open up dialogue on a difficult subject, but Edmonton has always been on the forefront of this process and is quite different from other cities in this respect."
Van Delft 's exhibit sets out to fill in the missing portions of public dialogue concerning the missing women cases in Vancouver (and by extension, Edmonton), aiming specifically at getting visitors to the show to explore their own participation in a larger "sex economy."

"We have a tendency to narrow the response to sex work down to (street) prostitutes and johns and not see the continuum of the whole sex economy," says the artist, who studied at the U of A.

"We don't see ourselves as people who buy sex and participate in this story because we hide our relationship to sex and the sex economy. But sex does sell and we're buying it. (Weekly Edmonton arts magazine) See magazine sells sex in its back pages, Madonna gets to sell sex, the Bay sells sex via its lingerie.

"We won't be able to solve problems like the missing women cases if we don't come clean as a culture."

To illustrate and "map" this broader sex economy, van Delft, 47, took a pair of mannequin legs that had been used to model nylons in a clothing store which she then cast in concrete and photographed at night in 50 "sites of complicity in a much broader sex economy."

The sites in question are locations that feed into the "hidden history" of the larger sex trade, including businesses like Party Bazaar (a store that sells party items including child-sized fishnet nylons at Halloween) and the Sylvia Hotel (Vancouver's first cocktail lounge, which banned solitary women because they could be prostitutes).

All 50 photographs come with an accompanying text box explaining each image as well as a large map of Vancouver that puts all the sites into a geographic context.
"I'm underlining how long this problem has been with us and how long we've been avoiding this issue. All these sites tie into this condition and I do want to disturb people and hopefully locate themselves on the map, place themselves into a larger social context," says the artist who moved to Vancouver in 1999, the year the missing sex trade worker case was breaking.

© The Edmonton Journal 2006

Monday, February 6

Online Petition-Boycott the film, "Killer Pickton"

Online Petition - Boycott the film, "Killer Pickton"

To: Film Distributers

To:Motion Picture Distribution, Alliance Atlantis
Tom Alexander, Director, Theatrical Releasing, Mongrel Media
Pat Marshall, Vice President Communications and Investor Relations, Cineplex Galaxy LP
Jon Bain Senior Vice-President of Theatrical Distribution & Publicity, Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation
Chris Adkins, Operations, Telefilm Canada
Dean Leland, Vice President Marketing and Media, Empire Theatres Ltd
Hon. Libby Davies, Canadian House of Commons, Vancouver East
Los Angeles Times, Letters to the Editor

As Downtown Eastside women on the 15th Annual Women’s Memorial March Planning Committee, we are writing to voice our objection to the film, “Killer Pickton.” We strongly urge that it not be distributed in Canada.

This film serves only to feed the prurient interests of misogynists, while making violence against women a commodity. We feel the film is disrespectful to the memories of the murdered and missing women and their families. We are tired of the women being referred to as "mostly drug-addicted prostitutes" as if killing them were not as heinous as killing other women. The film and the publicity surrounding it, shows a total disregard for the humanity of the women. They are daughters, sisters, mothers and friends who are loved and who are missed by their families and friends.

We hope that you will show your compassion and sense of decency by pledging to boycott the film if it is distributed in Canada and below by March 1st, 2006. On March 8th, 2006, International Women’s Day, this petition and signatures will be sent to those listed above.


The Undersigned

The Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/v6a1w6/petition.html

Sunday, February 5

In search of those gone missing, the heart is a lonely hunter

In search of those gone missing, the heart is a lonely hunter

Seattle Times

SEATTLE - Stephanie Fullerton walks through icy drizzle to place a vase of fresh flowers at her family's burial plot in a corner of Queen Anne's Mount Pleasant Cemetery. She positions the remembrance just below the markers of her parents, Lynn and Pauline, and just above one recognizing her brother, Michael Frank Fullerton.

His marker reads 1960-1990, but the grave is empty. He went missing in 1986, when he was 26. The family settled on the ending date out of deference to his mother. Seeking resolution and recognition for her vanished son was one of her final wishes before she died in 1990.

"During one of the last moments in her final days, she told me, 'Don't worry about Michael. He is OK,'" recalls Fullerton, wrapped in a black coat and scarf, her face chilled red. "I always thought that at some point that marker would have been raised so something, even a set of teeth, could be placed inside."

While presuming death, Stephanie and her sisters still wonder and wait for answers. When she hears about "human remains" being found, she calls the medical examiner to see if they match Michael. Other families do that for their missing loved ones, too.

She is the cemetery's lone visitor on a weekday morning, alone with the near-20-year-old question. People like her feel lonely with their open-ended mysteries, yet she allows herself a melancholy chuckle. "Maybe Nancy Grace will get interested," she says of the cable-news commentator. "Michael was good-looking."

Families like hers, including those with far fresher cases, can relate to such black humor. They notice all the attention lavished on the famous case of the moment, the case that always seems to involve a young, middle- to upper-class white woman. Families out of the limelight watch those cases pre-empt coverage of Iraq and health care and natural disasters while their cases seem to slide, drift, evaporate.

Outside the headlines and airtime, people go missing every day for every imaginable reason in every sort of circumstance. Some who go missing are mentally impaired. Most go missing on purpose, and many juveniles do so repeatedly. Abduction is rare, but when it happens, the perpetrator usually is an estranged parent or acquaintance.

Many cases resolve themselves quickly. The exceptions often end in tragedy. Sometimes they never end. Sometimes the person is found, but nobody knows it because she or he has been reduced to anonymous bones. The only constant in each case is that the person is not just missing, but missed.

The wall-to-wall coverage devoted to the tragic case of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, the massive hunt for fiancee-with-cold-feet Jennifer Wilbanks, and the spate of search-and-save TV shows like "Without a Trace" can make you forget that missing-person reports relentlessly pile up, one on top of another.

The Seattle Police Department's Missing Persons Unit, staffed by two detectives and a community-service officer, fields more than 2,000 cases a year. King County police handle the same amount. About three-quarters involve juveniles.

The weekend that Holloway went missing in Aruba, the Seattle unit fielded 15 juvenile cases. A 15-year-old girl runs from home. Another 15-year-old girl ditches a county intervention facility (eventually picked up in Des Moines, working as a prostitute). A 17-year-old girl leaves a group home. A 15-year-old boy runs from his parents. And on it goes. All those kids are what police call "frequent flyers," meaning they do it repeatedly. As frustrating as these cases are, authorities must still try to track them down because the kids often run smack into trouble.

"We have to treat those kids as victims," says Seattle Police Detective Tina Drain. "They are not just missing. What they are is vulnerable to predators."

On a typical Tuesday morning, Drain calls the King County Medical Examiner's Office to see if a bone found on shore near Carkeek Park is human. She has at least three disappearance cases that occurred near or on the water. She reviews a report for a repeat runaway, a teenage girl who has disappeared with her boyfriend. Drain believes they went to California, where the girl will work as a prostitute and he, with his long rap sheet, will be her pimp. (A week or two later, they are arrested in Sacramento doing just what Drain predicted.)

Drain and partner Dave Ogard have to make difficult priority judgments. They look at the kid's age, health and circumstance of leaving. How many times has he run before? Is there any indication of imminent danger? Which of these need immediate attention from homicide detectives?

One afternoon, a Seattle teenager did not come home from school, tossing her loving family into a frenzy. The 16-year-old was a good student and had no history of bad behavior. Her mother, father and siblings got busy, calling her friends, driving the neighborhoods. They phoned the school and police.

Washington does not require a 24-hour waiting period before police will take a report. The longer the wait, the colder the trail. In those cases of abduction that wind up in death, the killing is done in a matter of hours.

In this case, it turned out that their daughter and another girl had made a suicide pact, but the second girl got sick from downing pills and was taken to the hospital, where Ogard interviewed her. She told Ogard where her friend would be, and he relayed the information to the family, who beat the police to the site and picked up their daughter, safe.

"As a parent," the mother says, "the worst part is that ugly feeling of not being able to do anything. You feel that emptiness when someone you love so deeply is gone. Of course we worried she had been taken or killed. Then when we heard she was planning suicide, that was a slap in the face. We were asking ourselves, 'What did we do?' She left us a note, that we didn't take as a suicide note at the time, that told us we had nothing to do with her decision, but it was still so hard. You wish your child would know just how much you love them."

For all the false alarms and happy endings, though, there is heartbreak, like the case of 10-year-old Adre'anna Jackson, who vanished from her Lakewood neighborhood about eight weeks ago.

When "runaway bride" Wilbanks was wasting taxpayer money in several states, Seattle logged six adult missing-person cases, five of which were quickly and quietly solved. Seattle, though, has about 80 open cases, some dating back to the 1970s.

Adults create different challenges. If police find a person who is sane and healthy, they cannot tell the loved ones where he or she is without the person's permission. As with kids, authorities must determine if a case involves imminent danger and vulnerability. Is leaving out of character? Is there any reason for leaving?

Sometimes women go missing to escape domestic violence, and the person reporting is the abuser. While spending a day driving around the city and following up on reports, Drain wound up at a local elementary school. A man had reported his girlfriend and her son missing. Talking to a teacher at the boy's school, Drain learned that the woman was living in a shelter and kept her developmentally disabled son away from school so the boyfriend couldn't track them down.

Janet Rhodes, who works missing-persons reports for King County police, recently located a man who disappeared in early 2003. Family members said he had talked of "ending it." As the case lagged, an attorney advised the family to seek a presumptive death certificate so they could work out financial troubles. But Rhodes kept after it and found the man in Los Angeles through a lead in Alaska. He said he wanted no contact with his family. Rhodes told the family he was alive and well. Suddenly, some weeks later, he reunited with his family.

Presumptions can be dangerous because people are unpredictable. In one King County case, a single woman vanished, leaving food cooking on the stove and a number of hungry cats. It had all the markings of an abduction, but several months later she was found living in the Midwest. She said she just needed a change.

A woman called Seattle Police to report that her adult daughter, who tried to commit suicide last summer, was missing. Drain persuaded the mother to unfreeze the bank account the mother and daughter held jointly. When the mother did that, Drain learned the daughter checked into a downtown Portland hotel. Portland police found the woman just after she had taken large amounts of oxycontin and morphine, but were able to get her to a hospital and stabilized.

Death, of course, is a reason for vanishing. Green River Killer Gary Ridgway got a head start because police were slow to connect the initial missing women cases that turned out to be among his victims. Many of the victims had lifestyles that complicated how their disappearances were reported and investigated. When task-force detectives began treating missing women cases as homicides they amassed critical information about the killer's pattern.

Police agencies have been criticized in general for not paying enough attention to missing-person reports. Since joining the unit four years ago, Drain has been part of a statewide effort to improve how cases are handled, from taking faster, more critical looks at whether foul play is involved to patching record-keeping gaps. She was part of the State Attorney General's Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Task Force and developed a DVD "toolbox" designed to train officers for missing-person investigations.

The volume of these cases overwhelms police, but a family is not interested in the workload - only its loved one.

Dr. Katherine Taylor, forensic anthropologist with the King County Medical Examiner's Office, removes a sealed plastic bag from a small box labeled #90-0485. From the bag, she takes a filthy black-and-white-checked shirt with gaping tears. She pulls out stained light blue pants, waist 36, and torn even worse. Next, a pair of old-fashioned bifocals.

Other than some bones found in a South Seattle transient camp in 1990, there are few other clues. Authorities figure he was 5 foot 8 and probably older than 40. Whoever he is, he is just one of 32 sets of unidentified King County remains listed in a binder of cases dating back to 1984. The man's sketchy case resides next to "Jane Doe 0005," "Mandible On Beach," "Snoqualmie River Bones" and victims yet to be identified in the Green River murders. In one case, the best hope is a tattoo of an eagle flying above a mountain.

Taylor is at the forefront, along with Seattle forensic dentist Gary Bell, of a push in Washington and nationally to do a better job identifying these people. The databases are exhaustive but not adequately updated or in sync.

In fact, many of the cases offer little hope without DNA or dental records. Police are required to file dental records with the Washington State Patrol's Missing and Unidentified Person Unit (MUPU) for missing cases of more than 30 days. If no dental records are located, they must at least file a notice stating that. While Washington appears way ahead of other states, dental records have been filed for only a small percentage of those cases.

The reports are critical, and not just to foster computer matches. The discovery of an African-American man who wore braces found floating in Puget Sound connected with Drain, who recalled taking a report that had a description of such a man. It led to a match. Another person was identified because he wore Birkenstock sandals.

Sometimes, investigators identify someone through luck. Taylor recently studied the remains of a woman found in Peasley Canyon near Auburn. All Taylor had to go on was a cranium and a few bones. The skeletal areas to which her neck muscles attached were large, suggesting a muscular neck. Taylor estimated she was big-boned and between 5 foot 6 and 5 foot 10. MUPU did not furnish a match. Taylor began trolling the North American Missing Persons Network (www.nampn.doenetwork.us). She looked through the Washington list, and when she got to the year 2001, the first picture that popped up was of the woman she imagined. It was Darlene Campos.

"Her mother told me she didn't want to leave her apartment for like a year because she was so sure she was going to call and she didn't want to miss it," says Taylor, who informed her. "I've had mothers say they go to bed every night wondering, does she have her mittens, a roof over her head, is she eating OK, is she lonely? When they get a call from me it isn't very good news, but that cycle can stop and they can start to mourn and move on to the next stage."

Stephanie Fullerton, too, is prepared for any news. She thinks her brother upset a drug dealer, who killed him. Michael went missing, she says, when street gangs and the Green River killer kept police occupied. She thinks his case slipped through the cracks and now, thousands of new cases later, the cracks have deepened into a fissure.

"I'm thinking about holding a gathering when the 20th-anniversary day comes this fall," she says. "I want to make it upbeat if I can. Michael would be really irritated by how much of a problem this has been."



Call 911 and provide as much information as possible.

Be forthcoming, even if it means revealing unflattering details.

Keep personal items that may provide DNA samples.

Use support agencies like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST; National Center for Missing Adults at 1-800-690-FIND; and Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims at 1-800-346-7555.

Call the investigating detective to give or get an update.


© 2006 KRT Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Pickton Trial: Who Were the Victims?

From TheTyee.ca
Pickton Trial: Who Were the Victims?
Link Address: http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2006/02/04/PicktonTrial
Published: 2006-02-04 21:50:00

Media and police neglect the fully human lives of missing women.
As the preliminaries in the Pickton trial begin, some are putting both the police and the media on trial, as well, charging that both are guilty of neglect toward native women.

While the sexual, racial and social status of Robert "Willie" Pickton's alleged victims dominates their descriptions in the news - little to no consideration of their personal lives has made it into print.

That's the charge being leveled by CBC News: Sunday Associate Producer Audrey Huntley who has been documenting the stories of missing Canadian native women. She believes that news stations are continuing to make the same mistakes that Vancouver Police and RCMP did, deferring their investigation despite the evidence set before them.

Cross country pilgrimage

In a pilgrimage during the summer of 2000 from Toronto to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - where she lived for three and a half years - Huntley investigated the stories of missing native women, as told by their families on aboriginal reserves. The end result is a video series - Traces of Missing Women.

Huntley has a personal attachment to the missing native women because she is of mixed native and settler ancestry. Before she joined the CBC, Huntley worked with aboriginal women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and has joined various activist groups that support aboriginal issues, including the Sisters in Spirit Campaign. Huntley's career has been dedicated to bringing attention to issues affecting aboriginal women.

"[Native families] most of the time felt that they hadn't got the attention [of officials]," said Huntley. "They were met with a lot of indifference on the part of the police or whomever they tried to get help from." She added that the media either just "didn't care" or reduced the victims to implicitly-guilty, drug-addicted prostitutes, even though some victims were not.

Huntley has devoted herself to highlighting Canada's history of "dealing with" natives; attempting to pull them in from the margins of society.

"I have a friend that went to them [police] in '98 and told them about the [Pickton] farm," Huntley said. "They said that she was a 'junkie ho'." And they ignored her testimony about the missing native women.

The media, too, has overlooked the women's stories out of disregard for their sources. News focus on the Pickton trial has skated over the fact that peers and family members were issuing warnings about Pickton almost 20 years before a police investigation was initiated in 1998.

That investigation, in tandem with a new "missing women task force," reviewed files of at least 40 women reported missing since 1971.

It was not until February 5, 2002 that Pickton's farm came under police scrutiny, however. Later that month, Robert Pickton was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Racial overtones

Why did the police ignore Pickton and missing women for so long? Because many of the women were social outcasts, says Huntley. The prevalence of drug addicts and prostitutes among the missing - not to mention native - rendered them inconsequential.

The racial undertones inherent in the Pickton trial beg the question: how much does race play into police and media treatment of natives?

In 1998, the same year the Pickton investigation began, media coverage of another murder case followed a similar trajectory.

Pamela George, a woman from the Ojibway nation, worked as a prostitute and was brutally murdered in Regina, Saskatchewan by two young, middle-class white men who had solicited her services.

The defense team argued that George was complicit in her own murder by virtue of her risky profession. The judge asked the jury to consider this "fact" in their deliberation.

As University of Toronto's Sociology and Equity Professor Sherene Razack writes in the article "Gendered Racial Violence and Spatialized Justice," the Pamela George case points to a systematic judicial failure to ensure equal treatment for natives.

Why media matters

With the judicial system and police distrusting the native community, the media may be the only outlet for a public call to arms to protect marginalized groups.

"All of us [society] bear some of the responsibility in this case," said Mary Lynn Young, journalist and professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Journalism, about the Pickton case. "It is our job as journalists to make these [women's] stories interesting."

At least one victim of racism has found reporters who will take that responsibility.

Myrna McCallum went to the police on January 23 of this year seeking help finding her runaway daughter, Alicia. She filed a missing person's report, but police did nothing until the media got wind of the case.

The Vancouver Sun published a story about the 14-year-old native girl's disappearance, and within days, Alicia had been returned home.

The media is now an accountability system for police and courts that may yet hold biases against native peoples. But whether the news media lives up to our new expectations is yet to be seen.

Obviously, families of the alleged victims of Robert Pickton are hoping the media is up to the challenge.

"It is a story that begs to be sensationalized," said Huntley about the Pickton trial. "[However], the women weren't just drug addicts and prostitutes, they were mothers and aunties." They need to be treated as such.

Audrey Huntley produced a feature- length story for CBC News: Sunday titled "Go Home Baby Girl" that documented the story of Norma (Lorna) George, a missing native woman, and her family's struggle to cope their loss and the uncertainty surrounding the cause for her death. It can be viewed on the CBC News: Sunday website.

Heather Travis is a graduate student in the University of British Columbia School of Journalism. This piece was first published on The Thunderbird UBC Online Journalism Review.

Saturday, February 4


Challenges for the media, challenges for the law

By Daniel W. Burnett, January 29, 2006

Robert “Willie” Pickton is accused of being Canada’s worst serial killer. If found guilty on all 27 murder charges, that will put him in a morbid lead over the infamous Ted Bundy. The trial, which began January 30, will be one of the most prominent news stories of the year, and has significant international attention. It will test the laws that protect fair trials in Canada like they have never been tested before.

Technically the trial began last year, when Justice Williams presided over a few weeks of preliminary disclosure issues. He declared that the preliminary matters brought before him were part of the voir dire stage of the trial. This term refers to the portions of the trial when the jury is absent, and it triggers an automatic publication ban under section 648 of the Criminal Code over all “information” which the court hears in the absence of the jury. When continuous proceedings start on January 30, the first several weeks will be without a jury, and they too will be covered by the voir dire ban. So will the many instances during the months of trial to follow when the jury is asked to leave the room for counsel to argue about issues such as the admissibility of evidence.

Challenges for the Media

The ban on voir dire information is just one of the many legal challenges for media covering the trial. By the time the trial is in its fifth or sixth month, there will have been
countless voir dires, some lengthy, some for just a few minutes, at various times through the trial. Reporters’ notes will be littered with references to testimony, exhibits, and arguments. Few will be able to attend every day. Somehow they will need to keep track of what information came out during voir dire and remember to obey the ban.

The temptation to simply “put down the pencils” when the jury is absent would be a mistake, because the ban is only temporary until the jury retires to consider its verdict (or until verdict if the judge exercises his discretion to make such an order). Therefore, if the case comes to an abrupt end due to a plea or other development, the information from voir dire will become the sole record of much of the evidence. Also, when the trial is over, the information from voir dire that the jury did not hear can be a fascinating series of news stories.

The voir dire ban is just one of the legal landmines for reporters. There is also a ban on Pickton’s preliminary hearing, which took place over many months in 2002 and 2003. At that hearing, the Crown laid out its main evidence against Pickton and those who were present already know very well what evidence to expect, what exhibits are going to be presented, and what witnesses will say. However, those reporters are bound by a ban on publishing any evidence from a preliminary hearing, which is contained in section 539 of the Criminal Code. Again, should the trial come to an end either by way of a verdict or a plea bargain, that information becomes publishable and can provide some fascinating material. If there is a plea or the trial ends suddenly for any other reason, the preliminary hearing would provide much of the only the only public record of what is alleged to be the worst murderous spree by any Canadian in history.

The legal complications for reporters do not end there. In addition to the publication bans there may well be other discretionary bans imposed by the trial judge as the case evolves. The B.C. Courts website has a special section devoted to the bans which apply to the Pickton trial. Journalists can keep up to date by going to http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/pickton/index.htm

There is still more. Canada has a crime known as “media contempt,” which is committed whenever media publish information which “they knew or ought to have known would create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial.” This means that if reporters find out information, even information which is not covered by one of the bans on publication, which is likely to bias a juror against Pickton, it would be a crime to publish it. Contempt is the oldest common law crime in Canada, and the boundaries in law are fuzzy. In a highly competitive news market, those boundaries get pushed, and the risk of contempt is constant.

To use a hypothetical, fictional example, if an enterprising reporter were to find out that Pickton was a friend and confidante of Gary Ridgway, the “Green River Killer” from the U.S., that would be explosive information which could give some jurors the impression that the two were somehow connected, and it would be contemptuous. This is not only a question of a reporter or media outlet needing to avoid its own potential prosecution, but the daunting prospect of being the person who caused a mistrial should one occur due to media publication. Not only do contempt fines often include an estimate of the trial costs which have been thrown away due to a mistrial, which would be millions in this case, but to be known as the reporter or television station who caused a mistrial in Canada’s biggest murder case would be the journalistic equivalent of having “loser” tattooed on your forehead.

And imagine this scenario. Six months into the trial, a reporter comes into some explosive information that was told to a friend of one of the alleged victims. After addressing the daunting question of whether the information is reliable, the reporter must then consider whether or not that information is covered by one of the bans. It is highly unlikely that the reporter has attended every day of the preliminary hearing (covered by the section 539 ban) or every voir dire hearing over the many months of trial (covered by the section 648 ban). Even if the reporter had attended them all, it would be difficult to recall or determine whether the information came out while the jury was present or not. Assuming the reporter can be satisfied the information did not come out in a “banned” portion of the proceedings, the question is then whether it is contemptuous, and the fuzzy border problem arises. This is the difficult process which many reporters will go through with respect to many bits of information that emerge from the myriad sources as the proceedings go along.

Challenges for the Justice System

It is not just reporters who face significant challenges in the Pickton trial, but the justice system itself. This is a case attracting international attention, and all the legal restrictions aimed at protecting the fair trial of the accused will be rendered meaningless if all of the banned information were published nightly on the American CNN newscast. Not only are the laws different in the USA, where bans on open court hearings are virtually unheard of, but so is the mind set. American media often criticize the maze of publication bans which choke the flow of information about what ought to be an open justice system. Many Canadian commentators, including this author, view the Canadian system as far too restrictive and believe that our justice system is not so fragile that it needs secrecy to hold together. But media operating in Canada are bound by the rules whether they like them or not. Add together the profile of the trial, the philosophical view of American media that court proceedings should be published, and the practical difficulties in enforcing a Canadian legal rule outside the territorial boundaries of Canada, and you have the recipe for a most challenging trial.

Certainly the courts can try. At the preliminary hearing, the presiding judge, upon hearing of a possible breach of the ban by a Seattle television station, determined what reporter was responsible and made it clear to him and all of the other reporters in no uncertain terms that anyone involved in a breach, even one which originates outside Canada, could expect to be shown the door. That threat will serve as a powerful deterrent to anyone considering an attempt to evade the publication ban by publishing in another jurisdiction. However, the threat is hardly perfect. If all the foreign media outlet wishes to do is publish one explosive “ban breaking” story and intends to follow the rest of the trial using the wire services, it is difficult to imagine what the courts or the police in Canada could effectively do to stop it. Even if they could prosecute after the facts, the damage would be done.

The Trial Judge declined a request arising from these concerns to make special orders imposing secrecy on those in the public gallery, but the fear over U.S. internet publications, be they by major media or individual bloggers, did convince him to issue a ban on publishing information about the internet location of any web sites which breach the bans.

This is the point where journalistic peers from different countries begin to squabble. Nothing drives a media outlet more crazy than the knowledge that another media outlet can publish more. For Canadian journalists, the prospect that their American competitors can “get away with” more in an international story of this sort is of serious concern.

The most telling example of international media problems that can arise was the publication ban at the Karla Homolka plea hearing about twelve years ago. The case attracted international attention, with American newspapers being seized at the border, Canadian cable companies being required to black out certain American news programs, and prosecutions against those who defied what they saw as an outrageous restriction on information. There was genuine concern about whether the subsequent trial of Paul Bernardo, which the ban was meant to protect, could proceed fairly. The kicker is that the Homolka case occurred when the internet was still in its infancy. Imagine those problems multiplied through the reality of the internet age today. There has already been a horror movie made in the U.S., oddly titled “Killer Pickton,” considering that there has been no conviction.

There will undoubtedly be multiple motions by the defence for mistrials and requests for further publication bans and prosecutions. They have already unsuccessfully sought to have the preliminary hearing in secret and the voir dire conducted under a “code of silence” order upon those in the public gallery. The Judge has made it clear he will consider the necessity of these and other protections as the case and its publicity evolves.

This story may be too big to contain, yet reporters in Canada and elsewhere are being asked, with criminal sanctions hanging over their heads, to rein themselves in. The legal system is attempting to control the flow of information in an age when the ability to do so is severely limited. The myriad challenges of this trial have many thinking about whether our current means of protecting trials is appropriate or even worth the trouble. By the time this historic trial is over, Courts, legislators, and the media will be asking themselves those same hard questions.

DAN BURNETT is one of Canada's leading media lawyers. He frequently lectures on media law issues for reporters and journalism students. He represents several media outlets on issues including publication bans, access to courts and court files, contempt, privacy, defamation, freedom of information and defamation. Dan was one of the lawyers who successfully opposed the defence bids to have the Pickton preliminary hearing heard in camera and to impose extraordinary restrictions on the trial.


MISSING Our lost women

MISSING Our lost women

On Thursday July 14, Amber went to Trapper's Bar in Fort Qu'Appelle. She was last seen there at 2 30 a.m. Friday morning. A missing person's report was filed the following Monday. "Everything goes through my head. I think about if she's being harmed, if she's cold, if she's being fed."

Donna-Rae Munroe
Regina Leader-Post

Saturday, February 04, 2006

When darkness falls she visits her.

She puts her other children to bed, opens the door to her daughter's bedroom, steps softly inside and lies down on the bed.

There, she cries, she prays and she talks to her daughter.

"In my culture I believe that her spirit is still alive although physically I don't know where she is."

She is Gwenda Yuzicappi. Her 19-year-old daughter Amber Tara-Lynn Redman has been missing for four months.

On Thursday July 14, Amber went to Trapper's Bar in Fort Qu'Appelle. She was last seen there at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. A missing person's report was filed the following Monday.

Gwenda has been waiting for Amber to come home ever since.

Waiting and dreaming about it.

"I dream about that all the time," she said. "My first dream was shortly after she went missing. She came walking in the door and she just stood there. She didn't say nothing. She didn't smile."

The dream worried Gwenda. Sometimes, she can't help but think the worst.

"Everything goes through my head. I think about if she's being harmed, if she's cold, if she's being fed."

RCMP say they have no information about the cause of her disappearance or her current whereabouts.

But, drugs and alcohol, says Gwenda, may have played a part in her daughter's disappearance and she wonders if someone slipped something into Amber's drink.

"I did speak with one of the waitresses at the bar and they did say that Amber only had two beer that night. They said that she was so drunk she was falling all over. They said she fell three times, and the last time she hit her head pretty hard."

But, the truth is, she added, nobody knows.

So she can't and won't blame anyone.

Her story is all too familiar to mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and friends of missing women all over Saskatchewan.

Amber Redman, Melanie Dawn Geddes and Daleen Bosse have all gone missing in the last two years.

On Wednesday, the Geddes family had their worst fears realized. Police confirmed that remains found Dec. 20 along the banks of the Qu'Appelle River about 50 kilometres north of Regina were those of the 24-year-old. Geddes had been missing since Aug. 13, 2005.

Amber Redman is described as aboriginal, 5'8, 126 pounds with long, brown hair. She was last seen wearing denim blue jeans, a denim blue jean shirt and blue metal earrings in the shape of a heart with two eagle feathers. She is a member of the Standing Buffalo First Nation.

Daleen Bosse went missing May 18, 2004. She was 26 years old and is described as 5'5, 170 pounds and wears glasses. She is a member of the Onion Lake First Nation and was last seen by her family in Saskatoon.

RCMP say they cannot release the names of the 17 missing aboriginal women under their jurisdiction due to privacy reasons, but they have confirmed that Amber Redman is one of them.

The secrecy makes writer Warren Goulding frustrated.

"I don't understand why they're afraid to show that information. It just makes no sense at all," he said.

Goulding is the author of Just Another Indian, a book that candidly details the brutal murders of convicted serial killer John Martin Crawford, a man who targeted aboriginal women in Saskatoon.

The dedication to the book reads, "It is a tribute to the families they left behind. May they come to know that many Canadians share their sadness," and that expresses exactly what troubled Goulding so much about the Crawford killings -- many people didn't care.

In the 1990s, the disappearance of aboriginal women in Saskatoon was followed quickly by the discovery of their bodies just outside of town. They were Shelley Napope, Calinda Waterhen, Eva Taysup, and Mary Jane Serloin.

Goulding was a crime and court reporter for The StarPhoenix in 1994, when the bodies of the three women were found. He followed the story and covered the investigation until John Crawford was convicted.

What amazed Goulding was how little attention people paid to a serial killer in their own community.

"Unlike many of the sordid characters with whom he shares the designation 'serial killer,' John Martin Crawford shuns publicity. He has staked his claim as one of the nation's most prolific sex killers with little fanfare," he writes.

"Housed in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, serving three concurrent life sentences, he is anonymous, his deeds virtually forgotten."

Crawford has been the "beneficiary of a disinterested media and an equally impassive public," charges Goulding.

Fifteen years later, aboriginal women are still going missing and are still being murdered. Thinking of the recent publicity in British Columbia regarding the alleged serial killer Robert Pickton, charged with the deaths of 27 prostitutes from Vancouver's downtown eastside, and in Edmonton, where police have identified the possibility of a serial killer since the bodies of nine sex trade workers were found in the outskirts of the city, Goulding compares the Saskatchewan situation.

"The Saskatchewan disappearances are really different, aren't they? It's not like these are girls that are working the street or even living in a high risk area or anything," he said. "I don't know if that's part of a pattern."

RCMP in Saskatchewan, "haven't identified a trend," said media officer Cpl. Brian Jones in an interview. "To me, a trend implies that there's a connection between those. There is a similarity in that they are aboriginal and that they are female."

Trend or not, people are paying more attention to missing aboriginal women.

"I guess the only good thing about it is that we're talking about it and we care. Look at 1992, when the women disappeared in Saskatoon. Nobody even knew about it, let alone cared about it. So, that's a positive in a very sad story," said Goulding.

The release of Amnesty International's Stolen Sisters report in October 2004 could be the reason for the increased media attention surrounding missing aboriginal women.

"Over the past 20 years, more than 500 indigenous women may have been murdered or gone missing in circumstances suggesting violence," says the report, releasing the findings of the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Long-time Amnesty International volunteer Gord Barnes has been trying to raise awareness about the report in Regina, where the Regina Police Service is still looking for Joyce Lucille Tillotson and Patricia Maye Favel.

"The long text of the report really demonstrates that, first of all, women who are First Nations background are being targeted because the people who are perpetrating the crimes against them thought they could get away with it because no one would care. It was a systemic issue of the violation of their physical and mental integrity," said Barnes, who added the report also identifies a lack of support services for women, as well as an inadequate police response to missing aboriginal women.

Indicating the murders of 19-year-old Helen Betty Osborne and her 16-year-old cousin Felicia Solomon, as well as the murders of Roxanna Thiara and Alishia Germaine in Prince George, B.C., the murder of Ramona Wilson in Smithers, B.C., John Crawford's victims, Robert Pickton's victims and the murders in Edmonton, the report charges that, "In every instance, Canadian authorities could and should have done more to ensure the safety of these women and girls or to address the social and economic factors that had helped put them in harm's way."

The Government of Saskatchewan announced a missing persons task force Nov. 21. Part of that means funding for six RCMP positions, four to work with the historical crime unit and two to work with the violent crime analysis section, as well as one officer for each of the Saskatoon and Regina police forces.

"The issue of missing persons is a tragedy for families and communities across our province," Justice Minister Frank Quennell said in a press release.

"Keeping Saskatchewan communities safe is a top priority of our government, and assisting law enforcement to investigate missing persons cases is an important part of this goal. I am confident that this initiative will help solve cases of missing persons and provide families with answers about their missing loved ones."

The provincial government will invest nearly $2 million over the next three years to find missing persons. The dollars are good news, according to Jones.

"The money and the positions are going to be welcome because there's a lot of work to be done and the more resources that are applied to them the more that can be worked on, perhaps in a more timely fashion," said the media officer.

Gwenda also appreciates the government's efforts.

"I believe something has to happen and it is a start. I'm appreciative of what the government is trying to do and I hope that other leaders, including First Nations leaders, do something."

In Saskatchewan, police say they take the missing persons cases personally.

"Missing person cases are very, very challenging for police agencies to work on and try to resolve. Throughout the whole thing, the fact that there are people patiently waiting for answers is what helps drive the investigators," said Jones.

Cpl. Darren Harrison of the Fort Qu'Appelle RCMP is supervising Amber's case and said that her disappearance has been frustrating.

"I have kids growing up and it certainly makes me think. I've sat down and talked with my kids about the possibility that that could happen," said Harrison, adding, "work wise, being a supervisor at the detachment, it certainly increases your workload and trying to make sure that a good proper thorough investigation is done is certainly demanding."

But nothing compares to the anguish a mother feels when she knows her daughter could be anywhere, in any condition.

"I miss her so much," said Gwenda, looking away with wet eyes and cheeks.

"If there's a day I find out that she's passed on to the spirit world, to me, having the closure won't be a happy day, but at least I'll know where she is."

While she waits for news of her daughter, she has immersed herself in the issue of missing aboriginal women, who, she says, are more likely to go missing than non-aboriginal women because "they're an easy target," and people don't think that the RCMP will do anything about it.

But RCMP say race doesn't mean anything to police agencies when they're investigating a missing persons report.

"Gender or race doesn't affect how the RCMP -- and it's safe to say any police agency -- would investigate it. They're investigated and followed up as the information and the evidence that's available will allow," said Jones.

With that said, the Stolen Sisters report states that the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women need special attention: "Police have said that they do not necessarily record the ethnicity of crime victims or missing persons when entering information in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, the principal mechanism for sharing information among police forces in Canada. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, in 11 per cent of homicides in 2000, Canadian police did not record or report on whether or not the victim was an Indigenous person."

Gwenda believes there is a disparity between the way aboriginal women and other women are treated and that's why, when the day comes when she is reunited with her daughter, physically or spiritually, she says she won't give up on other missing women.

"I'm still going to stand strong behind other families who have family members missing. This is an issue that I'm going to be supporting for a long, long time."

(The Leader-Post)

- - -


Women missing from Saskatchewan:

- 1983: Joyce Lucille Tillotson. She was 42 years old when she went missing near her home at 2204 Reynolds St. in Regina on Nov. 14, 1983.

- 1991: Shirley Lonethunder. She is originally from the White Bear First Nation in Southeast Saskatchewan and disappeared out of Saskatoon around the same time convicted killer John Martin Crawford was murdering aboriginal women in the area.

- 2002: Victoria Nashacappo. Aged 22, she disappeared from Saskatoon in September 2002.

- 2004: Daleen Bosse. She was 26 years old and is described as 5'5, 170 pounds and wears glasses. She is a member of the Onion Lake First Nation and was last seen by her family in Saskatoon May 18, 2004.

- 2005: Amber Tara-Lynn Redman. She is 19 years old and is described as aboriginal, 5'8, 126 pounds with long, brown hair. She was last seen July 15 wearing denim blue jeans, a denim blue jean shirt and blue metal earrings in the shape of a heart with two eagle feathers. She is a member of the Standing Buffalo First Nation.


The remains of Melanie Dawn Geddes, missing since August 2005, were discovered in December, and identified this week.

Across Canada

These are the names of aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered as compiled by the Canadian Native Women's Association and the Sisters in Spirit Campaign:

Ada Elaine Brown

Brittany Manitopyes

Naomi Leigh Desjarlais

Jaime Wheeler

Donna Marie Kasyon

Maxine Wapass

Pamela Jean George

Janet Sylvestre

Victoria Nashacappo

Monique Pitre

Joanne Ghostkeeper

Ginger Lee Bellerose

Cara King

Jessica Cardinal

Lorraine Wray

Sherry Ann Upright

Edna Bernard

Barbara Eyapaise Rhonda Running Bird

Georgette Flint

Bernadette Ahenakew

Mavis Mason

Gail Cardinal

Ramona Wilson

Lana Derrick

Delphine Nikal

Roxanne Thiara

Alishia Germaine

Cherissa-Lynn Mercer

Charlene Kerr

Colleen Shook

Ann Ruby Threlfell

Brenda Logan

Verna Littlechief

Wendy Poole

Cherish Billy Oppenheim

Crystal Peggy Baker

Lee-Ann Parker

Lisa Marie Graveline

Alberta Williams

Sherry Irving

Sarah Jean Devries

Lisa Marie Young

Michelle Gurney

Janet Henry

Jacqueline Murdock

Stephanie Lane

Elsie Sebastien

Tanya Marlo Holyk

Heather Chinnock

Olivia Gayle Williams

Dorothy Anne Spence

Teressa Williams

Dawn Crey

Georgina Papin

Brenda Wolfe

Jennifer Furminger

Rebecca Guno

Maria Lorna Laliberte

Ruby Anne Hardy

Michelle Remimi

Mona Wilson

Cheryl Ann Joe

Nancy Jane Bob

Yvonne Abigosis

Sereena Abbotsway

Cassandra Lailoni Antone

Kari Ann Gordon

Tammy Lee Pipe

Rachel Turley

Rose Minnie Peters

Mary Lidguerre

Patricia Pendleton

Crysta Lynn David

Phoebe Mack

Velma Marie Duncan

Roberta Marie Ferguson

Jocelyn Mcdonald

Chantal Marie Venne

Donna Rose Kiss

Donna Charlie

Carol Ruby Davis

Lisa Marie Gavin

Catherine Mary Daignault

Glenda Morrisseau

Christina Littlejohn

Constance Cameron

Jackaleen Patricia Dyck

Felicia Solomon

Noreen Taylor

Cheryl Duck

Therena Silva

Jane Louise Sutherland

Susan Asslin

Sonya Cywink Elena Assam-Thunderbird

Rebecca Jean King

Bernadette Leclair

Donna Tebbenham

Minnie Sutherland

Sandra Kaye Johnson

Charlene Catholique

Heather Tuckatuck

Cheryl Ann Johnson

Anna Mae Aquash

Laura Lee Cross

Jennifer Naglingniq

Donna Joe

Carol Ann Deiter

Marlene Buffalo-Hudson

Laura Ann Ahenakew

Elaine Keewatin Flowers

Dawn Keewatin

Rose Desjarlais

Mrs. Wayne Stonechild

Madeleine Lavalee

Jane Doe

Joyce Cardinal

Annette Bruce

Julie Gambler

Roberta Saddleback

Tracy Lyn Hope

Cherlene Kerr

Debbie Kennedy

Gloria Duneult

Brenda George

Dawn Ritchie

Laverna Avigan

Debbie Neeclose

Loran Carpenter

Jennifer Pete

Verna Lyons

Sandra Flamond

Bobbie Lincoln

Donna Chartrand

Shirly Nix

Lisa Leo

Martha Garvin

Gertrude Anderson

Christine Billy

Shelia Hunt

Rose Peters

Jerry Ferguson

Ruby Williams

Barbara Laroque

Holly Cochrane

Cindy Williams

Lorna George

Veronica Harry

Monika Lillmeier

Elsie Tomma

Patricia Andrew

Nya Robailard

Mary Johns

Rose Merasty

Lorna Jones

Lois Mackie

Carol Davie

Lorrain Arrance

Nancy Bob

Peggy Snow

Janice Saul

Margaret Vedan

Janet Basil

Leanne Scholtz

Donna Stony

Laurie Scholtz

Karen Baker

Jenny Waters

Belinda Ritchie

Sharon Arrance

Julie Smith

Pauline Johnson

Maxine Paull

Chantel Ferguson

Annie Cedar

Patricia Wadhams

Amanda Flett

Bernadine Standingready

Luanne Stolarchuk

Marjorie Pironen

Dora Patrick

Sally Jackson

Tanya Wallace

Laura Frank

Pamela George

Naomi Desjarlais

Shirley Lone Thunder

Dierdre Lavalley

Ran with fact boxes, "Victims" and "Across Canada ", which have been appended to the story.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006