Vigil for Amber McFarland and Jennifer Catcheway, Sunday, December 21, 2008. The families sing Silent Night and speak to about 200 people in front of Portage City Hall.
About 200 people braved -25 degree temperatures and high windchills last night to support two Portage families.
A vigil for Amber Mcfarland and Jennifer Catcheway was held in front of City Hall.
Both have been missing for several months, in spite of continuous searching.
Jennifer's mother Berniece Catcheway calls this kind of response emotional and wonderful. She feels blessed and overwhelmed so many people would come out on such a cold night, especially at Christmas.
Catcheway isn't surprised so many people attended the vigil because of how the community pulled together in search efforts this summer.
Amber McFarland's mother Lori describes the feeling as heartwarming, with vigil in the middle of the busy Christmas season, as well as in frigid temperatures.
She feels the entire community has taken the two families' pain to heart.
Sunday, December 28
Vigil for Amber McFarland and Jennifer Catcheway, Sunday, December 21, 2008. The families sing Silent Night and speak to about 200 people in front of Portage City Hall.
By MICHELLE THOMPSON
By the time Shannon Collins was reported missing, her skull had long been discovered by a dog who mistook it for a plaything.
The 29-year-old Edmonton woman hadn't been seen for nearly a year before relatives filed a report with cops in September.
By then it was too late for Collins, whose remains were found in a wooded area of Strathcona County last summer.
On June 5, a homeowner in the rural Belvedere Heights subdivision found his dog playing with her skull in his backyard.
Project Kare - the RCMP-led task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of people who live high-risk lifestyles, including sex-trade workers - was consulted but isn't actively involved in this investigation.
But since forming five years ago, the task force has launched several initiatives that could reduce the likelihood of others like Collins meeting a similar fate.
Consisting of numerous investigators, Kare's proactive team immerses itself in the crevices of the sex trade, getting to know prostitutes trolling Edmonton streets for cash.
The team collects information - such as names, ages, and descriptions - from women working in the risky field.
About 90% of the women agree to turn over their stats, because they know that if they go missing, that information could help police find them more quickly.
"And they give us a DNA sample," said Kare team commander Staff Sgt. Kevin Simmill, adding grimly: "When we're telling them they may be murdered." Since launching in late 2003, Kare investigators have helped find 43 missing people leading high-risk lifestyles.
"They've been reported missing - and they've been found alive," Simmill said.
Kare workers have also helped about 50 prostitutes off the streets permanently.
In Edmonton, about 8,000 people are reported missing every year, with 96% being found within six months.
But Kare only investigates cases where those missing have a high chance of being at risk.
Cracking those cases can be especially challenging, but Kare has established a number of contacts with various agencies to more effectively trace the missing, said RCMP Supt. Mike Sekela, who's in charge of major crimes, plainclothes detectives, behavioural sciences and Project KARE.
"We're increasing the likelihood of successfully solving these files," Sekela said.
"We're tapped into so many social agencies. When we discover a fresh homicide, we reach out to those agencies - and the public at large." While Kare often investigates sinister disappearances, many people reported missing have vanished for other reasons.
Sometimes, folks wish to be estranged from their family, or have simply moved and not informed their circle of friends.
"Usually when someone goes missing, they don't fall off the face of the earth," said RCMP K-Division Cpl. Wayne Oakes.
"Just because a person goes missing doesn't always mean there's evil forces at hand."
THOSE STILL MISSING
Right now, there are five missing women listed on Project Kare's website.
Krystle Ann Julia Knott, then 16, and Rene Lynne Gunning, 19, were last seen at West Edmonton Mall on Feb. 18, 2005.
Both were believed to have started hitchhiking toward northern Alberta.
Neither has been heard from since.
Police are treating the disappearances as suspicious.
"We know they're not sex trade workers," said Kare Supt. Mike Sekela.
"But they had a high-risk lifestyle."
Meanwhile, Maggie Lee Burke was last seen Dec. 9, 2004, and reported missing eight days later.
The 21-year-old worked as a prostitute near 118 Avenue in Edmonton.
No one has seen Corrie Ottenbreit, 27, since May 9, 2005.
She was also a sex-industry worker who frequented 118 Avenue.
She vanished about a month before another prostitute, Rachel Quinney, was found slain.
Delores Dawn Brower, 33, was last seen by Kare members on May 13, about 5:40 a.m.
At that time, she was hitchhiking, trying to thumb a ride westbound on 118 Avenue.
Copyright © 2008, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.
Saturday, December 13
Friday, December 12, 2008
Women had been disappearing for years from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside before the Vancouver Police Department really started to look for a killer.
It didn't take a detective to figure it out, but the police and the elite of the city had another threat to combat.
Sure, woman after woman was listed as missing by family and friends, but because of their addresses, their occupations and their addictions, the wealthy didn't care.
Missing women? What missing women?
Yet when a string of garages were robbed the police sprung into action; a $100,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of the criminal who had been stealing mountain bikes and lawn mowers from the wealthiest residents in Shaughnessy.
It was the late 1990s, long before the jury in the Robert Willie Pickton would deliberate on his guilt or innocence in the murder of six of those missing women who, in the words of then-mayor Phillip Owen, would probably turn up in Calgary or Seattle or Portland.
I was in journalism school over the winter of 1998-1999, learning the ins and outs of covering the news, talking to politicians and dealing with media spokespeople. We had a field trip one day down to Vancouver Police headquarters to the media room where our class met with the then-ubiquitous Const. Anne Drennan.
Drennan was a familiar face in Vancouver in those days as she was on the news almost daily telling TV viewers about the crime du jour. I remember distinctly on the walls of the media room photograph after photograph of women families and friends had reported missing. Most of them looked rough after years of drug use, prostitution and hard living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside. Yet they were people, and they were missing.
There also was a poster advertising a $100,000 reward for the Shaughnessy garage robbers. One of those in my class, and I can't remember who, asked Const. Drennan why there would be a reward for the garage thieves and not for whoever was responsible for the missing women.
She gave a less than satisfactory response and more hardened reporters would have pounced I am sure, but still, those of us rookies in that room were confused by the juxtaposition. I personally was angered at the opulence of a reward provided by taxpayers to stop someone robbing rich people, while dozens of women were gone with little police effort being invested to find them.
It is almost a cliché to say it now, but it is so true that if even two or three daughters of Shaughnessy had gone missing an integrated task force would have been created and the search for the killer would have been relenteless.
But not for the "junkie scum" as at least one of those missing women knew they were viewed as by the likes of Owen and Drennan.
It didn't take a genius to see this might be the work of a serial killer, and while applying hindsight is arguably unfair to the police in this case, it did seem obvious. By the end of 1999 there were 60 women missing, almost all since the mid-1990s. No similar situations were happening in Calgary, Toronto or Montreal, yet Mayor Phillip Owen insisted on assuming these women just moved or were on vacation.
Keep focused on the missing lawn mowers.
But what I will never forget about that visit to Vancouver Police headquarters was when one of our group pursued the question, not with the force and authority of a Kim Bolan or a Terry Milewski, but as a humble J-school student, just wondering, why in the world do the police not see what is happening and put out a reward at least equal to the garage robbers?
Well, the steely-faced Const. Anne Drennan angrily barked back at us, "This is not a serial killer!"
I wonder if they ever did catch that garage robber. I hope Shaughnessy is safe again.
© Chilliwack Times 2008
Pickton tape given to police in 1998.
Friday, December 12
Friday, December 12, 2008
One year after serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of six counts of murder, Chilliwack resident Ernie Crey wonders if anyone will ever pursue charges in connection with the death of his sister.
Dawn Crey's DNA was found at Pickton's Coquitlam farm, but he was never charged with her murder. Pickton's appeal is pending, and even after that is addressed in the new year, Ernie is pessimistic about any resolution.
"The potential outcomes are that a new trial might be ordered on the six, which is really distressing," Crey told the Times. "Or, a new trial might be ordered on all 26. Or a third possibility is that the conviction is upheld, and that is really distressing too because I think that's where it will all end."
Pickton was charged with 26 counts of murder and the first trial was for six of them. But there are also five more families, Crey's among them, who had a loved one whose DNA was found on the farm yet no charges were laid.
At the anniversary of the Pickton convictions on Dec. 9, the First Nations Leadership Council--an organization comprised of executives from the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs--issued a press release to demand a public inquiry into the deaths of so many aboriginal women.
"The 2007 conviction of Robert Pickton brought a close to a sad chapter in the lives of six women; however, there has been no closure for many of the other victim's families," said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, a Soowahlie band member and member of the First Nations Summit political executive.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said there must be a full public inquiry into the "systemic deficiencies and failures within the criminal justice system" and how the missing and murdered women were treated.
"Police and civic officials must be held to account for their negligence," he said.
In November the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called on Canada to set up an inquiry to look into the more than 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP and Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Chuck Strahl said that he has recently met with Beverly Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. While he could not promise an inquiry would be held, he said he did agree to work with her to address the situation.
For Crey, the lack of outrage among First Nations leaders across Canada is also particularly disturbing.
"It's good when [the First Nations Leadership Council] get on board because to be perfectly honest there hasn't been any large hue and cry from the few hundred Indian bands in Canada," he said.
© Chilliwack Times 2008
Pickton farm yields 23rd woman's DNA-Jan 16, 2004
Families pay tribute to victim-Feb 2, 2004
Police build a bridge to families-Oct 4, 2001
Wednesday, December 10
ETHAN ROTBERG FOR METRO VANCOUVER
December 10, 2008 05:39
Only five people turned out for a memorial at Crab Park in Vancouver marking the one-year anniversary of serial killer Robert Pickton’s conviction.
Jayson Fleury, whose sister Mona Wilson was one of the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering, said there is no closure.
“We are looking for accountability,” Fleury said. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
Memorial held today to mark one year anniversary of Robert Pickton's conviction for six counts of murder
Tuesday, December 09 - 08:40:34 PM Jim Goddard
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The serial murder trial that captured headlines around the world wrapped up a year ago today with Robert Pickton being convicted of killing six women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
A lonely vigil was held today at Vancouver's Crab Park, where a boulder has been engraved to remember all the women who have disappeared from the area.
Sadly, just three people braved the cold, wet weather to take part in the ocean side vigil, where one of them threw flowers into the water and said a silent prayer.
Jayson Fleury, the brother of murder victim, Mona Wilson, held up a sign with a picture of his sister on it. Reporters asked him how he would like his sister remembered.
"The fact she tried to get off the streets. She tried in her last two, three years to get off the streets. She went from working the streets, to ‘squeegeeing’, to simple panhandling."
Fleury says they picked Crab Park as the memorial site for a special reason.
"This is where in 1999 there was the first acknowledgement that some of our women were actually disappearing."
Fleury adds victim family members still are demanding a public inquiry into why the Vancouver police ignored the missing women for so long.
© 2007 Rogers Communications Inc. ™Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.
Monday, December 8
Next week marks first anniversary of conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton - Yahoo! Canada News
THE CANADIAN PRESS
November 6, 2008
VANCOUVER, B.C. — A dubious anniversary in the annals of depravity occurs Tuesday when it will be one year since a jury found Robert Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder.
Gasps and muffled screams erupted in a New Westminster courtroom on a dreary December day a year ago when the jury foreman announced Pickton was not guilty of first-degree murder.
The gasps were silenced when the foreman immediately announced a guilty verdict on second-degree murder.
The same verdict followed on remaining five counts and Pickton - showing the same lack of emotion that characterized his demeanour through most of the year-long trial - was sentenced to life in prison. He can apply for parole after he serves 25 years.
The 59-year-old social misfit was convicted of the killings of Mona Wilson, Marnie Frey, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe, Sereena Abotsway and Andrea Joesbury.
He was a frequent visitor to the drug-infested epicentre of the Downtown Eastside and his victims all lived or spent much of their time there.
The case has been remarkable for its longevity.
The killings Pickton is accused of committing span several years. He was arrested in February 2002 and it took almost five years for a jury to announce its verdict.
Marilyn Kraft, whose daughter Cindy Feliks is one of the remaining 20 cases, is worn down by the ordeal.
"It's been 11 years now (since her daughter's disappearance). It's been a long time. I think everybody is very tired. I know I'm exhausted from it."
Following his arrest, an army of investigators searched Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam literally centimetre by centimetre for two years.
Lawyers argued legal issues for a year before a jury ever heard a word of testimony in court once the trial began in January 2007.
Another chapter starts in late March when appeals launched by the defence and Crown go before the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The self-described "little old pig farmer" has been charged with 26 murders and could still face the remaining 20 counts, depending on the outcome of the appeal.
The province's highest court could order a new trial on the six counts, or a new trial on all 26 counts he initially faced before Williams divided the charges in a 2006 ruling.
The appeal court could also uphold the six convictions, allowing the Crown to abandon a trial on the remaining 20.
Kate Gibson of the Women's Information Safe House (WISH) on the Downtown Eastside, suggested little has changed as a result of Pickton's devastation.
"The situations women face on the street every day aren't any different," said Gibson. "There are still people that die every day from the effects of the life that they lead."
She has no doubt there are "plenty of other predators out there. He wasn't the only one."
Sue Davis, a sex-trade worker and member of Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE), says funding for programs has been hampered by the federal Conservative government.
"It becomes frustrating when people are dying waiting for funding. The Conservatives have shifted everything. We were on the cusp of something before they came into power."
She and Gibson say police presence and interest have improved due to the Pickton case.
"In no other city in this country are the police as open and coming forward, like trying new things," said Davis.
Wayne Leng, a friend of one of Pickton's alleged victims who operates a website devoted to the missing women, says most people that follow the case are focused on the appeal and "whether there will be a second trial."
But his website is now read widely and it has sparked an awareness of not only missing women, but those caught in the web of drug addiction and the sex trade.
"What I'm finding is that there is more of a coming together, like a huge network, even down into Mexico," says Leng, who now lives and works in California.
"It's not happening fast but we are joining each other's groups.
"There's more of an interest among people who are interested in the topic of violence against women."
While Gibson was hard-pressed to find major change, she points to some small advances.
"People (sex-trade workers) are a lot more vigilant than they used to be and if somebody thought someone was missing, it would come to light a lot sooner."
Many of the missing women whose names surfaced in connection with the Pickton investigation were not reported missing for weeks and sometimes months.
Sex-trade workers in the Downtown Eastside have always known and contributed to a "bad date sheet" that is circulated. That sheet now makes the rounds weekly instead of monthly, says Gibson.
Society in general, she says, is now more aware of the horrors of the Downtown Eastside.
"It has made people more aware of the situation that women face out on the street. It's not so taboo to speak about."
Groups like WISH and PACE and others set up to assist the disadvantaged are seeing increased funding from the province, the city and from private donations, says Gibson.
It's been almost seven years since Pickton's arrest and a debate continues about what to do with the property that hasn't already been developed into townhouses.
Ideas have included a memorial garden and even a public cemetery.
Kraft will have none of it, saying most of the victims' families are opposed to a memorial.
"We don't want anything on that site at all for our girls. To me, you would be memorializing their deaths and it's like a killing field to me.
"I don't care what they do with that land. I just don't want Cindy's name on it."
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Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Kristen Thompson, Metro Vancouver
08 December 2008 07:37
Almost a year to the day since Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering six women from the Downtown Eastside, little has changed for sex trade workers, say some spokespeople for marginalized women.
Kate Gibson, with WISH, a drop-in centre for sex-trade workers in the area, said it’s a misconception that violence against women there has subsided since Pickton’s arrest.
Between 80 and 140 women seek refuge at WISH each night to escape violence or have somewhere safe to sleep.
“We have bad-date reports all the time,” said Gibson.
But she said until people realize the immediate need for housing and act on that need, women will continue living dangerous lives to survive.
Claire Trevena, NDP critic for child care and women’s issues, added that these issues are compounded by the fact there’s no provincial ministry for women.
“There’s no central focus for women in this province and there hasn’t been in the last eight years,” she said.
“The question of prostitution … is not one that any one ministry would solve,” she said. “But … having one ministry would help focus and tackle (women’s issues) more clearly.”
by Robert Hirtle
November 8, 2008
LUNENBURG - To most people the subject is, at best, disturbing.
But for Stevie Cameron, documenting the murder trial of British Columbia pig farmer Robert Pickton was "the best research and writing experience of my life."
Ms Cameron, who is a veteran newspaper, magazine and television journalist and a former host of CBC's "Fifth Estate," has devoted the last several years of her career to writing books.
Among her more memorable efforts are "On the Take," a recount of the Brian Mulroney years of government, and "The Last Amigo," which highlights the activities of Karlheinz Schreiber in the notorious Airbus scandal.
For the last six years, however, much of Ms Cameron's life has been dedicated to covering the story of the dozens of prostitutes who began disappearing off the streets of East Vancouver back in 1995, most of whom turned up murdered on Robert Pickton's farm located about 30 kilometres outside the city.
Ms Cameron, who has written one book on the subject entitled "The Pickton File," is now working on a second effort, "The Pig Farm," set to publish when the second Pickton trial has wrapped up and a publication ban on evidence has finally been lifted.
In Lunenburg recently to address a gathering of the Lunenburg County First! Chowder Club, Ms Cameron outlined the gruesome details of the Pickton case – how the defendant lured drug-addicted prostitutes from Vancouver's downtown east side to a filthy mobile home on his pig farm where, after engaging in sex, he stabbed, shot or strangled them.
He then dismembered their bodies in his slaughterhouse and stashed the remains in barrels, pits and freezers or fed them to the pigs.
Some were even taken to a rendering plant which turned them into tallow for cosmetics, fertilizer or animal feed.
Despite the enormity of the crimes for which Mr. Pickton was being tried, Ms Cameron said word of what was really happening inside the courtroom did not get out to the public during the first trial.
"News reports appeared most days, but the stories were very, very short and perfunctory," she explained. "There were 378 journalists accredited to that story and almost no one ever came. Their bosses reacted to the public horrors of this case, so they just pulled right back. The readers were sending them complaints about the stories and they didn't want to read this, so they buried the stories and they cut them."
The court also instituted a crippling publication ban which resulted in many of the details of the case being restricted from public scrutiny.
"To this day, a huge amount of this case is still under a ban," she explained. "He was found guilty on six counts of murder last year and was sentenced to 25 years without a chance of parole. But you probably know that there are still 20 first-degree counts of murder [outstanding] and that he is supposed to go to trial on these counts. This publication ban is on the 20 … so the judge pulls any evidence against the six that affects that trial."
Ms Cameron said the trial not only represents the biggest criminal investigation in Canadian history in terms of manpower, with hundreds of people working on the case, but is also the longest trial ever undertaken in this country - seven years and counting - and has cost the Canadian taxpayer in the neighbourhood of $200 million.
It is also the largest crime scene in Canadian history with 14 acres of land that had to be painstakingly searched, "and it was also the only trial I have ever come across with 18 lawyers and 13 paralegals all working for one man.
"Willie Pickton. And on your nickel."
Although Mr. Pickton has been charged with 26 murders, the actual number of prostitutes he has killed is likely much higher.
Following his arrest in 2002, he told an undercover police officer in his cell that he had killed 49 women and was "aiming for 50," and that "after a little break," he planned on killing another 25.
Ms Cameron said that over a 20-year span beginning in the 1980s, the numbers bear out his claim as a total of 69 women disappeared from the city's east side during that period.
She pointed out that Mr. Pickton and his brother were known to police, and in fact he was charged with attacking a prostitute at his trailer in 1997 but that action was quashed when his victim refused to appear in court.
Police also had a tip in 1998 that Mr. Pickton was taking prostitutes from the east side to his Port Coquitlam farm and by 1999 he was considered "the number 1 suspect in the case," yet no investigation was started.
"So, why did it take so long to catch him?" she asked. "Because the Vancouver police didn't want to admit for a second that there was a serial killer in their city. This is the first big story of the Pickton case - the Vancouver Police Department's failure."
© 2008 Lighthouse Media Group
Friday, December 5
Friday, December 05, 2008
To the editor:
I have been deeply conflicted about the idea of building a memorial site on the Pickton property where my sister was murdered. I have been struck by my own internal struggle when people have tried to talk to me about it, including Michael McCarthy, who wrote the piece in the Nov. 21 Courier, in which I am quoted. ("On hallowed ground.")
Now that I have read his piece, heard from several people in response to it, and reflected on my own feelings, I would like to say a little more than I did to him on the phone.
McCarthy quotes me as saying that I am tired of talking about the topic of memorial services. What I meant was that the topic fills me with a terrible weariness. I did not mean that I don't think that people should be talking about them, nor did I wish to diminish in any way the significance of the decision to be made about the Pickton property.
In his article, McCarthy refers to an existing memorial in Crab Park. I would like to clarify that two memorials stand in Crab Park at the foot of Main Street. A beautiful large stone was dedicated in 1997 in memory of all who have been murdered. On seeing that stone after my sister's death, I realized that Crab Park was the right spot for a memorial for the missing women, so in 1999 we dedicated a bench in their memory.
The bench faces the ocean and bears a small plaque that reads "In memory of L. Coombes, S. de Vries, M. Frey, H. Hallmark, J. Henry, A Jardine, K. Koski, S. Lane, J. Murdock, D. Spence & all other women who are missing. With our love. May 12, 1999."
I was able to include only the first initials because of the small size of the plaque permitted by the park board. At the time, only the families of those 10 women wished their loved ones' names included.
Since then, I have heard about several other memorials that are being thought about or are being worked on, from the most private (for individual women) to the most public. I have found that I have not wanted to get involved, but I have been glad to know of them.
When I first heard the idea of a memorial right on the Pickton property, I did not like the idea. Then I decided that if some families and friends of the missing women would find such a memorial meaningful, it should happen, but I would not want to visit it.
Then, over the last 10 days, I have had trouble not snarling at people or bursting into tears whenever anyone mentioned the possible memorial garden or the article in the Courier. I did not try to get a copy of the paper once I had heard the article was there, and even when a friend gave a rolled-up copy to me on Thursday, it took me until Sunday to remove the elastic band and skim what was written.
I think that the reason for my resistance is that this discussion brings me closer once again to a truth that I can hardly bear: my sister's blood and bones are in that earth. Those few sordid square kilometres, however much I may revolt against the fact, are Sarah's (and many others') final resting place, and that, I believe, makes that ground sacred.
I do not want a parking lot or someone's home built on top of our loved ones' remains. A memorial garden seems fitting, while nothing else seems right.
Maggie de Vries,
© Vancouver Courier 2008
Tuesday, December 2
Paul J. Henderson
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
A United Nations (UN) human rights body has called for an investigation into the 500-plus missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, and local MP and Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl said he would address the issue.
In what is being called a rare step, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Canada to set up an inquiry to look at the failure of law enforcement agencies to investigate properly, and to "take necessary steps to remedy the deficiencies in the system."
The UN CEDAW committee has asked Canada to respond to its recommendations within one year, and to recognize "the gravity of the documented disappearance and murders of 511 Aboriginal women and girls from communities across Canada."
In response to the CEDAW report issued Nov. 7, the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council and the National Assembly of First Nations called on the government to conduct a full public inquiry.
During a conference call with local media Thursday, Strahl said he had met with Beverly Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, about the matter, and that he would work with her to address the situation.
"Whether that needs to be a formal inquiry on this or not, we've agreed to work with Ms. Jacobs and several other departments," he said.
When asked if the government would meet CEDAW's timeline, Strahl said he agreed to address the issues, but that he had just met with Jacobs Nov. 27 so it was too early to confirm.
And while he didn't suggest an inquiry was out of the question, Strahl did say that it wasn't something his department would undertake.
"I'm not going to launch an inquiry because it would have to come from the Justice Department," he said.
Local Sto:lo member Ernie Crey whose sister Dawn's remains were found at Robert Pickton's Coquitlam pig farm said he was happy to see B.C.'s top aboriginal leaders taking a stand on the need for an inquiry into the thousands of missing aboriginal women.
"Here in B.C. the disappearance of dozens of woman, many of them aboriginal, remains a mystery," Crey told the Times. "Once the Pickton case is wrapped up, there needs to be an inquiry into what happened on the Downtown Eastside (DTES) over the last two decades. How did so many women go missing from right under the noses of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD)? Even after the community raised the possibility that a serial killer might be stalking the DTES, the VPD scoffed at the idea. British Columbians want to know what went wrong and what can be done to make sure such a horrible thing never happens again in B.C."
© Chilliwack Times 2008
December 1, 2008
In the CTV Original Documentary Peace Warrior
Saturday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.
This intimate, one-hour documentary offers an exclusive look into Captain Trevor Greene’s courageous struggle to recover from a horrific axe attack in Afghanistan.
Former Will & Grace star Eric McCormack provides narration.
In March 2006, Captain Trevor Greene was ambushed from behind and struck in the head with an axe that plunged deep into his brain as he sat down to talk to villagers in Afghanistan.
News of the horrific attack made headlines across Canada, as the Canadian officer who went to the war-torn country to spread peace was instead left fighting for his life. In the exclusive CTV original documentary, Peace Warrior, Vancouver filmmaker Sue Ridout provides intimate access to Greene’s remarkable journey as he first fights to survive the near-fatal attack, and then struggles to reclaim some measure of his former life.
Of all the stories to emerge from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, the axe attack on Captain Greene is among the most shocking. Beloved by friends and family for his larger-than-life personality, Greene, a 41-year-old reserve officer from Vancouver, was attending a routine village meeting or “shura” north of Kandahar when he was attacked by a young Afghani. Greene regularly attended these meetings as he travelled around Afghanistan with an army platoon, helping the Afghan people rebuild their country.
Greene was not expected to live. He spent the next year in Vancouver General Hospital, nearly dying several times. Doctors predicted that he would never come out of his coma, let alone speak or have any movement again. Amazingly, he proved them all wrong.
With the unwavering love and support of his fiancée, Debbie, and from a deep desire to be an active father to their young daughter Grace, Greene eventually transferred to a brain injury rehabilitation program in Alberta, where he made inspiring progress.
Through candid interviews with friends, family and fellow soldiers who witnessed the attack, Peace Warrior builds an intimate portrait of a man whose strong will and positive attitude, combined with his peak physical and mental shape before the attack, allow him to surpass everyone’s expectations, despite his devastating brain injury.
Bad Date The Lost Girls of Vancouver's Low Track by Trevor Greene
Closing Bigger - Trevor Greene, Author, Journalist, Entrepreneur
Friday, November 28
Friday, November 28, 2008
To the editor:
Re: "On hallowed ground," Nov. 21.
I am writing in regards to the article on using the Pickton land for a memorial park.
My name is Lori-Ann Ellis and I am the sister in-law of Cara Ellis, one of the girls awaiting justice in this terrible case. I was so upset when I heard about this idea I felt sick to my stomach. I would no more send my child to play at a park made on the ground of this horrible crime than fly to the moon. To build a park and call it a memorial just draws more attention--all negative. Like the police letting this happen long after Pickton was a person of interest. This man was allowed to get away with these murders and was left unchecked.
I know that my mother in-law (Cara's mom) would not even step on the land where her daughter was murdered in such a degrading way. She is not the only one to feel this way.
If you are going to make a memorial for these girls, one that would honour them, try putting money into projects that help others to get off the streets. Stop closing the rehab centres. Stop the police from looking the other way when something goes wrong. Don't hide the problem during the upcoming Olympics.
The world needs to see what happens when society looks the other way. They need to face and fix the problem, and they are not going to do so by building a pretty park and hiding behind the names of the murdered girls. Honour them by making sure that this will never happen again. That is what we need.
The city that helped to let this problem get so big should step up and build a proper tribute to these girls. Every day on the Downtown Eastside people look away from this problem. You cannot do this by pretending it is not there.
These are the sisters and daughters and wives and mommies of families. We deserve more of a memorial than the land that held their bone fragments.
Shame on you, Vancouver, for thinking such a thing. Shame, shame, shame.
Would you want someone having a picnic on your mom's grave?
© Vancouver Courier 2008
Thursday, November 27
November 27, 2008
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Pickton family has lost a legal bid to change the zoning classification of the notorious pig farm where Robert Pickton killed six women.
Pickton, his brother David and sister Linda Wright asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to review a decision that reclassified the land as residential - significantly increasing property taxes.
A property assessment review panel ruled in 2003 that the land should be classified as residential and not a mix of residential and light industry, which it had been classified before.
The Picktons wanted the value of the land to be set at less than $1 million, but the panel instead assessed it as residential land with a value of more than $4 million in 2004.
The family argued that those earlier decisions failed to acknowledge that the land was off-limits from February 2002 until about December 2003 as police searched the property for evidence against Pickton.
But B.C. Supreme Court Judge Austin Cullen says the Picktons failed to appeal the earlier decision - which was held up by an appeal panel - and never offered any evidence to suggest the assessment was unreasonable.
Robert Pickton was sentenced last December to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years after he was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.
He was convicted of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.
Pickton's appeal of the six convictions is due to start next March.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Forget memorial idea
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I disagree with The Province that the Pickton farm should be turned into a memorial park or graveyard if it becomes government property.
If you turn that farm into a memorial, the only one who people will remember is Willy Pickton, not his victims.
And what of the $10-million legal bill? How would that be paid? And how will a memorial park stop poor women from becoming drug-addicted prostitutes? The property should be sold and developed into a commercial site such as a driving range or a big box store. Or it could be filled with organic material and maintained as an organic farm.
Either way, sell it before the property values drop another 30 per cent.
Rick Cheyne, Surrey
© The Vancouver Province 2008
Wednesday, November 26
By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times Staff
Nov 24, 2008
Supporters of Vancouver's missing women want the farm of Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton turned into a memorial park instead of being developed for big-box stores or condominiums.
They're calling for the 14-acre property to be made into a public cemetery with a memorial wall and gardens in honor of the 69 missing and murdered women from Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside neighborhood.
The Province of British Columbia has had a $10 million lien on the farm since August 2003, about a year after legal proceedings against Pickton began in 2002. The women’s supporters, however, are dismayed that the property could be sold. They say the Pickton farm is a cemetery and should be viewed as such and treated with dignity.
“To sell that property for development is irresponsible. How could we as a society contemplate erasing what happened there?” says Tom Crean, founder and director the Partners in Care Alliance, a non-profit organization that runs a fund for the missing women.
“There are 500 women listed as missing today in western Canada alone. There needs to be a permanent memorial and not just to the 69 women that are missing on the Downtown Eastside. We need a memorial to all of those women—There needs to be acknowledgement,” says Crean.
About two dozen people rallied at the Pickton farm recently in solidarity with the missing women's families and friends who undertook a 70-hour vigil in recognition of the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25.
The proposed memorial would have a “wall of remembrance” inscribed with the names of the murdered and missing women, many of whom are aboriginal.
A pig farmer, Pickton was arrested after police discovered human remains in one of the farm's slaughterhouses. After killing his victims, Pickton dismembered and gutted them, feeding the remains to his pigs.
In an unprecedented investigation, the entire farm was declared a crime scene—the largest in Canadian history. Over 150 investigators and forensics and archeology experts were part of a 21-month search, including 102 anthropology students who painstakingly sifted through every inch of soil.
After an 11-month trial, Pickton was convicted last December of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. He still faces murder charges in the deaths on 20 women, most of whom were prostitutes from the Downtown Eastside.
The farm, located in Port Coquitlam, about 40 kilometers east of Vancouver, is currently owned by Pickton and two of his siblings.
Copyright © 2000–2008
Tuesday, November 25
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Several dozen representatives from Vancouver's largest ethnic and faith communities gathered at the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam on Saturday to request that the provincial and municipal governments designate the notorious property for public use and benefit.
One of the speakers at the weekend rally was UFV English professor and author Dr. Trevor Carolan, who has worked as a media advocate on behalf of international human rights, Aboriginal land claims, and B.C. logging and watershed issues.
Together with the group Partners in Care Alliance and other community, city and ethnic representatives, Carolan called for the designation of the 14-acre site as a not-for-profit public cemetery and a commemorative garden of remembrance for the 69 murdered and missing women of Vancouver and those of the so-called northern Highway of Tears.
The gathering was the beginning of a 69-day appeal to support the designation of the farm as a public cemetery and Garden of Remembrance.
With gardens and a permanent Wall of Remembrance inscribed with the names of the murdered and missing women, they believe that the site can become a place of healing, of hope and of honour.
Dr. Carolan took the podium alongside speakers that included family and friends of the victims, MLA Linda Reid; Métis poet Joanne Arnot; Pastor Darrell Peregrym; Aziz Khaki, Muslim Association of Canada; and Art Cowie, former chair Vancouver Parks Board.
Carolan began writing professionally at age 17, filing dispatches from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury music scene. His publications have been translated into five languages and include 12 books of non-fiction, memoir, poetry and translation. He also served as literary co-ordinator for the Olympics in Calgary.
© Abbotsford Times 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The site where Robert Pickton committed his unthinkable crimes is owned by the pig farmer and his two siblings. The B.C. government has placed a $10-million lien on the property to help recoup legal costs attached to Pickton's defence.
If the government end up with the property, as it ought to, we hope debate on what to do with the land focuses entirely on respectfully honouring the victims. That said, any suggestion of developing the land for residential or commercial use should be immediately turned aside.
Who would want to run a business from this site? Who would want to work on this site? And here is a rhetorical question that should eliminate any chance of residential development: Who would want to live on this site? The debate on what to do with this land should include only two options: 1. Maintain it as a graveyard -- a grim reminder of the crimes that occurred and the inaction of a society to deal with a crisis we ignored for years; 2. Turn it into a memorial park, as suggested by former MLA Art Cowie.
We like the idea of a memorial park with a memorial wall honouring the women killed by this horrible man.
It is hard to imagine this will ever be a happy park. But it can become a place for all of us to remember the women we forgot with such tragic results.
© The Vancouver Province 2008
Friday, November 21
Ending violence against women begins at home
Special to the Sun
Friday, November 21, 2008
CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun files
Vigils, like this one in Surrey, are held to bring attention to the issue of violence against women.
WASHINGTON - The "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" campaign runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. The dates are not accidental: Nov. 25 is the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day.
These 16 days are a bridge between thinking of gender violence as a "women's issue" and understanding it as a human rights concern that touches us all.
Deadly discrimination cuts short women's lives in every country and stalks us at every point in our life-cycle: from before birth, in sex-selective abortion and infanticide; to childhood death from neglect in food and medicine; to genital mutilation; so-called "honour" killings; dowry deaths; sex trafficking; rape; systematic mass rape and torture in war zones, and inadequate maternal health care.
Taken together, around the globe, one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. In some regions of the world, that figure rises to 70 per cent.
Across diverse cultures and societies, one element unifies this savagery -- the willingness to dehumanize women.
These 16 days affirm women's rights in the world not in terms of what we do for our husbands or families, but simply in terms of who we are: human beings. Humans, who deserve dignity and the ability to go about our lives free from violence and fear.
For too many women, the place where we ought to feel the most safe is in fact the most dangerous. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than in any other aspect of our lives.
Domestic violence happens behind closed doors, making it easy to dismiss as a private issue or a tragedy of interest only to the affected family. However, the consequences of violence in the home radiate outward and upward, affecting communities and entire nations.
In the U.S. alone, the economic cost of domestic violence exceeds $5.8 billion US per year in health care services and lost productivity. A 2004 study in the U.K. that computed both direct and indirect costs of domestic violence arrived at a figure of £23 billion per year, or £440 per citizen.
Regardless of the society in which it takes place, domestic violence ruptures families. It breeds poverty, inequality and instability, and affects the standing of governments in the eyes of the world; the greatness of nations is always measured by how they treat their most at-risk citizens.
Most countries have laws that criminalize the assault component of domestic violence, but, according to a 2006 UN study, only 89 recognize the special combination of physical and emotional brutality -- the particular circumstances brought about by the unique personal bonds between perpetrator and victim -- that characterize domestic violence. Those laws are urgently needed.
We need partnerships between NGOs and legislative bodies, so their expertise and experience can inform the laws. And we need more thorough data collection, so that policies can be targeted and effective.
But laws and policies are empty gestures without stringent implementation and enforcement. Enforcement must recognize that domestic violence offenses have been separated from assault categories because their characteristics are different, and not because the crimes are any less serious.
We need consistent guidelines and training for police and social workers. We need courtroom procedures that allow privacy and confidentiality for victims, which can be as simple as allowing video testimony, or restricting courtroom access. We need expansion of the proven success of "one-stop centres" that offer inter-agency health and legal services for victims.
Most of all, we need political will from governments to adhere to international standards and norms. We need leaders who will insist that women have equal worth, equal value, and deserve equal protection and respect.
A scant 16 days will not accomplish these goals. But 16 days are a start -- a good start, if they can serve as the fuse that inspires us to examine our attitudes and take action all the other 349 days of the year.
Andrea Bottner is the director of the U.S. State Department's office of international women's issues.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
It's 11 a.m. on Remembrance Day and a cold drizzle falls from a darkened sky. A large crowd has gathered at the Cenotaph in Victory Square in the Downtown Eastside to remember those fallen in past wars.
Honouring the memories of those killed in conflicts is a noble tradition, but there's an ongoing war in the battlezone that is the Downtown Eastside, where the dishonoured have no memorial and few care to remember their names. They are the missing women of poverty and neglect--murdered sex trade workers whose less-than-noble work no one wants to talk about and whose numbers no one really knows.
A group of community caregivers and faith leaders wants to rectify that oversight and create a proper memorial for all the bereaved that other communities can follow. After all, it's not the dead who need ceremonies; it's the living who have to deal with the pain of loss.
Down the street from Victory Square, on the waterfront at Crab Park, is a small memorial to the 69 missing women from the Downtown Eastside. The memorial is a four-by-10-inch stone placed there by Maggie de Vries, sister of murdered sex trade worker Sarah de Vries, whose remains were found at the Port Coquitlam farm owned by Robert Pickton. He was found guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women and sentenced to life in prison in December 2007.
An appeal has been scheduled for March 30, 2009. Pickton has been charged with 20 more counts of murder, but B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal has said a second trial will not go ahead if the six convictions are upheld.
Other informal memorials can be found in the Downtown Eastside, but no official publicly funded memorial for the missing women has ever been built.
"Yes, I'd like to see a proper memorial built somewhere," says de Vries, who wrote Missing Sarah to help deal with the loss of her sister. "If you go to the downtown train station you'll see a memorial to the 14 women who were murdered in Montreal. Why can't some sort of similar memorial be built here in Vancouver?"
At his home near Cambie and 33rd next to Queen Elizabeth Park, Art Cowie has a plan to create such a memorial. The former Liberal MLA, city councillor and chair of the parks board is a professional community planner, landscape architect and government affairs consultant who sees "green, living memorial gardens," and not grim traditional cemeteries comprised of spooky gravestones and stark mausoleums, as the best way to honour the memories of the dead, whether soldiers, street workers or anyone else.
"My education was in landscaping and forestry and my career has been in planning, so when my time comes I want my ashes spread under a tree in a park," says Cowie, 74. "But not necessarily the park across the street. These days, about 80 per cent of people in B.C. choose a cremation, and often the ashes are spread beneath a tree or by a park bench or tossed off the back of a boat. Those are not officially designated spaces, and it's illegal to spread ashes in certain public places, and in those instances there is no opportunity for a proper public ceremony. I think, as a community, we can do much better than that."
What Cowie envisions is a new kind of cemetery, one in which the emphasis is placed on memories, where family and friends can visit on a regular basis to honour the lives of the deceased, in a park-like setting replete with flowers, birds, trees, sculpture, walls and paths. They might also include electronic kiosks in a building where stories of the lives of the deceased may be stored in cyber-space along with photos and digital family trees containing histories of the deceased and past generations.
It's exactly that kind of memorial garden Cowie and an organization called PICA (Professionals in Care Alliance, a local group of clergy, funeral home operators, nurses, counsellors and others concerned with the bereavement process) want to create. They believe they have found the perfect site for such a memorial park but the location may shock many--it's the 14-acre Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam where Pickton murdered and disposed of the bodies of Vancouver sex trade workers.
"Right now the site is sitting empty, although I believe a proposal has been made to build condos on the location," says Cowie. "Nobody in their right mind would ever want to buy any condo on that site. Can you imagine living on grounds where so many women were killed? I believe I've heard figures saying the land is worth up to $14 million, or a million per acre, but the land would only be worth that much if it were zoned residential. Right now it's in the agricultural land reserve, which means it's only worth about $1.4 million, and it would have to go through an extended process to be removed from the ALR. But if it were turned into a park, no such removal process would be necessary."
According to a 2005 Canadian Press report, the property has a mortgage principal of $10 million with no interest rate and no repayment schedule. The lender is listed as the B.C. Crown, represented by the Attorney General's office. B.C. Assessment, which tracks property values for tax purposes, currently values the 14-acre pig farm at about $5.9 million, up from $4.2 million in the previous assessment. The property is zoned for agricultural use, although the surrounding land--some of it former Pickton property--has been rezoned and big box stores and condominiums have been built there. Officials in the attorney general's office have not publicly said whether the $10 million figure is an estimate of the properties' future value or a ballpark figure for the cost of Pickton's defence.
"Every community with a population over 25,000 should have a memorial park," says Cowie. "A place where people actually want to go, a park-like setting with living things, not some spooky cemetery where nobody feels comfortable. The memorial park concept is a passion of mine, and there is a very strong need for it, especially here in Vancouver where we are rapidly running out of cemetery space and real estate is at a premium."
It's the increasing shortage of burial space in many communities that will drive the change to modernize municipal cemeteries, says Cowie.
The huge wave of aging baby boomers is sure to exacerbate the crisis in coming years. The Lower Mainland is already desperately short of cemeteries, whether for burials or cremations. There are 22 large cemeteries in the Greater Vancouver region. Ten municipalities own and operate the cemeteries and all, says Cowie, are in dire need of renewal or expansion now or in the next few years.
Currently, Robinson Memorial Gardens in Coquitlam is the only memorial park in the Lower Mainland. Cowie designed it as an answer to a perplexing issue--not just where to bury the deceased but how to properly revere their memories in perpetuity. When its small 2.1-hectare cemetery closed to new burials in 1995, the city was forced into action. Council took a risk and went looking for an innovative solution--a one-hectare largely unused treed area of the adjacent cemetery was transformed into a green park with memorial walls, memorial columns, sculpture and gardens.
Cowie says surrounding residents at first opposed the project but now speak highly of the improvements. "It's funny. The same people who opposed the project are the same ones who now recognize me when I come there." So, with a successful design to be followed, Cowie suggests that a larger memorial park be designed for everyone in the Lower Mainland to share, regardless of faith, creed or occupation.
Cowie met with Attorney General Oppal last week to discuss turning the controversial Pickton farm into a memorial park, and says Oppal agreed that "it is a very interesting idea." The proposal to transform the Pickton property into hallowed ground comes as a surprise to many. Maggie de Vries wants a memorial, but the idea of using the Pickton farm as the location gives her pause.
"I am conflicted about the possibility of memorial gardens being built there," she says. "I have been to many memorial services for the murdered women, at churches and funeral homes, and I am tired of talking about this topic. I can't imagine any condos ever being built on the Pickton farm, and I certainly hope that never happens. But, yes, I think a memorial garden [for the missing women] somewhere is a good idea."
There could be more opposition to the proposal. In 2002, Karin Joesbury, mother of missing Andrea Joesbury, filed a civil lawsuit to prevent the Pickton farm from being used as a memorial site. In a report posted on the Canadian Women's Health Network website, Lynn Frey, the mother of another victim, wants the costs of Pickton's defence to come out of his assets and is torn on what should happen to the properties. She was quoted as being against a memorial park and wanted to see the monies divided between all the victims' families and their children, many of whom are in government care.
Transforming the Pickton farm into a memorial garden seems to be a surprising proposition to many people, even one woman who helped blow the whistle on the murders to the Vancouver police department.
Jamie Lee Hamilton, a sex worker advocate, had many good friends among the murdered women. The former Downtown Eastside Residents' Association board member founded Grandma's House, a sanctuary for street workers, and sat on the board of PACE (Prostitution Awareness and Action Committee). She's a board member of the Greater Vancouver Native Health Society and is working on a UBC-funded report on the history of Vancouver sex trade workers.
She recently lost a bid to sit as a parks board commissioner in last weekend's municipal election.
"At first I thought the idea was shocking, and the whole history of what happened at Pickton farm evokes so much sadness that a lot of people don't want to deal with the issue anymore," says Hamilton. "But the more I think about the idea the more logical it becomes. Now I am actually in support of the proposal. It's turning a negative into a real positive, and that's really necessary if we want to go forward and complete the healing and reconciliation process, but what is really needed is consultation with the community. I would encourage debate about this, and I am willing to try to track down the family members and talk to the workers and community leaders in the Downtown Eastside. Often there are a lot of naysayers who oppose anything new, especially if they are not consulted, but what better use could that land ever be put to?"
In order to start the consultation process, Michael Markwick, a member of PICA's advisory board, says a "vigil" will be held at the Pickton farm tomorrow at 11 a.m. (Nov. 22). Members of several faith groups are expected to attend in support of the memorial.
"We'll be reaching out and trying to find families who have been affected by this tragedy," Marwick says. "It's important to have them involved from the beginning. This is about offering hope, to turn this desecrated land into the most sacred spot in B.C."
Markwick says PICA will incorporate the Eternal Garden of Hope Society to operate the site if the province agrees to donate it. The board would be comprised of members from the four biggest faith communities in Vancouver, affected families, and representatives of the largest ethnic groups, whether Chinese, South Asian or Filipino, who are also lacking in cemetery space.
"The proposed 10-acre memorial park would be surrounded by a 4.5-acre community walking trail in a deciduous tree and garden setting. Over 1,200 nursery grown trees 12 feet in height will be planted," says Cowie, showing his designs. "The entrance will lead to a small lake with fountains surrounded by a formal memorial garden and pedestrian entrance to a contemporary chapel and offices. There will be numerous gardens and lawn burial and cremation areas for a variety of groups who express an interest in supporting the memorial garden in a non-profit facility."
Because society failed these women and their families, PICA proposes to start a Missing Women's Memorial Fund. "I think we could have up to 500 names on a wall of all the women who have gone missing all across Canada," says PICA founder Tom Crean, of Kearney Funeral Homes on West Broadway. "From the sale of 1,000 plots per year on the site, we could also provide $400 per plot to the Missing Women's Fund, or up to $400,000 on an annual basis. We could also perhaps provide scholarships and aid to groups trying to research solving the problem of violence against women, or helping care for the children of victims."
Father Michael Fourik, pastor of Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church at 43rd and Quebec, is among many faith leaders in the local community who say they support the PICA proposal. "In our Russian community we have no cemetery at all for orthodox people. We have to go here and we go there. The Pickton Farm would be a good spot, and the Russian and Serbian and Romanian communities they could all use it. It would be a good memorial to overcome the foul things that happened there."
PICA has already received support from the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, Rev. Raymond Roussin. "The Archdiocese of Vancouver hopes that respect for the dignity of each and every person will be honoured in this very special place," writes Roussin in a letter to Crean. "It is important to preserve the memory of those who died so tragically here and to provide a space of meditation and prayer."
While the PICA proposal is focused on a memorial just for the Pickton farm, Cowie envisions a much larger scenario. There are 86,000 cemeteries across North America, he says, many of them in dire need of modernizing. He sees this first memorial garden as a model for the rest of the continent to follow. In fact, he already has his first convert, and she's in the B.C. government cabinet.
"I believe in memorial gardens," says Richmond MLA Linda Reid, Minister of State for Childcare. "There are no burials permitted in Richmond, no ceremonial place where people could come and pay their respects to their loved ones. I will continue to advocate for memorial gardens and I can envision rows of maple trees with bronze plaques honouring those who have passed."
Cowie believes every community needs a memorial garden full of living things, and not a gloomy cemetery that people avoid. "We need a park-like setting where people actually want to go, an environment that is pleasant and attractive. We need to talk about the whole issue of death and dying in a whole different way than we have. This is just the beginning of that debate."
© Vancouver Courier 2008
Wednesday, November 12
November 12, 2008
VANCOUVER, B.C. — A drop-in centre for prostitutes that once counted victims of a notorious B.C. serial killer among its clients is finally opening it's own home.
After more than 20 years working out of a gritty Vancouver church, the WISH society has moved into a brand-new space in the Downtown Eastside.
The opening of the new wellness centre is a true step forward for the dozens of women who use its services ever day, said Kate Gibson, the executive director of WISH.
"The biggest difference is that it's purpose-built. What you need is where you need it," said Gibson.
Where supplies were once kept in plastic tubs and meals held in a drafty gym, the new centre has a dining area, space devoted to make-up and donations and meeting rooms that are being used by other community groups as well.
WISH will continue or expand its literacy, training and other development programs aimed at helping prostitutes get off the streets.
"The other thing is we have opportunity to do all kinds of change as time goes on and eventually be open 24/7 or open overnight," she said of the new space.
WISH began planning for the home after receiving a million dollar grant from VanCity in 2003 - the same year that a former pig farmer was arrested for the murders of dozens of prostitutes from the community.
Robert Pickton was eventually convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of six women and is awaiting trial on charges for killing twenty others.
That the new centre has finally become a reality is a poignant reminder of how badly services for street-level sex workers are needed in the city.
"It's essential that we do more," said outgoing Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan.
"We have to do more, we have to be more innovative, certainly the support for WISH will help to reduce the chance that this kind of terrible situation occurs again."
The city has given WISH the use of the land for the house for a dollar a year for the next ten years.
The centre has been open to women since mid-September but celebrates its official opening on Wednesday.
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Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Saturday, October 25
By KYLE MULLIN
For The Daily Gleaner
Award-winning author and journalist Stevie Cameron spoke at St. Thomas University recently about her investigation into one of Canada's most notorious serial killers, Robert Pickton.
Pickton's case has been largely unheard of because of court publication bans and a lack of public interest, Cameron said, but it is a story that must be told.
"When people hear about what I'm working on they shudder and say they don't want to know about it because of the gruesome details," she said.
Cameron is waiting for Pickton's trial to finish and the publication ban to be lifted before releasing her book about the case, The Pig Farm.
In 2007, Cameron published The Pickton File, a memoir of her six-year investigation of the women who disappeared from Vancouver's infamous Downtown East Side.
"If you visit the Downtown East Side, I know you'll be shocked by the poverty you see," Cameron said. "The wounded and the aimless - there's nothing else like it in Canada. But it is a community and when someone goes missing in it, the people notice."
Cameron said more than 60 per cent of the evidence in the case is covered by the publication ban and that it won't be lifted until after the appeals are complete, no sooner than March.
Pickton, a pig farmer from Vancouver, has been charged with the murder of 27 women and convicted of killing six, but he claims to have killed 49 people.
The case has been ongoing for nearly seven years. At a cost of $200 million, it has become the most expensive in Canadian history.
About 600 swabs of DNA evidence were taken from Pickton's farm, which is believed to be the largest crime scene in Canadian history.
Cameron said many of the missing women were prostitutes, poverty stricken and addicted to drugs, but their stories need to be told.
"People say these women made their choice (by being prostitutes). I don't believe that," she said.
"It's easy to forget the people at the heart of this story. I don't recoil at the gruesome details because I know the families and I feel I know the girls who were murdered. And I feel they should matter."
Cameron is currently the Irving chairwoman of journalism at STU.
She is best known for her book, On the Take, an expose of the corruption and scandals surrounding the Mulroney government during the Airbus scandal.
Cameron has also worked as a contributing editor of Maclean's magazine, the founder and editor Elm Street magazine and the host of the Fifth Estate.
© 2008 CanadaEast Interactive, Brunswick News Inc. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, October 22
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
NEW WESTMINSTER - Nothing could be more prejudicial to the possible second trial of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton than the guilty verdict and sentencing at the first trial last year, a media lawyer argued recently in an effort to get videotapes and other exhibits from that trial released.
"Multiple trial scenarios are nothing new," media lawyer Dan Burnett told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jim Williams during a three-day hearing last week.
The judge, who has reserved judgment on the media application, initially banned publication of the legal arguments but subsequently lifted most of the ban, allowing the media to report on the proceedings.
Burnett told the judge that in this case, it was Pickton who sought to be tried first on six of the 26 charges he was facing "with the obvious effect of creating the situation in which the second trial must occur with the evidence and verdict from the first trial known to the public."
The lawyer cited previous cases involving multiple trials, such as that of Kelly Ellard, who is facing a fourth trial, and that of Abbotsford killer Terry Driver.
Burnett said "our justice system is not so fragile that it cannot handle those situations."
He argued: "Where the basis of the ban is to guard against prejudicing a future jury, the jurisprudence emphasizes the faith the courts have in jurors, the selection procedures, and other safeguards, even in the face of extreme publicity and even in situations of multiple trials."
Burnett cited a ruling by former judge Wally Oppal, who observed: "It should also be noted that in the past, in this jurisdiction and in this country, there have been some noteworthy cases that involved an inordinate amount of pretrial publicity followed by multiple trials."
Oppal cited the cases of killers Darren Huenemann (1993), Jelka Pesic (1993), and Josephakis Charalambous, which all proceeded "in an uneventful manner in spite of extensive pretrial publicity and overlapping evidence" from multiple trials involving co-accused.
Burnett argued that the courts, including rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, have established principles in favour of court openness because most people learn about court proceedings through the media.
Among the trial exhibits the media seeks access to are two videotapes that were considered key evidence at Pickton's trial.
One is a so-called confession tape, where Pickton made a number of incriminating statements to his cellmate in jail, who was an undercover police officer posing as a criminal.
The other is the videotape of Pickton's formal statement to police after his arrest for murder on Feb. 22, 2002.
Burnett argued that the media have already provided full transcriptions of what was said on the videotapes and described Pickton's demeanour at the time.
The defence, which opposed releasing the tapes, cited an affidavit by Sonya Chopra, a California jury consultant who viewed the videotapes.
Chopra concluded the videos could be prejudicial because they are more "vivid" than other ways of conveying information, pointing out some research indicates "vivid" information has more impact than non-vivid information.
The media retained Jonathan Freedman, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who prepared a rebuttal report to Chopra's findings.
The media is also seeking access to a number of voir dire rulings, which involved some evidence never heard by the jury because it was ruled inadmissible.
"Justice must be done and must be seen to be done," Burnett argued. "The lengthy list of voir dires illustrates the vast amount of important information about this trial which has not been reported to the public.
"The principles regarding the importance of open court, public scrutiny, and role of the media in reporting to the public on court proceedings, are all encompassed in the fundamental importance of s. 2(b) [of the Canadian Charter]. Open justice and public scrutiny is a fundamental cornerstone of our justice system."
The judge's ruling on the media application is expected sometime next month.
Pickton, 59, was originally charged with 26 counts of first-degree murder but the judge decided to sever 20 counts, splitting the charges into two trials.
The first trial, which dealt with a six-count murder indictment, ended last Dec. 9 with a jury convicting Pickton on six counts of second-degree murder. He received a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
All his victims were women who lived and worked in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The 11-month trial heard evidence of how Pickton lured women to his farm in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton regularly slaughtered pigs.
Pickton has filed an appeal of his conviction - and the Crown has filed a cross appeal - that will be heard next March 30. It is set for seven days.
Oppal, now B.C. attorney-general, announced earlier this year that if Pickton's appeal fails and his conviction is upheld, the Crown will not proceed with a second murder trial on the remaining 20 counts, a decision that disappointed victims' families.
Rick Frey, the father of one of Pickton's victims, Marnie Frey, has expressed his support for the media gaining access to the exhibits that have not been made public.
So has Lilliane Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, one of Pickton's alleged victims to be dealt with at the second trial.
"We thank Dan Burnett and we ask that he keeps up the fight for justice for the families that want justice," Beaudoin said.
© Vancouver Sun
Sunday, October 19
Saanich police take new look at case of teen girl stabbed to death at Swan Lake in 1943
Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw
Sunday, October 19, 2008
A single brown cardboard box filled with letters, notebooks, an unidentified knife, three leather gloves and other curious bits of evidence is all that remains of one of the most famous cold cases in Victoria's history.
Last reviewed in 1996, the file officially remains open, inactive and unsolved. But Saanich police have long believed they know who killed the 15-year-old seamstress on Jan. 18, 1943; they just never got a chance to prove it.
"As I read the evidence at the disposal of investigators, I'm saying to myself, 'If I had that much evidence today, I think I could make that fly," Insp. Rob McColl, head of the Saanich police major crime section, said in a recent interview at his office -- which, in a case rich with irony, now overlooks the spot where a girl named Justice fell 65 years ago.
Few crimes still resonate on Vancouver Island like Molly's killing.
The Times Colonist's recent efforts to highlight cold cases of missing or murdered people prompted numerous calls from readers wondering about the status of the 65-year-old homicide.
So, at the newspaper's request, Saanich police pulled the file from a storage locker one more time and pored over the evidence.
- - -
It was just after 6 p.m. when Anneta Margaret Clive "Molly" Justice stepped off the bus on Douglas Street near Swan Lake on her way home from work at a Victoria garment factory on Jan. 18, 1943.
Taking a shortcut, the 15-year-old headed along the CN rail line at what is now the Galloping Goose Trail near Saanich municipal hall, but never made it to her home on Brett Avenue.
Her body was found beside the tracks four hours later. She had been beaten and stabbed. One of the more than 30 wounds severed her jugular vein. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Retired lawyer Cecil Branson, who spent years researching and writing an unpublished manuscript about the case, was eight years old in 1943. He still remembers the shock of reading about Molly's death.
"It was in the middle of a war where people were dying overseas, but nobody at home," he said. "It's the thing that I remember from that time, other than the war news."
For three months, the police investigation failed to turn up a suspect. Then, in May, an 11-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted near Swan Lake by a boy who threatened to do to her what he had done to Molly Justice.
Later that day, police arrested 15-year-old Frank Hulbert, also known as Frank Pepler. But, although he was charged and convicted of the assault two weeks later, Hulbert managed to convince investigators that he was no killer.
Instead, he pointed the finger at William Mitchell, a 49-year-old former RCMP officer with no criminal record who worked with Hulbert at a Victoria paint factory. Hulbert claimed Mitchell had confessed to the crime.
Police arrested Mitchell on June 15, 1943, charged him with first-degree murder and seized a bloodstained knife from his rooming house.
Fortunately for Mitchell, another co-worker, Lewis Kamann, testified at the trial five months later that Mitchell left work too late on the night of the murder to have been at the scene when the girl was killed. Mitchell, testifying in his own defence, said the blood on the knife was his own.
The jury believed Mitchell and Kamann over Hulbert and acquitted Mitchell, saving him from the death penalty.
For the next 25 years, the case appeared stalled, despite the fact Hulbert, on a number of occasions, reportedly admitted to killing Molly himself.
Then, in 1967, Saanich police succeeded in getting Hulbert charged with perjury for lying about Mitchell's involvement. After two trials, he was convicted and sentenced to four and half years in prison.
Police, however, were never able to convince the Crown to lay a murder charge. Hulbert died in 1996 in Port Alberni, and Saanich police subsequently announced their belief that he was Molly's killer.
The flurry of stories at the time raised new questions about whether Hulbert had escaped punishment because he was related to Eric Pepler, deputy attorney general from 1934 to 1954. To restore confidence in the justice system, then-attorney general Ujjal Dosanjh asked a former judge to investigate.
But Martin Taylor found no conclusive evidence that Pepler was related to Hulbert, let alone that he interfered in the case. Nor was Taylor able to say for sure that Hulbert was guilty.
"Before saying today that we believe on reasonable grounds that Frank Hulbert murdered Molly Justice, we would do well to remember that those responsible for the Saanich police investigation said the same thing of William Mitchell," Taylor wrote in his 147-page report.
Today, police might have been able to provide a more definitive answer, given advances in forensic techniques. Hair that was apparently found underneath Molly's fingernails could have been analyzed to obtain a DNA profile. A fingerprint recovered from the contents of her discarded purse could have been run through a databank system for a possible match.
But both those pieces of evidence have been lost to history.
"We believe all the real evidence was destroyed at some point, or it never made it back here and where it went we don't know," Saanich Sgt. John Price said.
"If we could locate the exhibits that I know of, which are limited to the print and the hair, then yes, modern technology could assist us there," added Saanich Insp. Rob McColl.
There's no paper record to show where they went for sure, but they aren't in today's police evidence box. Without them, McColl admits, investigators can only reread old letters and previous reviews of the file. All the witnesses and suspects are dead.
The Molly Justice file bears little resemblance to the meticulous work demanded of police today. In preparation for this story, Saanich police reread documents and submitted evidence to the department's forensic identification division. A set of previously unlabelled fingerprints were found to belong to Molly, taken after she was killed.
Nobody is quite sure of the significance of a small, unlabelled brown-handled knife found in an envelope in the evidence box. The forensics division determined there were no traces of blood on the blade.
"Is it the murder weapon? I don't know," said McColl.
The case appears to both frustrate and fascinate the veteran cop. But McColl said there's not enough hope of solving it to pull busy detectives off other files.
It would require new evidence, and a court order, to exhume Molly's or Hulbert's body for DNA collection, and even then there's no guarantee of finding samples or having anything to compare them to, said McColl.
For the most part, the surviving members of Molly's family say they've also moved on. Molly's sister-in-law, Marjorie, was instrumental in pushing police to review the case in 1996. She passed away last November.
"I don't think we talk about it anymore," said Ken Justice, 56, Marjorie's son and Molly's nephew. "Her feelings were that it was put to rest."
Using DNA to find evidence seems pointless, he added. "There's no real source of justice going to happen, because the fella has passed away himself."
"We've left it alone and we ourselves as a family haven't gone into it any more. It was so long ago now. But the generation of Justices is still going on, right in Victoria. Dad had six of us, four girls, myself and a brother. There's 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren."
The killing of Molly Justice is one of only four unsolved murders in Saanich. Pregnant teenager Cheri Lynn Smith was found dead in the bushes on Munns Road in 1990. Bobby Johal was gunned down in his Cordova Bay driveway in 2003. Realtor Lindsay Buziak, 24, was stabbed to death Feb. 2 in an empty house she was trying to sell in Gordon Head.
Molly's killing is also one of the oldest on Vancouver Island. But her case seems destined to remain officially open, partially solved, and perhaps permanently stalled.
"You can't say unequivocally that Frank Hulbert did it, and I'm not prepared to say that either," McColl said. "I think that's a matter that has to be decided by a competent court.
"However, all of the evidence would lead an ordinary, normal, common individual, a person of sound mind, to come to a reasonable conclusion that there's a strong likelihood Frank Hulbert was responsible for this homicide."
If you have information about any cold cases, or suggestions for future stories, you can reach Lindsay Kines at 250-381-7890 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Rob Shaw at 250-380-5350 or email@example.com.
The story of the killing of Molly Justice is part of an ongoing Times Colonist series by reporters Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw that highlights unsolved cases of missing or murdered people from the Island, and examines new techniques being used to solve old crimes.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
Friday, October 17
Published Friday October 17th, 2008
By The Daily Gleaner
A public lecture about one of Canada's most prolific serial killers will take place at St. Thomas University next week.
Stevie Cameron, an award-winning investigative journalist and author of The Pickton File, will deliver the lecture Thursday at 7 p.m. in the McCain Hall auditorium.
Cameron has spent the better part of seven years investigating the case of Vancouver's missing women and the British Columbia farmer who was convicted of murder and has been ordered to stand trial for 20 further counts of first-degree murder.
Cameron is working on a second book, The Pig Farm, which she said is a full account of what happened in Vancouver.
Pickton's murder case has been the longest and most expensive in Canadian history and his 14-acre farm is the largest known crime scene in the country.
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