Saturday, July 28

Need to rethink laws, attitudes - Elizabeth Hudson

Elizabeth Hudson
For the Calgary Herald

Saturday, July 28, 2007

When I do a presentation on the street sex trade, the majority of listeners are surprised to learn prostitution is legal in Canada.

What is illegal is for either the sex-trade worker or the client to speak of it. This seems to be a unique and most Canadian way to deal with this social problem. Yes, do it, but don't dare speak of it.

I am tired of silence and I am speaking of it. The mounting deaths of sex-trade workers began in the early 1980s when the communicating law was enacted. John Lowman, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, discovered the death rate in British Columbia alone climbed a staggering 500 per cent in the year after the law was passed.

Its effect in Alberta has been no less grim with the murders of dozens of women in Edmonton and the appalling regularity of newspaper headlines marking the deaths of sex trade workers all across our province. Each death is a red flag that something is terribly wrong with our system.

Courageous MP Libby Davies spearheaded action to raise awareness and to help reduce the harm, and the horrific slaughter on our streets.

I had the honour of presenting to her parliamentary committee. I felt for the first time there might be hope for some positive re-thinking of our laws and how they impact this largely voiceless segment of society.

Unfortunately, there have been no new laws to protect or shelter those involved in the sex trade. In Alberta, there is just another punitive law. Since police now have the authority to seize johns' cars, it should not come as a surprise that sex-trade workers have disappeared into trick rooms. There, we cannot even offer outreach programs. Unseen, they become even more vulnerable to attack and abuse.

If you wish to approach harm reduction in another way, it must be noted in Calgary there is a critical lack of treatment beds. For those seeking a way out of the sex trade, there are even fewer agencies than treatment beds working with this population.

If one is over the age of 29, there is only one agency with a long wait list that might consider them. When I was involved in the sex trade, I thought escape was impossible. With inadequate resources, underfunding to outreach agencies, lack of easy accessibility to treatment facilities, and hobbled by the communicating law, I believe I would think the same today.

If prostitution is legal in Canada, then we must begin discourse and move towards harm reduction for those seeking escape and those still engaged in the sex trade.

We need to begin by looking at our laws and their unforeseen negative impacts on this population. To do this successfully, we must also examine our own attitudes that perpetuate marginalization, degradation, deprivation and stigma towards those in the sex trade, and we must remember that sex-trade workers have paid with their lives for our silence and our inaction.

Elizabeth Hudson is the author of Snowbodies: One Woman's Life of the Streets. She has been published in Maclean's and Avenue Magazines. She is a public speaker and activist.

© The Calgary Herald 2007

Missing Pieces - Snow Bodies
Painted Lady - by Elizabeth Hudson on Outfront - CBC
Beating the Mean Streets

Friday, July 27

Papin braces for verdict

July 27, 2007

Pauline Papin is gearing up for an emotional return to British Columbia after officials told her to be ready for a verdict in accused serial killer Robert William Pickton's trial as early as September.

Previously, expectations were that the trial in connection with the murders of six women, including Papin's niece Georgina, would take a year. That would take it until at least the end of 2006, but Papin has now heard from victim services workers that she should be prepared for a possible verdict in two months.

"I'm OK with it now," Papin, who lives in Edmonton, said yesterday of the prospect of an early end to the trial. "I've been seeing a psychologist."

But, she added, a verdict in the current case won't mean court proceedings against Pickton are done.

"It's going to go on until they finish with the other 20," she said, referring to the rest of the alleged victims of the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer. The courts have yet to set a date for a trial on those charges.

But while Papin is getting ready for a return to the New Westminster courthouse where a jury is hearing the case, an official with the B.C. Attorney General's department said the timing for a verdict is still up in the air.

"We just don't know at this point," said Katherine Quon, an administrative project manager for the trial.

She noted the trial is on a two-week break, after which the Crown is going to continue its case against Pickton.

Georgina, who disappeared in 1999, is the lone victim from the Edmonton area.

The Edmonton Sun

Vancouver Missing Women

Tuesday, July 24

New plaque for slain women now outdated


July 12, 2007

Just minutes after posing for a photo with a newly minted plaque bearing the names of women who have vanished from Edmonton's streets, Carol-Lynn Strachan received the grim news that the monument was already outdated.

"This is sick," Strachan said as she struggled to keep her composure. "I guess now we'll have to make a new (plaque)."

Missing from the list is Leanne Benwell, whose remains were discovered three weeks ago in a rural area near Wetaskiwin. Police announced yesterday that they had identified her.

Strachan, a prostitute and sex-trade activist, said that just three weeks ago she and others were putting up posters with Benwell's picture all around the city's prostitute strolls.

"I knew her a little," she said. "I saw her stomping around out there."

Almost as quickly as they were being put up, she said, someone was ripping them down again.
She figured someone in the neighbourhood felt posters of a missing prostitute were unseemly.

"We have to start putting a human face on this," she said, choking back tears. "There's such hatred out there for us."

That's what she hoped the plaque would help accomplish. It was given to her by Chris Dowding, a resident of the Urban Manor shelter.
Over the years, he's gotten to know many of the women who work the inner-city streets.

Dowding asked his stepson, who works at an engraving shop, to make the plaque, which bears the names of 29 women. He gave it to Strachan and asked her to find a place to put it where the women would be honoured.

Sex Trade Workers of Canada

Guardian of the street


July 12, 2007

Two years ago, Chris Dowding was gainfully employed as a heavy equipment operator in Lloydminster.

Today, the 55-year-old makes his home at the Urban Manor, an inner-city shelter in the Boyle McCauley area, and picks bottles every day to feed his crack habit.

"I don't collect welfare. I'm not on AISH," he says. "I'm not a burden on anybody."

Nor does Dowding sugarcoat his lifestyle.

"I'm a pothead and a crack addict," he says without a trace of shame or apology. Crack, he acknowledges, "has ruined a lot of lives out here. Makes you want to spend your money until you're flat friggin' broke."

At night, he looks out his window and sees dozens of pinpoints of firelight scattered around the playing field across the street - crackheads lighting up their pipes.

"Ruined a lot of lives," he repeats sadly.

Dowding walks with a cane, but picks up day labour jobs whenever he can. Since he wound up on Edmonton's gritty streets, he's dropped 30 pounds to an emaciated 135.

"I don't have no butt no more," he says, laughing.

Dowding, whose cheerful, friendly demeanour conveys an unexpected dignity, likes to think he ended up among the city's down and out for a reason.

"I like to help people," he says. "I do whatever I can for folks, especially the working girls."

Once, he came upon a prostitute who had overdosed on drugs in Borden Park.

She was crawling around on her hands and knees, covered in thistles, barely aware of where she was.

Dowding gently helped clean her up and stayed with her for several hours until she was able to move on her own.

He kept her calm by reading the Bible to her.

Several months later, Dowding was walking down the street when a woman called out to him.

"She kept saying, 'C'mere, c'mere,'" he recalls. "And I kept thinking, I don't even know who this is. I didn't recognize her."

Finally, she walked up to Dowding and threw her arms around him. He realized it was the prostitute, but she had cleaned up and found a place to live.

Another time, he came across a woman from Prince George who was scouring Edmonton in search of her daughter, who was working the streets.

Dowding helped the distraught mom track down her girl.

"She'd been missing for a while and we got lucky and found her," he says.

It was encounters like this that inspired Dowding to ask his stepson, who works in an engraving shop, to make a plaque bearing the names of 29 women who've vanished or died on Edmonton's streets.

He planned to give it to his friend Carol-Lynn Strachan, a prostitute and sex-trade advocate, so she could have it mounted on a park bench.

"I just wanted them to be remembered," he says.

Strachan, who tries to keep tabs on prostitutes, calls Dowding her "eyes and ears out there."

Dowding's modest gesture inspired his stepson.

"I thought, well sure, why not? It's the least I could do," says Sarain Waskewitch, whose mother lived with Dowding for 10 years when Waskewitch was growing up.

Waskewitch and Dowding developed a bond that lasted well after the parents' relationship.

"I take him out for lunch once in a while, make sure he's doing okay. I try to help him out," Waskewitch says.

Through his relationship with Dowding, Waskewitch has learned to accept people as they are and not judge them by their circumstances.

"If I could, I would. I'd get him out of there," Waskewitch says. "The area's so depressing, but to him it's home."

After a pause, Waskewich adds: "It makes you think about what you have."

Sex Trade Workers of Canada

Mom of dead sex trade worker urges parents to get help for drug-addicted kids

Published Monday July 23rd, 2007

EDMONTON (CP) - The mother of a woman whose body was found in a rural area south of Edmonton last month is urging parents to get help for their drug-addicted children, before it's too late.

For Connie Benwell, it's advice that's seared into her soul after the discovery of the body of her daughter, Leanne, 27, near Wetaskiwin in central Alberta on June 21.

On Monday, over three dozen friends, family and aboriginal community members came together to mourn the death of the beautiful, dark-eyed woman whose image stared out of a large photograph placed at the front of Sacred Heart Parish in Edmonton.

Benwell said that while her daughter wrestled with drug addiction but wanted a better life.
"If you don't think your kids have a problem with drugs, you need to believe it," she said.

"You need to talk to them and try to get them to stop before it gets any worse, because the drugs are getting worse and more addictive, more powerful and more dangerous."

The church, an inner-city parish with strong connections to Edmonton's aboriginal community, was dotted with aboriginal symbols, including drums, eagle feathers and a tall candle supported by three upright snowshoes at its base.

A photograph of Leanne taken seven years ago propped up at the front of the church showed a beautiful young woman, her face still unlined by the hard drug use evident in a more recent photo propped up beside it.

Leanne, a member of the Salt River First Nation near Fort Smith, N.W.T., was remembered by her mother as someone whose slumber parties with friends would often turn into baking marathons. She also liked to play her rock and country music full volume around the house.

But when she was 18, Benwell said her daughter started to party hard with friends and began drinking alcohol.

She moved to Edmonton five years ago, and in recent years fell into prostitution to support a drug habit that involved cocaine and crack, her mother said.

Leanne's father Larry, a carpenter, and her three brothers also moved to Edmonton about a year ago to help Leanne, and also to be closer to her two girls, now just 18 months and four years old.

"She always told me not to worry about her, that she was OK and she knew how to look after herself," Benwell said of her daughter's dangerous lifestyle.

"It was her choice and I wasn't in any position to change her mind."

While many may simply want to write off her daughter as another dead prostitute, Benwell said her daughter doesn't deserve that, and thinks the problem goes much deeper.

"I'm thinking it's got to do more with the drug trade," she said.

"These woman are in a lot of danger when they're dealing with drug dealers and they're putting their lives at risk."

Two years ago, Leanne spent four months with family members in Fort Smith in an effort to kick drugs, and had started to put on weight and get her life together - but that all fell apart when she moved back to Edmonton and fell in with her old crowd, Benwell said.

In mid-March, Leanne showed up at her mother's Edmonton home with a gash across her nose , telling her that someone had thrown a beer bottle at her, but she didn't say who.

She was reported missing by family members in April.

"The community has a responsibility to tell her story so it may have an impact on ending these types of deaths," Pastor Jim Holland said during Monday's brief service.

"We don't choose the path our children walk," family friend Nora Beaver told the crowd.
"But there is so much drugs destroying our young people today," she said.

RCMP Corporal Wayne Oakes said while Benwell's death is being treated as a homicide, it has not yet been determined whether it is one.

But he said police approach all such suspicious deaths with a lot of caution because investigators don't want to miss any possible clues.

JoAnne McCartney, a former police vice officer who counsels people trying to get off the streets, said living the high risk lifestyle of a prostitute is becoming even more dangerous.

"I don't know if it's connected to the (economic) boom or that the drugs are getting to be more, the best way I can describe them is evil," she said.

McCartney lamented the lack of transitional housing for women trying to get out of prostitution, and said the situation has been made even more complicated by the increasing strength of street drugs.

"There's almost no housing, there's almost a six-week wait to get into treatment. The options for them in leaving the street are few and far between," McCartney said.

Project KARE, an RCMP task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of 25 woman in the Edmonton area dating back to 1975, has not taken over the investigation into Benwell's death, said spokeswoman Const. Tamara Bellamy.

"We won't take carriage of the file unless we deem that it's got a significant connection to any of the other files under our mandate," she said.

"And at this time we don't believe it is."

Information from the task force's database, including home addresses, next of kin and even DNA samples to help with identification, is frequently offered to police forces investigating the deaths of prostitutes, said Bellamy.

But to take over an investigation, something specific about the crime scene, the offence or the victim would have to provide a solid link to the person's death.

The task force could also take over an investigation if a person of interest in the crime had links to Project KARE investigations.

Edmonton's police service hopes to have completely overhauled the way it deals with missing person's cases by this fall, said Const. Rhonda Sargent, an officer with the force's Missing Persons Unit.

That includes more cultural sensitivity and addictions training for police officers, a risk assessment procedure to determine how urgently police should respond to missing persons cases, and quick analysis of criminal trends surrounding cases of missing or dead women, she said.

© 2007 CanadaEast Interactive, Brunswick News Inc. All rights reserved.
Project Kare

Sunday, July 22

Project Kare: How a missing women's task force works

Sunday, July 22 2007

Michael Stittle, News

It began with dark rumours of women vanishing from Vancouver's streets, of someone preying on drug addicts and prostitutes. But no one knew how many had died or if some had just run away, until police found several mutilated bodies on a pig farm in 2002. In Alberta, RCMP officers looked on and wondered: Could it happen here?

Out of that concern, the Mounties created a project to analyze every single case in the region that dealt with society's most vulnerable and high-risk members: sex trade workers, drug pushers, even hitchhikers.

They called it Project Kare.

Investigators have now covered cases dating as far back as 1932, sifting through data for any possible connections, carefully noting the smallest details, searching for any sign that a serial offender -- or even group of killers -- might be active.

So far, one suspect has been arrested in the deaths of two women. Thomas Svekla, who has been kept in custody for more than a year, is expected to stand trial this February.
RCMP Cpl. Wayne Oakes spoke to about the ongoing project, and how law enforcement officials hope the prairies will be spared the same tragedy that continues to haunt Vancouver.

Were the missing street workers in B.C. and the Robert Pickton investigation factors in starting Project Kare?

In 2002, when the Pickton investigation really started to draw prominence, the senior management of RCMP in Alberta asked the question: What's the state of affairs in our backyard?

That gave rise to the initial project, entitled the High Risk Missing Persons project. It was a review of all missing persons and homicide cases where there was an element of risk. And by risk, I mean missing persons or homicide victims whose lifestyle, behaviour, profession or circumstances put them at a higher risk of being a victim of violent crime.

Can you give specific examples of High Risk Missing Persons?

Well, somebody who's heavily involved in narcotics and the drug trade, somebody involved in the sex trade. Even somebody that would engage in a regular habit of hitch-hiking -- that activity would put them at a higher likelihood of being a victim of violent crime.

An exception to that rule would be gang activities. Because we know that if somebody has either an arms-length or direct affiliation with a known and identifiable illegal gang, that's going to put them at the same risk. The reason that those types of missing persons or homicide cases do not fall to Project Kare is that there are other investigative units already established to look into them.

When Project Kare began, was it assumed there was a serial killer, or more than one, targeting high risk missing persons?

The High Risk Missing Persons project didn't just look at Alberta. They also looked at Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, and it included both RCMP and municipal police services, because we wanted to get as good a picture as we could of the entire environment. And that analysis yielded 125 possible cases. Of those 125, 83 were in Alberta.
Because of that number, a second determination was then made to move into the investigative phase. We're currently still in part of two phases -- the High Risk Missing Persons Project is still an active viable component -- but we're continuing to do the analysis. And we're now into what Project Kare is primarily involved in: a combination of the analysis and the investigation.

And this is the first time all of this information has been analyzed with an emphasis on high risk missing persons?

Yes. And they are using what's believed to be the most current and valuable technical piece of technology to assist in the investigative process -- a computer system called Evidence and Reporting. It was developed by the RCMP to catalogue and keep track of information as a result of the Swiss Air Crash off of Peggy's Cove.

That process has also been recognized and used by agencies such as the FBI. We also, at that point in time, looked at the project in British Columbia, known as Project Even-Handed. And we continue to have a very strong liaison with the people in B.C., and in fact recruited some of the people directly involved in that investigation to come and work here for Project Kare.

How many cases is Project Kare currently investigating in its database?

What's currently in the database are 44 homicides. A high majority are female: of the 44 cases, 43 are female, one male. And of the missing persons cases, there are 30 -- 28 are female, two male.

What determines whether a case is treated as a homicide investigation, as opposed to a missing persons case?

You have to have some indication that a person has met with foul play, that their life has been ended. Having said that, in the majority of the missing persons cases where it's a high risk investigation, investigators will treat it the same way they would a homicide investigation. You have to, in order to exercise appropriate diligence. It's very difficult -- in fact, it's almost impossible -- to go back after the fact and say, 'Oh gee, we're now thinking this could be a homicide and we have to backtrack and recover our steps.' You can't do that.

With the case of Leanne Lori Benwell, a woman found dead on June 21, it's not an official Project Kare investigation. But Project Kare is still helping in the investigation...

Correct. And that's because of their expertise that they have. And should there be any links or commonalities to other existing cases, it would afford investigators the earliest opportunity to pick up on those links.

Q: When you say links, does that mean there is one individual or a group of individuals who may be responsible for these deaths?

That may be a factor, but it's not the only, exclusive factor. That's the beauty of the evidence and reporting: all of the relevant pieces of information are entered into this database. So for example, a blue car with one headlight -- if that shows up in a number of cases, investigators would be able to pick up on it. For another example, maybe a newspaper deliveryman was seen in the area hours before each of the bodies was found. So the newspaper deliveryman may be a person of interest. And depending on the level of interest, he might be a suspect, might be a witness, or might just happen to be a guy who happened to be in that area at that particular time.

Thomas Svekla, a suspect in the murders of two missing women, is expected to go on trial in February. If you start capturing these suspects who you believe may be responsible for some of these deaths, is there a point when Project Kare will finish its investigations? Or is it now a permanent part of the RCMP?

When you look at the number of unsolved cases that we have, the oldest one dates back to 1932. Back in the fall of 2003 when Project Kare was officially launched, within very short order, the media here were quickly pounding the drama of one serial killer. I said, "Well, that's a very interesting theory. Because our serial killer has to be very old." In June of 2004, it was the first time when we officially came out that we have reason to believe that a serial killer may be responsible for more than one death in the Edmonton area. It was a year later, in June 2005, when that assertion was updated, if you will, to say that we do believe a serial offender is responsible for more than one death. We have never made the assertion that one person is responsible. In fact, back from the very beginning we have said that we believe more than one person is responsible. And history has shown that there have been cases in the past, where you have more than one person involved in serial-type deaths. So that's a possibility. Because as soon as we start to focus on one eventuality, you open up the possibility of missing critical evidence. Investigators have to keep an open mind.

And it's a fluid number of missing persons cases? The number is always changing?

Sometimes cases are reviewed, and the criteria is found to be not following within the mandate with the project. Or, as was the case not that long ago with British Columbia, where one of the women who was thought to have been a victim had disappeared, and possibly killed, she showed up alive and well, living in Ontario....

I pulled over someone for a speeding violation in 1979 on the Trans-Canada Highway just north of Gleichen, Alberta. That individual had been on CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre). We do place missing persons on CPIC, in the event law enforcement may come upon them. The normal course of action is to run an individual's name on CPIC, and lo-and-behold he shows up as a missing person. When I started to discuss this with the gentlemen, he got a little bit excited and told me, "I know exactly where the eff I am, and all those people back in Ontario, you can tell them where to go. It's none of their business where I am or what I'm doing."

Today's privacy legislation fully supports that. The only thing we can do when we encounter a missing person is let that originating police agency know that we've had contact. We can't tell them where or under what circumstances. If people are interested in contacting the person, it's up to them.

Police investigating death of Alberta woman.
Suspect in death of prostitutes pleads not guilty
RCMP seek tips in probe of sex trade worker's death
Edmonton Police identify body as slain prostitute
Project KARE

Saturday, July 21

Network helps identify unamed victims

July 20, 2007
LIVINGSTON, Tenn.- More than 100 agencies have contacted Metro police about suspected serial killer Bruce Mendenhall.

The 56-year-old truck driver is charged with one homicide and a suspect in at least five others.

A lot of people are looking at him in other cases including a group of volunteers who are not police detectives.

One of the volunteers lives in Overton County. He and others help police on the Internet, looking at other unsolved homicides.

But these cases are different. The victims are Jane and John Does.

For Todd Mathews holding an unidentified skull is nothing new.

In fact, he's been helping families and police try to identify Jane and John Does for nearly ten years.

"It came from a need," Mathews said.

He got involved nearly a dozen years ago when he started using the Internet to research the identity of human remains discovered by his dad in Kentucky.

"I was just opened up to this whole world," Mathews said. "I had no idea that there were so many other Jane Does or John Does."

The research and contacts with others created what is called the Doe Network.

"There were state Web sites, local Web sites with missing persons, but nothing really central," Mathews said.

It's a public website listing thousands of missing and unidentified persons throughout North America, Australia and Europe.

"We have 21 unidentified bodies listed for Tennessee," Mathews said.

Mathews has found a couple of Jane Doe cases in East Tennessee and Kentucky that are similar to the murders allegedly committed by Bruce Mendenhall.

Police said Mendenhall has implicated himself in the killings of six prostitutes, but there could be others.

There's a case in Campbell County.

"She was stabbed and dumped along I-75 and she was thought to be have been a prostitute," Mathews said.

The Doe Network shares information with police all over the world.

For Mathews, it all started with the bones discovered by his dad. It took awhile but he found the victim's name.

"Ten years, it took a decade to identify her," Mathews said.

The success of the Doe Network has been recognized by the federal government. The Web site organizers said they have a meeting with the U.S. Justice Department in a couple of months.
They're going to talk about expanding the site to include more unsolved cases.
Sketches express softer side of missing women

Wednesday, July 18

Women upset with high rates of abuse

Doug Cuthand
The Leader-Post
Monday, July 16, 2007

This past week the Assembly of First Nations held its annual general assembly in Nova Scotia and held the attention of First Nations leaders across the country. Meanwhile in Kahnawake, Que., the Native Women's Association of Canada hosted an international indigenous women's conference that attracted 250 delegates from 17 countries.

This meeting was overshadowed by the AFN gathering in Nova Scotia, but in many ways it was just as important. Both groups had speakers who spoke passionately about the need for change and while the AFN chiefs spoke about change coming in the form of funding approaches, recognition of rights and the need for governments to pay attention to treaty and aboriginal rights, the women's gathering spoke to change from within.

The women spoke about the alarming rates of physical and sexual abuse on aboriginal communities and the need for the leaders to recognize it.

Our leaders often speak to the disturbing lack of services in First Nations communities and the resulting social conditions. Also the boarding school experience left many of our people in a state of life-long trauma. The legacy of colonization has had a deep impact on the lives of our people.

Our leaders are correct when they point to these and other conditions as the roots of our social condition but the women go further when it comes to placing blame.

The rates of violence and sexual abuse among our people is a subject that many politicians would rather ignore or deflect to outside sources. The reality is that much of the violence directed towards aboriginal women comes from within the home or the community.

Facts pointed out by the Women's Association state that aboriginal women on reserve between ages 25 and 44 are five times more likely to die a violent death that non-aboriginal women.

They experience spousal violence at a rate of 54 per cent annually compared to 36 per cent for non-aboriginal women. Now I find 36 per cent to be far too high but the aboriginal figure of 54 per cent reflects a serious problem. Also 90 per cent of aboriginal women in federal institutions have been victims of violence or sexual abuse.

Statistics for violence against women off reserve are not available but I would imagine they are comparable to the rates on reserve.

Within Canada aboriginal women are considered easy prey and relatively unimportant. The Native Women's Association points to the 500 missing women across Canada. This number is Canada's shame. Why should so many people be missing? For years women were missing from Vancouver's east side and very little was done to locate them. Many were considered "prostitutes" and many were aboriginal.

The pejorative term "squaw" has been in use for years when referring to aboriginal women. It should be placed in the same category as the "N" word. Squaw is a loose interpretation of the Cree and Algonquin word "esquew," which means "woman" in our language. The word began its usage by the fur traders and has continued to the present day. It is a racist putdown and should be erased from the vocabulary.

As usual we just can't speak of problems in isolation apart from the solutions. Just simply rehashing a litany of problems is not the answer. There is no single answer. Some of our leaders believe that improving living conditions and raising the standard of living will solve it. But much more is required.

We need an attitudinal change that gives zero tolerance to violence against women and children. Violence comes in many forms. It can be psychological, sexual or physical. It should not be seen as appropriate nor do men own women and children as chattels or property. We need a zero tolerance policy in people's minds. As it stands now many women fail to press charges out of fear of reprisal.

First Nations political leadership is still male-dominated but women are taking their place as chiefs and council members. When women assume leadership the priorities tend to change. Social issues are addressed and healing methods begin to take centre stage. The old male-dominated way with women in the background has got to change. As long as men continue to ignore the issue or pursue false solutions we will not be able to adequately address this serious problem.

But now there are more enlightened men in elected positions working with the women leadership and things are starting to change. This is a serious issue that must be addressed and change must come soon.

- Cuthand is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer.

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Monday, July 16

A brother's memory

Georgina Papin's sibling deals with the pain

July 15, 2007

After nearly six months in the hole, Rick Papin is reacquainting himself with human contact.

“I’m only now getting used to having people around me,” the 44-year-old confessed last week, days after coming out of 23-hour lock-up at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

But Papin is grateful for the time alone.

It gave him time to come to grips with the horrific details emerging from the New Westminster, B.C. courtroom where accused serial killer Robert Pickton is on trial for the murder of his sister, Georgina, and five other women.

“If I hadn’t been locked up, I would have taken my anger out on anybody around me,” he said.
“I needed time to accept the news and deal with my own emotions. I thought at one time I would be prepared to hear anything imaginable. I wasn’t.”

He’s still easing back into the general population, continuing to spend most of his time alone in his cell.

Papin last spoke with his little sister a decade ago, but he vividly remembers the grimly prophetic conversation.

“I had to go to court the week after and I was going to jail for a while,” Papin recalled. “My visit with my sister was to touch base and let her know I was okay.”

Childhood friends

Georgina was living in Mission, a small city nestled against the mountains in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, about an hour east of Vancouver’s grimy Downtown Eastside.

Papin had come out from Edmonton to see Georgina once more before being locked up. She was the only one of his eight siblings that he knew in childhood.

Oddly, their talk turned to death.

“For some reason, she said, ‘Ricky, do you know the elders say we are safe in the mountains and closer to the creator? When the time comes, this is where I want to be,’” Papin said. “I’ve always wondered if she knew her time was close.”

Georgina vanished from the face of the Earth in the spring of 1999.

Three years later, Georgina’s remains were found among the dozens of other human body parts discovered on Pickton’s notorious 17-acre pig farm in Port Coquitlam.

Pickton is currently on trial for six counts of first degree murder and will face 20 more charges at a later date.

Members of the Papin clan were fixtures at the New Westminster courthouse in the opening days of the Pickton trial back in January. But Rick, who knew his sister better than anyone, was again behind bars in Edmonton on new drug charges.

Media reports his sisters death

After spending their entire childhood protecting his sister in sometimes abusive foster homes, Papin was tormented by media reports of Georgina’s unspeakably gruesome death. Despite the anguish it caused, he was driven to learn as much as he could about what was happening in the courtroom.

Papin says it soon drove him to an emotional breakdown. Unable to control his rage, he wound up in lockdown.

Papin and Georgina went into the child welfare system while still toddlers. He’s not sure why, but assumes it’s because his mother, a member of the Ermineskin native band in Hobbema and his father, from Enoch, both struggled with addiction.

Their first years were spent in a group home on a farm, a time Papin remembers fondly.

“Our time there was pretty normal and we never really thought of our parents as we were led to believe that they were gone and one day we were going to a new mom and dad.”

When he was six and Georgina five, the pair were sent to a foster home. One day, Papin said, he came home from school to find his foster father in bed with Georgina.

As soon as he could, Papin ran away with Georgina in tow, only to be picked up a day later by police.

“From elementary to our pre-teens, we would be shuffled from home to home or run away,” he said. Abuse and neglect, he said, was commonplace.

Time passes and people drift

“My sister was very pretty,” he said. “She told me not ask what had happened to her at times.”

For the next two decades, they drifted in and out of each other’s lives, with Rick staying here in Edmonton and Georgina spending time in Las Vegas and Vancouver.

Both became embroiled in drugs and the streets, with Papin drifting in and out of jail and Georgina falling into the sex trade. Her final days were spent in the Downtown Eastside.

Eventually they learned they had seven siblings, and the family spent its first - and only - Christmas together in 1986.

But Rick and Georgina always remained close.

“She was the person I talked to,” he said.

Papin doubts he will ever get over his sister’s death.

“People think that this case before the courts will bring closure. Not for me, ever.”

Saturday, July 14

New plaque for slain women now outdated

July 12, 2007

Just minutes after posing for a photo with a newly minted plaque bearing the names of women who have vanished from Edmonton's streets, Carol-Lynn Strachan received the grim news that the monument was already outdated.

"This is sick," Strachan said as she struggled to keep her composure. "I guess now we'll have to make a new (plaque)."

Missing from the list is Leanne Benwell, whose remains were discovered three weeks ago in a rural area near Wetaskiwin. Police announced yesterday that they had identified her.

Strachan, a prostitute and sex-trade activist, said that just three weeks ago she and others were putting up posters with Benwell's picture all around the city's prostitute strolls.

"I knew her a little," she said. "I saw her stomping around out there."

Almost as quickly as they were being put up, she said, someone was ripping them down again.

She figured someone in the neighbourhood felt posters of a missing prostitute were unseemly.

"We have to start putting a human face on this," she said, choking back tears. "There's such hatred out there for us."

That's what she hoped the plaque would help accomplish. It was given to her by Chris Dowding, a resident of the Urban Manor shelter.

Over the years, he's gotten to know many of the women who work the inner-city streets.

Dowding asked his stepson, who works at an engraving shop, to make the plaque, which bears the names of 29 women. He gave it to Strachan and asked her to find a place to put it where the women would be honoured.
Edmonton Sun

Thursday, July 12

Women struggle to preserve hard-fought gains

Daphne Bramham
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If the Conservatives are in the mood for apologies and redress, they should put women at the top of their list.

No group has suffered such sustained, systemic and continuing discrimination, and many within it are doubly damned because of ethnicity as well as gender. None have been so badly treated as First Nations and Metis women.

For the first 54 years after Confederation -- 1,921 years into modern times -- Canadian women could not vote in national elections. Chinese- and Indo-Canadian women had to wait until 1947. First Nations women couldn't vote until 1960.

Women account for 51 per cent of the population, yet Canadian law and lawmakers didn't recognize them as persons until 1929.

The idiotic government and judiciary of the day said women couldn't be senators, judges and magistrates. Their reasoning was that because the British North America Act was written in 1867 when women couldn't vote, women (along with children, criminals and the insane) did not fit the legal definition of a "qualified person."

Bright-light politicians couldn't conceive that their mothers, wives and daughters weren't subhuman.

So five women went not only to the Supreme Court of Canada, but to Britain's Privy Council to overturn the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that women weren't persons. In overturning Canada's highest court, the Privy Council noted that "the exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours."

Of course, that didn't end the discrimination.

During the Depression of the 1930s, women who lost their jobs were not entitled to "relief" or welfare. (Chinese men were entitled to relief, but only to a third of what white men got.)

Without access to welfare, women had to fend for themselves with prostitution, the only way to earn money to feed themselves and their children.

During the Second World War, women flooded into the workforce, filling vacancies left by men who went to fight. When the war ended, they were sent home. Married women, in particular, were either forced to quit or expected to resign.

The 1947 Citizenship Act, which remained in force until 1974, determined a woman's citizenship to be that of her husband's. If a husband renounced Canadian citizenship, his wife was stripped of hers.

Children of Canadian-born mothers and foreign fathers were not eligible for Canadian citizenship. Yet children of Canadian-born fathers and foreign mothers were. (The same discriminatory policy was used to strip First Nations women and their children of Indian status until 1983.)

Until 1975, women's contributions to families' financial well-being were deemed inconsequential. Women were not entitled to an equal share of matrimonial property if the marriage ended.

First Nations women still have no right to an equal share of matrimonial property if they divorce. A bill to correct this wrong is expected to be tabled in Parliament this fall.

Women had to march on Parliament Hill to get the equality section included in the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In theory, Canadian women have equality under the law and full and equal access to education, jobs and opportunities. The reality is different.

There are still five times more men in Parliament than women.

Women working full-time make 71 cents for every $1 men earn. Two-thirds still work in pink ghettos of traditional "women's work" such as health care, clerical and administrative jobs. Little more than a third of all managers are women.

Women are poor in disproportionate numbers with 38 per cent of single mothers living below the poverty line compared to only 17 per cent of single fathers. Women are more likely to be victims of violence than men. One in every 10 Canadian women reports having been stalked in the past 10 years.

Women are many more times more likely to be forced, enticed or trafficked into prostitution and, once there, many times more likely to be charged, even though the Criminal Code offence of communicating for the purposes of prostitution was aimed at punishing the buyers and not just the sellers.

If any racial or ethnic minority had been subjected to anything near the discrimination that women have suffered and continue to experience, Canada would be an international pariah.
Yet no women's groups can afford the amount of time and energy that government-funded ethnic groups can to campaign for apologies, redress and compensation.

The federal Conservative government eliminated grants to any women's groups that lobby, advocate or do research. It stripped equality from Status of Women Canada's objectives and quashed plans for a universal day-care system.

Provincial governments reduced funds for human rights tribunals, legal aid and transition houses -- cuts that disproportionately affected women.

Fighting for redress of past wrongs is a luxury that women and their advocates can't afford.

They're too busy fighting to hang on to the few gains they've made.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Wednesday, July 11

Project Kare helps with investigation of woman found dead in central Alberta

Canadian Press
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

EDMONTON (CP) - A woman whose remains were found in a rural area south of Edmonton last month has been identified as a sex trade worker reported missing last spring.

Police say Leanne Lori Benwell, 27, was last seen March 12 after visiting her mother in Edmonton and was reported missing in April. Her body was found near Wetaskiwin on June 21. Police said at the time it was believed her remains had been there for at least six weeks.

An RCMP task force that is looking into the disappearances or deaths of almost 80 people, many of them women in the sex trade, is helping with the investigation, said Cpl. Wayne Oakes.

"Project Kare has conducted investigations into a number of cases involving missing persons and homicide cases where people had a similar high-risk lifestyle," he said.

"So their resources, knowledge and the opportunity to, at the earliest possible opportunity, pick up on perhaps any links or commonalities with other cases could play a critical role."

A cause of death for Benwell was not released, but the case is being treated as a homicide, said Oakes.

Since 1975, the bodies of 25 people, many of them prostitutes, have been found in the area around Edmonton.

No connections have been made between any of those cases and Benwell, said Oakes.

"At this point in time, there are no known links to any of the ongoing investigations involving unsolved homicides or missing persons cases currently active in the greater Edmonton area."

Project Kare has made its database available and will offer any expertise it can, but hasn't taken over the investigation, said Const. Tamara Bellamy.

"At this time, there's no discernable link as to any of our other files, and therefore we acted in an assistance capacity, and we will continue to do so again if they need us or want us," she said.

In order for Project Kare to take over an investigation, Bellamy said, the case would need to have a specific link to their other files.

Such a link could be something specific about the offence itself, the victim or the crime scene, she said. They may also take over if a person of interest in the investigation had links to Project Kare investigations.

"Obviously, the sex trade is a very high-risk profession, and so there a number of horrible ends that come to these people's lives, but we can't possibly take on all of those files. We have to determine other links and other significant factors that would make them part of our mandate," she said.

One man has been charged with second-degree murder and interfering with a human body in the deaths of two prostitutes. Police have always said they thought more than one person was responsible for all of the missing and murdered women.

Thomas Svekla, 39, is scheduled to go to trial in February in the slayings of Rachel Quinney and Theresa Innes. He's been in custody for over a year.

The body of Quinney, 19, was found in a patch of trees near Sherwood Park, Alta., on June 11, 2004.

The body of Innes, 36, was found nearly two years later, on May 8, 2006. She had been stuffed in a hockey bag at a Fort Saskatchewan home.

Oakes said police are asking for the public's help in tracking down any information about Benwell's life and death.

They're looking for details such as where and when she was last seen, where she was known to hang out and any circumstance that may have put her at risk.

Benwell was described in a police news release as being aboriginal, five-foot-six-inches tall and with a slight build. She had brown eyes and several tattoos that included the word "vodka" on an ankle, the name "Ozzy" on the knuckles of one hand and the word "love" on the knuckles of the other hand. Her jaw was out of alignment as a result of a previous injury.

Project KARE

Tuesday, July 10

Highway of Tears walk hits roadblock

(Top Stories) Tuesday, 10 July 2007
By BERNIE TRICK Citizen staff
Prince George Citizen

Bears and a lack of support have stopped a grieving mother who is walking the Highway of Tears in a bid to find healing following the loss of her teenaged daughter last year.

Audrey Auger, mother of Aielah Saric-Auger, whose body was found 15 kilometres east of Prince George in February 2006 along Highway 16, has returned to Prince Rupert after several signs of bears, a lack of a proper support vehicle, food and supplies prevented her from continuing.

"We got to about one-half hour (by vehicle) west of Terrace where we found ourselves in real bear country between mountains and a river," said Auger, who began her walk July 1. "It's just too dangerous to take a chance on getting in between a mother and her cubs. We're not ready to wrestle bears, so safety comes first," said Auger, who was walking with 15-year-old Pierre Johns (Aielah's closest friend) and her 17-year-old daughter, Kyla.

Ironically, Auger said they had no choice but to hitchhike back to Prince Rupert, where they are staying at the Salvation Army. At least seven women have disappeared along the highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George, most while hitchhiking.

Auger said the support vehicle that's supposed to be with them carrying their gear is not working out, and ended up simply dropping them off on the highway and leaving them with no gear for walking or camping.

To make matters worse, about $400 that was supposed to be donated for the walk has not been deposited into her account, Auger said.

"When we tried to buy food for the road recently there were no funds in the account, so we had to empty the change from our pockets to purchase a bit of food. We've been surviving on macaroni and canned salmon for a few days now," she said.

Now she's looking for a support vehicle that can stay with them for one to two days to get them into Terrace, and from there she's hoping to find other support vehicles that can spend a day or two with the walkers until they reach Prince George. "If it means leap-frogging of vehicles, all the better," Auger said.

Anyone who can help can contact Auger on her cell phone at 617-9246 or through North Coast MLA Gary Coons at 1-866-624-7734.

Despite the hardships, Auger said being in the wild with nature "is awesome."

"It's a great healing process. We've had our interesting moments, but we're all healing and growing in our separate ways. Learning responsibility and survival rules in the woods is a wonderful thing, even though being on the highway can be tough at times," said Auger.
Along with being hungry at times, the trio "walked five days in the rain and our shoes are soaked and ruined."

Anyone wishing to make a cash donation to the walkers can do so at the TD bank main branch on Victoria Street in Prince George. Ask for Yolanda, who will deposit donations into a special account. Any funds remaining following the completion of the walk will go to support the next Highway of Tears symposium, said Auger, who hopes to reach Prince George by mid August.
Highway of Tears

Sunday, July 8

Marked women

“They look almost pre-abandoned,” notes the teenaged protagonist of Anne Stone’s stunning third novel, Delible as she looks at the missing posters of Vancouver’s so-called runaways
Delible, by Anne Stone (Insomniac Press, 2007; $21.95)

MUCH HAS RIGHTLY BEEN made, in progressive circles, about the criminal obscenity of Official Vancouver’s slow and uncaring response to the cases of myriad missing women in the city.

The fact is, dealing with the cases is an imperative that runs against the whole momentum of a society whose central demands of aboriginal, working-class or addicted women, as well as those in the sex trade, are invisibility and silence. For these women to go missing, then, is for the disappearance that mainstream society forces on them — the pushing to the margins, the erasure from public and social life — to be effected most extremely.

“They look almost pre-abandoned,” notes the teenaged protagonist of Anne Stone’s stunning third novel, Delible, as she looks at the missing posters of “girls like [my sister…] So-called runaways […] Taped to the walls of bus stations […]”

If Vancouver, and countless cities like it, have consigned these women to vanishing and death, it’s because the human condition has so often been defined to their exclusion.

Revolutionarily, Stone’s brilliant story of a missing teenager named Melissa Sprague (a story told through the eyes of her mother, grandmother and, mostly, her younger sister Melora) subverts and inverts this paradigm completely by making the missing themselves into the archetypes of our condition, exemplary of tragic human lives marked by constant Heraclitean change, impermanence and evanescence (hence the title, Delible — a condition that we are so afraid of that we don’t have a word for it; only for its comfortingly concrete opposite, indelible).

If all of our lives are lost, transitory and ever-changing to the point where none of us has a grounding, permanent essence or centre, we’ve constructed arcs and narratives built into biological aging and social conventions to mask the terror of this realization. But the missing person’s story is, by definition, an interruption and negation of these conventions. Their disappearance throws the rest of our lives into sharp relief; in response to a friend’s suggestion that she “pick up the pieces [and m]ove on,” Melissa’s mother insists, “There are no pieces.
There’s a gaping black hole. At dead centre. And it’s sucking everything in.”

Even if Stone’s new book has bold social and political implications — and it does, especially for us in her adoptive city, Vancouver, where she moved from Montreal — it is not primarily a political tract but rather an outstanding literary accomplishment. Her language is profound and honest; her allusions rich and subtle (the two sisters share a smoke, for instance, inside of a parade float done up like Sesame Street’s Snuffleupagus, the elephantine companion whom Big Bird could never convince his grown-up neighbours was real; when Melissa goes missing, Melora is unable to communicate to the police and other adults working on the case that her sister has not run away).

Stone’s themes of impermanence and disappearance are integrated seamlessly and hauntingly into every passage of the book’s three hundred pages, on multiple levels, with care and intelligence. The tragedy of her chosen subject matter offers the possibility of only the faintest hope, but it’s here, found in Melora’s “love of writing” and an invisible growth “that I could measure in books.”

If literature is salvation, here’s to hoping that Stone’s work makes the indelible mark on Canadian letters that it deserves to.—Charles Demers
Charles Demers is a writer, activist and comedian based in Vancouver. He is the culture editor for Seven Oaks magazine.

Film chronicles a life lost to drugs

Cheryl Chan, The Province

Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007

The tragic life of April Reoch, a 25-year-old drug addict and prostitute whose body was found in a dumpster outside her East Hastings hotel on Christmas day seven years ago, is the subject of a documentary making its debut this fall.

"We followed her life and, as it turns out, her death," said Al Arsenault, 54, a retired constable and president of the Odd Squad, a documentary production team made up of cops-turned-filmmakers.

Tears for April: Beyond the Blue Lens is the story of Reoch's descent into drug addiction. The film, which clocks in at just under 100 minutes, took 10 years to make. (Watch the trailer here.)

Arsenault was a constable on the Downtown Eastside beat when he first met 17-year old Reoch -- a "fresh-faced, young kid" -- outside the Metropole hotel in April 1993.

She came down from Squamish looking for a bit of fun, he said.

"I told her she'll get mixed up in the drug scene, she'll end up prostituting herself. I told her she might even die down there, and it all came true," said Arsenault.

He saw her again six months later. She was hooked on drugs, with scabs and sores on her face.

Arsenault took photos of Reoch and she became the "before and after girl" in the 1999 documentary Through a Blue Lens.

The documentary, which profiled five other addicts, was used extensively in drug-education programs across high schools in Canada. It's the National Film Board's most successful documentary to date.

Tears for April, with experienced documentary-maker Ken Jubenvill at the helm and Province copy editor Steve Berry as screenwriter, revisits the cast of addicts.

The film camera followed Reoch, the central character, on the streets, in and out of skid row hotels and into a garage where she was "living like a rat among garbage."

It followed her to her first Narcotics Anonymous meeting and through several unsuccessful attempts to get clean. It followed her to the end, on Boxing Day in 2000, when Arsenault had to identify her lifeless body in the morgue.

Recently, Arsenault and his crew went to Squamish to film Reoch's son, now 16. They also filmed Ian Matheson Rowe, the man convicted for her death, in jail.

Arsenault believes Reoch allowed the film crew unfettered access because "she didn't want others to make the same mistakes she did."

The documentary will be screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in the fall. It has also been submitted to the Toronto and Vancouver Film Festivals.

Arsenault hopes the film gets a wider release so April's story can be shared with more people.
"I was her friend," he said. "She did [the police] a great service."

© The Province 2007
The Odd Squad
Dead woman was poster girl in cop drug film

Saturday, July 7

Gentlemen, Of the Press, Prefer Blondes

BC Bloggers Magazine

Written by Purple Tigress
Published July 07, 2007

Marilyn Monroe was in a 1953 movie called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and apparently the media, still run predominately by men, remains a boys club and they prefer blondes--young, white ones. Princess Diana has, if not purely because of Elton John's re-wording of "Candle in the Wind", been compared to Monroe. Both died young and both were involved in ill-fated romances. Unlike Monroe, Princess Diana had no particular talent except she married well. Diana hadn't done well academically. She was a part-time teacher's aide when she met and married Prince Charles. Her talent was she dressed well and looked good before the cameras.

There are other royals in other countries to which the American press gives little coverage. We know little about Princess Elisabeth of Belgium who will inherit the throne due to a 1991 act that changed succession from the eldest son to the eldest child. Her father is Prince Philippe who married Princess Mathilde in 1999. His father is Albert II. We know even less about the Sheikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa who is the first wife of Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the mother of the crown prince His Royal Highness Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. And what about the king of the Zulu nation, Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who has six wives and 27 children? His last wife, whom he married when she was 17 in 2004, never makes the cover of any American magazine.

Why does media focus so much on the British family and particularly, Princess Diana, even after her death a decade ago? Even though America is demographically 74.7 percent white, that includes people of European ancestry as well as those of West Asian (such as Iranian), Arab Americans, Central Asians and Latinos. Only 1.8 percent are members of the Anglican church. Of the 88.3 percent that are Christian, the majority 25.9 percent, are Catholic. To put this in perspective, 1.4 percent of Americans are Jewish. To put the coverage on the British simply down to American heritage doesn't really hold, particularly since the coverage of Diana is, even now, a bit overboard.

Princess Diana was recently compared to Paris Hilton. As Tina Brown, former editor for Vogue and The New Yorker, tells it, she's often asked on her book tour for The Diana Chronicles if Paris Hilton is the Princess Diana of today. Brown reminds us of Princess Diana's high heel humanitarian work, which is, Brown forgets, quite different than the kind of work Mother Teresa did. Holding a hand of a sick person for a photo shoot is quite different than working in poverty. Brown reminds us that "In her entire 16 years as Princess of Wales she was never once caught looking anything but her absolute best. "

That's an accomplishment? Paris Hilton has yet to marry and yet, like Diana, can make the cover of a magazine or get air time on the news by frolicking in Hawaii in a bikini post prison release. For those who have forgotten, Diana, encouraged the photographers in attempts to upstage her rival Camilla Parker Bowles particularly in July of 1997, particularly when it became apparent that Prince Charles was hosting a 50th birthday party for Parker Bowles (17 July 1997). That was just a month before her death on 31 August 1997. Camilla, now married to her prince, is often taken to task for her looks. Whatever her other accomplishments, she is often judged like a beauty pageant contestant as if American society was still stuck in the 1950s.

A decade after her death, the news is still on Diana. Is it simply because she's a royal? Or because she was a beautiful blonde? You hardly hear about the royal who did serve in the American military in Iraq and died. We know about Diana's sons who didn't go. According to BBC News, an American of an African royal family died for this country. Maybe the Ivory Coast is too foreign for Americans to comprehend or maybe this is not unlike the so-called missing white woman syndrome. The man who died was African, black African.

What is the missing white woman syndrome? The media focuses on white upper-class Natalee Holloway but not Reyna Alvarado-Carrera, a Latina woman. And then there was Jennifer Wilbank, the runaway bride. In an article for the Washington Post, "(White) Women We Love," Eugene Robinson reminds us of others: Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Lori Hacking, Chandra Levy, and JonBenet Ramsey. "We even found, or created, a damsel amid the chaos of war in Iraq: Jessica Lynch."

As Robinson defined the missing white woman syndrome: "A damsel must be white. This requirement is nonnegotiable. It helps if her frame is of dimensions that breathless cable television reporters can credibly describe as 'petite,' and it also helps if she's the kind of woman who wouldn't really mind being called 'petite,' a woman with a good deal of princess in her personality. She must be attractive — also nonnegotiable. Her economic status should be middle class or higher, but an exception can be made in the case of wartime (see: Lynch)."We remember Jessica Lynch, but not Native American Lori Piestewa (father is Hopi and mother of Mexican ancestry according to Wikipedia) or African American Shoshanna Johnson. All three women were captured during the same ambush. Piestewa died of her injuries after being taken, along with Lynch, to a hospital. Johnson, like Lynch, survived. Piestewa was the first Native American woman to die in military service, yet we don't know about her. She was awarded a Purple Heart and little media coverage.

In an article, "If You're Missing, It Helps to Be White," two cases are compared: that of a missing black male student and a white female student. The young man, Shelton Sanders, disappeared in 2001 and yet, the woman, Dail Dinwiddie, who disappeared in 1992, received more verbiage in news accounts; even in the years after Sanders disappeared, Dinwiddie, received more attention. How can media justify covering a decade-old missing person case over a fresh one? Sanders was a 25-year-old University of South Carolina student when he disappeared. Dinwiddie was 23 in 1992. Her story got attention outside of South Carolina.

Yet, the bias in media coverage isn't limited to missing women.

We remember Marilyn Monroe. We remember Jessica Lynch. We remember Princess Diana. We remember Paris Hilton. We remember these blonde women because they were made into media stars. Yet what are their accomplishments? Monroe was a star who could sing and dance. Lynch came forth with criticism of the military and the media, remembering her fallen comrades. She also asks: Why does Lynch outshine Shoshanna Johnson or Lori Piestewa? Why do we know more about Princess Diana's limited accomplishments and more about her personal life than that of Mother Teresa? Why is Paris Hilton on the news at all? Because someone was aroused by her sex tape performance?

Apparently, to make the news, it helps to be white, upper class, and pretty and even better to be blonde (which is not Monroe or Hilton's natural hair color and even Diana became blonder as she became more famous) because even when it comes to media coverage, the gentlemen of the press prefer blondes.

Former theater critic for the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times and currently an editing slave at a dot-com.

Article: Gentlemen, Of the Press, Prefer Blondes

End of the road elusive in private eye's search on B.C.'s 'highway of tears'

Canadian Press
July 7, 2007

PRINCE RUPERT -- It's been 18 months since private investigator Ray Michalko began looking into the disappearance of women along the so-called "highway of tears" and he's still searching for answers.

Mr. Michalko, a retired RCMP officer, has been spending about 40 hours a week since January, 2006, on the unsolved cases.

"I continue to receive calls from people giving me tips and leads which I've been following up as far as I can take them and then handing them over to the RCMP," Mr. Michalko said.

"It's a long uphill battle, there's no question. But I've believed from the beginning and still continue to believe there are people out there that know something, and somehow we have to find a way to get them to come forward and talk about it. I've been able to turn over information on a number of occasions to the RCMP. Whether you would call it suspects or just information that needs to be followed up more thoroughly is not for me to say."

Nine women have disappeared or turned up dead along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert since 1974.

Mr. Michalko has been only as far west as Terrace to date, but he'll be making a trip to Prince Rupert at the end of the month to follow some leads.

Even though he hasn't asked for any money, a group of women from Port Coquitlam has volunteered to help pay for some of his costs. "It's been really good because they're helping to pay for my airfare, car rental, motel, and I'm basically supplying the time. So it's made it much more viable for me."

Nancy Ray, one of the six women who founded the highway of tears trust fund to support Mr. Michalko's search, said she first learned about the case in November.

"And I had not heard of the highway of tears prior to hearing about Ray," she said. "So there's all this uproar about missing women from east Vancouver and the [Robert] Pickton trial, yet nothing's been mentioned about Highway 16."

Mr. Michalko agrees. "Up north awareness has been much better. There's been a dozen stories written in local papers and I think that's great," he said, acknowledging he gets phone calls every time a story runs.

It's been hard for him to keep pursuing leads for 18 months without speaking with the families and friends of the missing or deceased.

"I purposely set out to not talk to any of the families who've lost kids because I didn't want to raise false hope," Mr. Michalko said.

"But over the last year and a half I've had to talk to some of them to ask some questions and verify some information, and their support is unreal."

© Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Highway of Tears

Thursday, July 5

Writing The Pickton File

By Stevie Cameron as told to Orato Editor Heather Wallace

Stevie Cameron, author of The Pickton File, is one of Canada's leading investigative journalists. Formerly the editor of Elm Street magazine and leading columnist for The Globe And Mail, Cameron turned her attention away from politics and white collar crime in 2002 when the case of Vancouver's missing women took its own turn with the arrest of Robert "Willie" Pickton. Horrified by the lack of attention case had received, she didn't hesitate when Knopf Canada asked her to write a book about Vancouver's missing women. For the next five years, Toronto-native Cameron would adopt Vancouver as her western home, immersing herself in the underbelly of society from which the women disappeared. Cameron says while the legal aspects of the case are fascinating, The Pickton File is really about the women themselves and what it was like to investigate the cracks they fell through. Here, Cameron tells Orato about her discoveries and the journey that culminated in The Pickton File...a journey that is still unfolding as the Pickton trial drags on.

It’s been really busy since I released my book, The Pickton File [1]. It’s the first time I’ve done a book tour since 2001, and the difference this time is in the online media. I used to write a tech column and I love online stuff, so it’s been fascinating.

The transition from writing for newspapers and magazines to writing books was a gradual decision. I didn’t give up newspapers until probably 2002, when I was offered this job in Vancouver. I knew then I couldn’t do anything other than this book. Of course, I’ve done some columns here and there, but it was basically all Pickton, all the time.

I’ve said I also made the transition from writing about white collar to blue collar crime. In all truth, they aren’t all that different; they’re all criminals, it’s just that the white collar criminals don’t often go to jail, whereas the blue collar criminals do. Even when they’re guilty, white collar criminals sue like mad, and often newspaper or television publishers and executives will back away because of the cost of the lawsuit, regardless of who is right or wrong. Luckily, I’ve always had great publishers that would take it on.

The Pickton File has been a huge undertaking. If I knew then what I know now, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a no-brainer for me; the moment it was offered to me, I said yes. But I wouldn’t do a similar case again unless it was finished. A lot of people have asked me if I’d like to do the Highway of Tears [2] or Project KARE [3] in Edmonton. Sure I would, but not until they’ve convicted someone, not midstream, because you have no control over the timing.

Lawyers drag it out, and the Pickton case has been dragging on for years; we aren’t anywhere near a settlement. The challenge of it being so ongoing is that I may be in the Golden Plough Lodge by the time this thing gets over!

I first became aware of the missing women in 1998 when I was still editing Elm Street. Daniel Wood [4], who is a Vancouver writer, had done a fabulous piece about it for the magazine. In fact, I think it was the first big, national piece that had been done on the missing women.

In 1998, we were only part way through seeing women go missing. At that time there was around 50 missing women; by 2002, when Pickton was arrested, the missing women list was somewhere close to 70. (They’ve pared it down to 65 now because four of the women have been found alive.)

There have been emotional moments at times. I have daughters, and I’ve worked with the homeless population before. I understand poverty and drug addiction pretty well, so the case touches on issues I am familiar with. It wasn’t as though I was a stranger to this situation, but it was still horrifying to me when I started to research it. But I’m also a journalist, and I just saw a very powerful story. It had a lot of angles, a lot of richness to it, so it’s been endlessly fascinating for me.

The story is not just the missing women and what happened to them, although those are the key ingredients; it’s also the Pickton family, the communities, the families of the missing women, the forensics, the legal aspects, the Vancouver Police Department and the issues of neglect, poverty, addiction and homelessness…all of it.

It’s a very big canvas. It’s impossible to separate one angle when talking about my reaction to it, aside from absolute horror. Everything about this story is horrifying.

I’m no different from anyone else; I think law enforcement’s response was inadequate at best. They’ve admitted it themselves. It has been subject to a 2-year investigation by Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard. I hear it’s a very tough report, and I’m hoping he’ll release it at some point.

I am sure there will be a judicial inquiry into this case when Mr. Pickton’s future has been resolved. There has to be one, because someone has to answer for the neglect of these missing women.

Many people are expecting answers because it’s such a diverse cast of characters involved – the families, the women themselves, the lawyers, the court officials, the judges, the victims services workers, Pickton, the community of Port Coquitlam, the community in the Downtown Eastside. I have come to know many of the characters because so many of them shared their stories with me.

I interviewed residents of the Downtown Eastside in their hotels, coffee shops or neighborhood parks. I went where they were. I often took them to appointments with their doctors so I could spend some more time with them, and I became friends with many of them. Eventually they would introduce me to each other. It’s a very interesting, warm community.

I wasn’t comfortable in the neighborhood at first…the first time I went there I was by myself and I was afraid. Now I’m there a lot and don’t have any fear. That’s not to say I’m not careful; one has to be careful, just as I’m careful on my own street in Toronto. Of course, I didn’t like everybody; there are some people in the Downtown Eastside that are difficult to deal with, as is the case anywhere.

In the courthouse, it’s a very professional and interesting group of people. I think both sides are very well-served by a very good team of lawyers. I know that sounds a bit too nice, but I’ve watched them in action for five years and I’ve seen how hard the defence is working. It’s not been easy for them.

Most of the victims’ families have been helpful, but I would never force myself upon them; I would never go door stepping or knock on the door if they don’t want to see me. But they’ve given me probably 95 per cent support and cooperation. I’ve found they’re honest and unflinching in their descriptions of how their daughters got on the street.

Many of them blame themselves, and a lot of them blame an attitude of ‘tough love.’ They agonize over it. Although I don’t think there’s one family I ever talked to that shut the door on their daughter. They all said, “We’d take her back. We tried to help. We stayed in touch.”

This is the thing I’ve learned: These girls stayed in touch; they all called their moms on their birthdays, their moms called them. Their moms sent money, they’d celebrate their grandchildren’s birthdays. There was much communication in most cases, and there was a lot of love. I’m not judging anyone on this case. These situations are dreadful and addiction is such a horrifying problem. I don’t know that I could have dealt with it any better than many of these parents.

The most elusive aspect of this story is Pickton himself. I’ve tried interviewing him and not succeeded, but I have listened to many, many hours of recordings. I find him slightly boring.
He’s not an interesting person. Anybody charged with crimes like these should be interesting, but it’s as though a tape loop runs in his head and you just keep hearing the same stories all the time. Of course, it’s fascinating to hear it once or twice, but I suspect I’d hear the same stories again and again.

Nonetheless, I will continue to try to see him. For a long time, Pickton’s lawyers just told me he wasn’t available. Then I realized I could contact him directly. I did write him and I will continue to try.

I came home part way through the trial to sit down and work on the book. When you’re attending a preliminary hearing, a voir dire or a trial, it’s a long day and it’s tiring. I’m not able to write creatively when I get home. So, I realized if I expected to finish this first book, I’d better get back to Toronto and sit at my desk.

This first book is a guide to the story, and it’s my own personal experience – meeting the families, sitting in court, introducing the characters to the reader, et cetera. My editor asked me to take people through what it had been like as a reporter to start with almost zero knowledge and work on it for five years.

But the next book, The Pig Farm, is not a first-person book. Although the trial is very interesting, it will not be a huge part of it. It will tell you who these women were, what happened to them, how it happened, how the police did or didn’t do their investigation and how the public reacted.

I chose the title The Pig Farm because it’s how people refer to this place where the end happened for many of the missing women. A lot of people have asked me why I didn’t name it ‘But What About The Brother?’ This book is not about Dave Pickton. It is a book about Willie Pickton, and also the missing women.

The last book I wrote was called The Last Amigo [5], about an arms dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber, and his role in the Airbus scandal. Well, nobody in Canada knows anything about why he’s called an ‘amigo’ and nobody understood what on earth the book was about. With ‘The Pig Farm,’ people know right away what it’s about. I decided on a title that was immediate so that people would know what the story was.

I do talk about what I think Dave Pickton’s involvement may be. I think it’s safe to say I don’t think he had any involvement in the deaths. I think he’s a violent man. We know he has convictions on sexual assault and we know he was charged again on similar crimes, but it never went to trial because the woman was afraid to testify. We know that he hangs around with Hell’s Angels and we know he’s a rough character, but we don’t know, from all these years of evidence, that this is a man who is involved in the murder of women.

I do want to say, let’s not forget the other 20 women – there are 20 other counts of first degree murder after this trial, and I want to know what’s going to happen with those counts. Also, let’s not forget Jane Doe. The judge quashed the count on Jane Doe, but I don’t forget her, and The Pig Farm opens with Jane Doe.

My hunch is if Mr. Pickton is found guilty on this case, Crown will stay the charges on the 20 to avoid the cost of going ahead with another full-fledged trial. I think you might have to have a new defence team, a new prosecuting team, maybe even a new judge. I don’t know that the team of people that has been on this thing for so long could stand to do another trial. I wouldn’t blame them if they couldn’t.

But the families would be very upset, so they have to weigh all that. We don’t know what’s going to happen to Mr. Pickton, so I just can’t predict that.

Writing the Pickton File on Orato

Monday, July 2

Exhibit features dead, missing women

July 2, 2007

A haunting art exhibit that pays tribute to 50 slain and missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is slated to come to Edmonton starting the day before Mother's Day next year.

And the moms of two slain city prostitutes are hopeful Edmontonians come out in droves to see it.

"It makes them see that they're human beings," said Pat Reilly, whose 23-year-old daughter Kelly Dawn Reilly was found dead in a gravel pit about 25 km northwest of Edmonton in January 2001.

Reilly said the timing of the show - which will run for at least two weeks beginning May 10, 2008 - is especially meaningful.

"Most of them were moms," she said. "My daughter was a mother."

Kathy King, whose 22-year-old daughter Cara King was found slain in a canola field near Sherwood Park in 1997, hopes the gallery of crime victims leads to a greater awareness of the exploitation that occurs daily on city streets.

The exhibit, created by Prince George artist Betty Kovacic and titled A Roomful of Missing Women, features portraits based on a 2002 list of women who were missing or known to have died violently.

It also includes 50 life-sized figures draped in black material to signify the enormity of their losses.

Dozens of women, most of them drug-addicted prostitutes, have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside over the past 25 years. Robert Pickton, accused in 26 killings, is on trial in connection with six of the deaths.

A venue has yet to be chosen for the Edmonton show. Admission will be free.

Kovacic, known as one of B.C.'s most socially conscious visual artists, is also considering painting similar portraits of Edmonton-area women killed in recent years.

In the Edmonton area, 28 women living high-risk lifestyles have been slain since 1983, said Kate Quinn, executive director of the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation. Of those cases, 21 are unsolved, she said.

A Roomful of Missing Women