Sunday, May 27
by the Cultural Memory Group (Christine Bold, Sly Castaldi, Ric Knowles, Jodie McConnell and Lisa Schincariol)
Across Canada, the landscape is dotted with memorials to women murdered. Pink and grey granite stones hug the ground in Vancouver’s poorest area. Conceptual sculpture crumbles down in Calgary while bronze figures reach up in Edmonton. A healing memorial plaque in a field near The Pas connects with an embracing memorial garden in Winnipeg. Ontario is dotted with parks, gardens, stones, sculptures – at city halls, on university and college campuses, in botanical gardens, by churches and malls.
Montreal houses the most intricately designed of memorials at the bottom of its mountain and the most silent at the top. Moncton’s sculpture speaks across the Petitcodiac River to Riverview’s monument. And in rural Bear River, Nova Scotia, the aged town cemetery holds three memorials to a woman murdered.
Yet, astonishingly often, these monuments are simply not seen. City councils tuck them into marginal locations, funding bodies shunt them to the bottom of the agendas, plaque-writers dedicate them in codes that wedge words between silences. Memorials protesting a central scandal of our society occupy the most tentative positions in our public space.
It is time to make these memorials newly visible on a national scale, to celebrate the efforts of the women who created them against all odds and to explore their contribution to the struggle against violence against women.
Women are murdered by men in Canada every day, in horrific numbers: from the approximately 500 Aboriginal women missing and murdered in Canada over the past twenty years, to the 69 or more so-called “missing women” from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, to the 14 women murdered at l’École Polytechnique in Montréal on December 6, 1989, to the uncountable acts of femicide, so commonplace and often so casual that they barely make the news.
Feminist memorializing of women victims of violence is a key part in preventing those murders from becoming mere numbers or being denied. Yet the commemorative process is fraught indeed.
Those who pursue the imperative to “First Mourn then Work for Change/Souvenir pour agir” too often come up against scarce resources and public outcry. The struggle increases when memorial-makers confront the systemic nature of violence against women and publicly name victim and perpetrator. Often women spend years of their lives and run huge personal risks making these monuments happen. We need to record, analyze and support these acts of courage.
Violence threatens social groups to different degrees. Women are more vulnerable than men, women in poverty more than middle-class women, women of colour more than white women.
The very groups most subject to attack are those with least access to the resources needed for public memory-making, least likely to make memorial forms available to us for analysis, most likely to protect their private memorial cultures from outsiders.
Memorializing violence against women involves a huge range of challenges. When yet another woman’s murder is reported, most often it is treated as an aberrant event, the deed of a pathological individual.
How can memorial forms mark the everyday nature of violence without losing any sense of the horror of each individual act and without themselves, as cultural forms, disappearing into the everyday landscape? How can memorializing be participatory, dynamic and respectful of diversity without either becoming ephemeral or collapsing under the weight of community tensions? How can it garner the necessary material resources and public space without becoming entirely contained by the powers of patriarchy? How can it remain identifiably women centred without being trivialized with stereotypes of sentimentalism? How can it enact public political protest without betraying the privacy of the woman murdered or her friends’ and family’s private grief? How can it take advantage of the aesthetic power of public art without prettifying the memory of violence?
In other words, how can feminist memorializing promote active, resistant remembering that encourages communities to take responsibility for the systemic nature of gendered violence while respecting individual trauma and individual accountability?
Vancouver: Missing, murdered and counting
In Spring 2002, almost as soon as the remains of Vancouver’s “missing women” began to be recovered from the Pickton site in Port Coquitlam, BC, the need to memorialize them made itself felt both powerfully and painfully.
On the partly excavated site a healing tent was set up, which represented each of the women with a candle and a tag bearing her name, and a First Nations healing ceremony was held. A makeshift memorial of candles, flowers, pictures, poems and stuffed animals, also took shape at the farm gate.
Longer-term memorial plans have proved more controversial. The reaction of Karin Joesbury, mother of Andrea Joesbury, one of the women Robert Pickton stands accused of murdering, had a different response. In April 2002, she filed a civil lawsuit to prevent the Pickton farm from being used as a memorial site.
Other tributes have also emerged that are not site specific. Vancouver artist Wyckham Porteous developed the Buried Hearts Project with the support of some 80 Canadian musicians.
This musical tribute was recorded as a permanent memorial to the missing women, with the proceeds going to a residential treatment and recovery home in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the heavily deprived area of the city in which most of the 69 or more women worked.
Some members of the Missing Women Trust Fund, led by family members, resented the musicians’ initiative. The Missing Women Trust Fund also linked their memorializing to fundraising and education efforts. In addition to working towards a rapid opiate detox centre in the Downtown Eastside and establishing other support systems, they responded in a positive way to young people’s expression of interest. “We had four teenagers come to the pig farm and light candles in honour of our missing women, and we were so touched we offered to come to the Archbishop Carney School in Port Coquitlam, talk about how our loved ones came to be on the Downtown Eastside and the dangers of alcohol abuse and drug addiction,” said Val Hughes, sister of Kerry Koski, who disappeared in 1998.
More recently, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre announced plans for a memorial garden on 100 block East Hastings, to honour the many missing and murdered women. Organizers hope to involve the local community in the creation of the memorial. Meanwhile, the Spirit’s Rising Memorial Society is joining women and youth at risk in a totem carving project, slated for erection in Wendy Poole Park at Main and Alexander. These memorials join with others in Vancouver seeking to occupy public space and shift the tide of consciousness, such as the Missing Women’s Memorial in CRAB Park at Portside (established in 1997), Marker of Change in Thornton Park (1997), and the Women’s Memorial March on Valentine’s Day, which began in 1991.
The stakes in these efforts and disagreements are raw and immediate: how to honour women’s lives while marking the violence of their deaths; how to specify individual victims while including all abused women – across lines of race, ethnicity, class, economic situation – in the remembrance; how to acknowledge that these social and cultural conditions put marginalized women at much higher risk; how to make a memorial publicly acceptable without compromising on naming murder; and how to make memorializing politically effective, not deflecting from but contributing to the struggle against violence against women.
Remembering the memory makers
The political significance of remembrance, especially for marginalized groups, has been proven yet again by recent campaigns and reports protesting violence against women. When Sisters in Spirit launched their campaign to end violence against Aboriginal women in March 2004, one of their most moving strategies was naming hundreds of Aboriginal women murdered, under the banner “Remembering Our Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Sisters...Always in Our Hearts.”
When Amnesty International produced the report Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada in October 2004, it devoted over a third of the report to remembering, in detail, the stories of nine missing and murdered Indigenous women. A hefty report on workplace violence and harassment released in the same month opened with one author’s agonizing memory of the harassment and murder of her mother, Theresa Vince.
Acknowledging violence against women in a visible and permanent form is a significant step towards social change. Each memorial tells at least two stories: the terrible one of unremitting violence against women and the triumphant one of women joining against all odds to make these monuments happen. We need to celebrate the achievements of those who have brought about such memorials and inscribed such words into public space against consistently daunting odds.
We need to remember the past in order to change the future; violence against women must end.
This excerpted and abridged essay originally appeared in Remembering Women Murdered by Men: Memorials Across Canada by the Cultural Memory Group (Sumach Press, 2006) and appears here with permission from Sumach Press and the authors. To order the book, visit: www.sumachpress.com or contact: (416) 531-6250.
To support these efforts, or to find further information on memorial projects, please visit:
Missing Vancouver Women
Missing Women’s Memorial Totem Project
Sewing the Earth: The Downtown East Side Women’s Memorial Garden
The Global Women’s Memorial Society
Vanished Voices-Angela Jardine
Seen Me Lately
Vancouver's Missing Women Group
Highway of Tears
Please Help Find our Daughter
Sex Trade Workers of Canada
The Doe Network: International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons www.doenetwork.org
Outpost for Hope
Sisters in Spirit Campaign, Native Women’s Association of Canada
With thanks to Wayne Leng for compiling this list.
The Canadian Women’s Health Network
Saturday, May 26
Saskatchewan News Network; CanWest News Service
Saturday, May 26, 2007
SASKATOON -- A family gathering in Saskatoon this weekend will help the relatives of missing or murdered aboriginal women deal with the unnatural loss of a loved one.
Lori Whiteman, one of the organizers of the Saskatchewan Sisters in Spirit 2007 Family Gathering, said people often have a hard time expressing emotions, finding support and understanding social factors related to the deaths and disappearances of the women. Inspired while attending a Native Women's Association of Canada gathering in Vancouver in February, organizers realized the need for a meeting of affected families in their home province. Whiteman hopes a support group will be formed as a result of the gathering.
"Even just in the planning of it, just with the few families who have come together over the last month, we've found so much support," Whiteman said from her Regina home. "This is a more grassroots approach. It's more about getting the families together to determine what their needs are and find a voice."
Guidance from elders and access to sharing circles will be part of the weekend's agenda, Whiteman said, but she's unsure of the number of people attending.
The gathering will be held at the Best Western Inn on Saturday and Sunday.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007
Families bond in search for relatives
Delores ‘Lolly’ Marie Whiteman
Friday, May 18
Last Updated: 5/18/2007 9:21:21 AM
Thursday, May 17
REGINA -- Gwenda Yuzicappi has never stopped looking for her missing daughter, Amber Redman, in the hopes that she is still alive.
On Friday, the mother from the Standing Buffalo First Nation will take her story to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., as part of a conference there on murdered and missing women.
The conference, entitled Feminicide = Sanctioned Murder: Gender, Race & Violence in Global Context, takes a look at the disappearances and murders of women in Canada, Mexico and Guatemala that are thought to be occurring on an epidemic scale.
Yuzicappi has her own reasons for attending the conference. Ever since Redman, 19, went missing from a Fort Qu'Appelle bar on July 15, 2005, Yuzicappi has been leading numerous searches for her daughter and speaking publicly about the painful turn her life has taken.
"To me, doing this, I feel that this is one of my purposes for my daughter and I feel that I'm on the right track," she said. "This is my purpose."
Since Redman disappeared, Yuzicappi has spoken at a number of events across Canada. She felt honoured to be asked to go to Stanford to represent Canadian First Nations people who are searching for missing loved ones or mourning those who have been found murdered, she said.
Yuzicappi will speak at Stanford alongside women from Mexico and Guatemala whose daughters have been the victims of violence in their countries.
Yuzicappi said she was touched by a Canadian British-produced documentary called Killer's Paradise that tells the story of the brutal murders of women in Guatemala, many of which aren't investigated and go unsolved. That film was to be shown at the conference on Wednesday.
"When I watched that documentary, it upset me, but when I heard the parents speak on there, I just felt, 'You're going through the same thing that I'm going through,' " she said.
Later this month, Yuzicappi will join other family members of missing aboriginal women at an event in Saskatoon.
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007
Families bond in search for relatives
Wednesday, May 16
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - Accused serial killer Robert Pickton was a popular man with the "girls" who lived at the seedy Roosevelt Hotel, a former clerk testified Wednesday.
"He was friendly," a frail-looking Helen Major testified. "He used to talk to everybody. I sometimes saw other girls running out after him because they knew he'd give them money. "They're short of money down there. It's kind of sad."
Major said she worked the night shift as clerk and security guard, buzzing tenants into the dilapidated hotel near the corner of Main and Hastings, one of the most notorious corners for open drug use in Canada.
Some women whose names appear on a list of missing women from the Downtown Eastside lived on and off at the hotel.
Major testified that Pickton came a few times to the Roosevelt Hotel to meet his friend Dinah Taylor, and he also knew some other women there.
She said Taylor used to call Pickton 'uncle,' but she said he was not her uncle, but "just a guy she knew who had a lot of money."
Pickton is charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Mona Wilson, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.
The jury has heard that Taylor was an acquaintance of Pickton's and was arrested in 2002 in connection with the Pickton investigation. She was never charged.
Major told the court that Taylor lived "on and off" at the Roosevelt Hotel for at least three years.
Major also knew Joesbury, who lived at the hotel at various times.
"All the girls would talk to each other," said Major, who walked slowly and appeared frail.
The trial got a rare light moment when Fogel asked Major if she could identify Pickton in the courtroom. She began looking all over, including at the jury, before Pickton began waving to her as he sat in the prisoner's box.
"I didn't even know he was there," a surprised-looking Major said after she finally spotted Pickton.
Major grew more feisty under cross-examination from defence lawyer Richard Brooks, who took her through statements she made to police in 2002 compared to her testimony Wednesday.
She agreed with Brooks's suggestion that while Major tried to be friends with Taylor, the tenant "stole you blind."
She told Brooks she didn't know whether Taylor was a sex-trade worker even though she had told that to the police in 2002.
Brooks suggested that Taylor had "anger management problems" and was a "violent person."
"She'd get mad when she didn't have money," said Major, prompting another humorous moment when she said she again tried to make friends with Taylor and asked her over for breakfast.
"I invited her to breakfast and noticed other things went missing," said Major.
Brooks suggested Taylor did not like sex-trade workers but Major wasn't sure. She agreed with his suggestion that Taylor would get angry if Pickton expressed interest in other women.
Brooks and Major tangled over the extent of any friendship that existed between Taylor and Joesbury. Her 2002 statement said they were friends but on Wednesday she didn't recall saying that.
She agreed with Brooks, after reading her statement, that a male tenant at the Roosevelt Hotel was arrested one day and that Taylor and Joesbury broke into his room to steal things.
When he returned to the hotel after his release, "you never saw Andrea Joesbury again, did you?" said Brooks.
"I don't think I did," said Major. "Only Dinah after that, not Andrea no more. You wonder where they went. They can't all go back home."
After Brooks concluded, Justice James Williams asked Major how she knew that Taylor and Joesbury had broken into the other tenant's room.
She said she had heard that and agreed with the judge that she had not seen it.
Earlier in the day, an old family friend who has known Pickton for about 50 years said the accused butchered pigs in the traditional way after killing them first with .22-calibre firearms and sawing through them.
Robert Korac, who made his living as a commercial butcher after emigrating from Croatia, told jurors he knew the Pickton family for decades and was close enough to serve as a pallbearer for Pickton's mother and father.
As he testified, he occasionally glanced over at Pickton in the prisoner's box. When asked by prosecutor Geoff Baragar if he saw Pickton in the courtroom, he looked around for a moment and then at Pickton, who appeared to nod and smile at Korac.
Korac used the term Robbie whenever he referred to the accused and said he'd known Pickton since Pickton was about seven.
Korac testified he used to butcher pigs for the Pickton family and that Robert Pickton did the same.
Korac explained Pickton would shoot his pigs in the forehead with a .22, heat them in water to help remove the hair and then hang them from a hind leg.
"He would lift it up, stab it and bleed it," said Korac.
He said he would stab the pig with a butcher knife under the neck.
Sometimes he would use a "scraper" or blow torch to help remove the coarser hair.
Jurors have already heard that a .22-calibre rifle was found on Pickton's property as well as a .22-calibre handgun with a dildo attached.
Previous witnesses have testified that damaged .22-calibre bullets were found in the severed heads of two women but the bullets could not be conclusively linked to any weapons found on the farm.
A third severed head had also been shot with a .22-calibre bullet, the jury has heard.
The Crown's theory is that Pickton murdered the six women named on the indictment against him, that he butchered their remains and disposed of them at a Vancouver rendering plant.
Korac said the pigs, once bled, would be hung and cut, starting at the crotch area and proceeding down the spine. A saw would be used to cut the animal in half, including the head.
Experts have testified previously that the heads of Abotsway, Joesbury and Wilson had been cut down the middle, apparently with a reciprocating saw. But experts also couldn't conclusively link a reciprocating saw seized from the Pickton property or any of the blades to the damage on the skulls.
Korac said he never saw Pickton remove the pig feet.
The severed human heads were found on the property in buckets and garbage bags with the severed hands and feet of each woman placed inside the heads.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, Korac said he always found Pickton to be polite and shy. He said he also noticed that the accused always deferred to his younger brother Dave.
When Brooks suggested that Pickton only used a hand saw when he butchered pigs Korac disagreed, saying he thought Pickton also used an electric saw.
Brooks suggested that it was perhaps later on, around 2000, when Pickton may have begun using an electric saw.
"I think earlier," said Korac, who at times was difficult to understand because of his heavy Croatian accent.
Brooks read a statement Korac made to police in November 2006 in which Korac said he thought Pickton would not cut off the heads of the pigs he butchered.
"'I think he leave it. Must be leave it,"' Brooks read from Korac's statement.
"What I just read to you, that's the truth, isn't it?" asked Brooks.
"Yes," said Korac.
Pickton is to face a second trial on an additional 20 murder counts later.
© The Canadian Press 2007
Clothes found, Hwy of Tears link probed
By Thom Barker
May 16 2007
Hazelton RCMP are investigating women’s clothing found near Moricetown for a possible link to missing and murdered women on Hwy 16.
A decade ago, a wood cutter stumbling across clothing strewn in the woods near the highway probably would not have thought much about it.
But over the last few years, awareness that possibly more than 30 women have disappeared or been murdered between Prince Rupert and Prince George since the 1970s, the 742-kilometre stretch of road has been dubbed the Highway of Tears and garnered worldwide attention.
When Clarence and Lorraine Joseph discovered a backpack and some female garments dumped by the side of a deactivated logging road west of Moricetown, it raised their suspicion. They left the clothes alone and called the Smithers police.
Florence Naziel — Lorraine’s cousin and a relative of Tamara Chipman, the last-known woman to disappear — said they all felt it was significant because of the location.
“Matilda [Wilson] showed us where Ramona’s body was found and it was just like this,” she said.
Ramona Wilson disappeared in the spring of 1994 and her body was found a little more than a year later by a horse trail near the Smithers Airport.
Ray Michalko, a Surrey-based private investigator and former RCMP detective who is investigating the Highway of Tears disappearances, said the site is the type of locale a murderer might use for a body dump.
Two weeks after the Josephs made the discovery, they were once again in the area and the clothes were still there.
They notified Michalko and The Interior News. Michalko — who was in Prince George preparing to do a search with volunteers of the Norman Lake Road area for Nicole Hoar’s body — said he passed the information on to the Smithers RCMP detachment.
On Thursday, Lorraine and Naziel led The Interior News to the site. West of the Moricetown gas bar 6.6 kilometres is an abandoned logging road. Approximately 200 metres down the road, well-sheltered and out of sight of the highway, a backpack, a pair of women’s jeans, some black lingerie and an unidentifiable garment lay snarled in the branches of a bush approximately 10 metres to the left side of the road. Another 30 metres or so into the forest, two more piles of clothing were marginally visible matted into the forest floor. Within a 100-metre radius of the clothes there were no obvious signs of human remains.
Sgt. Tod Scott, Hazelton’s top cop, said Smithers had passed the file along two weeks ago, but officers were unable to find the location or contact the Josephs until The Interior News passed along the information on Friday.
Officers from the detachment, accompanied by Naziel, retrieved the garments on Friday afternoon. Scott said the clothing was too wet and mouldy to process immediately, but will be examined for some kind of identification and passed along.
“We’ll certainly make the [Highway of Tears] Task Force aware of [the discovery],” Scott said.
© Copyright 2007 Smithers Interior News
Highway of Tears
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
NEW WESTMINSTER - Brenda Wolfe sold sex to support her children and her drug habit, a lifestyle that took a physical toll on her before she vanished in 1999, her friend Mary-Lou Wasacase testified Tuesday. "In the beginning, she was always dressed up . . . In the end, the clothing wasn't clean. She wasn't clean herself," Wasacase told the jury at Robert (Willie) Pickton's murder trial in New Westminster Supreme Court.
Wasacase recalled Wolfe was a strong woman who could take care of herself, but added she also lost as much as 23 kg (50 pounds) in her final years on the street. Wolfe is one of six women Pickton is accused of killing.
Wasacase is among a new group of witnesses who have shifted the focus of the long trial away from the evidence found at Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm, and toward the lives of the victims.
"When I knew her, she supplemented her welfare [payments] with working on the street for her babies," said Wasacase, a former sex-trade worker who met Wolfe while reselling prescription drugs bought on the street.
Wasacase said Wolfe also tried to make money by selling prescription drugs in the Downtown Eastside.
The jury has heard that Wolfe was collecting welfare to raise her two children, and asked for extra money for food in late December 1998 because she had spent all her cash on Christmas.
But in February 1999, Wolfe"s welfare worker indicated her children were living with their father in Toronto after Wolfe was evicted from her apartment. Her regular contact with a doctor and the Medical Services Plan ended that same month.
Wasacase said she met Wolfe in late 1996 or 1997 and saw her almost daily at Main and Hastings until she vanished in 1999.
Also on the stand Tuesday was Evelyn Youngchief, who testified that she first met Georgina Papin, another of Pickton's alleged victims, in 1986 in Edmonton, where the two worked as sex-trade workers. They reconnected in 1997 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"I seen her on family night at the Friendship Centre on Hastings ... with her family," Youngchief said of Papin, who the jury has heard had at least four children.
She said Papin "was doing really well" in 1997, living with her children in Mission and making native crafts. But in 1998, Papin was working the streets and struggling with a major drug addiction.
Youngchief said the last time she saw her friend was in January 1999 at the Balmoral Hotel, where Papin quickly drank two bottles of beer and borrowed $10 before going to turn a trick.
"She was supposed to come back, but she didn't come back," said Youngchief, who cried on the stand, dabbing her eyes with a tissue, while discussing Papin.
Youngchief agreed with defence lawyer Rick Brooks that Papin could be "really mean" when she got mad, and lived a dangerous lifestyle in a violent part of town. She agreed that Papin had spent time in jail and often disappeared because she had family in Las Vegas, Mission and Edmonton.
That night at the Balmoral, Papin was wearing three silver rings given to her by Youngchief. But Youngchief viewed photos of many pieces of jewelry, clothes and shoes seized from Pickton's farm, and saw nothing she recognized as belonging to Papin.
She also conceded she had never heard Pickton's name before his arrest in February 2002.
"You had never heard mention of a pig farm in Port Coquitlam?" Brooks asked.
"Never," Youngchief said.
Earlier Tuesday, Tracy Anne Northey, a social worker, testified that she met Sereena Abotsway, another alleged victim, in July 2001 while doing research at a Downtown Eastside medical clinic.
She said Abotsway signed an informed consent form, and was given a copy of the document to keep, before participating in a focus group on July 19, 2001.
Prosecutor Jay Fogel asked Northey if she recognized a photograph of a document seized from Pickton's trailer. Fogel described it as an informed consent form, dated July 2001.
The Crown has told the jury it will prove that "an information sheet addressed to participants in a focus group in which Abotsway had participated" was found in a garbage can outside Pickton"s trailer, along with a Revenue Canada form in her name and some inhalers. One inhaler bearing Abotsway's name, found in Pickton's office, was dated July 19, 2001 -- the last date she ever picked up an inhaler, according to Pharmanet records.
Northey, who was doing research for the Community Health Institute of University Students, said she remembered Abotsway being one of the 10 participants at the focus group she ran on July 19, 2001.
"She was very opinionated. She certainly had lots to share," Northey recalled. "It was somewhat difficult to contain her in the focus group."
Northey said Abotsway appeared to know one person in the group, was coherent and lucid while there, and couldn't recall if she left alone following a confrontation about a cookie at the end of the meeting.
Defence lawyer Patrick McGowan noted there were seven men in the focus group, and asked if his client, Pickton, was one of them.
"I don't recall him being there," Northey replied.
Pickton admits the partial remains of six women were found on his farm, but he denies killing them.
Pickton, 57, is facing 26 counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
This trial is focusing on the deaths of six women: Wolfe, Papin, Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury and Marnie Frey. A second trial on 20 charges is expected to be held later.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Monday, May 14
CKNW AM 980
VANCOUVER - A search along BC's so called "Highway of Tears" for a missing tree planter has turned-up nothing, but the man behind the search isn't giving-up hope.Private investigator ray michalko has been looking into the case of Nicole Hoar, who disappeared while hitchhiking on Highway 16 almost five years ago. Acting on a tip, 100 volunteers mounted a search near Norman Lake Road for around seven hours, but failed to find anything.Michalko says the trip was still worth it because he is "still following up on leads and information." He says he's been given more tips on this latest trip and intends to carry on.
Highway of Tears
I am Missing
Sunday, May 13
By RENATO GANDIA, Sun Media
May 12, 2007
With tears welling in her eyes, Peacha Atkinson implored the public to come forward with infomation of missing and murdered women.
“Please, please, please come forward and let us know where they are,” Atkinson told 100 people attending the Stolen Sisters awareness rally at Edmonton’s Canadian Native Friendship Centre Saturday.
The grieving mother also begged the families and friends victims to demand tougher laws and harsher sentences for crimes against women.
Atkinson’s daughter, 13-year-old Nina Courtepatte, was beaten, raped and killed on a golf course just outside of Edmonton in April, 2005.
Atkinson said her heart breaks whenever she remembers her daughter, especially on holidays and special occasions such as Mother’s Day. But the next best thing she wished for Mother’s Day is that killings of aboriginal women be stopped.
She pointed to children holding pictures of their missing mothers. These moms should be holding their children instead, she said.
Jessie L’Hirondelle, 11 and her brother Kevyn Lauch, 8 held pictures of their mother, Carmen L’Hironelle. Kevyn couldn’t explain why he was carrying his mom’s photograph. Her grandma Barb L’Hirondelle explained. Carmen was murdered in 2004.
“For me it’s important to remember what has happened. There’s got to be awareness,” Barb explained why it’s important for her to be at the rally.
She blamed drugs and alcohol as the root causes of her daughter’s murder.
“It’s sad and it’s hard to be at this rally, but it’s something that’s needed to be done,” she said.
Families at the rally signed petitions asking the government to impose stricter laws while others made placards for the march that went on couple of blocks around the friendship centre.
In one of the placards Dawn LaRose memorialized her friend Georgina Papin, one of the alleged victims of accused serial killer Robert Pickton. Pickton is on trial in New Westminster, B.C. for six counts of first-degree murder. He will face 20 more counts at a later date.
LaRose said it’s important for her to support this cause because she was on the streets for 30 years and survived unlike her friend Papin, whom she grew up with plying Edmonton’s 97 Street. She wants to give other women on the streets hope and be a role model for them.
Saturday, May 12
Cops ask public for help
By Sun Media
Another sex trade worker has gone missing and police are asking for help locating her.
Leanne Lori Benwell, 27, was last seen by her mother March 12 and was reported missing April 15.
Police say Benwell was unemployed and leading a high-risk lifestyle as a prostitute in the area of 118 Avenue and 95 Avenue at the time of her disappearance.
Benwell is aboriginal, five-foot-six, 115 lbs. and of slight build.
She has shoulder-length wavy black hair and often wears it tied back.
She has a tattoo of the word 'vodka' on an ankle, the word 'Ozzy' across the knuckles of one hand and the word 'love' across the knuckles of the other.
Her jaw is out of alignment from a previous injury.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Al Fraser said Project KARE - an RCMP-led task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of more than 70 people, many of them Edmonton prostitutes - has been notified of the disappearance.
Anyone knowing of Benwell's whereabouts is asked to call police.
May 11, 2007
All Connie Benwell wants for Mother’s Day this year is a phone call or visit from her missing 27-year-old daughter Leanne.
But with two months now gone since she heard from the young woman, who led a high-risk lifestyle of drug use and prostitution, Connie’s worry has turned to fear.
“Two months and I haven’t heard nothing, and that’s not like her,” she said at her Edmonton home Friday.
“She always keeps in touch with me.”
Leanne Lori Benwell, a mother of two, last visited her mom on March 12, when she came to pick up the laundry she had done at Connie’s place.
She had a nasty gash across the bridge of her nose and told her mom a man had beaten her up. She was thin and unkempt.
Leanne goes missing
As days stretched on and Leanne didn’t come back or call, Connie tried to phone her at her boyfriend Robbie Moen’s grandmother’s house, where she was staying.
But the number wasn’t in service. Connie was worried, though she figured Leanne was with Moen.
Then on the night of April 14, Connie’s stomach dropped when Moen phoned to ask if she’d seen Leanne anywhere.
“I told him, ‘No, I thought she was with you.’”
The next morning, Connie drove to the Westmount police station and reported her daughter missing.
Since then, there has been no news.
Friday, Moen told Sun Media he last saw Leanne around March 19 or March 22, when she left his grandma’s house and said she’d be back in a few hours.
He said he has not seen or heard from her since then.
“For the first month, I was downtown every day looking, in all her old stomping grounds, in the drop-in centres. No one has seen her – none of my friends, none of her friends,” said Moen.
“It’s not like her to do that. In six years together, Leanne has never taken off like this.”
Leanne's high-risk lifestyle
Leanne is addicted to crack cocaine and opiates. She was known to work as a prostitute near 118 Avenue and 95 Street.
Leanne is from Fort Smith, N.W.T., and moved to Edmonton five or six years ago, about the time she started using drugs, her mom said.
Leanne never told her mom she was working as a prostitute, but Connie knew from others on the street.
“She doesn’t discuss that, maybe she was ashamed. But it doesn’t matter what she does. She’s still my daughter and I want her back.”
Connie admits the long list of missing or murdered city prostitutes is weighing on her mind.
“That’s what really frightens me. I don’t like to think about it but it just sits right here in my mind.”
Sex-trade worker Carol-Lynn Strachan recalls seeing Leanne on a 118 Avenue corner a few months back.
“She had a coat on and I know she was eating, because she turned down the sandwich we offered her.”
Leanne Benwell is aboriginal, five-foot-six, 115 pounds with shoulder-length wavy black hair, often tied back.
She has a tattoo of the word “vodka” on an ankle, “Ozzy” across the knuckles of one hand and “love” across the knuckles of the other.
Leanne’s jaw is out of alignment from a previous injury.
If you know her whereabouts please call city police at 423-4567.
Friday, May 11
Friday, May 11, 2007
Almost four months after the start of Robert (Willie) Pickton's first-degree murder trial, the focus of the mammoth hearing has moved to the six women he is accused of killing.
For an hour Thursday, Crown counsel John Ahern read a 24-page statement to the jurors -- an agreement reached by prosecutors and defence lawyers about the last few months of activity by the six women before they went missing.
It was a poignant list that showed the women had troubled lives, but that they were also trying to eat, get medical help and provide for their children.
In each case, the women had regular contact with relatives or doctors or pharmacists or community support centres or police officers, but that all stopped for each of them at a specific time.
Then they were never seen or heard from again.
In previous admissions filed in court, the defence has admitted all six of these women are dead. Their partial remains have been found on Pickton's farm.
- - -
Abotsway was reported missing to the Vancouver police by her foster mother Anna Draayers on Aug. 22, 2001.
Draayers told police Abotsway usually phoned her every day -- and sometimes more frequently than that -- but that she hadn't seen or heard from the young woman since late July 2001.
And, Draayers told police, Abotsway visited her foster family every Aug. 20 for her birthday, but that year didn't.
Pharmanet records showed Abotsway had 300 prescriptions filled between Oct. 4, 1995 and July 19, 2001. In the last 10 months before she went missing, in particular, the prescriptions were regularly dispensed.
But that ended suddenly, after Abotsway picked up four inhalers, dated July 16 and July 19, 2001.
The jury has heard inhalers bearing those dates, made out to Abotsway, were found inside Pickton's office or in a garbage pail outside his trailer.
Medical Services Plan records show 80 entries for Abotsway between March 8, 1995 and July 18, 2001, when she attended St. Paul's Hospital.
The Ministry of Human Resources has had a file open for Abotsway since October 1989.
In 2001, the ministry issued Abotsway's welfare payments to the St. James Community Services Society, which managed her money by issuing her $35 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week. There were no lengthy gaps in retrieving her money before July 18, 2001.
In the spring of 2001, the ministry paid for two taxi rides from Surrey and St. Paul's hospitals.
On June 13, she moved into emergency housing because she'd been evicted and attended a welfare office to pick up meal tickets.
The next day, she asked for more meal tickets and was turned away because she was living in emergency housing. Abotsway told her welfare worker she got food poisoning and had left the so-called triage housing.
By June 14, she said she was living on the streets and asked the ministry for more food.
On July 11, she was referred to emergency housing again, and her stay was extended there until July 18. On Aug. 21, Abotsway's welfare worker got a call from Draayers, saying she hadn't heard from her foster daughter in a while.
Vancouver police also had 26 contacts in the Downtown Eastside with Abotsway between January 22, 1998 and July 19, 2001.
Tragically, on July 19 -- the date on the last inhaler she picked up -- a police officer spoke to Abotsway in the 200 block area of East Hastings.
Lynn Frey reported her stepdaughter, Marnie, missing to the Campbell River RCMP on Dec. 29, 1997.
"Lynn Frey was concerned because she had not heard from Marnie Frey since August 1997. She said that this was unusual because Marnie Frey regularly phoned to ask for money."
She's had a file with the Ministry of Human Resources since March 1991, but her entries for the latter part of 1997 provide a peek into the ups and downs of the last difficult months of her life.
"On May 30, 1997, the ministry reactivated Ms. Frey's file, as she had just completed a detoxification and rehabilitation program."
She received some benefit cheques, had an "emergency" visit to a dentist and found an apartment on Kingsway in Burnaby.
"On July 4, 1997, Ms. Frey requested and was denied money for a bus pass."
The next month, she asked for permission to take a taxi to a hospital and indicated to the ministry she was now living in the Regal Place Hotel.
On Sept. 24, 1997, she picked up and cashed her welfare cheque. It would be the last one she collected from the government.
"There are no further entries indicating any telephone or personal contacts with Ms. Frey," the admissions say. "Ms. Frey's file was closed on Dec. 16, 1997 and has not been reopened."
Her Medical Service Plan file contains more than 20 entries between Feb. 18, 1995 and May 25, 1997, when she went for an emergency visit to see a doctor.
Her Pharmanet records indicate she received prescriptions four times between Dec. 14, 1995 and Jan. 23, 1997.
Vancouver police and the RCMP had contact with Frey 14 times between May 12, 1996 and Aug. 29, 1997.
Four of the incidents were in 1996, the most serious being on May 12 when Frey "reported that she had been sexually assaulted."
Also in that year, she was issued a traffic ticket, said she'd witnessed an assault and was "checked" by police on East Hastings.
In 1997, her contact with police included her allegedly being issued another traffic ticket, being found smoking marijuana in a car and injecting drugs in Burnaby.
On Aug. 8, 1997, police found Frey on West Hastings Street and believed she'd overdosed from drugs. She was taken to hospital.
One of the last contacts Frey had with police was on Aug. 25, 1997, when officers saw her in a car at Hastings and Main.
On June 8, 2001, Kelly Goodall, a street nurse who knew Andrea Joesbury, reported her missing to Vancouver police.
"Ms. Goodall was concerned that Ms. Joesbury had not been showing up at Ms. Goodall's clinic to have dressings on a wound changed," the admissions say.
Joesbury attended the Downtown Community Health Clinic more than 70 times in 2000 and 2001, but wasn't seen there after June 5, 2001, when she went to have an open sore on her foot cleaned and dressed.
Joesbury's Pharmanet records show she received more than 300 prescriptions between Sept. 26, 1995 and June 6, 2001.
And her Medical Services Plan file shows more than 220 entries between Jan. 12, 1995 and May 11, 2001, when she visited St. Paul's Hospital.
Joesbury has had a file with the Ministry of Human Resources since September 1995.
In her final year, the ministry issued her several cheques, including a "Youth Works" cheque on May 23, 2001.
The documents say Joesbury had contacted the ministry on Feb. 21, 2001, to submit a doctor's note to indicate she was unable to work.
"There are no further entries indicating any telephone or personal contacts with Ms. Joesbury," the admissions say.
"Ms. Joesbury's file was closed on July 5, 2001 and has not been reopened."
Vancouver police had nine contacts with Joesbury between Aug. 23, 1997 and March 28, 2001, and the incidents illustrate the young woman's struggles on the Downtown Eastside as she tried to support a drug habit by working the streets.
On Aug. 23, 1997, police spoke to Joesbury at the Washington Hotel on East Hastings, "where she was trying to buy cocaine."
Six days later, police noted speaking to her again on East Hastings near Main Street. One week later they spoke to her again.
On Jan. 18, 1999, police saw her in a car speaking with a man near 300 Alexander St. Five months later, police noted seeing her in a lane off East Hastings.
On June 1, 2000, police found Joesbury was in possession of heroin on East Hastings near Main Street.
In her final year, police made contact with Joesbury three times in March: outside the Carnegie Centre; at the Hazelwood Hotel on East Hastings because of a noise complaint and inside a bar at the Roosevelt Hotel on East Hastings.
"Vancouver police records indicate no in-person contacts with Ms. Joesbury after March 28, 2001," the admissions conclude.
Kathleen Smith reported her sister, Georgina Papin, missing to Vancouver police on March 4, 2001.
"Ms. Smith was concerned because she had not heard from Ms. Papin for about two years."
Papin had a file with the Ministry of Human Resources since early 1993. Her last contact with the ministry, from April through June 1998, chronicles her attempts to provide shelter and food for her children.
She indicated on April 27 that she planned to live in a new residence, and the ministry paid for the move and rent at her new address.
"On May 6, 1998, Ms. Papin received money for milk and food. On May 19, 1998, Ms. Papin requested, but did not receive, money to buy a washer and dryer," the admissions say.
"On May 28, 1998, the ministry received information that Ms. Papin had been away for a week and that her four children had been taken into care."
The government then heard in July 1998 she'd left the province.
But St. Paul's Hospital records show she returned to B.C. She was admitted to the downtown Vancouver hospital on March 16, 1999 complaining of chest pain.
"She was diagnosed with pneumonia and a drug overdose. On March 21, 1999, a nurse saw Ms. Papin going to the fourth floor for a cigarette. Later that same day, Ms. Papin could not be located in the hospital. Her IV and IV pole were found abandoned in a bathroom," the submissions say.
"Ms. Papin left the hospital before proper community followup for her drug addiction could be arranged."
The hospital didn't treat her again.
Papin's Medical Services Plan file indicates more than 90 entries between April 17, 1996 and Jan. 6, 1999, when she went to see a doctor.
Her Pharmanet records indicate she received three prescriptions between Dec. 10, 1996 and Jan. 7, 1999.
Vancouver police and RCMP had contact with Papin nine times between June 13, 1995 and Dec. 30, 1998.
She was arrested for robbery in 1995, and complained to Mission RCMP in 1996 that she'd been assaulted. "She was bleeding from the mouth and eyes."
The rest of her contact with police took place in 1998, including allegations that she smoked marijuana and shoplifted in Campbell River, possessed a stolen car in Vancouver and committed breaking and entering in Mission.
Papin also told police she'd been the victim of crime twice in December that year. She said she'd been threatened and assaulted with a weapon and was a victim of theft.
Steve Rix, the common-law husband of Mona Wilson, reported her missing Nov. 30, 2001.
On March 10, 2002, her sister Ada Wilson was shown a photograph by police of a necklace and cross pendant.
"Ada Wilson recognized the object," the admissions said. "She observed Mona Wilson wearing [the necklace and pendant] on many occasions, including when Mona Wilson was in St. Paul's Hospital during the summer of 2001."
The Crown has told the jury it will prove that the necklace recognized by Ada Wilson is the same necklace police seized from Pickton's office.
Pharmanet records showed she was dispensed more than 700 prescriptions between Dec. 6, 1995 and Nov. 29, 2001. About 40 per cent of those were issued in the final year, when she picked up a prescription nearly every day -- mostly for methadone maintenance.
Her last billing was for medical supplies on Dec. 4, 2001, and Pharmanet never heard from her again.
The Medical Services Plan showed more than 200 entries for Wilson between July 12, 1995 and Nov. 30, 2001, when she had her last doctor's appointment.
Wilson received benefits from the Human Resources Ministry beginning in February, 1994. Starting in May, 2000, her welfare payments were sent to the St. James Community Services Society, which managed Wilson's finances by meting out three small payments to her each week.
In her final month, she asked St. James for several advances: $40 for food, $5 for bus fares, and four cash advances of less than $30, the last one on Nov. 15.
The society paid her rent on Nov. 19, but the last contact it had with her was four days earlier.
In her last few weeks, Wilson appeared increasingly transient.
On Oct. 31, 2001, she was evicted from her apartment, and by Nov. 9 had found a new place on Pandora Street in Vancouver. But by Nov. 26 she had moved again, this time to East Pender Street.
The last file for Wilson concerned a security deposit for her new landlord Dec. 6.
"There are no further entries indicating any telephone or personal contacts with Ms Wilson," the admission says.
Vancouver police and the RCMP had 19 contacts with Wilson between March 28, 1997 and Nov. 25, 2001.
The last was five days before she went missing, when police responded to a complaint about a fight on East Hastings on Nov. 25, 2001.
Patricia Belanger reported her sister, Brenda Wolfe, missing on April 25, 2000, to the Vancouver police.
"She said that she had last seen Ms. Wolfe on Oct. 22, 1998 at her residence on East Sixth Street."
On May 23, 2002, just three months after Pickton was arrested in this case, police showed Belanger a photo of a black jacket with a pink and purple liner, which has been entered as a court exhibit in the Pickton case.
(The vast majority of the exhibits entered so far were seized from one of two Port Coquitlam properties co-owned by Pickton.)
"Ms. Belanger recognized the object depicted in the photograph as a jacket belonging to Ms. Wolfe," the admissions say.
Her file with the Ministry of Human Resources was opened in August 1996, and her contact with the government in the last two years of her life tells a touching tale of a struggling mother trying to provide for her children.
On Nov. 6, 1998 she requested employment counselling, and three weeks later she was given a benefit cheque for her and her two children.
"On Dec. 29, 1998, the ministry issued a cheque to Ms. Wolfe, who had contacted her welfare worker to report that she had spent all her money on Christmas and needed bread and milk."
In January 1999, the ministry couldn't make contact with Wolfe and in February she called her welfare worker to explain she had missed an appointment. Five days later, her welfare cheques were halted, and Wolfe called again on Feb. 17 to rebook her appointment.
But the worker didn't hear from Wolfe again.
"On Feb. 24, 1999, Ms. Wolfe's welfare worker noted receiving information that Ms. Wolfe had been evicted from her apartment and her children were living with their father in Toronto."
Mail sent to her last address was returned unopened.
Wolfe's Pharmanet records indicate she received more than 280 prescriptions between July 29, 1996 and Feb. 8, 1999. Her last prescriptions were issued on Feb. 2 and Feb. 8, 1999.
Her Medical Services Plan showed more than 150 entries between Aug. 2, 1996 and Feb. 8, 1999, when she went for an appointment with a doctor she saw regularly.
Dr. Ronald Joe saw Wolfe 11 times in 1998 and five times in January, 1999. The final visit was to treat an "abscess on her arm related to intravenous drug use. . . . . "Dr. Joe has not seen Ms. Wolfe since Feb. 8, 1999."
Vancouver police had contact with Wolfe nine times between Nov. 7, 1996, and Dec. 18, 1998.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Thursday, May 10
Jessica Foster in Trust Fund: CIBC Bank, Transits #: 00050, Account #: 98-27412 for anyone that is able to donate- We are trying very hard to raise our reward that is offered from $5,000 to $10,000. Thank you.
Click Play to see her story.
Tuesday, May 8
Some of you may have already received some of this news, sorry if it is repeated...but I think there is also some other info in this letter.
The first thing I wanted to mention is that we still have not heard when the Montel Williams show with Jessie's story on it will be aired. I have been patiently waiting for a couple of weeks now to hear, but it is still not scheduled yet. I promise that I will let you all know when it will be on. I have had many, many emails from people asking me for the date, telling me they do not want to miss it and they really want to tape it. I have a feeling this will be a widely watched Montel show that day!
Also, we have several awesome fundraisers / raffles coming up. There is a fundraiser in Edmonton, AB on May 18th, there is a fundraiser in Calgary, AB on May 26th (more details available upon request or go to http://www.jessiefoster.ca/ and click on the Fundraiser link) and there are 2 super raffles coming up - info also available on website (draw dates on both are Sept. 2nd).
Raffle number 1 tickets are: $25 each or 5 for $100 (no cash value for prizes).
Tickets are available to anyone anywhere, the prizes will be crated & shipped to the winner no matter where they live:
1st prize is a 30" by 30" stained glass original artwork (picture available at http://www.jessiefoster.ca/ just click on the Fundraising link), designed, created and donated by award winning stained glass artist from Kamloops, Rosanna McDonnell / website: http://www.canvasofglass.com/. Approximate value: $1,500.00
2nd prize is original necklace with Jessie Stone (picture available soon at http://www.jessiefoster.ca/ just click on the Fundraising link), designed and created by local goldsmith Rob Clark from R&L Goldsmith and donated by Dennis Blais and Jessie's family. Approximate value: $1,200.00
Raffle number 2 tickets are: $25 each or 5 for $100 (cash value for prizes listed).
Tickets are available to anyone anywhere and are transferable. If the winner does not own a home or need a new roof, or does not own a vehicle, they may take the cash prizes:
1st prize is a new or re-roof for a residential building (materials & labour included). Specific details available upon request. Approximate value: $1,800.00 (NOTE: cash value: $1,000.00)
2nd prize is a complete car detailing including wash, wax, full interior with shampoo. Donated by local business owners Melissa & Dave Miller of MD Detailing. Approximate value: $400.00 (NOTE: cash value: $250.00)
Now the main news is I just wanted to let you know that my bestfriend, Brenda Rose and I will be going back to Las Vegas on May 23rd until the 31st so we can be there for Jessie's 23rd birthday on May 27th. We plan on visiting the officials we have seen and / or tried to see previously (such as the Mayors of LV and NLV, the Attorney General, the Governor of Nevada). I also hope to be able to meet with Terri Miller from ATLAS, visit again with Det. Molnar from NLVPD, Det. Mike Hope from Crime Stoppers, Mike Kirkman our PI, the bounty hunter - John, who we have 'met' after he read the article that was in the Las Vegas CityLife by Matt OBrien on February 1, 2007, and is now helping us with our investigation. I also want to meet the 1st bounty hunter, Bob, who contacted me in December about Jessie's disappearance.
There are several women who have contacted me from that article whom I would be honoured to meet...one who was in Jessies boyfriend at the time, Peter Todd's life for many years (since she was only 16 years old), one who is an ex-hooker who now has an organization called Hookers for Jesus (she has been giving out cards I sent her about Jessie), there is a woman who works for a gentleman's strip club who told me she is going to be 'keeping her eyes open' for info she may be able to send us. I also want to meet with the operator of the escort agency that Jessie worked for this woman knows Peter Todd and knows that Jessie was afraid of him (she herself is afraid of him). She told me that she cared for Jessie a great deal, and that Jessie did not belong in Las Vegas or in that lifestyle. She wanted me to know that Jessie was not like the other girls, that she was not a drug addict and that she told her several times to go home, Little Girl you do not belong here. There are several others who I hope to contact about meeting with them in Las Vegas, but if any of you there in LV who gets this email, please contact me to set up a time to meet with you when we are there.
Hopefully we can get Jessie's story in some newspapers and / or on the TV news while we are there. We were on ABC channel 13 Action News last year; maybe they will be willing to do another story. I will call and email them all! Jessies story, besides the LV CityLife, was also in the Las Vegas Sun 3 times. The 1st article was by Tom Gorman, the 2nd interview was by Abigail Goldman and the 3rd interview was by Tiffany Brown. I have to remind Las Vegas that Jessie is still missing and now is a possible victim of human trafficking.
If you have not heard it, you should listen to the live radio interview that I did with 630CHED from Edmonton, Alberta on April 18th from my hotel room in New York city when I was there taping the Montel show. Go to: www.630ched.com/station/club.cfm?pgs=Audio%20Vault%20Page&tg=http://www.630ched.com/station/audiovault_members.cfm&td=0, you have to sign up, but it just takes a moment, and listen to it. Informational Officer Tim Bedwell from NLVPD was also on that night. He talked about Peter Todd not having a legal source of income and we talked a little about ATLAS. It was a very good interview. It is only available online until May 18th, we are trying to get it saved to a CD, but have not got it so far.
There are a lot of things we have planned to do on this trip. Anyways, this is what we are doing and I wanted to let you know before we leave.
Take care, and hope to talk to you soon. Glendene (250-374-6137)