Wednesday, October 31

Rez Sisters focuses on strength of women

Rez Sisters focuses on strength of women

Wednesday, 31 October 2007
BERNICE TRICK Citizen staff

The first thing two First Nations actors heard upon arriving in Prince George were the horrific stories of the Highway of Tears and former judge David Ramsay , both of which either involve murder, exploitation or assault of young First Nations women.

Marsha Knight from Winnipeg and Lisa Dahling from Vancouver are here as part of the cast in the production The Rez Sisters at Theatre North West, a story of seven First Nations women who live on a reserve .

"This play is all about women -- their power and strength and the struggles they face," said Knight, who works with exploited youth in Winnipeg.

"So it is very insightful to come here and hear the histories of the Highway of Tears and judge Ramsay. Unfortunately, I think that judge Ramsays and highways of tears exist in every region, and it's important that people be willing to listen and to do something," said Knight.

The two are full sisters in the story that involves seven women piling into a van to make a six-hour trip to Toronto in bid to win a half-million dollar jackpot in the biggest bingo in the world.

They say life on the Wasaychigan reserve is "familiar and close knit."

"It's good, but sometimes it drives you crazy," said Dahling, who noted women in the play that features an all-First Nations cast, are all related in some way -- half sisters, sisters-in law and a daughter.

During the trip the audience gets to share the women's stories -- sad, shocking, inspiring and hilarious.

"It's a play full of hope. We know there's good things to come and this is about how we make the good stuff happen," said Dahling.

The positive response that 's been given to the play is important to First Nations people, said Dahling.

"It's important for all people to see themselves represented and this was among the first for First Nations. People see us on stage and are impressed. It made a big impact among people when the play began in Ontario. It's a classic already."

Unlike many actors, these two women were not on stage as children or youth.

It's just a few years since Dahling, who plays Philomena Moosetail, started out in stage management, proceeded into community theatre and ended up attending acting school for a year in Vancouver. Since then she's played in a host of of plays, a television series and has worked closely with Tomson Highway, playwright of The Rez Sisters, and was the original Isobel Thompson in his Ernestine Schuswap Gets Her Trout.

Knight, who plays Pelajia Patchnose, began her acting career in 1993 by by taking weekly evening acting classes, progressed into community theatre and landed her first professional job in fareWel. With her Ojibway and Metis ancestry, she has done a number of roles, including The Rez Sisters with Prairie Theatre Exchange, as well as film and video.
They both encourage people to come to the TNW play running to Nov. 21.

"Theatre is a form of story telling and this is a beautiful play to see and hear," said Knight.
"There are many levels of theatre, but this play, with all its kooky characters and a very cool set, will be an evening of both fun and emotion," said Dahling.

"Theatre North West is to be congratulated for mounting this difficult production," said Knight, while Dahling sends along appreciation to all the families that billlet actors during their Prince George stays. "That's a major item for most of us," she said.

Tickets, available at Studio 2880 or Books and Company, are $25 for adults and $23 for students and seniors on weekdays (except Mondays) and Sunday, and $27 for adults and $25 for students and seniors on Friday and Saturday. For phone orders call 614-0039 or 563-2880.

Tuesday, October 30

Get serious, natives tell RCMP

Get serious, natives tell RCMP
No progress, just a bunch of cases added, critics say

Suzanne Fournier
The Province

Friday, October 26, 2007

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province
David Dennis of the United Native Nations blasts police for not treating the Highway of Tears seriously.

CREDIT: Arlen Redekop, The Province

Her aunt, Gladys Radek, calls the RCMP cruel for calling missing women's families to a meeting and only scratching old wounds.

B.C. aboriginal leaders are calling on the RCMP and B.C. government to create a task force to investigate the 18 women missing or murdered along B.C.'s Highway of Tears and other highways in Alberta.

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Stewart Phillip says "it's positive police are at least admitting" that 18 women are "officially" missing or have been murdered along B.C. and Alberta highways between 1969 and February 2006.

"But for the RCMP to admit that so many women are missing or murdered and not set up a properly designated and adequately resourced task force is to invite these tragedies to keep occurring," says Phillip.

"And the northern communities have identified more than 40 missing women whom RCMP didn't add to the list."

The RCMP announced Oct. 12 that it was adding nine unsolved cases to the "official list" of nine victims of the 750-kilometre Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. Eight of the new cases are unsolved homicides that occurred between 1969 and 1981. One is a woman who went missing in Hinton, Alta., in 1983.

The unsolved-homicide cases, mostly tied to B.C. highways from Hudson's Hope to 100 Mile House, were announced by the RCMP as part of their one-year update on the status of their Highway 16 investigation, which was launched after a well-attended and highly-publicized Highway of Tears symposium in Prince George in 2006.

United Native Nations vice-president David Dennis says the RCMP is still failing missing women.

"It's one of the most disgusting and despicable displays on the part of the RCMP, to add these longstanding, unsolved cases from all over B.C. to the Highway of Tears cases. It seems they don't take the disappearance of any of these women seriously," he said.

"There's no RCMP task force, no concerted police effort, no evidence they are taking the disappearance of so many women, most of them aboriginal, seriously. The symposium recommendations have fallen on deaf ears."

Meanwhile, a woman whose niece disappeared on Highway 16 in 2005 accuses the RCMP of trying "to get rid of the whole Highway of Tears concept" by adding the unsolved cases stretching back as far as 1969.

"To call the families into a meeting [on Oct. 11 in Smithers] with nothing new to add, when we've tried to give the RCMP a list of up to 43 women missing along the Highway of Tears, and then they pile on their unsolved homicides back to 1969, mostly from other parts of B.C. -- it was just cruel," says Gladys Radek, whose niece, Tamara Chipman, disappeared in 2005.

Radek says victims' family have been calling her to express their grief and disappointment.

Ray Michalko, a former RCMP officer who now runs Valley Pacific Investigations and is investigating Highway 16 disappearances, says he's "disgusted and embarrassed" for the RCMP.
"Not only have the RCMP not solved any Highway of Tears cases, they add for no reason nine cases from their unsolved-homicide list.

"In the private sector, they'd be fired," he said. "I know what it's like in a busy detachment, where they run old murder cases off the side of their desks if they have the time, instead of demanding a task force and manpower."

With human remains discovered in 13 of the 18 highways cases, a huge forensic investigation and comparison of DNA evidence should be under way -- "not just civilians on computers," says Michalko.

"They still use the excuse of confidentiality and refuse to admit probably more than one serial killer is involved."

Solicitor-General John Les, who attended the Highway of Tears symposium and says he takes the community's concerns "extremely seriously," says resources have never been an issue.

"If the RCMP need to put more people on this case, they can do that today," he says.

"The sad fact is, some of these cases will never be solved. But the RCMP are professionals and would not casually add victims' names to the list without a reason."

Les agrees there is no task force, but said there is an "active investigation."

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre says police can't divulge the reasons for the 18 names on the official list.

"There are commonalities and certain key points of criminal evidence the investigators have held back, but we can't divulge the reasons because we don't want to give perpetrators a head start," says Lemaitre.

He says the RCMP investigation, code-named E-Panna, came up with the 18 names after running more than 200 similar files through the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, which is a Canada-wide computer system developed in the early 1990s to identify links between crimes, victims and offenders.

Lemaitre insists the "investigation is adequately staffed and funded."

No arrests have been made in any of the cases listed on the RCMP's official list.

© The Vancouver Province 2007
Highway of Tears

Friday, October 19

HIGHWAY OF TEARS IN FRASER VALLEY? Monica Jack, Kathryn-Mary Herbert


By Cassidy Olivier - Kamloops This Week - October 19, 2007
Police had eyed same suspect in Merritt death and unsolved 1970s child slayings in Abbotsford.

Seven years ago, officers investigating two cold-case murders in Abbotsford confirmed to Black Press the name of a suspect they believed may also have killed Monica Jack — the 12-year-old girl who disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike home along Nicola Lake near Merritt.

The similarities in the murders, combined with the suspect’s criminal record — which included multiple rape convictions — left police thinking they had the right guy.
But, unable to prove anything, the suspect, in his 50s, was left to walk free and was last reported to be living in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the murders of Kathryn Mary Herbert (11 years old when murdered in 1975), Theresa Hildebrandt (15 years old when slain in 1976) and Jack remain unsolved, although their remains have since been recovered.

However, with the recent addition of Jack’s name to the probe of women suspected of having gone missing along the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert, new questions arise regarding the scope of the trail, as well as whether police are closing in on a suspect or suspects.

In Prince George last week, Mounties announced the list of women believed to have gone missing along the infamous stretch of highway had been increased from nine to 18. Included on the list were names of missing woman from the Kamloops area.

If police still believe the man suspected of killing Herbert and Hildebrandt is also responsible for Jack’s death, the Highway of Tears then potentially stretches much farther than police initially thought — down to the U.S. border in the Fraser Valley.

It also means a potential suspect may be within reach of the law.

However, the possible connection between the three deaths and the implication this would have on the investigation isn’t something Sgt. Pierre Lemaitrie of the RCMP’s E Division major-crime section is willing to discuss.

Due to the sensitivity of the probe, he told KTW this week that he doesn’t want to go near the topic of suspects for fear it will compromise the investigation.

Lemaitrie would not elaborate on why the announcement was made last week, other than to say the task force had decided it was time to provide the public with an update on the investigation into the Highway of Tears murders and other slayings now believed to have links.

“If we have suspects, that is not something the task force is willing to talk about openly,” Lemaitroe said. “There are just some things we need to protect. We don’t want to give a suspect a head start.”

He did, however, say police have been inundated with tips following the Prince George conference, leading him to comment that the probe looks “promising.”

Lemaitrie said a further update will not likely be made for at least another month or until there is a breakthrough in the investigation.

Along with Jack, police last week added the following murders to the Highway of tears probe: Gale Weys, killed in Clearwater in 1973; Pamela Darlington, found dead in Kamloops in 1973; and Maureen Mosie, found dead in Kamloops in 1981.
Kathryn-Mary Herbert
Highway of Tears
RCMP step up investigation along Highway 16

Thursday, October 18

Film salutes missing aboriginal women

Kerry Benjoe

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One Saskatoon-based film maker believes everyone needs to know about the more than 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada so he produced a documentary called, Stolen Sisters.

"We thought this was a story that was important," said the film's director and producer Antonio Hrynchuk.

According to Amnesty International's 2004 Stolen Sisters Report there's an estimated 500 missing or murdered aboriginal women.

"When you think about that as a population proportion it's an astronomical figure," said Hrynchuk.

The documentary was produced through Hrynchuk's company Fahrenheit Films. He received a copy of the report from one of the film's writers and was amazed at what he discovered.

Amnesty International stated that Canada is putting indigenous women in danger of kidnapping and violent deaths through racism and indifference.

"From my perspective I was like, 'Canada, how is this possible?' We started learning more about the subject. I began to realize there was a lot of depth to what Amnesty International was saying," said Hrynchuk.

He hopes the film will help open the eyes of the average citizen who may not be aware that this violence is occurring in communities throughout Saskatchewan. When he embarked on the film project he was told that he would have trouble getting people to talk about the issue, but that was not the case.

"Pretty much everyone we wanted to talk to agreed to talk to us. The families were very co-operative," said Hrynchuk.

There are three parts in the one-hour documentary one part focuses on the Muskego family's search for Daleen Muskego Bosse, who went missing from Saskatoon in 2004.

"We just wanted to raise awareness about the issue of missing (First Nations) women. It's in the news and in the media as much as it should be. We just want to get it out into the open," said Daleen's brother, Dana Muskego.

He believes that making stories like theirs known will help other families of missing women by keeping the issue in the public eye. Muskego said that although Daleen has been missing for three years the family will not give up the search and they hold out hope she will come home.

"We are a strong family and we're not going to stop searching for my sister," said Muskego.

Another section of the video looks at Gwenda Yuzicappi's new role as an activist. It's a role she took up after her daughter, Amber Redman, went missing from Fort Qu'Appelle in 2005. She said Hrynchuk approached her about the video she jumped at the opportunity.

"This whole issue of missing women is so senseless," said Yuzicappi. "I was very willing to get involved in this documentary and I hope the message is out there for all women no matter what race. It doesn't matter where you come from. It doesn't matter what kind of home you're raised in. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or what colour your skin is. The people out there know that women are vulnerable," said Yuzicappi.

Since Amber went missing, Yuzicappi she has dedicated her life to making lasting changes that will help all families of missing women.

"Let's work together. We have to work together," said Yuzicappi.

She had mixed emotions about viewing the video because it is still very emotional for her but at the same time Yuzicappi understands how important it is to let people know what it's like for the family of a missing woman.

The third part of the documentary takes a look at the high-risk group like street workers who are often targetted by predators.

Stolen Sisters will air on Global Television on Saturday at 10 p.m. on Global Currents.

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Stolen Sisters

Tuesday, October 16

United Nations envoy observes rising rates of homelessness in Canada

Canadian Press
Oct 16, 2007

VANCOUVER - He's only half way through a national tour examining homelessness in Canada, but a UN official says the truth about the issue is disturbing and far worse than statistics suggest.

Miloon Kothari arrived in what's commonly known as Canada's poorest postal code on Tuesday as part of his two-week trip through Canada as the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.

He toured Vancouver's safe-injection facility and the First United Church in the Downtown Eastside, the beleaguered neighbourhood pockmarked with addicts scrounging on the sidewalks for drugs and dozens of agencies set up to help the homeless and working poor.

"Contrary to official statistics which appear to show that poverty is decreasing as is homelessness, the evidence on the street is quite the contrary," Kothari told a public hearing.

One woman was so overcome by Kothari's presence in Vancouver, she rose up from her walker to give the slight man a hug.

Sheila Baxter, a longtime anti-homelessness activist in British Columbia, said she felt that the UN's arrival in Vancouver means the world will finally pay attention to the growing scourge of homelessness.

"He wasn't a politician, he wasn't going to bullshit and say promises, promises," she said.

"I'm so proud that he came, I'm just in tears."

Kothari spent the morning hearing passionate pleas from activists and people who themselves have been homeless about what impact the issue has had on their lives.

He's already been through Montreal, First Nations territories in Quebec and Alberta, Ottawa and Edmonton.

The federal government estimates that across the country around 150,000 people are homeless, but one independent study this year set the number at almost double that amount and suggested close to two million Canadians struggling with housing affordability issues.

Rose Henry spent a year living on the street, sleeping in cars and couch surfing while recovering from major surgery.

She told Kothari that she realized she was in danger of becoming a criminal because of being unable to find a place to live.

"I'm asking for you to investigate and help us out because we don't want to be labelled as criminals, we want to see tent cities legalized, if you cannot give us housing, give us a park," she said.

"Shelters are temporary Band-Aids, give us some homes."

One man told Kothari said his sister was killed because of being homeless.

Robert Pickton is currently on trial for the murders of Mona Wilson and five other women, most of whom sold sex on the streets to feed their drug addictions.

In stepping up to the microphone on Tuesday, Jayson Fleury says his sister's death could have been avoided.

"Too many of our people are dying on these streets," Fleury said. "Society expects us to clean up your mess. I say this because discrimination is a lack of understanding that takes place when judging other people. And the answers are simple: dialogue, which creates honesty, respect and healing."

Kothari said his mission through Canada was to explore housing issues through four lenses: homelessness, indigenous people's housing and land rights, the issue of affordability and land speculation and women's rights with respect to housing and land.

"I think there is a crisis across the world, I don't think Canada is immune from that," Kothari said.

He said in many countries, Canada included, more government intervention is needed, including policies governing what he called the "housing continuum," which would allow people to make the transition from shelters to boarding houses to hostels and then finally to their own homes.

A spokesperson for Monte Solberg, minister of human resources and social development, said under the current government, federal spending on housing has never been higher.

"We're delivering on our commitment to helping Canadians have access to safe affordable housing by making direct investments to help people get back on their feet," the spokesperson said.

The Conservative government announced a Homelessness Partnering Strategy in 2006, committing $270 million over two years to finding ways to get more people into homes, including funding the creation of new and existing shelters.

But advocates say shelters are not a solution to the problem.

"A shelter is not a home," said Carol Romanow, who spent years working in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside before moving to Victoria where she became involved with a needle-exchange project.

"A home is a place where you use your own toilet. A home is place where you plug in your own kettle to make your own tea, to put your own coffee pot on. It does not exist in a shelter."

The federal government also said that the cut they made to the GST is helping make homes more affordable.

According to the B.C. Real Estate Association, the average price of a house listed on the multiple listing service will hit $437,000 this year.

According to StatsCanada, the median family income in B.C. in 2005, the last year for which figures are available, is $58,500.

A recent report from the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, suggested that homelessness costs Canada more than $4.35 billion 2006 GST tax cut and entire environmental plan on climate change.

The Alberta-based foundation says Canada spent more managing homelessness in 2007 than it did on international development or debt reduction.

Kothari was scheduled to spend the rest of the day touring the Downtown Eastside and was expected to meet with city and Olympic organizers on Wednesday.

He is set to deliver a report to the federal government next week.
Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
First United Church

Defence rests its case in Robert Pickton trial

Defence rests its case in Robert Pickton trial; summations to begin next month

Canadian Press

October 16, 2007

VANCOUVER - The marathon trial of Robert Pickton reached a milestone Tuesday as his defence lawyers rested their case.

The move means testimony is at an end and all that's left now before the jury starts deliberating Pickton's fate is for both sides to submit their final submissions to the jury and for the judge to deliver his instructions.

Justice James Williams said final summations will begin Nov. 13 and if everything goes according to schedule, jurors will begin deliberations a week later.

Defence lawyers originally said their case would only take three weeks, but it lasted seven, starting and stopping due to legal arguments and illness plaguing jurors and witnesses alike.

They called 30 witnesses and the Crown called 98.

Most of the testimony given by witnesses for the defence was aimed at trying to establish Pickton as a dim-witted farmer living on a sprawling property that was a constant hive of activity.

The defence has acknowledged the remains of the six women Pickton is accused of killing were found on his farm.

But they dispute the charges that Pickton was responsible for putting them there.

In sending jurors home for a month, the judge reminded them not to discuss the case with anyone.

He then laid out his best estimate of the remaining timetable, telling the jurors that the Crown and defence would likely take a day and a half each for its final arguments.

He estimated his instructions to the jury would take three days and then they would be sequestered - not allowed to return to their homes - until they reached a verdict.

Before defence lawyer Adrian Brooks announced the end of testimony, an IQ expert acknowledged under cross-examination that Pickton's low IQ score doesn't mean he is incapable of murdering women, dismembering them and disposing of their remains.

Larry Krywaniuk, who gave Pickton a series of intelligence tests, conceded Tuesday the test scores didn't give him any information on whether someone is capable of such acts.

"You're not saying that any of these scores, including the indexes, would suggest that Mr. Pickton was incapable of . . . picking up people on the Downtown Eastside, taking them to his home, murdering them, butchering them and then disposing of the evidence?" asked Crown lawyer Mike Petrie.

"You're not saying that these scores in any way reflect on his inability to do that?"

"I have no information," said Krywaniuk. "My IQ scores and the testing that I've done is best predictive of how he will function in certain circumstances."

Krywaniuk agreed that Pickton's full general IQ score of 86 puts him well above the level of mental retardation, which is below 70, and that the score is better than 18.6 per cent of the population of his age.

He agreed the level generally regarded as mental retardation would be an IQ score below 70.
"He is substantially above that," said Petrie.

"A few points," said Krywaniuk.

"Excuse me?" said Petrie. "It's 16 points above the cutoff point for retardation."

"Yes," said the witness, adding that Pickton is "not retarded."

"He's not even close to retarded," said Petrie.

Krywaniuk had testified earlier that although Pickton's IQ was in the normal range, it was at the very bottom of that range.

Pickton is on trial on six counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, Mona Wilson and Sereena Abotsway.

His trial on a further 20 counts will be heard at a later date.

Other witnesses testifying on Pickton's behalf included forensic experts and the mother of his niece and nephew.

Jurors heard about a dizzying array of people who visited the Pickton farm, and that the accused had trouble following conversations with co-workers or getting the punch lines of jokes.

Several witnesses changed their testimony under cross-examination by the Crown or admitted they lacked the knowledge to give complete answers on evidence.

One expert called to testify about blood spatter linked to one of the women Pickton is charged with killing admitted he wasn't an expert in blood, but mostly in materials not from humans.

In their opening statement, Pickton's defence team reminded jurors to keep an open mind throughout their case, stressing that the crime had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Adrian Brooks reminded jurors about the day they first came into the courtroom more than eight months ago.

"Did you look over that box and say, 'Oh, that's where the innocent person sits?' " Brooks asked last month.

"You probably didn't, but ladies and gentlemen, that's where the innocent person sits, and he sits there in that seat unless you come to a conclusion that is different."

The defence case was also marked with two decisions from Williams.

The first, only a week into the case, was for the jury to disregard all evidence given about a woman known only as Jane Doe, whose remains were found on the Pickton farm.

No reason was given to jurors for the decision.

The second came in the form of an admonishment to jurors after allegations surfaced that one of them had spoken about the case contrary to the court's instructions.

The judge reminded jurors of their obligations not to discuss the case and stressed that remaining impartial was critical to their work.

The defence was under no obligation to call any witnesses, by law, because an accused person doesn't have to prove innocence.

The severed heads and limbs of three of the women were found in buckets on the farm; bones of three others found scattered on the property.

The defence did not address the presence of the remains during its case.

The defence also didn't offer testimony on how the women's belongings made their way into Pickton's trailer, though jurors heard about a huge number of people visiting the farm at all hours of the day and night.

Other witnesses testified about vehicles bought by Pickton at auctions that were littered with clothes and junk.

Bill Malone, who worked alongside Pickton's younger brother Dave, testified that as many as 200 cars were on the farm at any given time, though he later revised that number down to as low as 70.

He said security on the farm was a nightmare and theft was common.

Malone was also quizzed about telling reporters in the days after Pickton's arrest that an inhaler found on the farm could have come from cars Pickton bought at auction from police.

An inhaler with Abotsway's name on it found in Pickton's trailer was one of the catalysts for the massive police search of Pickton's farm that led to the current trial.

Malone denied giving the interview until it was played for him in court - twice.

Another civilian witness, Ingrid Fehlauer, also changed her testimony under cross-examination.
Initially, she told the defence she'd only seen dirt in Pickton's trailer, never anything else.

But Crown prosecutor Petrie challenged her answer.

"In fact on one occasion you saw lots of blood everywhere," said Petrie.

"Yes," she answered.

Two forensic experts were called to rebutt testimony from Crown witnesses that Pickton's motorhome had been the scene of a massive bloodletting.

Jon Nordby told court that although a Crown witness said blood stains in the motorhome were linked to Wilson, he believed the marks didn't point to a bloodletting and he couldn't conclude for certain that a death had occurred.

But Nordby also conceded he didn't work directly with the stains, only from photographs.

Another expert, Gordon Ashby, testified he wasn't a blood expert, but dealt mostly with materials not related to human substances.

The mother of Pickton's niece and nephew told court Pickton had trouble following conversations and often didn't get the punch line of jokes.

But under cross-examination, Sandy Humeny said she wasn't surprised to learn Pickton had used words like prejudiced or presumed in conversation, though she doubted he would use them all in context.

Gordon Cochrane, an expert in achievement testing in education, testified Pickton repeated Grade 2 twice, had achievement scores well below his peers and was in special education classes.
Jurors also heard that while in custody, Pickton took a Grade 9 level course in agriculture, but withdrew from a Grade 11 level course in the subject.

The defence in the Robert Pickton murder trial wrapped up its case Tuesday and the case is expected to go to the jury next month.

Some facts about the case:

Arrest of Pickton: February 2002
Charges: Six counts of first-degree murder; trial on 20 other counts to be held later
Start of trial: Jan. 22, 2007
Number of Crown witnesses: 98
Number of defence witnesses: 30
Final submissions begin: Nov. 13
Jury deliberations begin: About Nov. 20

Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Vancouver Missing

Friday, October 12

RCMP step up investigation into 18 dead or missing women along Highway 16

Highway of Tears
RCMP step up investigation into 18 dead or missing women along Highway 16 in northern B.C.

Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun
Friday, October 12, 2007

The RCMP announced today it has expanded its Highway of Tears investigation in northern B.C. to include 18 young women who were murdered or went missing since 1969, doubling the number of files being probed.

Investigators met Thursday with families of the murdered and missing women before making the announcement. The expanded probe includes an unsolved murder that took place in Prince George last year and another unsolved murder dating back 38 years.

The geographical scope was also expanded to include unsolved cases along other major highways in B.C., including those leading to Hudson Hope, Kamloops, Merritt, 100 Mile House, and extending as far as Hinton, Alta.

Last year, the police probe listed nine women between the ages of 14 and 25 who were murdered or missing along Highway 16, a desolate two-lane road that runs from Prince Rupert to Prince George and on to Edmonton. It was dubbed the Highway of Tears because of the grief caused by a string of unsolved murders and mysterious disappearances over the years.

There has been speculation that a serial killer has been preying on young women - a large number of the victims were aboriginal - hitchhiking on the highway. The RCMP has always maintained there is no evidence of a serial killer - a position reiterated today.

"The police would hope that would not be the case," said RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, media relations officer for E Division headquarters in Vancouver, when asked if police believe a serial killer was responsible for some or all of the 18 cases.

"We have to keep an absolute open mind," he explained. "While the number of files have increased, at this time police are not discounting or supporting the theory that these cases have been committed by one individual."

The current investigation - code-named E-Panna - is being conducted by senior investigators from the Vancouver RCMP major crime section, including geographic and criminal profilers.

"There's several officers assigned to this task force," Lemaitre said, declining to reveal numbers. "All they do is work on these cases."

He said the investigation was expanded after investigators initially identified nine cases with similarities along Highway 16. The Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (ViCLAS), which investigates serial crime, then identified more than 200 similar cases. Eventually nine other cases were identified as having "commonalties," said Lemaitre.

He said he couldn't reveal what those similarities were, but added they are "things that would only be known to the person involved in the incident."

He said some of the women on the list were hitchhiking, while the last murder victim was riding her bike. The common thread in each case was "they were obviously people who were victimized by people who thought they could get away with it," Lemaitre said.

The recent publicity about the case brought in a flood of tips today, he said, adding people can also call Crime Stoppers if they want to remain anonymous.

The investigation has consulted with Vancouver's forensic lab regarding the re-examination of exhibits originally seized in the investigations, police said.

Prince George businessman Tony Romeyn, who operates a Highway of Tears website with photos of the murdered and missing women, said he thinks the expanded scope of the investigation is a positive step forward.

"I think it's a good thing that it's being looked at in a broader way," he said. "Why should you think it only takes place between Prince Rupert and Prince George?"

Romeyn added he often receives tips, which he passes along to police, and some people think the cases may be linked to a trucker or someone who travels extensively in northern B.C.

"I'm glad they [police] are acknowledging there are more women out there," said Gladys Radek, the aunt of Tamara Chipman, 22, who disappeared in 2005. But she doesn't feel police have gone far enough. By her estimate, based on public information, there have been 43 murdered or missing women along Highway 16 since 1974. Still, she hopes police will solve some of the cases.

"Some of these families have gone four decades without any closure," she said.

Police in Edmonton are also probing a number of unsolved prostitute murders and have consulted with Vancouver's Missing Women Task Force, which at one point was investigating more than 60 missing women.

A Highway of Tears symposium held last year in Prince George brought together victims' families, politicians, police and native groups to discuss unsolved cases and prevent similar deaths. A symposium report recommended increasing safety for woman travelling alone along Highway 16 by setting up a proper transit system between communities and expanding Greyhound's free-ride program for those in financial need.

Here are the 18 women included in the expanded scope of the police probe:
1. Gloria Moody. Murdered. Williams Lake. 1969
2. Micheline Pare: Murdered. Hudson Hope. 1970
3. Gale Weys. Murdered. Clearwater. 1973
4. Pamela Darlington. Murdered. Kamloops. 1973
5. Monica Ignas. Murdered. Terrace. 1974
6. Colleen MacMillen. Homicide. 100 Mile House. 1974
7. Monica Jack. Murdered. Merritt. 1978
8. Maureen Mosie. Murdered. Kamloops. 1981
9. Shelly-Ann Bascu. Missing. Hinton, Alta. 1983
10. Alberta Williams. Murdered. Prince Rupert. 1989
11. Delphine Nikal. Missing. Smithers. 1990
12. Ramona Wilson. Murdered. Smithers. 1994
13. Roxanne Thiara. Murdered. Burns Lake. 1994
14. Alishia Germaine. Murdered. Prince George. 1994
15. Lana Derrick. Missing. Terrace. 1995
16. Nicole Hoar. Missing. Prince George. 2002
17. Tamara Chipman. Missing. Prince Rupert. 2005
18. Aielah Saric Auger. Murdered. Prince George. February 2006
The Vancouver Sun
Photos of the missing or murdered women

A father's search for missing daughter

Archive: A father's search for missing daughter
Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun

Friday, October 12, 2007

Most people are busy shopping and preparing for Christmas, but a father in northwestern B.C. has been searching lonely stretches of highway and logging roads trying to find his missing daughter.

"We've pretty well covered every side road between Terrace and [Prince] Rupert," says Tom Chipman, sitting with his wife Christine in the Kitsumkalum Firehall, headquarters for the daily ground search for Tamara Chipman, a pretty 22-year-old with a lovely smile.

"We're up at six every morning and we quit at dusk. I know everybody's getting tired. I don't know how long we can carry on. I guess until the snow comes and the weather shuts us down."
It's a Friday night and they are tired after walking about 15 kilometres, searching for a shred of evidence of Tamara -- a piece of clothing, jewelry, an earring.

They searched a logging road on Mount Hayes, outside Prince Rupert, going as far up as they could before the road got too icy, forcing the search party to turn back.

About a dozen fishermen and volunteer firefighters join in the search each day. The searchers this day are heaping salmon and mashed potatoes on paper plates -- a dinner prepared by volunteers.

Tom Chipman has also walked along Highway 16, which runs between Prince Rupert and Terrace, looking in culverts for his daughter.

"It's scary looking into a culvert," says Chipman, who makes his living as a gillnet fisherman. "It's not a nice thing to go through.

"Every day we don't find a body is a good day."

Chipman searched for his daughter -- his only child -- six days straight last week. A heavy snowfall last Sunday closed the road to Prince Rupert and curtailed search efforts temporarily.
He resumed the search this week.

His daughter was last seen Sept. 21 hitchhiking outside Prince Rupert, heading toward her home in Terrace, but she never showed up. She has a two-year-old son, Jaden, who is being cared for by the child's father, Rob Parker, who was the last to hear from her.

Since then, she hasn't paid the rent on her apartment. She hasn't touched her bank account and her credit card remains unused.

Tamara wasn't reported missing for almost three weeks, mainly because her relatives thought she might be avoiding the law.

She was facing three separate assault charges, one that included charges of forcible entry and assault with a weapon. Since she disappeared three warrants have been issued for her arrest for failing to show up in court.

Her father returned to Terrace from fishing the first week of November, expecting to find a phone message from his daughter, who was close to her dad. "It's definitely out of character for her," he said of her not calling.

During the last few weeks, rumours swirled about the case in the community -- rumours that sent Tom Chipman on an emotional roller-coaster ride.

A court worker suggested Tamara had shown up in court after she was reported missing and was acquitted of one of the charges she faced.

"I got all excited but it was a mixup in dates -- it was Aug. 30, not Nov. 30, that she had been in court," Chipman explains.

There were also rumours that her body had been found. "We had to have the police go on the radio and put an end to these rumours."

Tom's sister, Lorna Brown, who has also been searching the bush with her husband Frank, has plastered missing posters with Tamara's photo all over Terrace. Other relatives have put up posters in Vancouver and Campbell River.

The father recalls his daughter, since she was a baby, spent a lot of time on his fishing boat. He remembers her big smile and sassy nature.

"She was pretty spunky," Chipman says. "She took judo lessons for years, so she knew how to look after herself pretty good."

More recently, Tamara liked spending time on her former boyfriend's boat. She liked water-skiing. And she loved her little boy.

Tamara isn't the first young woman to go missing along Highway 16.

RCMP are investigating seven cases of teen girls and young women who vanished or were murdered along the "highway of tears," as it's often called.

"Something's going on," said Arlene Roberts, a volunteer firefighter who has been involved in the search. "It's getting spooky. It's scary."

She feels some of the disappearances could be connected. She is leaning toward the theory that a serial killer might be preying on young women along the highway. Six of the seven who went missing were native Indian. Three bodies have been found. All the cases remain unsolved.

Roberts, who lives on Highway 16 just west of Terrace, often sees people hitchhiking along the highway.

"It's male and female, young and old. But it's only the young women who are going missing."
- - -
According to Amnesty International Canada, Tamara's disappearance brings to 33 the number of missing or murdered women along the highway -- all but one were aboriginal.

Other than the seven unsolved cases that RCMP investigators say they are actively investigating along Highway 16 (see map), The Vancouver Sun was only able to find two other murders of young women that remain unsolved in the area.

Monica Ignas, 15, of Thornhill, just west of Terrace, went missing Dec. 13, 1974. Her partially nude body was found in a gravel pit on April 6, 1975, about six kilometres from Terrace. She had been strangled.

Alberta Williams, 24, left Popeye's Pub about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1989 with her uncle and an unknown male. Her body was found by hikers a month later, Sept. 16, 37 kilometres east of town. Cause of death was not released.

One area resident, Janet Hultkrans, recalls that Ignas used to hitchhike from Terrace to her home just past Thornhill, on the outskirts of town.

"Maybe she was the first [to disappear]," she says. "She wasn't much older than my kids and I had picked her up once and driven her to school, so she is forever in my memory. She was a nice girl and doesn't deserve to be forgotten."

Shelby Raymond, an Amnesty International representative in Terrace who works at Northwest Community College, said she couldn't provide an entire list of names of the 33 women that Amnesty claims are missing or murdered.

"It's what's called a soft statistic," she said, using her fingers to make quotation marks around the word soft. "Much of it was anecdotal, gathered during the Stolen Sisters report."

In October 2004, Amnesty released its report Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada, which cited a shocking 1996 federal government statistic that native women between 25 and 44 are five times more likely to die as the result of violence than other women in the same age group.

The report also included a figure gathered by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), which estimates that more than 500 native women may have been murdered or gone missing over a 20-year period prior to 2004 -- again, the figure is based on anecdotal evidence.
NWAC says it is difficult to do a statistical analysis of violence involving native women because some police reports did not record whether the victim was a native woman.

The Amnesty International report also cited nine cases of violence against native woman, including the murder of Helen Betty Osborne, a 19-year-old Cree student from northern Manitoba who dreamed of becoming a teacher but was abducted by four men and killed on Nov. 12, 1971.

It took more than 15 years to bring one of the four men to justice. A judicial inquiry that followed found the police investigation was sloppy and racially biased.

The inquiry, for example, found that police had long been aware of white men sexually preying on native women and girls in the town of The Pas but "did not feel that the practice necessitated any particular vigilance."

Warren Goulding in his 2001 book, Just Another Indian: A Serial Killer and Canada's Indifference, concluded that some lives seem to be worth more than others.

Quoted in the book is Justine English, whose sister Mary Jane Serlion was killed in 1981 in Lethbridge by Saskatoon serial killer John Martin Crawford. "It seems that any time a native is murdered, it isn't a major case. It's just another dead Indian," English said.

Crawford was convicted in 1996 of killing three native women and was suspected in the death of at least one and possibly other native women whose murders remain unsolved.

Goulding questions why Crawford's trial received scant attention from the national media, noting it took place at almost the same time as the trial of Paul Bernardo, which transfixed the national media. Bernardo was convicted of killing two teenage white girls, who were innocent, girl-next-door types the media could identify with, Goulding suggests in his book.

"The Canadian public's awareness of this case is virtually non-existent, even in Saskatoon where the crimes occurred," Goulding wrote of Crawford's serial killing spree.

Melissa Munn, who teaches criminology at Northwest Community College in Terrace and University of Ottawa, said she has looked closely at the Highway 16 cases and remains uncertain whether a serial killer is responsible.

"If it's one person, that's one thing, but if it's multiple people -- seven or eight killers -- that's much more scary to me," she says. "I think these cases speak to the vulnerability of first nations girls."

She said hitchhiking is a risky behaviour, but it's also a way of life for many poor native women living in remote communities who can't afford a vehicle or bus fare to town.

She said a full list of missing and murdered women in B.C. is contained on a website (

Christine Welsh, who teaches women's studies at the University of Victoria, is making a National Film Board documentary that will focus, in part, on the young women who have gone missing along Highway 16.

"It's extremely disturbing," she says of the mounting number.

She was in Terrace last Sept. 17 to document an event called Take Back the Highway, which involved about 70 people -- native and non-native -- marching along the highway to draw attention to the missing women.

"What I'm interested in is the violence against women in this country and I see what's happening on the highway as a manifestation of that," says Welsh, a Metis living on Saltspring Island.
"It's the everyday systemic violence."

The latest disappearance along the highway happened four days after the Take Back the Highway march, she points out.

"It's a tragic irony," she adds. "I've travelled that highway a lot and it's a lonely stretch of road."
- - -
Highway 16 West between Prince Rupert and Prince George is indeed a lonely stretch of road, especially at this time a year.

It is also exceptionally beautiful in places during daylight hours when the sun comes out and rays of light coming through the clouds play on the frozen lakes, creeks and vistas of mountains that disappear in the clouds.

Sometimes at sunrise and sunset, the snow on the mountain peaks glows neon pink.

On some stretches there is nothing but wilderness for miles, interrupted by the occasional ranch house with smoke trailing from the chimney.

There are signs warning: "Caution: Moose Next 20 km." While travelling through the towns along the way -- Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake, Houston, Telkwa and Smithers -- the car radio announces meetings of the local knitting circle and the snowmobile club.

There are many sideroads off the highway, leading to remote logging sites, lakes and other rural recreational spots. It's the kind of sparsely-populated rural countryside that attracts tourists and sports fishermen from Europe and the U.S., including late-night talk show host David Letterman.

"David Letterman bought a fishing licence here one day," said Gordon Elmore, owner of the Trout Creek General Store, located on Highway 16 about 25 kilometres west of Smithers. He pulls out a copy of the licence, which was purchased last month. "We hear he bought property around here."

The store owner says the disappearances along the highway haven't made him feel nervous or threatened.

"I don't think the average population feels threatened," says Elmore, who has lived in the area for 41 years.

"The ones who should feel threatened are the ones who hitchhike."

Driving west, just past New Hazelton at the small town of Kitseguecla, Shirley Milton and Ron Sampson are standing at the side of the highway in 10-below weather, trying to hitch a ride to Terrace.

"Nervous? Yes. I won't hitchhike alone," says Milton, 47, when asked about the recent disappearance of Chipman.

"I wouldn't just jump in with anybody. It would have to be somebody I know. I look at the driver before I get in."

She mentions a man she saw in a pub in nearby New Hazelton who was exhibiting suspicious behaviour.

She phoned the police about him, thinking he might be dangerous. That's the thing about unsolved cases -- everybody seems suspicious until the killer or killers are caught and brought to justice.

Certainly the latest disappearance has renewed the grief of the families of the other girls and young women who were Highway 16 victims.

"Every time we hear of someone else missing, it just brings us so much sorrow because we know what the families are going through," said Matilda Wilson of Smithers, whose 15-year-old daughter Ramona went missing 10 years ago.

She doesn't believe her daughter's murder is linked to the disappearance or deaths of other young women.

Police have repeatedly stated that while they cannot rule out the possibility of a serial killer operating along Highway 16, there is no evidence to suggest a link between the murders and mysterious disappearances.

Retired RCMP officer Fred Maile, who helped crack the Clifford Olson serial killer case in B.C. by getting Olson to confess to 11 murders, is convinced a serial killer is working along Highway 16.

"I am 100-per-cent certain that there's a serial killer there," he said in an interview this week.
"I went up there twice to look at the cases of Delphine Nikal and Ramona Wilson. We felt the same individual had grabbed them."

He was asked by the Calgary-based Missing Children Society to investigate the cases and found too many similarities.

"They were both native, both about the same age and they were hitchhiking in opposite directions," Maile recalls. "The whole situation smacks of someone driving that highway and living there."

The unusual thing about serial killers, he said, is that they can sometimes go years between murders.

"They look for an opportunity," he explains. "There's usually not two or three individuals in the same area that do this."

He also points out that a serial killer can appear normal and go undetected.

"They don't stand out as monsters. They blend in with the rest of us. Look at the Green River killer."

The Green River killer, Gary Leon Ridgway, operated for more than 20 years in the Seattle area before he was caught in 2001, when investigators linked his DNA to four murders. On Nov. 5, 2003, the truck painter pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women between 1982 and 1998.

Highway 16 also runs east to Edmonton, where police believe a serial killer might be connected to the bodies of 12 prostitutes found around that city over the last 16 years.

RCMP have offered a $100,000 reward and released a profile that suggests the killer or killers drive a truck or SUV which is cleaned at unusual hours, may be a hunter, fisherman or camper, is comfortable driving on country roads, and is likely connected to towns south of Edmonton.

Edmonton RCMP have admitted investigators have learned from the mistakes made during the investigation of accused B.C. serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton, who is charged with killing 27 women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The number of missing women being investigated in that case now stands at 68, plus three unidentified DNA profiles found at the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.
The Vancouver Sun
Native Women's Association of Canada
Highway of Tears
Photos of missing or murdered women along the Highway of Tears

Thursday, October 11

RCMP To Give Update on Highway 16 Deaths and Disappearances

By: 250News
Thursday, October 11, 2007 11:19 AM

Prince George, B.C. - The RCMP will provide an update tomorow on their review of the murders and disappearances of women along Highway 16.

The cases were given to a special review team nearly 18 months ago following the Highway of Tears symposium in Prince George. While there have been no arrests or charges laid in connection with the review, additional cases have been added to the files, expanding the investigation beyond the Highway 16 corridor. Cases as far south as Kamloops have been added to the review.

Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre will be providing a general update on the overall investigative review.

Copyright © 2005-2007 OPINION 250 News Inc.

Highway of Tears

Wednesday, October 10

Trial judge reminds Pickton jury of its duty

Globe and Mail Update
October 10, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Mr. Justice James Williams was clearly disturbed by the unexpected turn of events at Robert Pickton's first-degree-murder trial.

After more than eight months of testimony from 124 witnesses, allegations surfaced that a juror might have broken the rules and talked about the case, contrary to the judge's instructions at the beginning of the trial.

In a sombre tone yesterday, Judge Williams spoke to the jurors about the allegations. He told the 12-member jury that he conducted “the necessary inquiry” into the allegations.

“I'm satisfied we can continue as we are, that is, with this jury of 12 persons,” he told the seven men and five women in the jury box. “That's the end of the matter.”

The judge, who is responsible for protecting the integrity of the trial process, also issued a stern reminder to the jurors to stick to the rule book.

“A lot of what being a juror entails is not entirely consistent with how we live our lives,” Judge Williams said. “There are rules that have to be followed, and I'm counting on all of you to follow those rules. In that way, we can be confident that this case is tried fairly.”

As he reviewed the rules, some jurors nodded in agreement. Members of the jury, including the juror who was the subject of the allegation, cannot be identified in the media under provisions of the Criminal Code. Mr. Pickton appeared to listen intently to the judge's words.

Quoting from his opening instructions to the jury in January, Judge Williams said jurors could discuss the case among themselves in the jury room as the trial proceeded. But they should not reach any conclusions until they have heard all the evidence.

“There is a danger in forming an opinion when you know only part of the evidence. You may well be mistaken in the preliminary opinion you reach, without listening to all evidence that bears on the matter, and later on, you may find it difficult to change your mind if you have already indicated your view on the matter to your fellow jurors,” he said.

Judge Williams also warned jurors to be wary of family, friends and colleagues who ask them about jury duty or the case. He instructed them to refuse to give out information about the case, or to ask for comments or advice from outsiders.

“The key to this trial working properly is impartiality,” Judge Williams said. “Impartiality means you keep your minds open, listen to the evidence and consider everything that should be considered. At that point, you make your decision.”

Later, the jury heard testimony from the 28th defence witness, Gordon Cochrane, an expert in assessment and achievement testing. Reading from Mr. Pickton's elementary school records, Mr. Cochrane told the jury that Mr. Pickton, who is now 57 years old, repeated grade two.

He was placed in a special education class in September, 1959, at the age of nine. The records showed he continued to be registered in school until September, 1964. Mr. Cochrane said he did not know when Mr. Pickton's formal schooling ended.

Mr. Pickton took an achievement test in June, 1964, that showed he was performing as if he was in the third month of grade five. He was in his ninth year of schooling.

His reading score was equivalent to the fourth month of grade four; his mathematic score was equivalent to the fifth month of grade five, Mr. Cochrane said.

Mr. Pickton's scores on standardized tests were similar from 1962 to 1964, indicating he had “plateaued,” Mr. Cochrane said. His scholastic achievement was quite low in comparison to that of his peer group, he said. “He was falling further and further behind, and in the last three years, he seemed to be no longer progressing,” Mr. Cochrane said.

Defence lawyers have told the jury that they should consider Mr. Pickton's level of intelligence when reviewing statements he made to police after he was arrested. Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie is expected to cross examine Mr. Cochrane today.

© Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.

Globe and Mail

Saturday, October 6

Stolen Sister: Profiles of violence and descrimination against Indigenous women in Canada

October 4, 2007 - Parliament Hill, Ottawa Canada
No one knows exactly how many Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past three decades. Because of gaps and inconsistencies in the way that the identities of victims of crime are recorded and made public in Canada, that question simply cannot be answered. However, we do know with certainty that the marginalization of Indigenous women in Canadian society has led to an extremely high risk of violence.

According to a 1996 Canadian government statistic, Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 with status under the federal Indian Act are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence. [1] In the process of preparing the Stolen Sisters report, and in the three years that have followed its release, Amnesty International has spoken with countless Indigenous activists, frontline service provides, police officers, court workers and family and friends of missing and murdered women. All have confirmed that in their own experience Indigenous women in Canada face a greatly increased risk of violence in their daily lives.

Deep rooted patterns of racism and discrimination in Canadian society have contributed to this violence in a number of ways. These include pushing Indigenous women into situations of increased vulnerability to violence, denying many Indigenous women adequate protection of police and the justice system, and sending a message to Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike that they can likely get away with acts of violence against Indigenous women.

Amnesty International’s research has focused on one often overlooked dimension of Indigenous women’s experience of violence: the violence that takes place in urban settings or the lives of women moving between reserves and urban settings. The following stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada illustrate some of the common themes that have emerged in the course of this research.

In some instances, the women were targeted by strangers. In other cases, they were the victims of intimate acquaintances. In some cases, police failed to do everything they should have to ensure an immediate and thorough investigation. In others, family members praised police for their efforts. But in every instance, society as a whole could have and should have done more to recognize and reduce the risk of violence and to ensure that justice was done.

Some of these stories are of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been killed while working in the sex trade. There can be no doubt that all women in the sex trade face a greatly increased risk of violence. In the Stolen Sisters report we detail some of the economic pressures that have led to a large number of Indigenous women deciding to take this risk in order to provide for themselves and their families.

It is also clear from these stories that all Indigenous women – whether or not they have ever had involvement with what police and politicians sometimes label “high risk lifestyles” – may be targeted for violence or denied protection from violence simply because they are Indigenous women. The 1991 Manitoba Justice Inquiry concluded that racism and sexism intersect in dangerous stereotypes of Indigenous women as sexually “available” to men. The Inquiry said of the murder of Helen Betty Osborne:

Her attackers seemed to be operating on the assumption that Aboriginal women were promiscuous and open to enticement through alcohol or violence. It is evident that the men who abducted Osborne believed that young Aboriginal women were objects with no human value beyond sexual gratification.[2]

Amnesty International believes the same objectification of Indigenous women has been a factor in the targeting of other women whose stories follow below, in the failure of police to respond adequately to their disappearance or in the silent complicity of members of the public who knew of the attacks but failed to come forward to police.

All of these dimensions of violence against Indigenous women give rise to serious human rights concerns. Governments in Canada have an obligation both to address the underlying factors of marginalization and impoverishment that place so many Indigenous women in harms way, as well as to take all reasonable measures to prevent and to prosecute attacks on women. The first story that follows, a murder that was carried out more than thirty years ago and which resulted in a provincial inquiry, is a stark reminder of the need for public pressure to hold governments accountable for meeting these obligations.

[1] Aboriginal Women: A Demographic, Social and Economic Profile, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Summer 1996. It is important to note that this figure compares women with status to all other women, including Inuit, Metis and non-status First Nations women. As a result, it may well underestimate the extent to which Indigenous women are at risk.

[2] Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba: The Deaths of Helen Betty Osborne and John Joseph Harper, Commissioners A.C. Hamilton and C.M. Sinclair, 1991.

Campaigner / Country Coordinator Profile
will the Canadian government finally recognize the real dangers faced by Indigenous women?" says family spokesperson Darlene Osborne "Families like mine all
For more information on this topic, please contact
Vigil - Parliament Hill - slideshow - Oct 4, 2007

Friday, October 5

Murdered, missing women remembered

Pamela Cowan

Friday, October 05, 2007

As the names of murdered and missing Saskatchewan women were read in Victoria Park on Thursday night, lanterns were placed in a circle around a tree to remember them.

"Don't forget," implored Lori Whiteman. "Don't forget that these women are missing. Don't forget this issue. All of these women have names. They were born with a gift and with a purpose and some never had that opportunity so let's not forget about them."

Whiteman, whose mother disappeared years ago, belongs to the Saskatchewan Sisters in Spirit -- a group of families who have missing loved ones and who gather to support each other. They organized the candlelight vigil with the Native Women's Association of Canada, Amnesty International and Luther College at the University of Regina.

"Every time we go out and do something like this we have more support from the community," Whiteman said. "The more people that are organizing and coming together around this common issue the more we can raise awareness and find healing and hopefully good solutions."

As Naomi Ryder and Tristine Ryder from Standing Buffalo First Nation held candles they remembered their cousin, Amber Redman, who went missing in 2005.

"This is really close to my heart," Naomi said. "We need more events like this going on throughout the country so people will understand and do something about it."

Tristine added: "It's good to speak out for the women who can't be here."

"As a non-aboriginal person I think it's really critical to be here to support this issue," said Cheryl Stadnichuk. "The violence against aboriginal women is so profound and it's because of the legacy of colonization in this country. We must stop this violence."

Brenda Anderson from the Department of Women's Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Regina told those at the vigil that an international conference to address the issue will be held in Regina Aug. 15 to 17.

"We intend to bring family members of missing women from Mexico to meet with the family members of missing women in Saskatchewan," Anderson said. "This is an important project to begin to piece together why this happens and what we're going to do about it. We want to integrate academics, activists, organizations that work on the street and police, policy makers -- the whole community to look at it more holistically."

Two new U of R courses will explore the disappearance and killings of Aboriginal women in an international context. The winter course will look at patterns in Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Peru and Australia as well as sex trafficking.

"We'll have family members speak to the students -- we'll tell the stories first and then begin to understand the theory and then what do you do about it," Anderson said.

Students enrolled in a three-week course offered in May will travel to Mexico to meet with family members of missing women.

The large crowd attending the vigil at Victoria Park was among hundreds of similar vigils in 30 Canadian communities and in Colombia and Peru.

Oct. 4 marks the third anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report by Amnesty International. Since the report was released little progress has been made to address the serious human rights issue, said Gordon Barnes, a local Amnesty International volunteer.

"The Native Women's Association has received some federal government support to do research in this area -- that is helpful and it's acknowledged but our concern is that there is no comprehensive national strategy to deal with the murder and disappearance of aboriginal women," he said.

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Thursday, October 4

Native group sponsors vigils to underline plight of aboriginal women

Canadian Press
October 3, 2007

OTTAWA - More than 30 vigils were held Thursday across the country to denounce a continuing epidemic of violence against aboriginal women.

Beverley Jacobs of the Native Women's Association of Canada urged governments and police forces to craft national strategies as the ranks of the murdered and missing continue to grow.
"Innocent women are being stolen from us every week as families are shattered and friendships lost," Jacobs told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"It's time for all women and men to say: No more."

Jacobs is midway through a five-year Sisters in Spirit campaign to build a database of cases and raise awareness. She estimates that at least 500 native women and girls have vanished or been killed in the last 30 years.

Sandra Gagnon's sister Janet Henry disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside ten years ago.

Gagnon last saw her on June 25, 1997 when Henry said goodbye with: "I love you and I miss you much." It was a reference to one of Henry's favourite Janet Jackson songs.

Henry was 37, the mother of a daughter, and a cherished sister who used drugs and sometimes worked in the sex trade. Her disappearance is unsolved.

Gagnon recalled Thursday how slowly police initially responded to reports her sister and other women were disappearing.

"We need to keep this campaign going so we can get help to bring awareness and be acknowledged," she said. "The missing women were loved. They were somebody's daughter, mom, auntie, and best friend."

In the most notorious case involving women from Vancouver's troubled downtown, Robert Pickton is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Mona Wilson, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey and Andrea Joesbury.

He is to face a second trial at a later date on an additional 20 counts of first-degree murder. At least 41 other women are still missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Janet Henry is not among the women Pickton is accused of killing.

Jacobs says the "epidemic of violence" against native women should be confronted as "a national outrage."

Victims are abused and murdered in appalling numbers, she says, and governments cannot turn a blind eye.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, says there has been little formal action since the release, three years ago, of a damning report called Stolen Sisters, which documented the magnitude of the problem.

"This cannot go on," he said. "Indigenous women can not keep coming to Ottawa pleading for the safety of their granddaughters, their daughters, their sisters.

"It's time for comprehensive, national action."

Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Canadian Press

Native Women's Association of Canada

I'm not going to give up