Saturday, June 30

Walking against violence

Adam JohnsonNorthern News Services

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Two weeks from now, the Native Women's Association of the NWT - and anyone they can bring with them - is going to start walking, and they won't stop until they get to Behchoko.

"We want to raise the community's understanding of violence against aboriginal women," said association executive director Denyse Nadon-Holder.

The second annual Journey for Change Walk will take the association and other Yellowknifers down Highway 3 to Behchoko, nearly 106 kilometres, on foot.

More than just raising general awareness, the group wants to address five specific cases, whose names and photos grace the front of their posters around town.

They include missing women Leona Brule, Charlene Catholique, Mary Rose Keadjuk and Rose Mary Villeneuve and murder victim Meriella Lennie.

More recently, a family in Fort Smith has been frantically searching for their daughter, Leanne Lori Benwell, who has been missing in Edmonton since March.

"We feel like we're being hunted," Nadon-Holder said.

"People need to see these women," she added. "This is not just a native women's issue, this is a community issue."

In 2004, Amnesty International released a report stating aboriginal women aged 25-44 were five times more likely to die of violence than other Canadian women of the same age. The report called this a "human rights tragedy."

This study also revealed an estimated 500 aboriginal women had gone missing or been found murdered in Canada the last 30 years, a number far in excess of their proportional representation in the country.

It's this statistic Nadon-Holder quotes most often.

"This is why we want people to walk with us," she said. "Violence has no boundaries; it's just there and we have to stand up together and deal with it."

"We need to let people know this is happening."

Const. Roxanne Dreilich, media representative with the Yellowknife RCMP, said statistics about missing Aboriginal women in the NWT are hard to calculate, as cases are not organized according to ethnicity.

The walk officially begins Sunday, July 15 at noon. Interested participants and volunteers can contact the Native Women's Association.

First Nations people in B.C. marched today to protest the loss of their people's rights to land, culture and liberty.

End injustice
First Nations people in B.C. marched today to protest the loss of their people’s rights to land, culture and liberty, as part of a national day of action

By Kelly Sinoski
Vancouver Sun
Friday, June 29, 2007

A first nations protester taking part in a march stands on a street corner singing a song and beating a drum in Vancouver on June 29, 2007.

When Chief Phillip Campbell was a boy, he was taught to hunt, fish and forage for food the way his native ancestors had done.

But as development eats deeper into his native Boston Bar, he's finding the traditional gathering grounds have shrunk, the birds and animals have fled and the fish stocks are depleting.

Today, Campbell joined hundreds of other First Nations people in B.C. who marched across the Burrard Bridge to Library Square to protest the loss of their people's rights to land, culture and liberty.

Protests were also held across Canada as part of the national day of action for first nations people.

"I'd like to see the general population of Canada realize we do have rights to lands and resources," said Campbell, chief of the Boothroyd Indian Band in Boston Bar. "There's been a lot of private land that's been sold within our national territory that have a lot of resources that we value.

"We have to be properly consulted. People have been trying to stop me from doing traditionals I've done all my life - hunting and gathering - and that's being done all over the province."

Marching to the sounds of drums, the protesters wore Indian blankets, feather earrings or had their hair in braids. Some waved flags or carried banners or placards that read: "We stand as one on titles and rights" and "poverty kills."

One of the signs cited the dire statistics facing first nations people: one in four children live in poverty, 12 per cent of communities have to boil drinking water and 50 per cent of people are unemployed or don't graduate from high school.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Penticton band, urged the federal government to bring legislative reform to deal with the "unfinished business that has brought so much pain" to first nations people.

"As an expression of humanity we need to say it's is now time to end that absolute national disgrace," he said.

Shirley Toma, 67, an elder with the Squamish First Nation, said she wants the government to understand what her people have lost so they may regain it.

As a child, she was placed in a residential school where she was abused and her language and culture wiped out. It wasn't until she was 30 that she started to realize who she was. Now, she spends her time gathering plants for healing or making baskets out of cedar bark.

"I tried to pick up as much as I could; I started to really live our old ways," said Toma. "I realized how much wealth we had and we weren't using. It felt like a loss. How dare someone take that away from me and my children and my mom and dad? I felt hurt."

Shawn Atleo, B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, called for a moment of silence to remember those who suffered in residential schools, those living on the Downtown Eastside and the young women killed on the Highway of Tears. Others chanted "act now" three times to make a better future for their children.

"If we don't protect our rights and titles, there's not going to be that opportunity for our children and the future," Campbell said.

© Vancouver Sun 2007

Wednesday, June 27

Mother to walk highway

By Teresa Mallam
Free Press

June 27, 2007

Audrey Auger is healing but the process is slow. Like any parent who has tragically lost a child, her pain cuts deep. Despair drove her to new lows in life.

Auger hopes part of her personal healing journey will come about with a northern B.C. walk in memory of her murdered daughter, 14-year-old Aielah Saric-Auger. The girl went missing in February 2006. Her body was found last year alongside Highway 16, near the Tabor Mountain turnoff.

The grieving mother also plans to walk for all victims of the infamous Highway of Tears, she said Sunday, during unveiling ceremonies for a commemorative bench.

“We will be leaving Prince Rupert on July 1 about 5 in the morning and we will continue to Prince George to [the place] where my baby girl took her last breath on Highway 16. That’s where we’ll end our walk. Along the way, we will do our traditional smudging ceremonies at the places where the women were last seen or found,” she said.

“The walk will take several weeks to complete - we expect to be back in Prince George in September. Some of the group will be camping along the highway and we’re hoping to get some support.”

They will need things like hats, water bottles, sunscreen and rain gear, she said.
Auger added she wants to walk the walk herself.

“I’m walking the whole way. I don’t want anyone to walk for me because I’ve got my own two legs and I have a purpose for walking.”

She said she hopes others will join her.

“If they walk one mile in honor of the girls and my baby, that’s good. If they can only do a few steps with us, then that’s good too.” She also wanted to correct some misinformation that came out in media reports which suggested her daughter was from Prince George.

“Aielah was born in Edmonton,” Auger said, as she began to unravel more details about her daughter’s past.

“She’s not from Prince George but from Peace River Country. Aielah was laid to rest in Gift Lake beside my dad. Aielah’s dad’s family is from Germany and Croatia which, in other words, Aielah was a Heintz 57 baby with Woodlands Cree in her.”

Auger paused as the crowd’s laughter filled the air and broke the solemn atmosphere of the occasion. The she related how she moved to Prince George to start a new life with her family but instead found unspeakable sorrow. She lost so much when her daughter was found murdered, she said, adding that she was angry for a long time.

Now she seeks solace from the upcoming walk and hopes it will bring healing for herself and others.

Anyone who can help support the walk participants is asked to contact Auger at 250-649-0963 or Bekah at 250-562-6555.

The following items are needed:

• two four-man tents, foam mats, sleeping bags, blankets
• several pairs of shoes
• food
• transportation
• minutes for cell phones
• tobacco, smudge supplies;
• bug repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats
• water bottles.

Copyright © 2007 Prince George Free Press
This photo set is from CFRN radio supporting the missing women from the Highway of Tears in British Columbia.

Monday, June 25

Pickton's defence team working hard to raise doubt. Could Willie walk?

Question hangs over courtroom:
Could Willie walk?

By Ethan Baron
Vancouver Province

Sunday, June 24, 2007


As the serial-murder trial of Robert "Willie" Pickton enters its sixth month, one big question hangs over the courtroom: Could Willie walk?

Charged with 26 killings, Pickton is on trial for the first six counts.

When the trial opened Jan. 22, prosecutor Derrill Prevett presented what appeared to be a powerful case against the Port Coquitlam pig man. Pickton had actually boasted to an undercover cop that he killed 49 women and had planned to "make it an even 50," Prevett told court. During Pickton's police interrogation, he admitted to being "sloppy" about cleaning up blood, and said, "You make me more of a mass murderer than I am."

He also told an officer he had "one more planned" then he was "gonna shut it down." Pickton said there were "two . . . maybe three" women killed in a motorhome on the farm.

Police discovered a handgun in Pickton's laundry room with a phallic sex toy over the end, bearing the DNA of Pickton and Mona Wilson, Prevett said to the jury. Two syringes with DNA from the accused and Sereena Abotsway were found in his trailer, Prevett said.

After Pickton's arrest, his brother Dave told police he knew it was "over" for Pickton, and added, "There's bodies," an officer testified.

The physical evidence against Pickton looked compelling. Women's heads, sawn in half, in a workshop freezer and the slaughterhouse. Bullets found with heads, and a pistol of the same calibre in Pickton's laundry room. Bloodstains suggesting a vicious attack in a beat-up motorhome parked on the farm. Items and DNA linked to victims, in Pickton's trailer and slaughterhouse.

The Crown had witnesses who had been close to Pickton. Early in the trial, the prosecution played a video of Pickton's interrogation, which included a clip of his former employee Scott Chubb saying Pickton told him a good way to kill a heroin addict was to inject her with windshield fluid or antifreeze. Police found a syringe containing windshield fluid on a console in Pickton's office.

In another clip from Pickton's interrogation, former Pickton associate Andrew Bellwood said Pickton told him about killing prostitutes and feeding their bodies to pigs.

Body parts. DNA. Alleged boasts of murder. An open-and-shut case?

Not so fast. Pickton's high-end defence team has spent the past five months planting seeds of doubt.

Yes, Pickton made incriminating statements to an undercover policeman in a jail cell, and to officers during interrogation. But, argued his lawyers, their client is "slow," a "simple fellow" prone to spinning outlandish yarns. He claimed to have lived in a chicken coop at age two, and said he was offered a job as a male model in his 20s.

Then there are the heads, the hands and feet, the teeth and bones, found within a stone's throw of Pickton's trailer. Over and over, lawyers for the accused have focused on the large number of people who came and went from the Pickton farm at all hours, some even using the slaughterhouse for butchery.

And although the self-described "pig man" is the only one charged, three other people were arrested on suspicion of murder in the missing-women case, but never charged. Pat Casanova bought pigs from Pickton, which the two slaughtered and butchered together. Casanova testified that he used prostitutes, even in Pickton's bed. This is a man skilled with knife and saw, who spent a great deal of time in the slaughterhouse, and had access to the workshop freezers. He was arrested in January 2003 on suspicion of killing 15 women, including five of the six for which Pickton is now standing trial.

Also arrested but never charged was Dinah Taylor, Pickton's friend. According to witness testimony, Taylor brought drug-addicted women to Pickton, and lived for a time in Pickton's trailer. Her DNA was found on a pair of handcuffs in a workshop, and on lipstick from Pickton's trailer that also bore DNA from Brenda Wolfe.

The third person picked up was Lynn Ellingsen, but after a brief investigation she was not charged.

Defence lawyers have often raised the spectre of Dave, the younger brother said to have dominated the accused. Jurors heard that Dave has been convicted of sexual assault and was suspected of a violent sex attack in his home. An RCMP sergeant testified that Dave remains a "person of interest" rather than a suspect, in spite of the conviction, the allegation, and information that he used prostitutes and had a disdain for women.

As for the DNA evidence, the Pickton team has pointed out that just because Pickton's DNA was found together with victims' DNA, that doesn't link him directly to the women. DNA experts testified that DNA can last for years, and a "mixed" sample such as those on the .22 and the syringes can represent contact with two people at different times. And merely picking up and holding an item can leave DNA, jurors heard.

Analysis of the .22 pistol and sex toy in the laundry room turned up Wilson's DNA, but the strongest statement the RCMP lab expert could make regarding Pickton was that he could not rule out the accused as a possible match to DNA on the item. Police handled the weapon so much without gloves they didn't bother fingerprinting it, court heard. Bullets from a .22 found with women's heads were too badly damaged to be matched to a particular gun.

Prosecutors have focused on pig-butchering methods, seeking to link Pickton's techniques with the women's remains. The three women's feet and hands had been "disarticulated," separated from the body at the joints, Prevett said. However, an RCMP tool-mark expert testified that there was "no particular pattern of agreement" between the women's body parts and partially butchered pig carcasses found at the farm.

The women's heads had been cut in half vertically, with two of them showing marks inside the skull consistent with impressions from the tip of a reciprocating saw. Such a saw was seized from Pickton's farm. Casanova testified that both he and Pickton used the device on pigs.

Several of the prosecution's civilian witnesses have done little to advance the Crown case. Two women have testified that when they were drug addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Pickton brought them to his trailer and they spent the night in his bed, receiving money without providing sex, and leaving unharmed the next day.

Scott Chubb, highlighted by Prevett in his opening statement, claimed on the witness stand that Pickton offered him $1,000 to harm Ellingsen, whom a police officer suggested was blackmailing Pickton because she saw him "skinning a girl." Chubb, a former drug addict with a lengthy criminal record, contradicted himself so often that at times he appeared to be speaking from both sides of his mouth. His testimony was vastly different from what he'd said in the preliminary inquiry and in police statements. He had received thousands of dollars and a van from police for providing information about Pickton, and was after the $100,000 reward in the missing-women case, jurors heard.

Gerald McLaughlin, a young man who lived in the motorhome where a bloodbath allegedly later occurred, said he saw nothing unusual in his two years at the farm, and Pickton was "like a parent" to him.

To convict Pickton, the 12 jurors must unanimously find him guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." Each jury member must be, according to Black's Law Dictionary, the bible of the Canadian legal system, "satisfied to a moral certainty" and "entirely convinced" of the accused's guilt.

If the Crown fails to entirely convince the five women and seven men on Pickton's jury that he killed those six women, Willie could walk.

E-mail reporter Ethan Baron at

© Vancouver Province 2007

Sunday, June 24

Janet Henry missing 10 years ago June 25, 1997

Janet Gail Henry
Please remember Janet Henry today. Janet disappeared 10 years ago on June 25, 1997. She is loved and missed so very much by her sister Sandra and daughter Janet and family. They have not given up hope that one day they will have the answers that they so desperately need. Forever missing and loved by all of her family and friends.

Love and prayers
They aren't from Kerrisdale

Coleman touts new strategy for Downtown Eastside

Sending homeless to other parts of B.C. a possibility

John Bermingham
The Province

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Protesters demand more housing for the poor during a march in the Downtown Eastside last October. Provincial Housing Minister Rich Coleman says his Liberal government has implemented numerous policies to address the lack of social housing.

Provincial Housing Minister Rich Coleman says the eventual answer for the homeless of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is relocation -- to another B.C. community.

Towns in the Fraser Valley and the Interior offer a better chance at an escape from the addiction cycle that leads to homelessness, Coleman told The Province in a wide-ranging interview about the job he faces.

Communities who object to taking in those now gravitating overwhelmingly to Vancouver's streets will get little of his sympathy if they try to keep the poor and troubled from their midst, Coleman added.

"The Downtown Eastside is going to have to change," he said.

"Over time, it frankly needs to disperse its problems out of that one particular area of the city.
"We can't put all the services for these folks in one place, because we're creating our own self-fulfilling prophecy."

As for the not-in-my-backyard syndrome he anticipates in areas where people may land, Coleman conceded that "we have communities that have difficulty dealing with some homeless issues."

"Leadership has to be taken on this issue," he said. "People with mental health [issues] and addictions shouldn't be stereotyped. You have to give it a chance."

Coleman himself has taken the lead in many of the housing debates now raging in the public sphere.

He does so after years of accusations that his Liberal government was ignoring the swelling ranks of homeless in Canada's poorest neighbourhood.

In describing the challenge before him, Coleman said he wants to not only house the homeless but ultimately get them back into the mainstream.

"I wanted to change the philosophy within government from what I call ribbon-cutting to helping people," said Coleman, casting his eye over a view of the city's central waterfront. "You need to focus on the client and the person to help."

In April, the province paid $37 million for 10 single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The move was aimed at protecting almost 600 rooms from being converted into condos or backpacker hostels.

Coleman said he wants to turn the SROs into supportive housing that would provide rooms for Vancouver's hard-to-house by providing them with the supports they need. The hotels are now being fixed up; non-profit groups will be contracted to manage them.

The hotel purchases stunned many anti-poverty activists.

"It was a big surprise," said David Eby, a housing advocate with the Pivot Legal Society. "That was definitely a big change of policy."

Eby was also surprised in February when the Liberals boosted welfare rates by up to 20 per cent -- or $100 a month -- and the shelter allowance by $50, from $325 to $375 a month.

Still, Eby said, problems remain because the government writes cheques to the hotels without pressuring landlords to fix them up.

Coleman focused instead on the good he said his ministry is doing:

- In his two years as minister, he said, he saw his annual housing budget hiked by $200 million.

- The province already supports about 6,000 housing units in the Downtown Eastside, which also gets the largest chunk of Vancouver's annual $127 million in housing funds, he noted.

- Last winter, Coleman's ministry funded emergency beds at churches in the Downtown Eastside and made cold-weather shelter beds year-round, he said.

- It hired outreach workers to connect with the homeless and get them to the supports they need, like medical and social assistance, he said.

- Some 2,000 units of social housing are planned for B.C., including 200 units at Woodward's and another 100-odd at 55 East Hastings.

- The ministry gave more than $11 million to the Salvation Army to run transition housing for 85 at-risk residents at Grace Mansion at 596 East Hastings.

- The ministry is also lining up 300 new units on sites owned by the City of Vancouver, including a pilot project of 100 controversial "small suites." The rooms, which measure 18 square metres, contain a bed, washroom and kitchenette.

Critics say they're an insult to the poor. Coleman's answer: "The same people who don't like that are happy to put someone in a single-room-occupancy hotel in a 10-by-10 room with no washroom."

As for anti-poverty groups who talk of mass evictions prior to the 2010 Olympics, Coleman said they're fear-mongering.

"I think those comments from those groups are the most disingenuous and dishonest comments that anybody makes in housing in B.C.," he said. "I don't know of anybody who would want to mass-evict a building for 14 days."

Finally, to the anti-poverty advocates who want 3,200 more units of social housing by 2010, Coleman said he doesn't want to re-invent social-housing "projects."

"I would rather have those 1,500 people integrated into the housing market," he said.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Honouring Hwy 16's Missing Women

By 250 News
Sunday, June 24, 2007

It’s meant to provide a quiet place where people can reflect on their thoughts and emotions regarding the women who’ve gone missing along Highway 16...

The Northern Women’s Forum will be unveiling a commemorate bench in honour of those missing along the Highway of Tears later today.

The ceremony is set to take place between 12noon and 1pm in the park just below the intersection of Domano Boulevard and Highway 16.

The NWF spent the past year raising the $18-hundred dollars for the bench and is inviting everyone to the unveiling, "as part of a vital social support system that integrates the families of the missing women with our community."

Spokesperson Jo-Anne Bragg says the forum would like to thank the following organizations whose generous support made the bench a reality: the Confederation of Canadian Unions, the Pulp & Paper Workers Union Local 9, the Prince George and District Labour Council, the Status of Women Committee, the Faculty Association of CNC, and the BC Government and Services Employees Union.

Copyright © 2005-2007 OPINION 250 News Inc.
Highway of Tears

Stand up and speak out against hate

Thousands sought for rally at Rox

By Robert Knox, Globe Correspondent June 24, 2007

Six years ago, 1,200 people stood on the sands of Nantasket Beach in Hull and spelled out "The South Shore Is No Place For Hate." Backers of the No Place for Hate network are planning for a repeat of sorts this Wednesday when, they hope, thousands of people will stand up before a Brockton Rox baseball game and pledge to speak out against all forms of prejudice.

The point of "Strike Out Hate and Violence," said Harry Katz of Duxbury No Place for Hate, is public education.

Katz said the No Place For Hate network "empowers communities to respect diversity and prevent and respond to hate incidents." The rally at Campanelli Stadium is intended to get that message across. "We're also looking for people interested in working with us down the road," Katz said.

The South Shore Coalition of No Place for Hate Communities, the anti-discrimination umbrella organization which six years ago sponsored the show of force on Nantasket Beach, is also sponsoring next week's regionwide activity.

They hope the June 27 event will bring a similar or even larger number of people to the 5,000-seat stadium in Brockton for a pre-game program that will culminate with recitations of both the No Place for Hate pledge and the pledge of the White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women. Pledge takers vow "never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women" and wear a white ribbon symbolizing their promise.

The program, which begins at 6:45 p.m., will include musical entertainment, brief statements by regional leaders, and the mass recitations of the pledges. Participants include Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz, Brockton Mayor James Harrington, Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald, and Pat Kelleher of Violence-Free Education, Training, and Outreach (known as VETO), a coalition of community anti-violence resources and women's services.

One dollar from each ticket will go to No Place for Hate, whose branches organize programs to foster mutual respect among different communities. The funds will be used to support anti-violence programs by local agencies.

About 1,500 T-shirts with the legend "Strike Out Hate and Violence" will be given free to the first people into the park that night. Verizon Wireless is picking up the event's expenses.

The event is being backed by 11 South Shore branches of No Place for Hate, a program created eight years ago by the Anti-Defamation League and the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
The program leads the fight "to end anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry of all kinds," according to Andrew Tarsy, the Anti-Defamation League's New England regional director.

"Together, these communities are creating a standard of respect for individual and group differences," he said.

Earlier this month 38 communities in the state were awarded No Place for Hate certification in recognition of their efforts. The recently certified communities include regional members Brockton, Cohasset, Duxbury, Easton, Hingham, Hull, Milton, Plymouth, Quincy, Stoughton, West Bridgewater, and Westwood.

The White Ribbon Campaign, an international effort to educate men about the danger of remaining silent when they are aware of domestic violence, began in Canada 15 years ago after 15 female engineering students were murdered by a man with a gun. The crime was dubbed the Montreal Massacre.

At Town Meeting in Duxbury last fall, at least 100 men signed the pledge. Backed by the Plymouth County district attorney's office, the campaign has also made presentations to a number of regional high schools, resulting in thousands of pledges by young men.

"I think awareness makes a difference," Katz said of his group's backing of the White Ribbon Campaign. "If one person who's a victim of violence get help, we've done our job for the evening."

Those who wish to take part in Wednesday's event can buy a group ticket for $6 to the Rox game through the team's website. Go to and type in the password "nohate." Participants will sit together in the section reserved for the group and watch the game after the No Place for Hate program.

Robert Knox can be contacted at

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Friday, June 22

What if they held the trial of the century and no one came?

Shining a light on a dark, dark corner
Stevie Cameron turns her eye to the Pickton horrors

Alan Kellogg
The Edmonton Journal
Friday, June 15, 2007

EDMONTON - What if they held the trial of the century and no one came?

Sometimes it seems like that in New Westminster, B.C., where pig farmer Robert (Willie) Pickton, charged with murdering 26 women, is currently on trial for six first-degree murder counts. The first trial, likely to last a year, should be nearing the halfway point.

It's not as if there has been a total dearth of coverage. Over the past six months, The Journal has published 47 pieces on the subject. The Vancouver newspapers have run far more than that, of course, but apparently even in the Lower Mainland, where 65 women have been on the police "missing" list since 1978, a certain Pickton fatigue has set in.

"It's just all too brutal," a veteran Vancouver media hand told me Monday. "People just don't want to read about this horrific stuff day after day."

This sort of talk infuriates Stevie Cameron, arguably Canada's most famous investigative journalist and the author of The Pickton File (Knopf Canada, $24.95), which hit the bookstores this week. For one thing, it's personal. The Toronto-based independent reporter has spent the better part of five years on the Pickton case. She burned through her "generous" book advance from Knopf Canada years ago, toiling under a publication ban during the preliminary hearing and voir dire segments. Her car was stolen. She moved from place to place, missing her family, frustrated by delays and a generally glacial pace, stonewalling participants and the court gag order. Along the way, she interviewed dozens of victims' family members while also building bonds with advocates who assist the sex-trade workers of Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside.

All of which is detailed in the new book, an engaging combination of Pickton trial primer, reporter's notebook and cri de coeur. Those looking for trademark splashy revelations along the lines of Cameron's bestselling Brian Mulroney expose of 1994, On the Take, will have to wait for her next book. Tentatively titled The Pig Farm, it promises to be the definitive Pickton account. But it won't be released until the second trial is over and the existing pre-trial publication bans expire. As it stands, Cameron says she can't even publicly hold forth on Pickton's guilt or innocence.

According to her Harper's style "Pickton Index," about 378 media accreditations have been issued for the trial, but only between two and six journalists attend each day.

"A friend of mine, a producer at Dateline NBC, happened to be in Vancouver recently on another matter," Cameron says on the phone from her Toronto home this week. "He went to check out the trial for a bit and said there wasn't a single journalist in the courtroom."

This, for an investigation that has already cost more than $100 million and seen 200,000 DNA samples processed, 291,000 cubic metres of soil sifted by investigators, some 12,700 tips recorded by the Missing Women Task Force and 600,000 exhibits seized by police. And, of course, the trial centres on the murder and revolting disposition of 26 women and an alleged serial killer whose grisly handiwork outstrips the likes of Jack the Ripper. All at a time when popular culture has sent police forensic dramas to the top of the ratings.

Cameron just doesn't get it.

"They expected huge crowds and planned for it. I'm shocked, actually, since this is a very important trial. I guess part of it can be attributed to the nannying instincts of editors and publishers. Two or three people write in and complain, and that's it. I also hate those smarmy disclaimers. It's not the duty of a (media outlet) to supposedly protect readers or viewers from the truth, on the grounds of taste. This is shocking material. But it happened, and it must be reported."

Cameron may be dealing with her court-mandated prescriptions. But she feels sufficiently liberated to issue some pointed observations. For starters, she says she knows exactly why it took so long for police to recognize many of the women were even missing, much less putting the serial murders together.

"It's simply because the women were drug addicts and prostitutes living in Downtown Eastside.
The assumption was also that most of them were from poor backgrounds and native, although -- not that it matters -- that wasn't even true. In other words, these people had no value. Good riddance, a lot of the police thought."

Add that to an old boys' Luddite mentality within senior ranks of the Vancouver Police Department that even doubted the usefulness of modern techniques such as profiling. "They won't escape," predicts Cameron, noting an internal police report of the investigation will be released following the trials.

For all the embarrassing publicity the case has caused, Cameron says services haven't improved in Vancouver's seamy Downtown Eastside. "When I first started with this five years ago, there were six detox beds at the Sally Ann and six at another facility. That hasn't changed.

"Canadians should also care because we live in a society where everyone is supposed to be equal when it comes to justice. The neglect by the police and to some degree by the general public was because these people were meant to be nobodies."

She hopes her book brings the case more attention and makes readers less judgmental and more aggressive in asking questions. "To humanize these women and their families. Maybe being more educated will help. That sounds preachy. But as a reporter I found this assignment the best I've ever had, a gift from God. It drives some people crazy when I say it, but this has been a privilege."
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

Bench commemoration Sunday

Prince George Free Press
Jun 22 2007

The Northern Women's Forum will unveil a commemorative bench Sunday, June 24 from noon to 1 p.m. in honor of the women who have gone missing along Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert. The cedar park bench is located at Domano Blvd. and Hwy. 16 at the park just below the Highway of Tears.

"We believe the bench will provide a quiet place where people can reflect or express respect, love or grief regarding the disappearance of these women or to contemplate the violence against women in our communities," said NWF spokesperson Jo-Anne Bragg.

She said everyone is invited to attend the ceremony as part of a "vital social support system" that integrates the families of the missing women with our community."

"We acknowledge that none of us is immortal and that collectively we can support one another." Bragg said the event will include performers as well as speakers and dignitaries.

"We'd like to see as many people from the community as possible come out and honor the missing women and bring awareness to the violence that still happens."

The park bench will bear no individual names, she said, just a simple but moving tribute to the missing women from people in the community who still care.

Last July, the group began fundraising efforts to find $1,800 to purchase the cedar bench from the Adopt a Bench program of the City of Prince George.

Thursday, June 21

Let’s build a better world for Native youth

Commentary by Charlie Smith
June 21, 2007

Politicians like to boast about where Vancouver stands in annual rankings of cities. But no matter how well we do in these evaluations, we'll always carry the stigma of the missing women.

This is the city in which dozens of sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside were butchered over two decades. The police board refused to offer a reward for many years. The Vancouver police department ignored the expertise of one officer, Kim Rossmo, even though he had a PhD in this area.

Most of the social-service agencies and activists in the Downtown Eastside also failed to make enough noise. Most of us in the media neglected to pursue this issue with any vig?our. Because of our collective indifference, there are a great many more motherless children in our city. Many are aboriginal because more than a third of the missing women were Native. It is our city's greatest shame.

In 2005, Kwantlen University College researchers reported the results of interviews with 200 aboriginal youth in Vancouver. A stunning 62 percent stated that they had been detained by police.

"One recurring theme revolved around the limited availability of facilities and personnel–youth complained about the closing of the [Vancouver Aboriginal] Friendship Centre at what they thought to be an unreasonably early hour, and the fact that the Broadway Resource Centre is not open on weekends," the researchers reported. "The upshot of this, at least in the case of the Friendship Centre, is that at a certain point in the evening, all the youth who have been using the Centre, are moved out on the street with nothing to do."

They added that "every effort" should be made to provide access to alternatives to hanging out on the streets of Vancouver. The creaky old gymnasium at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre (1607 East Hastings Street) is often used for community meetings, which means it's unavailable for kids.

Fortunately, the Urban Native Youth Association, which has an office across the street, has proposed a sensible solution: a new 50,000-square-foot Native Youth Centre (scaled down from its original 65,000 square feet). There would be a gymnasium, a community kitchen, a child-care centre, an alternate school, a computer lab, a resource centre, an arts-and-culture studio, a drop-in centre, and space for a sweat lodge and spiritual practice. Operating money would come out of an endowment built into the fundraising budget.

UNYA is the leading First Nations youth-services organization. It provides a safe house, residential facilities, mentoring programs, and two alternate schools in partnership with the Vancouver school board. UNYA's board of directors, staff, and capital-campaign-committee members include some of the most impressive young people you'll ever encounter, including Melanie Mark, Ginger Gosnell, hip-hop artist Curtis Clearsky, and Shannon Johnny.

UNYA received a big boost when Petro-Canada donated a $1.2-million parcel of land. The City promised to make available the adjacent land, which houses UNYA's office. CIBC donated $200,000. The F.K. Morrow Foundation, the McLean Foundation, Larry McFarland Architects, Holborn Group, and Concord Pacific have all contributed money. Liberal MP Stephen Owen was a strong supporter as the minister of western economic diversification. UNYA now has commitments of $6 million.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has identified the area around the proposed Native Youth Centre as one of four "hubs" for serving at-risk youth. Despite this, Finance Minister Carole Taylor did not provide funding this year.

If the centre obtains $11 million from the province and another $17 million in federal funding, the capital-campaign committee thinks it can raise $12 million on its own.

Billions are being spent on the Olympics and related megaprojects. But very little capital spending has trickled down to urban aboriginal people. The Straight will ensure that international media learn about this if nothing changes by 2010.

The only way the Native Youth Centre will be built is with the help of community champions. Leaders such as Stephen Owen, Vancouver park commissioner Marty Zlotnik, dragon-boat-race founder Milton Wong, and Alcan's Richard Prokopenko could exert their influence to make this happen.
Owen understands aboriginal issues. Zlotnik is a fundraiser extra­ordinaire who ran for the park board to focus more attention on at-risk youth. Wong, a financier, has spent much of his life promoting a more inclusive city. In recent years, Alcan has been one of the country's most progressive corporations in its dealings with First Nations.

Imagine what a committee like this could accomplish. They could contact the premier and the finance minister, and persuade some of our wealthiest residents–including the Ketchum family, the Bentley family, the Sauder family, the Segal family, the Khosrowshahi family, Peter Brown, Jim Pattison, and others–to open up their wallets for the kids.

Many B.C. fortunes have been made extracting natural resources, which were taken from aboriginal people without their consent. Why not return a small part of it to Native kids?
Major music-industry figures–such as Calvin Ayre, Bruce Allen, Sam Feldman, or Terry McBride–could organize a fundraising concert for the Native Youth Centre. If the promoters put Curtis Clearsky on stage, Native kids would go berserk.

In a single documentary, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore was able to turn around world opinion on global warming. Maybe one of our talented video producers–such as David Paperny or Claudia Ferris–could create an emotionally charged fundraising video about the centre, which could influence politicians.

On National Aboriginal Day (June 21), let's make a commitment to take action rather than merely talk about solutions. Let's build the Native Youth Centre in Vancouver, and let's not wait for Stephen Harper to come to the table. Only then will we begin to erase our city's greatest shame and convince these kids that we genuinely give a damn about them.
Native Women's Association of Canada

Tuesday, June 19

Stevie Cameron interview with the

Wednesday, 20 June 2007 Listen

Journalist and bestselling author (On the Take, Blue Trust, The Last Amigo) Stevie Cameron joins Joseph Planta to talk about her latest book, The Pickton File (Knopf, 2007), a look at the 'Willie' Pickton trial, the women who disappeared and were murdered from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and how she's covered this ongoing story.

Joseph Plant interview with Stevie Cameron - requires Real Player

Stevie Cameron website:

Courtesy of:

Death on the pig farm: take one

Globe and Mail
June 16, 2007

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, anyone who was paying attention to the phenomenon of "missing women" knew that something terrible was happening in Vancouver's East End. In that pockmarked landscape - cheap hotels, crummy bars and restaurants - that spreads east from Main and Hastings, with its mixed population of pensioners, prostitutes and drug addicts, we find a mountain of misery and the poorest postal code in all of Canada.

The missing women were impoverished, desperate and vulnerable street-sex workers, most of whom were hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol. A significant minority of them were women of aboriginal descent. All of them somehow, mysteriously, disappeared from the street. Their vanishing was a matter of profound concern to their friends and their families. But to no one else.

Their sudden disappearances also presented a major puzzle. Where had the women gone? Had they merely packed their things and moved away without telling their friends or family, or had something unspeakable happened to them? Despite the mounting number of missing women after 1978, the citizens of Vancouver seemed unconcerned. Neither the mayor nor the police seemed to care at all about what would ultimately become, Stevie Cameron writes in The Pickton File, "the largest crime scene in Canadian history." Yet had police immediately begun intensive surveillance of the few blocks on which the women lived and worked, they might have saved dozens of lives. They might also have saved the hundred million-plus dollars that the investigation and trial will cost.

It is not very surprising that no one cared. After all, these women were murdered and then victimized yet again by the bland, racist, sexist and "classist" prejudices buried in Canadian society: an institutionalized contempt for the poor, for sex workers, for drug addicts and alcoholics, for aboriginal people, even for women. Thus, to be a drug-addicted and destitute aboriginal woman sex worker is to be at the very bottom of society's dispossessed, dehumanized and disenfranchised. Even when friends of the disappeared went to the police to complain, they would be "ignored, turned away, or lied to. 'Oh, she's probably in Las Vegas with a guy,' " police would say dismissively.

For 20 years, as more and more women disappeared, as women's groups and activists for sex workers intensified their protests, Cameron notes that no official did anything. Nothing. Then in 1998, Kim Rossmo, a detective-inspector in the Vancouver police department (with a PhD in criminology and expertise in geographic profiling of violent offenders), suggested in public that "a serial killer was almost certainly responsible for the disappearances." For his courage in speaking out, Rossmo was promptly fired from his rank and reduced to street constable.

In July, 1999, a brief item on the U.S. television show America's Most Wanted brought the case to public attention once more. Two years later, The Vancouver Sun ran an 11-part series on the missing women. Cameron writes: "Their accounts of police negligence were shocking. Among many other things, they found ... that the investigations were flawed ... and that there were far more women missing (at least 45) than the police had admitted."

The Sun series "shamed the police into adding more resources to the investigation," and a Missing Women Task Force (a joint operation between RCMP and the Vancouver police department) was formed in April, 2001. Astonishingly, the Vancouver police chief of the day thought his force had done a fine job on the now-23-year-old case and commented, "I believe we're looking very good in this."

Pig farmer Robert William Pickton, a habitué of East End prostitutes, a friend of the local Hells Angels chapter and a host of many parties for all of them, was arrested in February, 2002, and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He quickly became the prime suspect in the missing-women case, and his farm became the focus of two years of intensive search by almost 200 forensic anthropologists and other specialists, all trawling for body parts and DNA of the missing women. The first of his trials would not begin until January, 2007.

In the wake of Pickton's initial arrest and presumed speedy trial, Stevie Cameron - one of Canada's most distinguished journalists - was commissioned by her publishers to write a book. She arrived in Vancouver in the summer of 2002, blissfully unaware that it would be 4½ long years before the trial even got under way.

When she first arrived, she drove to the hunting grounds on East Hastings, marvelling in a Dickensian way at "the open-air drug market, thick with muttering dealers and customers; the prostitutes waiting on corners, as drivers inched along in their cars, looking them over; emaciated women lurching along the sidewalks, stooping and hunting in vain for the tiniest crumbs of crack cocaine - a process I later learned was called 'tweaking.' Bodies were slumped in doorways or against garbage cans in alleys ..."

Through all these years, Cameron was in and out of Vancouver, often living in appalling conditions (about which she relentlessly complains), while gathering material and photographs for the book. Labouring at first under the weight of a publication ban, and then endlessly frustrated by the sheer length of the investigation, she decided to write what are essentially two volumes.

Volume One, The Pickton File, disappointingly tells us nothing at all about the trial, but does provide us with some rich material from the five-year pretrial period. Interviews with friends and family of many of the murdered women reveal a great deal about the indifference with which the senile bureaucracies routinely treat the bereaved and anguished. These stories are interlaced with interviews with the kith and kin of the alleged killer and give us some creepy insights into his body and mind (e.g., as a child on the family's farm, if he wished to hide from someone, Pickton would sometimes crawl inside the freshly butchered carcass of a pig).

We are also given potted tours of British Columbia's underclass's social history, and through the Byzantine judicial machinery that is dealing with the case. A second and forthcoming book by Cameron, The Pig Farm, will document the actual trial of Robert William Pickton and the numb brutality of the murders. It is eagerly anticipated.

Elliott Leyton is professor emeritus of anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the author of many books and essays on homicide, including Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer.

© Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stevie Cameron’s Website

Monday, June 18

The Real National Day of Action & Resistance

July 1st 2007!

Meet at Grandview Park (at Commercial Drive) at 1pm, March to follow.

For more information contact:

While the collaborator chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations plan to march, acquire corporate donations and access government funds on June 29th (, other groups are calling on Indigenous people and their allies to take grassroots ACTION on Canada Day – the day that symbolizes epic state atrocities and oppression against Indigenous people, including: genocide, land theft and occupation, brutality, violence and abuse, and mass child apprehension and deaths.

• Today, Canada continues its program of assault on Indigenous people. The state imprisonment and death of Elder and Warrior Harriet Nahanee is one of many examples of the state’s vile mistreatment of Indigenous people, in particular those who expose and dissent Canada’s illegal theft and occupation of Indigenous lands. Harriet was a 72-year old Pacheedaht grandmother, married into the Skwxwumesh Nation, who was arrested and imprisoned for protecting the Eagle Ridge Bluff site that is slated to be destroyed in the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky Highway for the 2010 Olympics. Despite her frail health, Harriet was sentenced to fourteen days at the Surrey Pretrial center; a men’s prison and notorious hell hole. While in jail, where she was inflicted with abuse, and not given proper medical care in a cell with tens of other inmates subject to racist treatment, Harriet Nahanee contracted pneumonia. After one week of release from custody, she was hospitalized and passed away within a week. Harriet represents hundreds of other Indigenous people who are criminalized and abused by the Canadian state when they choose to stand up against and not assimilate into Canadian capitalist society.

• Harriet was well known for her use of the Royal Proclamation to explain how unceded Indigenous lands are illegally occupied and governed by the Canadian government. The Canadian and provincial governments continue to attempt to extinguish Aboriginal title and rights (through litigation and the BC treaty process), dispossess Indigenous people from their lands, and destroy traditional territories through mega-development projects.

• There are over 500 murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada, yet Canada does not acknowledge this as a ‘Justice file,’ or as the responsibility of the justice system. Instead, the unjust deaths are treated as ‘cultural,’ and put under a ‘Canadian Heritage file.’ Where do the AFN collaborator chiefs stand on this issue? Where were they at the Pickton trial? Why do they not mention Aboriginal women on their Day of Action?

• There has been more Indigenous children in foster and state (MCFD) care today then there ever was in residential school (tens of thousands of Indigenous people who were forced in residential school are now filing legal cases against the church and state of Canada). This should be alarming as the number of Indigenous people in abusive and assimilating residential schools (which instituted cultural genocide and slave labor) was immense. Children continue to die and be sexually and physically abused in MCFD care today, as well as suffering further isolation from their cultural roots.

• Everyday in Canada, hundreds of incidents of police brutalityagainst Indigenous people, namely youth, take place. Police and RCMP in Prince George and other areas have sexually assaulted Indigenous girls, police and RCMP have run Indigenous youth over with their cars in northern communities and other areas, and police and RCMP have murdered many Indigenous people all over Canada (starlight tours, deaths in custody, shooting to death, tazering to death, beating to death, etc.).

• Canada remains one of the only countries that does NOT have an independent body to investigate police and RCMP brutality, murders and hate crimes. Instead they investigate themselves, and as a result many police and RCMP literally get away with murder. When Pivot Legal Society announced the completion of its report, including affidavits documenting police brutality and violence, the police chief (Jamie Graham) just simply “retired.”

• Vancouver BC’s hosting of the 2010 Olympics has already aggravated Canada’s abject poverty and homelessness that Indigenous people are overrepresented with. The estimated number of homeless persons in Canada ranges from 100,000 to 250,000, 25-30% which are Indigenous people. Due to skyrocketing housing prices and a lack of affordable housing andsocial housing (more focus is made on accommodating hungry visitors (tourists)), the number of homeless people will surely rise during the lead up to the 2010 games.

Canada’s Dirty History is Repeating Itself…

JULY 1st, 2007


Refuse to Accept:

*The unjust state death of Elder and Warrior Harriet Nahanee

*Over 500 murdered and missing Indigenous women

*Theft and occupation of Indigenous lands

*Child apprehension of Indigenous children

*Police, state and military violence and brutality

*Abject poverty with thousands Homeless

*Criminalization of dissent

Take Action in your own communities!
Let the AFN collaborator chiefs know they don’t represent you!
Let Canada know you reject their program of assault!
Native People rise up and take back the land!

Get our news feed sent directly to your web site, syndicate us: RSS / Atom Get involved with the NSG. We have branches in several cities in Canada. Contact us by clicking here

Off-street sex workers less likely to face violence

Study finds four-fifths of prostitutes don't work the streets

Linda Nguyen, Vancouver Sun
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2007

Prostitution and violence do not always go hand in hand, according to a three-year academic study by Simon Fraser University. In the first study of its kind in the country, criminology graduate student Tamara O'Doherty found that two-thirds of off-street prostitutes - specifically high-end escorts - have never experienced violence on the job.

The number of prostitutes in Vancouver is estimated to be in the thousands, but only 10 to 20 per cent are actually working on the street, O'Doherty said. The study shows that 80 to 90 per cent work as off-street prostitutes running their own businesses through newspaper and online advertisements, bawdy houses and massage parlours.

She said her research shows people who support criminalizing prostitution because it's violent or not a choice are basing their opinions on the experiences of street prostitutes who "are pushed into isolated areas of the city" and work in fear of the police.O'Doherty contacted Vancouver prostitutes by sending out mass e-mails to several escort services. The 49 women who responded were not what most people would stereotype as prostitutes.

"These women weren't blonde bombshells who were there for the porn star experience.' My biggest surprise in doing this research was how incredibly articulate these women in the industry were," O'Doherty said.

"People obviously assume women wouldn't make the choice to go into prostitution but I found these women are from every walk of life," she said.

Some women were sex workers only on weekends with regular out-of-town clients. "They're moms, artists, lawyers, nurses, police officers and teachers. You would have no idea if you had one of them living next door to you," she said. More than 90 per cent of the study participants were university-educated. O'Doherty argues these women rarely or never experienced violence - physical or sexual assault, threats, clients unwilling to pay or use a condom - because they're allowed to negotiate terms of their transactions, unlike street sex workers.

Aurea Flynn of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter said the study goes too far pushing for the legitimization of prostitution."What we know is that the average age of prostitutes when they begin the trade is 14 years old and that most women were molested or raped before they even begin," she said. "The fact that they're not reporting it in their current work situation doesn't exclude that they didn't experience violence from males in the past." SFU professor John Lowman has been researching violence in prostitution since the '70s and said these results confirmed what he's suspected all along. "The importance of this research is that it shows that the prohibitionist argument is ideological and political. It provides a huge stumbling block and strongly favours decriminalization," he said.

Lowman grew up in the red-light district of Sheffield, England and remembers a childhood living next door to "working women.""I got to know these women as just women, not as prostitutes, and couldn't believe the way they were treated just because of what they do," he said.

© Vancouver Sun 2007

Thursday, June 14

The path to justice for Frank Paul

Inquiries are not cure-alls. Bringing the RCMP under effective oversight and reform of the coroner's system are needed

Leonard Cler-Cunningham
Special to the Sun

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The mistreatment of Frank Paul did not end with his death. Now that a public inquiry has finally been called, it must include all of the missteps that came after that cold, wet night police dumped him in the alley where he died at the age of 47.

Dana Urban, former legal counsel to the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner's Office, described Paul as a "Mi'kmaq first nations man from New Brunswick who was a long-term resident of the East Hastings area of Vancouver."

"This man died needlessly on the evening of Dec. 5, 1998, or in the early morning hours of Dec. 6. He was a drunk. He was unemployed. He was homeless. He had crippled hands and crippled feet.

"Though he had little, perhaps, to offer our society, he was, in fact, a human being." Urban was testifying before the special committee to review the police complaints process.

He pointed out that the police complaints commission held an investigation into the shooting of a pit bull at a children's birthday party, so why not into Paul's death?

"Surely, Frank Paul . . . deserved at least the same consideration as a pit bull."
Despite video evidence and expert testimony that members of the Vancouver Police Department may have misled investigators about what happened that night, it has taken almost a decade for an inquiry to be announced.

The resistance to investigating Paul's death raises questions about the status of police oversight in British Columbia. If the terms of reference for the inquiry are limited to the Vancouver Police Department and don't include the coroners' office, solicitor-general's and attorney-general's offices, it could end up a cynical political farce.

Inquiries are not cure-alls. Donald Marshall's name is well known as an example of injustice because of -- not despite -- an inquiry. The first one wrongly blamed Marshall as being the author of his own misfortune.

Marshall. Neil Stonechild. J.J. Harper. Helen Betty Osborne.

Their stories share common threads. The police were quick to vindicate themselves. There was resistance to any external investigation and the subsequent inquiries found that the internal investigations were fundamentally flawed and, race played some role.

The final thread is that someone knew that a wrong had been done and could have done something about it well before it grew into a situation that demands an inquiry.

The B.C. Coroners Office chose not to hold an inquest into Paul's death -- arguing that he was not in custody when he died -- even though as the present Police Complaints Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld points out, all Vancouver Police Department's internal investigations were referred to as "in-custody death."

Last year a group of former coroners took the step of going public with their concerns about the integrity and professionalism of the office, including:

1. The absence of inquests where warranted.
2. Incomplete investigations of deaths, including the insistence that doctors sign death certificates they're uncomfortable with.
3. Incomplete inquiry reports.
4. The loss of experienced coroners.

B.C.'s lay coroner system allows for ex-law enforcement officers, even though they can find themselves investigating a former employer or colleagues, yet concerns over "perceived conflict of interest" bar doctors from community coroner positions.

Former solicitor-general Rich Coleman made race, and the actions of his office, a subject for investigation when he rejected the first complaints commissioner's request that he order a coroner's inquest because "culpability, liability, and issues of racial discrimination are likely to become the central features."

Three years later, Ryneveld called upon then attorney-general Geoff Plant to order an inquiry. While the attorney-general had the final draft copy of the commissioner's report, the government issued an order in council changing the Police Act so the solicitor-general rather than attorney-general was responsible for calling public inquiries.

Public confidence in oversight agencies is badly shaken by the RCMP shooting of Ian Bush in Houston. An important issue, given that the RCMP polices the majority of the province, with a simple solution:

"It is unacceptable that the citizens of B.C. are subject to one process for complaints involving RCMP members and another for complaints involving members of independent municipal forces. Municipal and RCMP officers should be subject to the same complaints process. A number of changes could achieve this goal:

- Changes to the contract whereby the RCMP agrees to submit to a uniform and provincially mandated system of complaints; and
- Enacting provincial legislation requiring the RCMP to comply with the provincial complaint system."

This is not a radical idea. It comes from the recommendations of former jurist Wally Oppal's report on policing.

Without reformation of the coroner's system, the RCMP being brought under the B.C. Police Complaints Office and the broadest possible terms of reference for the inquiry into Frank Paul's death, Oppal, now attorney-general, places his political legacy at risk.

Leonard Cler-Cunningham is a Vancouver-based writer/researcher working on a documentary on aboriginal deaths in police custody with funding from CBC. This article is taken from a presentation he made at the recent B.C. First Nations Justice Forum.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Leonard Cler-Cunningham

Research report into violence against sex trade workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Studying violence to stop it

Wednesday, June 13

Highway of Tears march marks anniversary of murder

By Ryan Jensen
June 13, 2007

Matilda Wilson wants no one to ever forget her murdered daughter Ramona.

Saturday marked the 13-year anniversary since Wilson went missing and on Sunday, a memorial walk was organized that ended in the location on Yelich Rd. where Ramona’s body was found in 1995.

“This walk is for the missing, the ones that haven’t been found and the murders that have never been solved and one of them is Ramona,” Wilson said.
The memorial walk has been taking place every year since Ramona’s disappearance and Wilson said the event is more relevant each year as more young women go missing.

As students at Smithers Secondary were taking part in graduation celebrations on Saturday, Wilson said she was praying extra hard that each child remains safe.

“Every graduation, I always say more prayers than usual to make sure everyone stays safe,” she said.

The walk has a dual purpose, Wilson said, to remember the Highway of Tears victims, and also to let the person responsible know they are still searching for them.

“We don’t want to forget that their is still a killer or killers out there,” she said. “Don’t let your guard down. We still have to be careful. These murders are unsolved and there are so many loved ones missing. We want to let [the person responsible] know we’re here every year and I haven’t forgotten what has happened.”

Wilson said in the last several months she has attended meetings with the RCMP in Prince Rupert and Prince George and is happy with the cooperation and openness she is now seeing.

“I’m pretty sure they’re making a bit of progress but it’s slow,” she said. “[The RCMP] have gotten closer to us and they have made us understand what the process is and what they’re working on.”

Copyright © 2007 Smithers Interior News
A Division of
The Interior News

Tuesday, June 12

'The Pickton File' by Stevie Cameron out in bookstores today

Stevie Cameron’s book ‘The Pickton File’ is out today in bookstores across Canada. Here is a link to Stevie’s new website with more information.

Stevie Cameron turns her renowned analytical eye from the "crooks in suits" of her previous books to the case of Vancouver's missing women and the man who has been charged with killing 27 of them, who if convicted will have the horrific distinction of being the worst serial killer in Canadian history.It's a shocking story that may not be over anytime soon. When the police moved in on Pickton's famous residence, the "pig farm" of Port Coquitlam, in February 2002, the entire 14-acre area was declared a crime scene -- the largest one in Canadian history.

Well over 150 investigators and forensics experts were required, including 102 anthropology students from across the country called in to sift through the entire farm, one shovelful of dirt at a time.

A woman who is considered by many to be this country's best investigative journalist, Cameron has been thinking about the missing women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside since 1998, when the occasional newspaper story ran about families and friends of some of the 63 missing women agitating for action -- and being ignored by police and politicians.

Robert William "Willie" Pickton has been on her mind since his arrest, that February five years ago, for the murders of two of the women, Mona Wilson and Sereena Abotsway, both drug-addicted prostitutes from the impoverished neighbourhood where all the missing women had connections.

Living half-time in Vancouver for the last five years, Stevie Cameron has come to know many of the people involved in this case, from families of the missing women to the lawyers involved on both sides. She writes not only with tireless investigative curiosity, but also with enormous compassion for the women who are gone and the ones who still struggle to ply their trade on the Downtown Eastside.

"We had no idea [in 2002] how massive the investigation would be. We had no notion that the police would sift every inch of dirt on the Pickton farm, a process that lasted from the spring of 2002 to late 2004. We did not foresee the broad publication ban that would prevent any word printed or broadcast of what was being said in court in case it influenced a potential juror. We couldn't know that there would be, by 2006, 27 charges of first-degree murder against Pickton and that the police would continue to investigate him on suspicion of many other deaths. And we didn't know that the police and other personnel involved in the case, under threat of ruined careers, were forbidden to talk to reporters. In blissful ignorance, all I could do was begin…" --Excerpt from The Pickton File

The Pickton File by Stevie Cameron

Saturday, June 9

fire in the belly 1/2

fire in the belly 2/2

stupid little girls

Thursday, June 7 – Saturday 16$12/15 8 PM

TigerMilk Collective presents

Stupid Little Girls

“No one will ever find us because we will be so well saturated in society, spread so thinly. We will find ourselves passed through the bodies of the people, on the lips of a stranger, and on drugstore shelves.”

Stupid Little Girls, an original creation by the intriguing theatre company TigerMilk Collective, was developed as a reaction to the events of the missing women from the Downtown Eastside.
The play, which will be performed in the community based Art Centre BLIM, is directed by TigerMilk member Olivia Delachanal, whose direction of Freeport Texas was rated by The Vancouver Courier as one of the top theatre experiences of 2005.

Our city's darkest realities can appear localized and distant, but their sources can actually be identified within our selves. Inside of a stripped living room five women are trapped with their own contradictions; their dreams and nightmares reveal how they each struggle with their many layers of identity. The intertwined stories progress through various devices of metamorphosis — mask, singing, dancing and video projections — capturing the overwhelming effects of our image frenzied culture.

TigerMilk combines a dedication for strong political content and a curiosity for new theatrical forms. Join us at Stupid Little Girls for fearless writing and defiant performances.

Stupid Little Girls will be performed at Blim, 197 East 17th Ave.@ Main St

Opening: 8 PM, Wednesday June 6 Runs June 7 – 16

-No Performance Monday-

All shows start at 8 PM$12/Students $15/AdultsReservations can be made at 778-229-9232
Media Contact: Miranda Huba778-229-9232


More Info available

Violence Against Women is Rampant Around the Globe

Over 500 indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past 20 years.

More than 400 women in Juarez, Mexico have been murdered since 1993. Seventy more are still missing.

Since 2001, 2,600 indigenous women have been killed in Guatemala.

Rape, abduction and other forms of unforgivable violence are being extensively and systematically used against women in places of conflict like Darfur and Colombia.

These facts are much more than mere numbers; they demonstrate today’s most grave and pressing human rights issue: rampant violence against women. Whether it is a result of war crimes, racism or “femicide” (as it has been dubbed in both Juarez and Guatemala), the violence is not only a worldwide issue of crime, but rather an insurgence of extreme human rights violations.

There have been many instances of violence worldwide towards women, demonstrating the insanely morbid reality of these nations.

Ever since the Darfur conflict began in 2003, the female population there has endured exorbitant rape, torture, sexual slavery and abuse in addition to the violence and displacement forced upon that population as a whole. Although there were 2,500 rapes reported to UN workers in 2006, the UN estimates that the actual figure is closer to 1,000 rapes per month.

As previously stated, the Canadian government approximates 500 deaths and disappearances of women over the past two decades. The police in Vancouver, British Columbia are currently investigating the disappearance of 60 women from the past 10 years. Sixteen of the 60 women are indigenous. As for the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, more than half of the 30 missing women investigations concern aboriginal women. In disturbing comparison, indigenous women account for only two percent of the country’s overall population but make up over half of the missing victims. According to statistics from the Canadian government, indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 are five times more likely than other women to experience fatal violence.

Similar to suffering indigenous communities around the globe, Canada’s native populations have been marginalized by imposed social and economic inequality — the same conditions that push indigenous women into the situations of poverty, homelessness and prostitution that further enable attacks against them.

The disregard for what is said to be an epidemic of violence against women is multi-fold; on one hand, the countries in which the violence is occurring are not doing enough to prevent, control or remedy the problem.

On the other hand, international awareness and media coverage is remarkably low. Even in crises we are familiar with, such as the conditions in Iraq or Darfur, very little is reported about the dire circumstances of the thousands of women caught up in the chaos. Other grim situations, like those of indigenous Canadian, Colombian, Guatemalan and Kenyan women, are hardly publicized at all.

Although there is no way of talking about any one of these situations without overlooking another, the recent situations in places like Canada, Darfur, Mexico and Guatemala are fitting examples of the worldwide problem of gender-based violence. These instances expose a global pattern of historical oppression that has bled into pervasive modern violence and overall negligence to the issue.

Published on: 2007-06-07

on a City Hill Press

At Ernestine's, courage grows to rebuild lives - living -Women and children driven from home by abuse find safety, support and new reasons for hope

June 09, 2007
Nancy J. White
Living Reporter

Inside Ernestine's shelter, a young mother has begun to sing. Supper dishes are cleared, a television sounds from another room. But in the spacious dining area, the mother with the beautiful voice belts out the hip-hop number, "No More Drama."

Snapping her fingers, she sings about a broken heart, a lesson learned, and the riveting refrain: "No more pain."

It could be the soundtrack of her own story. Her partner held a gun to her head. When he was distracted, she grabbed her child and fled down the fire escape. At the bus station, they boarded the first one leaving town.

There had been other incidents, promises to change. "Pfft," she says. "He only got worse."

This time, she's got plans. She'll study sociology at university. This time is different. No more pain.

That song could be Ernestine's anthem, a pledge to be rid of mind games, nightly tears, drama. If only life were that simple.

On this spring evening, 15 women with 16 children live at Ernestine's. They share one bond: escaping violence. They stay here usually three to six months, sometimes a year, as they create new lives – not a home exactly, but a sanctuary. The reporter spends just one night, hearing the stories, struck by the humanity amid the mayhem, the singular mix of fear and relief.

For shelters, this is state-of-the-art. Ernestine's bright and airy new building, which opened in January, was designed as a shelter and offers more amenities than most. The previous building squeezed four women into a bedroom. Here, every family has its own room.

There are two computer rooms and television lounges, rooms for exercise, prayer and children's play, a kitchenette and a large kitchen where a weeknight cook makes dinner. Despite the niceties, it's still an institution: locked doors, sign-in-and-out sheets, security cameras, rules, assigned chores, bare linoleum floors. The women visit job counsellors, enrol in school and wait: for housing, immigration papers, court dates.

For many, no one – not friends or family – knows where they are.

"They're people in limbo," says Lisa Alworth, Ernestine's housing counsellor. "What that means to someone's mental health is a real challenge."

Out on the deck, to the sound of cars whizzing by, an Iranian widow cradles another woman's infant as if, she says, he were her own. Once a successful businesswoman, she lost everything to a sweet-talking con man who physically abused her and threatened to kill her.

At a patio table, a woman in her 50s sips tea, a bag over her shoulder containing her intravenous chemotherapy drugs. During cancer tests, a doctor inquired about her black eye – and the truth about her home life spilled out.

Next to her sits a woman who fled war in Africa to end up in Canada with an abusive man who locked her and her children in the house.

"I'm scared at all times," she says, dabbing her eyes with her lowered headscarf. When she speaks about relatives still in Africa, she pulls up the headscarf to hide her face.

But her children are happy at Ernestine's. "Everyone here, we are in the same situation," she says, her smile returning. "They are all my kids, all my friends, all my sisters."

Some struggle with guilt. One woman calls her husband at night so their child can talk to him.
Some may return home. Staff say, on average, a woman leaves an abuser eight to 10 times before going for good. "Nobody here judges," says program director Carol Latchford.

In the computer room, two young mothers turn up the music and dance. At first, one says, she cried every day. She thought about going back. But, slowly, a vision of herself emerged. She's now finishing high school. "I'm taking a step for myself. I want to become an immigration officer," she says proudly. "I can picture a bright future now. I couldn't do that before."

Adds her friend: "You can almost touch it." Somewhere in the house, a baby cries.

The living room is all pale-mint, walls and couches. It's a private place to talk. Perched on a narrow sofa, a 30-year-old woman has been running from her ex for four years.

He raped and beat her, nearly strangled her when she was pregnant. For a while, he forced her into prostitution. He almost found her this winter, but a friend's text message alerted her. She skipped town.

She glances out at her child playing. She worries about his disruptive behaviour in school. He'll see a counsellor soon.

As she talks, kids wander in to hug her. "I bond with the children. The parents come after."

The smell of hot pizza wafts through. In the dining area, two young teenagers eat and talk about movies. Two women raid the kitchen for popcorn, then watch television. "CSI is too scary," one argues.

A mother and son share a bedtime snack and heart-to-heart talk. He kisses her. The boy instructs the reporter: "Tell people this is a great place for kids. They have two game systems."

Upstairs, a weary mother of five opens her bedroom door to reveal a large room where three little girls are still hopping around. The little ones still cry for daddy. The older children miss their friends back home. At their new school, some kids saw where they live and called them "shelter rats."

"Many times, I think I should go back. It would be easier. The only problem would be the abuse," the woman says flatly.

It's almost midnight. A light is still on in the computer room. A woman explains, with a shy smile, she's talking to a man online.

A nice guy? "So far."

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2007

The Toronto Star

Monday, June 4

Community still struggles after deaths

Community still struggles after deaths
By IRWIN LOY -- Sun Media
June 1, 2007

When Robert Pickton went to trial in January, accused of being the country's worst serial killer, Wayne Leng breathed a sigh of relief.

"It was a long time coming," says Leng, whose friend, Sarah deVries disappeared from the streets of the Downtown Eastside in 1998.

Pickton is charged with deVries' death, but his current trial is focused on six other alleged victims.

"We thought we'd never have answers to what happened to Sarah or any of the women," Leng says. "So to me, the trial means a lot."

But more than four months into a trial expected to last many more, it's not clear what the trial means to the average person.

"I can see there's a lot of disinterest in it. I think people are tired of it," Leng says. "I had hoped the trial would focus more attention on the plight of people like Sarah, and hopefully there would be some changes somewhere along the line. Obviously, these women end up out on the street, not by choice."

Leng wonders if the disinterest is a reflection of the public's attitude towards the women, many of whom were sex-trade workers and drug addicts.

"That's the thing that's really troubling for me," he says. "There's people out there that just want to believe [the women] got what they asked for. It's like, what did they expect, you know, putting yourself in harm's way?"

Initially, the public seemed to recoil as the most gruesome evidence was revealed early on.
And as public interest in the trial slipped, so did the media's. Gradually, the TV cameras withdrew. These days, there are only a half-dozen or so media organizations that cover the trial on a daily basis.

For Ann Livingston, who works with the drug-user advocacy group VANDU, that's meant that even finding a morsel of coverage in the news has been rare.

"Each one of those women had an average of two children and two parents and three sisters," Livingston says. "It's an astounding number of British Columbians that are affected. And yet we can't follow the trial because it upsets somebody? Is that what it is?"

Livingston says she doesn't accept that the testimony is at times too horrifying for the public to hear.

"I think it's a luxury we can ill afford, to have our stomachs turn at breakfast to hear about a case that went on under our noses for many, many years, without action from citizens," Livingston says. "I'm very sorry it's upsetting your digestive system. What else can you say? If it's upsetting enough that it's ruining your breakfast, maybe we could start pulling together a little to make sure these upsetting things don't happen."

Still, for some, the fact the trial is finally underway provides a spark of hope. Sex workers have been meeting with the police, community centres, residents and business groups to talk about making sex work safer for everyone involved. It's the first time the seemingly disparate interest groups have worked together in this city.

"There is this hope that we would see action from various levels of government," says Susan Davis, a sex-trade worker and advocate. "I think we're starting to see that now. Rather than playing the blame game and pointing fingers, the community has engaged in a reasonable fashion."

But in this neighbourhood, it seems there are as many setbacks as there are steps forward.
At the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, organizers have been forced to open up as an emergency shelter at night, a role that was never envisioned for the centre.

"We're not thrilled that we have to operate an emergency shelter," says centre coordinator Cynthia Low. "It's shameful. For us, we're not proud that we have 45 women sleeping on the floor at night."
Sereena Abotsway
Born: Aug. 20, 1971
Reported missing: Aug. 22, 2001
Abotsway said in June or July 2001 that she was "going to the country with a friend."

Marnie Frey
Born: Aug. 20, 1973
Reported missing: Dec. 29, 1997
The first of the six to go missing. She was in rehab months before her disappearance.

Andrea Joesbury
Born: Nov. 6, 1978
Reported missing: June 8, 2001
Joesbury was known to visit the WISH women's drop-in centre on a nightly basis.

Georgina Papin
Born: March 11, 1964
Reported missing: March 4, 2001
Papin's close friend Evelyn Youngchief recalled last seeing her in January 1999.

Mona Wilson
Born: Jan. 13, 1975
Reported missing: Nov. 30, 2001
In 2001 Mona received more than 270 prescriptions, many for methadone treatment.

Brenda Wolfe
Born: Oct. 20, 1968
Reported missing: April 25, 2002
Drug addiction dramatically changed her appearance from 1996 until she vanished.

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