Friday, November 30

Families relieved end near in Pickton trial

Seven men, five women now examining testimony against pig farmer in in deaths of six women

Lori Culbert and Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun
November 30, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - Rick and Lynn Frey applauded and Cynthia Cardinal had a huge smile on her face as the jury left a New Westminster courtroom late tonight to begin deliberating the fate of Robert (Willie) Pickton.

The Freys have been waiting for this moment since 1997, when their daughter Marnie disappeared; Cardinal since 1999, when her sister Georgina Papin vanished.

Just outside the courtroom, Cardinal said she wanted to capture forever the "happy" feeling she had that a jury was finally deliberating the fate of the man accused of killing her sister.

Pickton is charged in the deaths of Frey, Papin and four other women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The jurors were sequestered just after 5 p.m. tonight after listening to the evidence of 128 witnesses at Pickton's murder trial for the last 10 months.

"You've taken an oath... to render a true verdict according to the evidence," Justice James Williams told them at the end of his four-day address. "We ask nothing more, we are entitled to nothing less."

With that, the seven men and five women picked up their binders full of the judge's legal instructions and walked out of the courtroom. How long they will deliberate is anyone's guess.

The jurors did not look at Pickton as they filed out, but earlier in the day several of them stole glances at the accused killer as Williams gave his address to the jury.

Nearly every day of this long trial, Pickton sat motionless in the prisoner's box, often staring at a blank notepad on his lap. He showed no reaction to the jury leaving the room for the last time.

Outside court, Crown attorney Michael Petrie, who led the seven-person team prosecuting Pickton, said: "We're relieved to be at this stage and it's now in the hands of the jury."

Pickton is charged with killing 26 women. This trial is dealing with six of those counts, and a second trial on 20 counts is expected later.

Many relatives of those victims attended court for the last two weeks to hear the lawyers' closing arguments.

Marilyn Kraft, whose stepdaughter Cindy Feliks is one of the other 20 women Pickton is accused of killing, said she is hopeful for a guilty verdict on the first six.

"I'm encouraged. I think if they come down with a guilty [verdict] it will be the best Christmas present any of us will have," said Kraft. "We're glad the jury is out now and we just hope it's not going to be too long."

Kraft is convinced Pickton will be convicted, "especially on the first three counts," she said. "I think he's a cold-blooded killer."

Both Kraft and Rick Frey called the last two weeks emotionally difficult, as they listened to the evidence that was found on the farm.

"It's been a hard thing to do here, and I'm sure they're going to do it [render guilty verdicts]," Frey said. "A tough couple weeks for everybody, tough ups and downs."

He added that the only time Pickton showed any emotion in court was when evidence arose about violence connected to the missing women.

"He looks like he enjoyed what he did," Frey said.

He said he thought the defence did a good job and appreciated it when defence lawyer Peter Ritchie came up to him, put his arm around his shoulder and thanked him for being kind to the defence team.

"He did a very good job," added Lillian Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, 34, who disappeared in 2001 and is one of the 20 alleged murder victims to be dealt with at a second trial.

The judge gave the jurors some advice before they started deliberating: do not start out by emphatically declaring their opinions, because that would make it difficult to work together to find consensus.

"Keep an open mind, not an empty head," he said.

Williams said if they couldn't reach a unanimous agreement, he would have to declare a mistrial and a new jury would be assigned to hear the case.

The jury is a mix of older retirees, some middle-aged people and a couple of younger women.
Among them are a bartender, a university student, a retired sawmill worker, a physiotherapist, a retired nurse, a retired security guard, a condominium manager, and a building engineer.

One female juror walked into court today with a large cake, and other jurors with bags of food.
The judge told them to bring their suitcases with them today because they wouldn't be in their own beds for a while.

They will deliberate seven days a week, about 12 hours a day, and at night will be sequestered in a New Westminster hotel until they reach a verdict.

They must decide whether Pickton committed the murder of six women: Papin, Frey, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Sereena Abotsway, and Brenda Wolfe.
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, November 29

Pickton judge's jury's address moves victim's families to tears

Lori Culbert, CanWest News Service
Thursday, November 29, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- Three sisters of murder victim Georgina Papin clutched hands and wept Thursday morning, as they listened to a graphic description of how Robert (Willie) Pickton allegedly butchered a woman in his slaughterhouse.

Supreme Court Justice James Williams, on the third day of his address to the jurors at Pickton's murder trial, recounted the evidence of Crown witness Lynn Ellingsen.

Ms. Ellingsen said she helped Mr. Pickton pick up a sex-trade worker in 1999, and that she later saw the woman hanging from a hook in the slaughterhouse. She testified that a bloody Mr. Pickton said she would be next if she told anybody.

Ms. Ellingsen looked at police photos of missing women and had identified the victim as Ms. Papin, who disappeared in March 1999.

A sheriff left the courtroom to find a box of tissues, which were passed around to Ms. Papin's sisters, Cynthia Cardinal, Elana Papin, and Bonnie Fowler, who were overcome by the judge's rendition of Ms. Ellingsen's evidence.

Laurie Isberg, the sister of missing woman Deborah Jones, was also crying in the courtroom listening to the judge's address.

Mr. Pickton is being tried for the deaths of six women at this trial.

Mr. Williams is reviewing the evidence of many of the 128 witnesses who testified since the trial began Jan. 22.

Mr. Williams said he will explain to the jurors how the law can be applied to the evidence, but that they will make the ultimate decision about what testimony to accept and reject.

Mr. Williams reviewed a defence lawyer's extensive cross-examination of Ms. Ellingsen, which focused on her severe drug addiction and her difficulty remembering dates.

She initially linked the date of the so-called barn incident to other events on March 20, 1999, but at the trial said she could no longer be certain it happened then.

Ms. Ellingsen testified that she fled the farm after seeing the body, never to return.

The defence used ambulance visits and Mr. Pickton company paycheques to suggest she was, in fact, at the farm after March 20.

As well, Ms. Papin was seen alive after March 20.

The judge also reviewed the evidence of Crown witness Andrew Bellwood, who testified Mr. Pickton once said he handcuffed and strangled sex-trade workers before dismembering them and feeding their remains to pigs.

Mr. Bellwood had testified that Pickton once paid him $500 for a set of good tires they took off Mr. Bellwood's employer's truck.

If jurors accept the tire story, they can use it to believe Mr. Pickton was comfortable speaking with Mr. Bellwood about a crime and therefore could have confided in him about how he killed women, Mr. Williams said. But, he added, the story should not influence the jury's opinion about the charges he is facing.

Mr. Williams also told jurors that they should not infer from the fact Mr. Bellwood was interviewed by investigators exploring the murders of sex-trade workers in Alberta that he "is to be considered a suspect in the deaths of the women in the present indictment."

Ms. Pickton, 58, is facing 26 counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

This trial is focusing on the deaths of six women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside: Ms. Papin, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey. A second trial on 20 additional counts of murder, including the death of Ms. Jones, is expected later.

Vancouver Sun
Robert Pickton on trial

Vigil to await Pickton's fate

Jury expected to sequester tomorrow

Thursday, November 29, 2007

VANCOUVER – Staff at CFRO had to step over passed-out homeless people on the front steps of their downtown radio station this afternoon.

It seemed strangely fitting, given that Jayson Fleury was on the air urging residents of the Downtown Eastside to join the families of accused serial killer Robert Pickton’s alleged victims tomorrow on the steps of the New Westminster Law Courts.

Fleury is organizing a vigil outside the courthouse for as long as the jury is deliberating on Pickton’s fate.

Pickton is on trial for the deaths of six women whose remains were all found on his 17-acre pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam.

He’s accused of murdering and butchering 26 women, all of whom have been connected to Vancouver’s grim and drug-infested Downtown Eastside. He will face the other 20 counts of first-degree murder at a later date.

At about noon tomorrow, Justice James Williams is expected to wrap up three days of reviewing testimony in the 10-month-long trial with the jury. Once that’s complete, the jury will be sequestered until it reaches a verdict.

Williams told the 12 jurors to expect to be sequestered through the weekend.
Fleury’s sister, Mona Wilson, is among the six women Pickton is accused of killing.

“We want everyone to come out and support us and support all the missing women,” said Fleury, a member of the O’Chiese First Nation near Rocky Mountain House. “Support justice, because that’s what we really want.”

What’s most important, he said, is for the jury to know there are people outside the courthouse “who care about this case, who care about the women who are disappearing from our streets.”

Fleury told radio host Chris Livingstone that society views the people of the Downtown Eastside, the most poverty-ridden neighbhourhood in Canada, as disposable and unworthy of attention.

“If somebody goes missing down here, nobody notices,” he said.

He’s calling for a full public inquiry into his sister’s death, arguing that she vanished in November 2001, 10 months after police put together a task force to investigate the disappearances of more than 60 women from the Downtown Eastside.

Fleury’s convinced police had already identified Pickton as a suspect long before his sister died.
He called drug addiction, violence and prostitution an epidemic in the area.

“I don’t feel safe down here,” he said. “My sister didn’t feel safe down here. Nobody feels safe down here.”

CFRO is a non-profit radio station operating in the heart of the Downtown Eastside.

Meanwhile, the relatives of other victims fought to keep their composure in the courtroom as the judge recounted months of testimony for the jury.

“It’s so hard to hear it all again,” said Bonnie Fowler, sister of Edmonton’s Georgina Papin, another of Pickton’s alleged victims.

Fowler and her sisters Cynthia Cardinal and Elana Papin, told Sun Media that hearing the lurid details of the trial re-read by the judge has put them on another emotional roller coaster.

“We’ve all been crying so much,” said Cardinal.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.
Co-op Radio CFRO - 102.7 FM

'What a great girl'


VANCOUVER -- Anger flares in Jayson Fleury's eyes when he recalls how he was informed that his baby sister's remains had been found on alleged serial killer Robert Pickton's suburban pig farm.


While at work in Edson one day in early 2002, he got a call from a radio reporter asking him how he felt about the news that his sister, 26-year-old Mona Wilson, was among dozens of women who died horribly on the now notorious Port Coquitlam, B.C., farm.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations this week on the fate of Pickton, who's charged with first-degree murder in the killings of six women all known to frequent Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside.

He will be tried on 20 more first-degree murder charges at a later date.

"I was shocked when the reporter called," Fleury told Sun Media yesterday as he warmed himself in a tiny native drop-in centre after being caught in a downpour on East Hastings Street, the Downtown Eastside's main drag. "I felt completely stupid because I had no idea. I had received no official notification."

Fleury, 43, found out later that B.C. authorities had contacted the band office on the family's home reserve, the O'Chiese First Nation near Rocky Mountain House, and asked officials there to track down the family. No one had ever reached him.

It was just one more in a long string of outrages that plagued Fleury's relationship with Wilson, he said.

He harbours bitter resentment toward the foster care system, which he claims kept him in the dark about Wilson's existence. He didn't even know about her until he was in his 30s.

One of five children born to Linda Bigjohn, Fleury was raised in foster homes in the Edmonton area, while Wilson, whose father is a member of the Westbank First Nation in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, ended up in foster care in B.C. by the time she was eight years old.


The first time Fleury met her around 1990, Wilson was already slipping into the dark world of drug addiction on the Downtown Eastside.

By her mid-teens, he said, she was already using heroin.

For the next decade, Fleury would travel back and forth between Alberta and Vancouver to track down Wilson and make sure she was OK.

"I spent a lot of nights going up and down these alleys, looking for her," Fleury said. "It was so difficult, so frustrating to see her like that. But in a way she was one of the lucky ones. Most of the women on these streets have no one. At least she had family that was trying to support her."

There were times when he couldn't track her down, and Fleury ended up at the city morgue looking at dozens of unidentified bodies to make sure she wasn't among them.

Gazing out the storefront window as hollowed-out addicts shuffled past, he said quietly, "so many of our people end up as John Does in the morgue and then get buried in unmarked graves."

Wilson vanished in November 2001, the same year that her mother died tragically in Edmonton. Fleury said their mom was killed on Edmonton's outskirts when a train slammed into her stalled pickup truck.

"Our mom was such a powerful person," he said. "Very strong in spirit. She survived residential school and did the best she could to keep all five of us together."

He was already in foster care, but has heard from his other siblings that when Wilson still lived with her mom, "she was spoiled the most."

He added sadly: "I never knew her in the good times, though."


However, Wilson's former foster brother remembers her as a spunky girl with a big heart and a love of laughter.

Greg Garley lived with Wilson on a farm in suburban Surrey until she turned 14.

"I remember her smile," he said. "I remember what a great girl she was."

After she left, Garley said she kept in touch with his family, but refused to visit them. He said they had no idea that Wilson had developed a drug addiction.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

Pickton verdict won't be cause for celebration

By Carlito Pablo

Publish Date: November 29, 2007

Ernie Crey could stay at home to watch the news on TV or just read the papers the next day when the verdict on accused serial killer Robert William Pickton is delivered.

But Crey, a 58-year-old Sto:lo Nation man, says he'll make the trip from his home in Chilliwack to Courtroom 102 in New Westminster's Begbie Square on the day the jury's decision will be announced. He said he feels he has to.

The DNA of his younger sister Dawn was among the forensic evidence gathered from the Pickton pig farm in Port Coquitlam. However, no charges have been laid against Pickton or anybody else in Dawn's disappearance or death.

"It's because I had responsibilities for her as a young boy," Crey told the Georgia Straight. "I was together with all of my brothers and sisters when they were like children, toddlers, and babies. In Dawn's case, I remember changing her diapers and feeding her when she was a little baby. The emotions run deep, and the attachment we have for one another is enduring."

The Crey siblings subsequently got separated, and they grew up in different foster homes. They managed to stay in touch, Crey said, and he recalled that in later years, when Dawn lived with him for a short while, he tried to get medical assistance for her drug addiction. "She lived a hard life," he said. "It took a toll on her emotionally and mentally and physically. I didn't meet with much success."

The Crey family has been told by the Crown that prosecutors will proceed with the cases wherein they have the most evidence against Pickton. Until now, according to Crey, the family hasn't been told exactly where Dawn's DNA was found.

Crey, a policy adviser for the Sto:lo Tribal Council, recalled that no charges have been laid in the cases of other women whose DNA was also recovered from the farm.

"For families like mine, it leaves us in a really troubling, upsetting kind of place, because we may never know, like I may never learn what became of my sister," he said. "I'll never know if the police will ever get enough evidence to charge anyone for her disappearance or her death."

Crey said his family has been assured by the police that the Pickton file will never be closed until answers are found about what happened to those other women. "I'm taking their word for it," he said. "I don't know what else to do but just hope that one day we'll discover what happened to Dawn, and maybe one day somebody will be held accountable for her disappearance."

Crown and defence lawyers have rested their respective cases in the trial that has spanned 10 months. A total of 128 witnesses testified during the course of the trial, in which Pickton stood accused of having murdered six women. He will face trial for the deaths of 20 more women at a later date.

Pickton's alleged victims are among the dozens of mostly sex-trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside starting in the 1970s.

While the Pickton trial was under way, two charter challenges were launched against Canada's prostitution laws, the first one before the Ontario Superior Court in March, and the second in August before the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Sex-trade workers like Susan Davis blame the country's laws for marginalizing women in the profession, thus making them vulnerable to predators. In a phone interview with the Straight, Davis said it's not only street-level prostitutes who are exposed to violence, but indoor sex workers as well. She recalled the case of her friend Nicole Parisien, a 33-year-old masseuse who was found dead behind an apartment building in Vancouver's Kitsilano area in August this year.

"Certainly, there's a lot of violence," said Davis, a spokesperson for the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Women.

Kate Gibson is the executive director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, which provides support services for women in the sex trade. According to Gibson, her office gets e-mails and phone queries from families looking for loved ones.

"We get reports of people who haven't been heard [from] or [are] missing," Gibson told the Straight. "The circumstances haven't changed. We get bad-date reports. There was a woman stabbed on Main Street eight or six weeks ago. Don't think for a moment that women aren't dying within this realm or violently being attacked every day."

On the day the Pickton verdict will be known, Gibson said staff and sex-trade workers will gather at WISH. But she said that no matter what the judgment, there will be nothing to celebrate.

Source URL:

Tuesday, November 27

Always woke with a smile

Local alleged Pickton victim remembered fondly in Vancouver


VANCOUVER – For the past two weeks, Wade Raw Eater has been wandering the bleak streets of the Downtown Eastside, handing out portraits of his ex-girlfriend to anyone who will accept them.

The 37-year-old, originally from the Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta, is determined to ensure that Georgina Papin is remembered for her life, not her horrifying death on a remote pig farm 20 km east of the city.

“She always woke up with a smile,” Raw Eater told Sun Media today. “She wasn’t very tall, but whenever she walked into a room she was the biggest person there.”

Papin, who grew up around Edmonton and was a member of the Enoch Cree Nation, vanished in 1999. Her remains were discovered a few years later, along with the remains of dozens of other troubled women linked to the Downtown Eastside, on the property of accused serial killer Robert Pickton.

Raw Eater talks about Papin

As Judge James Williams gave his final instructions to Pickton’s jury today, Raw Eater, who makes ends meet by selling sketches on the street, was doing the only thing he could think of to honour her memory.

“Whenever I can scrape a few bucks together, I’ve been making copies of the sketch and then handing them out around here,” he explained. “If anyone gives me money for them, I use that to make more copies.”

The inscription on the sketch reads: “In memory of a lady, a mother and a best friend – Georgina Papin.”

Raw Eater met Papin in 1993 a few blocks from Downtown Eastside, the poorest most drug-infested neighbourhood in Canada.

“She was playing pool with a friend,” he recalled, smiling at the memory. “I asked her where she was staying and she said she didn’t have a place yet. I found out later that she’d just walked out of an open-custody jail.”

While Georgina had scrapes with the law, she was never violent or dangerous, Raw Eater said.

In fact, her gentle kindness became something of an endearing joke among the denizens of Vancouver’s inner city.

Georgina struggled with drug addiction, leading her to do things Raw Eater is certain she wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“She’d disappear for a couple hours and come back with a few hundred dollars,” he recalled.

“When I asked her where she got it, she’d smile and say she robbed people. There was no way she was capable of doing that, so I knew what she was doing.”

Looking to the ground, he whispered, “but hey, I don’t judge people. I just wish I had lots of money so that she was taken care of. I believe in God and everything, but sometimes He pisses me off. She was so good. So good.”

They broke up in the mid-1990s but remained good friends, often drinking together in the seedy bars that line East Hastings Street, the area’s main drag.

Raw Eater drew a deep breath and then walked up to a native couple in front of the area’s community centre. Behind them scores of homeless people loitered. Some openly selling drugs while others huddled in nearby alleys and smoked crack.

Raw Eater shows the woman a sketch. Without touching it, she asks suspiciously, “how much?”

“It’s a gift,” he replies, explaining who the picture depicts and what he’s doing.

Tears of recognition fill her eyes as she accepts the sketch.

“Migwech (Thank You),” she says, carefully rolling it up and tucking it gingerly into her threadbare coat before disappearing back into the crowd.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

16 days of activism begins Thursday


November 27, 2007

THIS Thursday marks the start of the Manning region’s ‘16 days of Activism’, a campaign which raises awareness to help prevent all forms of violence against women and children.

The campaign will be launched at a community fun day in Fotheringham Park from 11am to 2pm. Activities will include jumping castles, face painting, clowns, free show bags and a free barbecue as well as ‘Ask a Domestic Violence Specialist’ stalls, information and brochures.

The 16 days of Activism encompass four significant dates:

o Sunday November 15: White Ribbon Day which recognises the International Day for Elimination of Violence and also encourages men to stand up against violence inflicted on women and children;

o December 1: World AIDS Day

o December 6: anniversary of the Montreal Massacre where 14 engineering students were gunned down for being feminists.

o December 10: World Human Rights Day.

Local bureau of crime statistics for 2006 in the Manning region average 5.5 report cases of domestic violence and 2.3 reported cases of sexual assault per week.

This number is believed to be much higher as many cases go unreported.

Statistics indicated that one in three to four girls and one in seven to eight boys experience sexual assault before they reach the age of 18.

Copyright © 2007. Rural Press Limited

Judge in Pickton trial gives jurors thick binder, begins legal instructions

The Canadian Press

November 27, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - Jurors in accused serial-killer Robert Pickton's murder trial were handed a thick grey binder as Justice James Williams began three days of final instructions before they begin deliberations at the end of this week.

The binder allows the jury to follow along as he instructs jurors on evidence and the law.

Williams told the jury they have a great deal of evidence to consider and issued the standard warning that they must deliberate in secret and not be influenced by public opinion.

The judge said the jury had heard a lot of shocking and upsetting evidence in the 10-month trial that may have aroused feelings of revulsion and hostility against Pickton.

The Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer is on trial on charges he murdered six women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and he faces a second trial on 20 other murder counts.

The jury could begin deliberations by Friday.

Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 26

'We could be waiting years'

Family of local alleged Pickton victim wants her remains for burial


November 26, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Five years after her remains were discovered on accused serial killer Robert Pickton’s pig farm, the family of Edmonton’s Georgina Papin is still waiting to hold her funeral.

“We don’t know when we’ll get her back,” Cynthia Cardinal, one of Papin’s six surviving siblings, said today outside Pickton’s trial. “I’ve been phoning the coroner but haven’t heard back.”

Her worst fear is that Papin’s remains won’t be released until Pickton is tried on all 26 counts of first-degree murder that he faces.

The trial on the first six counts – which include Papin – is wrapping up.The Crown finished up its closing arguments today and Judge James Williams is expected to instruct the jury before it begins deliberations.

The remaining 20 charges are expected at a later date.

“We could be waiting years,” Cardinal said.

A memorial was held for Papin in 2002 when her remains were identified, but Cardinal said that until her sister is laid to rest back home at the Enoch Cree First Nation on Edmonton’s western boundary, there will be no closure for her family.

Since the trial began in January, Cardinal and her sisters Elana Papin and Bonnie Fowler have been commuting between Edmonton and New Westminster to represent their family at Pickton’s trial.

Each has come back at least six times in the past 10 months.

“Yeah, it’s hard to come back,” Cardinal said with a sigh.

Elana added that it was particularly difficult today when the Crown replayed portions of Pickton’s interrogation videos for the jury.

“Just hearing his voice is really upsetting,” she said.

However, all three women hope to wring some good out of the death of their sister and the other women, many of whom were aboriginal.

“This has strengthened us and opened our eyes. Native women have to speak up,” Cardinal said.
However, the sisters said, the most positive thing to come from Georgina’s death is that it’s drawn her surviving siblings closer together, particularly Cardinal, Elana and Fowler.

“We really support each other,” said Fowler. “We laugh and cry together, and when we’re here in the courtroom we know that there are at least two other people looking out for each of us.”

Pickton is on trial for the deaths of Papin, Mona Wilson and Brenda Wolfe – all born in Alberta – and Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury and Marnie Frey.

The Edmonton Sun

Tragic lessons from Vancouver

Gottingen-area situation reminds B.C. MP of her city's troubled Eastside


November 26, 2007

Libby Davies, NPD MP for Vancouver East, knows the dangers posed by the criminalized status of sex workers better than most. It was from her area that more than 60 women disappeared, many of whom were subsequently found to have been murdered. Robert Pickton is on trial for six of those murders.

Davies traces the long rise in violence back to 1985, and a crackdown on the sex trade. The aim then was to go after workers as well as their clients, but it has created a difficult situation, she says.

"Twenty years later, we're still dealing with it in my riding," she says. "The law creates this terrible situation."

She describes the Downtown Eastside area as a "mass of grief."

"So many people end up on the list of murdered people," she says. "The disappearance of more than 60 women from the Downtown Eastside, and hundreds more from across the country, also raises deeply disturbing questions about Canada's justice system and how it failed."

She is calling for a public inquiry into the police handling of the missing-women cases.

Imagine, she says, if five nurses or students went missing.

"But sex workers don't count. They're garbage."

While the Pickton trial has focused the eyes of Canada - and the wider world - on the troubles of her riding, she says the fear is that once the trial ends, "people will forget. Things will go back to the way they were."

Davies sat on the parliamentary committee examining current laws and travelled with it across the country, interviewing 100 sex-trade workers, including men and women in Halifax. She says the situation she encountered around Gottingen Street reminded her of home.

"The status quo is unacceptable. (The laws) are not working. They are creating harm."

What shocks Davies is the vast amount of police resources poured into arresting these women. She calls for a "more humane" approach.

"I believe the federal government must come to terms with the contradictions and impossibility of the status quo, and engage in a process of law reform that will lead to the decriminalization of laws pertaining to prostitution, and focus criminal sanctions on harmful situations."

As all sides of the debate focus on getting workers off the streets, Davies advocates opening "safe houses" in which women can work in a protected environment.

"The community is safer, the women are safer," she says. "Can't we do something to get them indoors?"

Davies is optimistic about the two court challenges, but regrets it may take the courts to force her fellow parliamentarians to "do the right thing," as she says happened in the same-sex marriage debate.

"The issue (should be) to separate what is consenting from what is not," she argues. "Women face the most violence in marriages, but we don't ban marriage. We focus on the violence."

Pickton acted guilty, says Crown

Ethan Baron

CanWest News Service

Monday, November 26, 2007


NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - The lead prosecutor at the trial of Robert (Willie) Pickton Monday described Pickton as a "chameleon" who could adapt his behaviour to suit whatever situation in which he found himself.

During interrogation after his murder arrest, Pickton started off with denial and a "woe is me" approach, then transformed himself into a negotiator, trying to get police off his farm so they wouldn't find more evidence, Mike Petrie asserted.

"That would make sense when you're talking about somebody being accused of the number of crimes he's being accused of, and is trying to avoid detection," Petrie told the jury.

Contrary to the defence claim that the "feeble-minded" and innocent Pickton was overwhelmed by a sophisticated interrogation team, the accused was behaving just as one would expect a murderer would, Petrie said.

Pickton played a game of "cat and mouse" with his interrogators.

"This is not somebody who's prepared to come out and say, 'I did it,'" Petrie said. "He admits bits and pieces."

Petrie also told the jury that Pickton's statements to an undercover officer in his cell are admissions of guilt. The scruffy-looking Pickton, arrested at a work site, spooned his dinner off a styrofoam plate as he discussed using a rendering plant, and said he was going to "do one more, make it an even 50."

Pickton said he was then going to "let it die for a while, then do another 25."

The defence had contended Pickton was merely "parroting" suggestions made by police during the interrogation that preceded this talk with the undercover cop.

Petrie said that the police had told him he was under investigation for 50 murders, but Pickton's claim that he'd done only 49 showed he wasn't parroting. The prosecutor for the first time raised the issue that others might share responsibility for murders, by facilitating the transportation of women to the farm.

Lynn Ellingson, who said she saw Pickton butchering a prostitute, also said she had been with Pickton when he picked the victim up. Jurors also heard evidence that Pickton's friend Dinah Taylor had brought women to him.

"To what extent does that make Lynn or Dinah responsible?" Petrie said.

Pickton, 58, who ran a pig-butchering business on his family's Port Coquitlam farm, is charged with murdering 26 Vancouver women. He is on trial on the first six charges, relating to Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Andrea Joesbury.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating his guilt or innocence later this week, the judge said Monday.

© Vancouver Province 2007

Daughters bond at Pickton trial

Nov 26, 2007 04:30 AM
Rosie DiManno
New Westminster, B.C.

The pretty teenage girl leans forward, rests her head against her grandmother's broad back, then wraps her arms around the woman and receives a comforting there-there pat in return.

A few minutes later, another lovely girl, sitting alongside, suddenly sobs and bolts from the courtroom. The first rushes to follow. They can be heard in the anteroom – one crying, the other softly hushing.

They are the daughters of murdered mothers.

Jeanie de Vries is 16, skin caramel-coloured, with thick brown curls cascading. To look at her is to see the girl's mom, Sarah de Vries, so striking the resemblance. This is how Sarah must have appeared, before her life went off the rails. Her DNA was found at Robert "Willie'' Pickton's farm, among the 26 of his alleged victims, that homicide to be addressed at a later trial.

Brittney Frey is 15, pale and fair-haired, with wide-spaced eyes and dimples. Remains of her mother, Marnie Frey – a jawbone – were discovered in the ground outside the slaughterhouse.

She is among the six who are the subjects of this trial, Pickton accused of killing and dismembering them.

Brittney, who lives with her father and stepmother in Campbell River, B.C., has been in the courtroom before. Jeanie, who resides with her grandmother in Guelph, came for the first time last week. The teenagers bonded immediately and now cling to one another. It is a terrible trauma that has brought them together from opposite sides of the country.

Some courtroom observers, who knew both their moms, have described the girls as "inspiring," evoking fond memories of the women, who were so much more than what they've become for the public record: drug-addled sex trade workers from Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside.

They had babies. They both tried, as best they could, to be nurturing mothers. They stayed in touch with their families, their children.

But these two teenagers, years on, have few memories. And what they hear in the courtroom will be impossible to forget when this is all over.

"The last time I saw my mom, I was seven," recalls Sarah, whose younger half-brother remembers nothing of their mother. "We were at a park. It was summer. She had done something to her leg because she was on crutches. She had her hair tied back with part of a nylon stocking. And she had makeup everywhere, like me."

Jeanie, regretfully, remembers being angry with her mom then and she feels bad about that now. "I asked her if she'd love me forever and she said that forever was a long time. Before that, I'd asked her if she'd love me even if she died. And she said that wouldn't happen for a really long time."

When Sarah de Vries disappeared – last seen April 1998 – Jeanie says she actually hoped, in a child-like way, that something awful had happened, if only because that would mean she hadn't been deliberately abandoned. "I was hurt because she said she could not love me forever."

Jeanie has heard little of her mother in the courtroom but felt compelled to come because the second trial might be years away. Brittney, by comparison, has already heard too much.
"I don't like people saying she was a prostitute. She was a drug addict and that's what led to everything else. I just want her to be seen as a human being."

It was the reference to Marnie Frey's jawbone that sent Brittney fleeing. Yet, composing herself, she returned.

"I hope this trial can give all the families a little peace."

Then, arm in arm, the girls walk out into the sunshine.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2007

Missing women honoured

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Monday, November 26, 2007

Family and friends gather for a memorial to show loved ones are gone but not forgotten

A small group of friends and relatives of women missing from the Downtown Eastside released balloons Sunday into a beautiful sunny sky as they remembered loved ones who vanished years ago.

As music played, one by one the mourners laid flowers, candy canes and other Christmas decorations on a memorial bench in Crab Park.

The bench facing Burrard Inlet was dedicated years earlier to the long list of women -- most of whom worked in the survival sex trade and/or had drug addictions -- who were vanishing from city streets.

Two photographs were propped on the bench: one of Marnie Frey, as a smiling 14-year-old with braces, and one of Cara Ellis, when she was a young girl of eight or nine.

A few years later, when those children became women struggling with addictions, they both disappeared. That was in 1997.

Robert (Willie) Pickton has been charged in both their deaths.

Pickton's first trial on six counts of murder -- including Frey's -- is nearing completion at New Westminster Supreme Court.

He is expected to face a second trial on 20 other counts of murder -- including Ellis's -- later.

Several people spoke at the memorial and the theme repeated over and over was to remember the missing women for the daughters, sisters and mothers they were.

Ellis's mother, Judy Trimble, clung to two flowers and wept when asked why it was important to attend a memorial for her daughter: "Just that I miss her very much and that she was always loved."

"Cara was a beautiful person. She was great with my kids. A very funny girl," added Lori-Ann Ellis, Cara's sister-in-law.

However, Lori-Ann said a dangerous lifestyle was always "lurking" in the background of Cara's life, which left her vulnerable.

"They lived the best they could in a bad situation," Ellis said.

Frey's stepmother, Lynn Frey, wiped away tears as she said she believes society didn't care that sex workers were going missing: "These women didn't mean anything," she said.

And, she fears, very little has changed. The streets of the Downtown Eastside are still filled with women struggling to survive, facing violence and abuse every day.

"It's not any different today," Frey said. "It's worse today than when I first started looking for Marnie in 1997."

Also at the memorial was Marnie's 15-year-old daughter Brittney and her aunt Joyce Lachance.
Bernie Williams of the United Native Nations Society was one of several people calling Sunday for an inquiry into the safety of women on Vancouver streets.

Williams -- who knew 46 of the 65 names on the police list of missing women -- said women continue to go missing today.

Gladys Radek, whose niece, Tamara Chipman, is one of the women missing from northern B.C.'s Highway of Tears, agreed society needs to do more to keep women safe.

"These women weren't throw-aways. They were human beings. Somebody loves them, every single one of them," Radek said.

Pickton has pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of first-degree murder.

The defence completed its closing arguments last week at his first trial, which began Jan. 22.

The Crown is expected to continue making its closing arguments today.

Justice James Williams will also address the jury this week about the evidence in the case.

Then the seven men and five women will begin deliberations, but that is not expected to happen until late this week.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Sunday, November 25

Missing loved ones honoured in Downtown Eastside memorial

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Sunday, November 25, 2007

VANCOUVER - A small group of friends and relatives of women missing from the Downtown Eastside released balloons Sunday into a beautiful sunny sky as they remembered loved ones who vanished years ago.

As music played, one by one the mourners laid flowers, candy canes and other Christmas decorations on a memorial bench in Crab Park Sunday afternoon.

The bench, which has a stunning view of Burrard Inlet, was dedicated years earlier to the long list of women - most who worked in the survival sex trade and/or had drug addictions - who were vanishing from city streets.

Two photographs were propped on top of the bench: one of Marnie Frey, a smiling 14-year-old with braces, and one of Cara Ellis, when she was just eight or nine.

A few years later, when those children became women struggling with addictions, they both disappeared. That was in 1997.

Robert (Willie) Pickton has been charged in both their deaths. Pickton's first trial on six counts of murder - including Frey's - is nearing completion at New Westminster Supreme Court.

He is expected to face a second trial on 20 other counts of murder - including Ellis's - later. Pickton has pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of first-degree murder. The defence completed its closing arguments last week at his first trial, which began Jan. 22.

The Crown is expected to continue making its closing arguments today. Justice James Williams will also address the jury this week about the evidence in the case. Then the seven men and five women will begin deliberations, but that is not expected to happen until late this week.
Memorial Bench
Park memorializes missing women
Memorial pays tribute to missing women

Saturday, November 24

16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Violence Against Women

Friday November 23 2007

25 Nov. – 10 Dec.

November 25 is the International Day for Action against Violence against Women. This date was proposed at the first Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter in Bogota, Colombia in 1981. It recalls the state-executed violence that took place in the Dominican Republic in 1960, when agents of Trujillo’s dictatorship violently assassinated the Mirabal sisters who were political activists, and visible symbols of the resistance to Trujillo’s regime.

This day is particularly symbolic to women’s groups in Latin America, many of whom have been involved in opposing dicatorial regimes, as well as fighting for women’s rights in the home and the workplace.

Alarmed by the dramatic increase in violence against women around the world, the United Nations officially recognised 25 Nov., as International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence against Women in1999. Since then, the day has been commemorated throughout the world in all sorts of ways from women raising awareness through advocacy, organising demonstrations and vigils to building national, regional and international end-violence networks.

In 1991, the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership started the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. It begins 25 Nov., International Day Against Violence Against Women and ends 10 Dec., the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These dates are used in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.

The 16 days highlights significant dates including 1 Dec., which is World AIDS Day, and 6 Dec., which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The Montreal Massacre took place in Montreal, Canada when a man gunned down 14 women engineering students for “being feminists”.

The 16 Days Activism Campaign has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. This annual campaign has worked to increase the visibility of violence against women as a human rights violation.

The overall theme of this year’s campaign focusses on “Demanding Implementation, Challenging Obstacles: End Violence Against Women (VAW)”. While there has been much progress made, challenges still persist that hinder the effectiveness of the work being done by activists and organisations such as the Directorate of Gender Affairs.

This year’s campaign seeks to overcome those challenges and obstacles in order to gain long overdue results in the struggle to end VAW. In collaboration with others, the Directorate of Gender Affairs will continue to work to dismantle obstacles and overcome challenges posed by social attitudes and policies that condone and perpetuate violence against women.

Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women and to the prevention of their full advancement. It is a universal problem of epidemic proportions.

Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, it devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development.

Violence against women affects everyone, not only its direct victims. When a mother is abused, her children suffer, when a girl is abused, her parents and other relatives are affected, every time a woman is hurt, her whole community feels the ripples of trauma. It is an insidious problem that deprives women of their quality of life.

The country and society also suffer, not only socially and emotionally, but also financially for the consequences of violence against women. Violence against women costs millions of dollars in lost productivity, and medical care. As violence against women affects everyone, eliminating it is also the responsibility of all.

Growing civil society and government concern regarding violence against women has led to the formulation of different international instruments that have been adopted by a number of states including Antigua and Barbuda. These include:

The 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recognises violence against women as a particularly egregious form of discrimination that must be eradicated. Further comprehensive international policy statements aimed at ending violence are the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, and the Platform for Action from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Both documents define gender-based violence as a violation of women’s human rights and a form of discrimination that prevents women from participating fully in society and fulfilling their potential as human beings. They commit state parties to taking action to safeguard women and girls.

The Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, which was adopted in 1994 is one of the most progressive Conventions in the world. This important instrument, which has been ratified by Antigua and Barbuda has instigated unprecedented legal reform throughout the region and provides a binding framework for collaborative efforts in the region.

Fighting violence against women is a major focus of the work of the Directorate of Gender Affairs. The organisation provides support through its comprehensive programme of action which includes a 24 hour crisis hotline (463 5555); counselling and advice; court advocacy; support groups; training and education; and emergency accommodation.

As we observe this year’s 16 Days of Activism Campaign, let us renew our commitment to ending violence against the women of Antigua and Barbuda. We need to highlight the need for awareness, the importance of support and the urgency for action.

Violence against women is a deplorable abuse of human rights. Women continue to suffer from an appalling number of rapes and other forms of sexual violence, the consequences of which extend beyond the short-term trauma, leading to the disintegration of families, ostracism of the victims, and ultimately mental, medical and economic consequences of untold proportions.

As we celebrate this year’s 16 Days of Activism Campaign, we invite everyone to join us in our activities and let us strengthen our resolve to put an end to violence against women.

By Sheila Roseau, executive director of The Directorate of Gender Affairs. For further information please contact: The Directorate of Gender Affairs Tel: 462 3990/462 1411.

© SUN Printing & Publishing LTD 2003-2007. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 22

Victim's daughter weeps during Pickton trial closing arguments

CanWest News Service

Thursday, November 22, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - The defence is nearly done its closing arguments at Robert (Willie) Pickton's murder trial, but the morning proved too much for some family members.
Brittney Frey, the teenaged daughter of victim Marnie Frey, broke down in tears in the courtroom.

In a touching show of emotion, Jeanie de Vries, the teenaged daughter of missing woman Sarah de Vries, hugged Frey as she wept.

Pickton, 58, is facing 26 counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

This trial is focusing on the deaths of six women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside: Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey. A second trial on 20 charges is expected later.

Vancouver Sun

© CanWest News Service 2007
Daughters of missing women inspire hope

Tuesday, November 20

Family members, friends find comfort sharing memories of lost ones

Daughters of missing women inspire hope
Family members, friends find comfort sharing memories of lost ones
Suzanne Fournier
The Province
November 20, 2007
Activists gathered in a sombre vigil outside the New Westminster courthouse yesterday said they drew hope and encouragement from seeing in court the "bright and healthy" daughters of murdered women.

Bernie Williams gasped in surprise when Britney Frey, 15, and Jeanie de Vries, 16, stepped outside the courthouse for relief from the grim proceedings inside.

"It's like seeing the spirits of Marnie and Sarah here again, because these girls are so much like their mothers -- yet they're healthy and strong so they can carry forward the memories of their mothers," said Williams, who knew all six of the women Robert Pickton is currently on trial for killing.

"The photos of your moms in the paper are of women who were far along in their addictions," he told the girls. "But I remember hanging out with them and they were beautiful women and good friends. They were lots of fun."

De Vries, who lives in Guelph, Ont., with her grandmother, attended the Pickton trial for the first time yesterday and formed an instant bond with Frey, who has been at Pickton's preliminary hearing and trial several times.

"I don't remember a lot, but there are lots of pictures of me and her and I like looking at them," said de Vries, whose mother Sarah de Vries disappeared in 1998.

Frey, whose mother Marnie Frey disappeared in 1997, said it was difficult to listen to defence lawyers try to argue for Pickton to be found not guilty.

"I just want peace for my family and the other women's families," said Frey, who lives in Campbell River with her father.

More than two dozen family members were in New Westminster yesterday, steeling themselves for a week of closing arguments and the judge's charge to the jury.

The Crime Victim Assistance Program is covering the cost of travel, food and accommodation for family members of the 26 women Pickton is accused of killing, even though he's currently on trial for only six of those slayings.

Cynthia Cardinal, sister of Georgina Papin, flew in from Edmonton with another sister and expects more of her siblings to attend before the verdict is handed down. Cardinal said the waiting time "will be pretty tough."

"It's good to know these young women, their daughters are strong," said Cardinal, noting that Georgina's daughter, Kristina Bateman, who grew up in Las Vegas with her grandparents, may also attend the trial.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Could a Regional Police force have made a difference in the Vancouver missing women case?

Solicitor General reverses course on idea of regional police force

Tuesday, November 20
Reshmi Nair

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The province has changed its stance on the issue of a regional police force and is now considering the possibility. In a reversal of policy, Solicitor General John Les says the government is now open to the idea of a metro police force in the Lower Mainland.

It was just two weeks ago that Les rejected the idea (raised by West Vancouver Police Chief Kash Heed) after a rash of gang violence, including several murders. At the time, Les called the suggestion an 'unwelcome distraction and a red herring'. Now, Les has warmed to the idea and says he will open discussions with regional mayors and police chiefs within two months.

Some critics are still skeptical as they digest the turnaround. Kim Rossmo is a former Vancouver Police Detective who has been calling for a regional force for years. His frustration stemmed from the confusion between police departments during the Missing Womens Case. "The fact that we have a Balkanized series of police agencies in the Lower Mainland certainly doesn't work to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Rossmo says it's not an efficient scenario. "You have, what 14-15 different entities set up that are all providing policing service in what really is one organic city...that's not a good mode. No one has ever said that it's an effective model, it's just there's never been the political will or the resources to fix it."

Rossmo says the average taxpayer may not notice a significant difference, if and when they need the police, but investigations would move more smoothly, and he says that's worth a possible jump in policing costs. B.C.'s Solicitor General expects to discuss the idea over the next few months.

© 2007 Rogers Communications Inc.

Dr. Kim Rossmo

Dr. Kim Rossmo and the Vancouver missing women case

Monday, November 19

BC Hitchikers Left to 'Highway of Tears' Mercy

Date: 11/18/07

By Wency Leung
WeNews correspondent

The murders of women--most of them Aboriginal--along Canada's Highway 16 in British Columbia stirred advocates to request a shuttle service to reduce hitchhiking on the dangerous road. A year later, women are still sticking their thumbs out.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (WOMENSENEWS)--In her youth, Gladys Radek frequently hitchhiked along the remote highway where her niece disappeared two years ago.

Now 52, she recalls the dangers of catching rides with strangers in Canada's rural north.

In the early 1970s, Radek was raped by a truck driver who picked her up on Highway 16, a 450-mile stretch of road in northern British Columbia.

"He was a tiny guy, but he was muscular," Radek said of her assailant. "All of a sudden he said, 'I'm going to stop and pull over for a bit.'" Then he pulled her into the back of the truck.

After the attack, Radek managed to find her way home. But several women who traveled Highway 16, including Radek's niece, Tamara Chipman, have not.

At least nine young women--eight of them Aboriginals--were murdered or have vanished along the highway between the towns of Prince Rupert and Prince George since 1989, although the exact toll is widely debated. At least four were hitchhiking the last time they were seen. Some speculate more than 30 women have disappeared over the past 35 years on the road, locally known as the Highway of Tears.

Last month, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police added to their probe the disappearances and murders of nine more women, dating to 1969. This brings the total to 18, and expands their investigation to other parts of British Columbia and the neighboring province of Alberta.

"The scale and scope of the review makes it one of the larger ongoing projects in B.C.," the police said in a statement, but gave few details. They said they have not yet determined whether a serial killer may be at large.

As people along the highway corridor react to the string of disappearances, concerns have largely focused on the lack of safe travel options for women in the region, but a coordinated public transportation system is still little more than an idea.

Prevention Efforts Urged

Besides a Greyhound bus passing through once or twice a day, no public transportation is available along Highway 16. As the investigation widens, victims' families and communities along the highway are urging something be done about that.

Tony Romeyn, a former police volunteer in Prince George who operates a Web site for the victims' families, said hitchhiking remains one of the main modes of transportation for Aboriginal women in outlying communities and impoverished, isolated reservations.

"They're almost like caught in a Catch-22, right? What do they do?" Romeyn said. "Some come from impoverished families so they can't afford even the cost of a vehicle."

In March 2006, the provincial government sponsored a community symposium in Prince George, after the last known victim, Aielah Saric Auger, 14, was found murdered.

Participants--government officials, police, victims' families, Aboriginal groups and nonprofit organizations--established 33 recommendations aimed at improving the safety of the region's Aboriginal women.

Their list included a shuttle bus system that would provide transportation between reservations and the towns, emergency telephone booths on parts of the highway without cellular phone service and programs to educate Aboriginal parents on the need to keep track of their children's travel plans.

So far, progress has been made on about half the recommendations. Billboards have gone up along the highway to deter hitchhiking. The government's Highway of Tears Initiative, spurred by the symposium, has held workshops to educate people of the dangers, funded partly by a $52,000 government contribution.

Shuttle Service Hasn't Budged

But a key recommendation--the shuttle bus system--is far from rolling.

Lisa Krebs, the sole coordinator of the nongovernmental Highway of Tears Initiative, said talks with government and community leaders have not yet determined how much a shuttle system would cost, how it would be staffed, where it would run, when it could operate, how it would be funded. "It could be industry financed," she said. "We're not expecting the province to entirely fund this initiative."

Krebs said it is a huge undertaking for one person to coordinate the implementation of all the symposium recommendations, and added that political apathy and bureaucratic shuffle within the government have impeded her work.

The executive director of the province's Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mark Tatchell, said there is no lack of political will on its part, noting the government contributes more than $5.2 million annually to address safety in the region surrounding Highway 16, including outreach programs and halfway houses for women and children in crises of all kinds.

Tatchell said the government would consider providing funding for a shuttle bus system when a thorough plan is established. "Nobody's arguing that a shuttle bus isn't a good idea," he said.

Vancouver private investigator Ray Michalko, who has been voluntarily working on the Highway of Tears case for two years, doubts there is only one person responsible for the missing and murdered women, given the number of victims and the length of time between them.

He added that he has received an overwhelming number of calls from abused women in the northern region who have not notified authorities but share their stories with him, hoping it will help his independent investigation.

'Stolen Sisters'

Aboriginal women, aged 25 to 44, are five times more likely than other Canadian women of the same age to die as a result of violence, according to a 2004 Amnesty International report, "Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada."

Radek said systemic racism is in large part to blame because abused Aboriginal women often do not report attacks because they feel authorities don't take them seriously. She said that was why she never told police about the truck driver who raped her. In turn, perpetrators can act with impunity.

Before that rape, Radek said she had been repeatedly sexually abused while growing up in foster care. Like many Aboriginals of her generation, she was separated from her family to attend Canada's now defunct, notoriously discriminatory residential school system for First Nations people and was raised by different foster families. Radek said her painful childhood made her vulnerable to more violence.

The incident along Highway 16 did not deter Radek from hitchhiking again, nor did she warn the young women in her family against it.

"I was abused, and I just had the devil-may-care attitude," she said. "I didn't give a shit what happened to me."

But her niece's disappearance was a devastating blow. Radek has since become an activist for victims of the Highway of Tears.

Chipman, 22, the daughter of Radek's brother, was last seen hitchhiking on Highway 16 on Sept. 21, 2005.

Radek said she thinks the family will at some point understand what happened to her niece. "I do believe, in my heart, that we will find out in the end."

Wency Leung is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver, Canada.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at

For more information:

Highway of Tears:

Amnesty International, "Stolen Sisters:
A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada":

AI, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women From Sexual Violence in the USA":

Note: Women's eNews is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites and the contents of Web pages we link to may change without notice.

Copyright 2007 Women's eNews Inc.

Saturday, November 17

Day by day, ex-prostitute finds meaning at the trial

November 17, 2007
Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- For years, everyone wanted to know what happened to the vulnerable women who were disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Then details started coming out earlier this year at Robert Pickton's first-degree murder trial. Many people very quickly decided they had heard enough.

Marge Humchitt, 43, is not like that. She has spent more than 20 years as a prostitute in the gritty, drug-infested neighbourhood. Now a grandmother of two and trying to move away from her addiction and from prostitution, she decided in June to go to the Pickton trial for a week to hear what she would hear and possibly support others who were in court.

She showed up for one week, then another, then another. "After three weeks, I woke up one day and said, 'I'm doing something important.' And there I was. I've been going ever since," Ms. Humchitt said in a recent interview, sounding as surprised as anyone else that she would end up as the only person from the Downtown Eastside to sit through court proceedings day after day.

Ms. Humchitt will be back in court on Monday, when lawyer Adrian Brooks begins closing remarks to the jury from the defence. Mr. Pickton is on trial for the murder of Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Mona Wilson, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

Mr. Pickton was arrested on Feb. 22, 2002. The trial began on Jan. 22, 2007. The jury heard from 98 prosecution witnesses and 30 defence witnesses over the past 10 months. The final days of the trial are expected to draw increased crowds and stepped-up security. Seats in the public gallery reserved for family members that have been empty on most days will likely be filled.

Crown counsel Mike Petrie is expected to give his closing remarks later next week. Mr. Justice James Williams's review of the evidence and instructions to the jury on the law are expected to start on Thursday. The seven men and five women on the jury will begin deliberations likely late on Nov. 26 or on Nov. 27. They will be sequestered until they reach a unanimous verdict on the six murder charges against Mr. Pickton.

The 10-month trial has marked a significant transition in Ms. Humchitt's life. She sees her time in court as part of her journey away from a life of drugs and prostitution in the Downtown Eastside. Getting up in the morning to attend the trial, listening to what happened to women like her and being ready to support others in court has become an important part of her effort to change her life.

She sees herself as a possible role model for others who are stuck in the world of drugs and prostitution. "I'm not saying look at me, look at how good I look. But I can be an inspiration," she said hesitantly, searching for words, "to show that no one has to be down there. I'm an example of someone who succeeded in leaving the street-and-drug thing behind. I'm here to give support."

She says she is there for the family members if they want to talk to her.

Ms. Humchitt has come to court daily although she is not related to any of the six women that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering. She feels as if she may have known them and as if she was part of their families.

She listens closely to the evidence, taking it as it comes, and sometimes she feels like crying. "I'm definitely connected, as much as family can be," she said. "We all came from a similar place, from the street-and-drug thing."

At times, Ms. Humchitt feels a little uncomfortable in the courthouse. She recognizes some of the women who have been called to testify. "I see their faces. I say to myself, ohmygawd, and my head goes down, like I do not want them to see me," she said.

She stopped coming to court for a short period after a key witness tried to strike up a conversation with her in the hallway. Ms. Humchitt thought that was a bit too close. "I was not there to socialize with anybody," she said. "She was going to start saying things to me, and how was this going to end up. I left at midday and did not go back that day."

Nevertheless, she feels she had to be in the courtroom every day, even while lawyers were hashing out the finer points of the law. "I think about those things, about why am I doing this. And I see myself as the only one going there. The families are not there. Most likely they cannot sit and hear it."

By her own telling, Ms. Humchitt spent more than 20 years "drugging and partying on the streets" after she came to Vancouver from her family's home in Bella Bella, an extremely remote native community of 2,500 about 600 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

On her first visit to Vancouver, she stayed with a family member who was a prostitute and used drugs. Ms. Humchitt recalled working at a cannery and partying when she was not working. She spent the next three years exploring Western Canada, hitchhiking from Vancouver to Calgary to Edmonton and back. "It was fun," she said. "It was all partying. I would go to a bar where the bikers and drugs were."

After becoming pregnant in Winnipeg, she hitchhiked back to Vancouver. Ms. Humchitt's sister adopted her daughter at birth, while Ms. Humchitt resumed her lifestyle of drugs and prostitution. "I got so bombed on drugs," she said. "I was up and down, up and down. Usually, I was snorting crack cocaine." She tried other drugs, including heroin, but did not enjoy them as much.

Her corner was Hastings and Clark. She developed rules to survive without a pimp. She never went to work stoned. She did her dates and then got stoned, she said. She was always clean and not jumpy. And she smiled a lot. "It was my life, my way of life," Ms. Humchitt said.

She has been beaten up, knifed through the chin, raped three times and spent nights in jail, she said. She lost many valuable things to pay for her drugs.

Her experiences with police have made her cynical about whether they could be relied on to help women on the street. She recalled contacting police after a violent incident. It was a few hours before they showed up. She had the impression the police thought the incident was funny.

"They did not take my name. I told them a description of the car, of the guy. They said, okay, have a good night. This is your profession and you should expect it," Ms. Humchitt said. She recalled she was so mad, she "pulled" another date and beat him up.

But Ms. Humchitt said she does not have regrets about her time on the street. "It was fun times," she said. "I'm not kidding you. It was definitely fun."

Sometimes when she sits in court, listening to the evidence at the Pickton trial, she has flashbacks to when she sat through the trial of Sheldon Williams, who was convicted of second-degree murder for strangling Ms. Humchitt's sister, Cheryl, in 1993, after Cheryl saw Mr. Williams kill her boyfriend, Trang Lam, over a $7,000 drug debt.

She feels she was particularly well suited to helping others at the Pickton trial as a result of what she went through, with the death of her sister and Mr. Williams trial.

Mr. Williams, who was also from Bella Bella, came back to the remote northern community after the blood-soaked bodies of Cheryl Humchitt and Mr. Lam were found in 1993. Marge Humchitt remembers being at a house party in Bella Bella with Mr. Williams and suspecting that he killed her sister.

She said she drank a lot of beer that night. She did not take drugs in front of her family. "I just kept drinking. I could not drink any faster." The family later phoned the police, who asked about setting up surveillance. But that was impractical in the small island community. The family said they would tell police what he was doing and when he left the island.

Later, she brought police a picture of the suspect. As a prostitute dependent on drugs, her relations with police were not easy. "I felt like I was a bad girl, that I did something bad. The police walked in and sat down. I was nervous. I was not supposed to be scared. They were supposed to be on my side. But it was so intense."

The family in Bella Bella received a call from someone at the local airport when Mr. Williams showed up to board a flight to Vancouver. Police arrested him in Vancouver. He pleaded not guilty.

The trial is now a blur for Ms. Humchitt. She remembers being there and seeing witnesses but not much more. Mr. Williams was convicted in March, 1995, and sentenced to a mandatory life term. But he was eligible for parole after 10 years. He was back in Bella Bella last year for Christmas with his family.

Ms. Humchitt said her family left the community so they would not be there for his visit.

Cheryl's death ripped their village apart, Ms. Humchitt said. "We'll live that way for the rest of our lives and we accept that."

Her family ties have been central to her decision to change her lifestyle. She began to move away from drugs and prostitution almost two years ago, when her first granddaughter, Alivia, was born. "I partied myself out," she said, adding that she was ecstatic to be invited to be at the birth.

She was there with her daughter for two days, dope-sick all the time, she said. When she came back to Vancouver, she put herself in a shelter for a while. About a year ago, she was offered housing outside the Downtown Eastside, in the area of Broadway and Main Street.

Ms. Humchitt said she still does drugs "once in a while," but feels an instant guilt. She is doing better in breaking her dependency on prostitution. "I've given it up," she said. In her next breath she said she is still involved in the business. It has been at least three months since she pulled a date off the street, she said. "I still have a few friends. It's my bread-and-butter. But it's nothing heavy. I'm not on the street any more," she said.

Yet it is clear that Ms. Humchitt is more comfortable on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside than in a courtroom. In a recent walk-through of the neighbourhood, she pointed out where to find a hot cup of tea, a decent free meal or any drugs she wants. She exchanged greetings with numerous regulars, including her niece.

In court, Ms. Humchitt has developed her own rituals to make herself feel comfortable and help her get through the day. She likes to sit right behind Mr. Pickton, hoping to catch a glance if he looks around. He never does. But she keeps staring at him, trying through psychic power to make him feel bad.

Ms. Humchitt has a ritual for leaving the courtroom. She tries to walk through the doorway at the same time that Mr. Pickton is taken back to his cell through another doorway. "He's going to jail and I'm walking out free," she said. "I'm not saying it makes my day, but it is something that just comes to my mind."

Before the daily session begins, she sits quietly by herself in a vestibule outside the courtroom and says a brief prayer. It's not a traditional kind of prayer. She just says to herself, "I'm here, and we're going to do it now."

She then goes over to the water fountain for six sips of water, one for each of the women that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering. "It's a little thing I do, to show respect, in memory of the six women," Ms. Humchitt said.

The six women

Sereena Abotsway

She was last seen in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in July, 2001. Her remains were found on April 4, 2002, in a freezer on the Pickton property.

Georgina Papin

She abandoned an intravenous pole in a hospital bathroom on March 21, 1999, and was not heard from afterward. An investigator in July, 2002, found a bone from Ms. Papin's hand under a platform in the slaughterhouse.

Andrea Joesbury

She was reported missing in June, 2001. Her remains were found on April 4, 2002, in the freezer that contained the remains of Ms. Abotsway.

Brenda Wolfe

She last had contact with her doctor and picked up her final prescription in February, 1999. A police investigator found her remains on the Pickton property on May 5, 2002.

Mona Wilson

Her common-law husband reported her missing on Nov. 30, 2001. Her remains were found on June 4, 2002, in a green garbage can in the north end of the slaughterhouse on the Pickton property.

Marnie Frey

Her last contact with her stepmother, police and welfare worker was in August, 1997. An investigator on Aug. 21, 2002, found part of her jaw and three teeth on the Pickton property.

Robert Matas
Globe and Mail

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Day by day, ex-prostitute finds meaning at the trial