Saturday, June 28

Severed digit may finger killer

Court documents link Nina murderer to disappearance of prostitute two days earlier

Steve Lillebuen
The Edmonton Journal

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A woman's frozen, severed finger was a souvenir of a past slaying committed by one of Nina Courtepatte's killers, a 19-year-old woman told police during their investigation into a murdered prostitute.

When "Buffy," the nickname of a teen now on trial for Nina's murder, was told by police that they were investigating the killing of Ellie May Meyer, she asked if her body was found missing a finger, court documents say.

The Edmonton sex-trader worker disappeared two days before Nina, 13, was killed.

Convicted killer Joseph Laboucan had shown Buffy a pinky finger that he kept wrapped in a paper towel in a freezer, she told police during the 2007 interview, entered as evidence in her own murder trial.

"He said prior to killing Nina that he always takes a souvenir, and he didn't take one from Nina, though," she said. "He showed me that in the morning and it just, it just made my stomach turn really bad."

Police had told Buffy that she was a suspect in Meyer's death, as was Laboucan, whose DNA was found on her body.

Laboucan, now 22, had bragged about being a serial killer, witnesses testified in other court cases related to the slaying of Nina Courtepatte. He told some people that had killed as many as 189 people.

But he had warned Buffy not to say anything about him to police, she told officers investigating his possible involvement in Meyer's death, the court documents say.
Police wouldn't say Wednesday if they ever found a severed finger.

Project Kare, a police task force trying to solve the murders and disappearances of many sex-trade workers and high-risk individuals, is leading the investigation into Meyer's killing.

The 33-year-old was found in a field on May 6, 2005, near the intersection of Highway 21 and Township Road 540, near Sherwood Park. She was last seen on April 1, 2005. The woman, who had dreams of becoming a nurse to help the elderly, ended up working the streets for seven years.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Don Campbell said Wednesday that detectives are looking at individuals who they feel may be part of Meyer's death, but he couldn't comment further because of ongoing court proceedings.

"We believe there are some similarities between the files (of Nina Courtepatte and Meyer) and we are exploring those to see what they are," he said.

During voir dire testimony at Thomas Svekla's murder trial, RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Simmil testified police are investigating other possible serial offenders.

Buffy told police that Laboucan had admitted to killing someone other than Nina, with Stephanie Bird and Michael Briscoe present. He told her it was like an "addiction," Buffy said in an interview with RCMP Const. Rob Kropp.

She had been standing outside a car the day before Nina was killed when he made the comment, she said, the court documents say. Bird was there, too, and told Buffy that they dumped the body in the North Saskatchewan River.

Bird was convicted of manslaughter in connection to Nina's death earlier this year. Briscoe was acquitted of all charges during his 2007 trial, when court heard he had driven the group to the golf course on April 3, 2005, where Nina was raped and murdered. The Crown is appealing.

In one interview, police also asked Buffy if she had any dealings with men who went by the names Ace, Toothless Jay, Tran and Lorenzo. She said she may have met Ace and used to be friends with a man known as Toothless Jay.

Laboucan had once mentioned people with those same names in a 2005 police interview as men who attacked a prostitute.

Buffy said she was co-operating with police when they asked her questions about Meyer because she wanted to help.

"I really, like, feel bad that two died," she said. "'Cause Iike I want to be able to help. I had nothing to do with that, but I don't see why I shouldn't help."

© The Edmonton Journal 2008

Wednesday, June 25

Haunting art exhibit makes impression

CREDIT: John Lucas/Edmonton Journal
Kathy King stands in Roomful of Missing
Women art exhibit

Alexandra Zabjek

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

EDMONTON - Fifty pairs of eyes focus on the centre of a room where dozens of black shrouded figures are clustered.

It's a haunting image. It focuses attention on a haunting topic.

The portraits and figures are part of a Works art exhibit called "A Roomful of Missing Women," featuring paintings of 50 women from Vancouver's downtown eastside who are missing or have been murdered. The multimedia show by Betty Kovacic is on display at the Stanley Milner Library until July 2.

"I thought it was important that people in Edmonton have opportunities to understand the impact of having missing and murdered women," said Kathy King, from the Prostitution Awareness Action Foundation of Edmonton, which helped bring the exhibit to this city.

"There are so many missing and murdered women in Edmonton, it seems that what's happening in Edmonton was a repeat of what was happening in Vancouver."

King's own daughter, Caralyn, was found dead in a canola field in Sherwood Park more than 10 years ago. The exhibit's black shrouded figures, which are draped in sashes that describe childhood dreams, struck a particular chord with King.

"(My daughter's) dreams were so simple and so profound at the same time," King said. "She didn't want much from life but even what little she wanted, she wasn't able to achieve because of what her addictions did to her."

Kovacic will be at the exhibit on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday afternoons. An artist's reception will take place on Friday night at the library and is open to the public.

For more details on this story, see tomorrow's Journal.

© Edmonton Journal 2008

Saturday, June 21

Maze of Injustice


more about "Maze of Injustice", posted with vodpod

Stop the Traffik - Promo

From Hazel

more about "Stop the Traffik - Promo", posted with vodpod

Exhibit like a beauty pageant for missing women


June 21, 2008

Charlene Etzerza remembered the dreams her own sister had as she perused an Edmonton exhibit on 50 missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside today.

While her sister, Connie, died of a suspicious drug overdose more than a decade ago, Etzerza says Connie never sought out the high-risk lifestyle that ultimately killed her.

“My sister, she didn’t want to get hooked on drugs. She wanted to get married, to go to church,” said Etzerza.

So, too, did many of the women whose portraits are on display at the Stanley Milner Library as part of the Works Art and Design Festival downtown. The exhibit’s called A Roomful of Missing Women.

Many of them were involved in the sex trade, but as the exhibit points out, that wasn’t necessarily the life they wanted.

“As a child, I dreamed of being a zookeeper,” reads a sash placed on one of the 50 blow-up dolls shrouded in black at the centre of the exhibition room. The dolls represent each of the missing women, some of whom were victims of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton.

For Danielle Boudreau, the display, while haunting, is like the beauty pageant the women never had. The painter, B.C. artist Betty Kovacic, specifically wanted to create portraits of the women, something Boudreau noted usually only wealthy people get to experience.

“She wanted to bridge the gap between the women of the street and portray them as someone of stature,” said Boudreau, who helped organize the exhibit in Edmononton. “That’s why each of these women has their own picture with their own frames.”
The display includes Alberta victims Georgina Papin and Mona Wilson, and Boudreau said that while the women appear dignified in their portraits, the exhibit is also a reminder of the suffering prostitutes everywhere live through. The tragedies, she noted, include not only the murdered sex-trade workers discovered in rural areas but also many more cases of women who commit suicide, die of drug overdoses or suffer diseases such as AIDS.

“Nobody is counting,” said Boudreau. “Since 2002, 84 soldiers have passed away (in Afghanistan). Since 2002, hundreds of women have passed away on the streets.”

For Etzerza, while her sister Connie wasn’t involved in the sex trade, the exhibit was nevertheless very meaningful for her. “Going through this, it is a healing process,” she said. “It’s been so long since I’ve been with anyone who’s lost someone.”

For Sherwood Park resident Sandy Champagne, meanwhile, the display brought her to tears. “I’ve never been impacted by anything quite so much — the reality of it, the realization that that’s not what they planned,” she said.

The exhibit, called A Roomful of Missing Women, also includes a display on Edmonton’s sex trade. It runs until July 2 at the library’s Edmonton Room.


Thursday, June 19

Women's march heads to Ottawa

By Carlito Pablo
June 19, 2008
As the country marks National Aboriginal Day on Saturday (June 21), a group of Native activists and supporters led by a grandmother of five will begin a historic march from Vancouver to Ottawa to call for immediate action on the issue of missing women.
March organizer Gladys Radek, a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, noted that across Canada 3,000 women, mostly aboriginal, have disappeared without a trace.
“We want to call for a public inquiry into why these women have gone missing,” Radek told the Straight.
One of the missing women is Radek's niece Tamara Chipman, who was 22 years old when she was last seen hitchhiking east of Prince Rupert in September 2005.
The march, according to Radek, will cover roughly 4,400 kilometres. It will start from Trout Lake in East Vancouver and make its first stop at the Port Coquitlam farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.
Last December, Pickton was sentenced to life in jail by a B.C. court for the deaths of six women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The women included Mona Wilson, whose brother, First Nations activist Jason Fleury, is joining the march.
“We're seeking closure and justice,” Fleury told the Straight when asked what the march means to participants.
The march will be a relay. Participants are scheduled to reach Edmonton on July 3, Regina on July 26, and Toronto on August 29.
“We should be arriving in Ottawa on September 12, and hold a rally at Parliament Hill on September 15,” Radek said, adding that marchers will attempt to collect thousands of signatures backing their call for a public inquiry.
Radek said they don't know whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper will grant them an audience.

Sunday, June 15

DEEP THOUGHTS - On looking and looking away

Dec 13, 2007 04:30 AM

Shauna Rempel
Toronto Star

Name: Janis Cole

Age: 53

Program: Master of fine arts in documentary media at Ryerson University

Project: Visibility and Invisibility in the Margins of Disappearance

Background: Janis Cole has been making films for 30 years and her work focuses on marginalized and overlooked members of society, such as inmates in the (now closed) Prison for Women in Kingston.

The inspiration: The dozens of sex-trade workers who have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside got Cole thinking about issues of invisibility in society. B.C. pig farmer Robert Pickton was this week sentenced to 25 years without parole for the murders of six of those women. "What interests me is the 65 women going missing in Vancouver before police called it a missing persons case," says Cole. There are still 39 women missing from Vancouver, according to a task force set up to look into the disappearances. Meanwhile, as the trial was going on, Cole says Pickton, not the missing women, became the focus of the story. "In situations such as these, the strongest person we visualize is the killer."

The subjects: For Cole's film-based project, she is focusing on those who are homeless, as well as prostitutes, and the crossover that occurs when sex-trade workers live on the streets. To do this she has spent time with Toronto's homeless – one recent Saturday morning was spent with three elderly men who live on a sidewalk heating grate. "I'm trying to get the heart of this to see why people make the choices they make," says Cole. She also wants to find out "why we can't see the missing when they're gone."

One argument is that sex-trade workers and the homeless are often transient and therefore difficult to track. Cole thinks there is more to it that just that.

The themes: Cole is exploring three themes in both her film project and an accompanying paper:

1. The power structure in society;

2. The media's portrayal of the homeless and those working in the sex trade;

3. The way society responds – either with or without compassion to the marginalized in society.

"It's not a film about prostitution, and it's not a film about homelessness," she stresses. "It's a film that deals with looking and looking away."

To address those themes and find some concrete solutions to the problem, Cole's supervisors, Blake Fitzpatrick and Edward Slopek, are providing background data on theories of invisibility and power structures in society, respectively.

The future: Cole hopes the finished film-based project, which may incorporate photography and new media, will be shown to the public through film festivals, galleries or other venues, while the paper will be presented to conferences and add to the growing research on society's marginalized people.

Deep Thoughts looks at interesting research taking place across the GTA. Email

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2007

Documenary New Media

Wednesday, June 11

(ī'rĭs) Stevie Ryan

Words in the video since you cant read them on here:
Letting go is hard.
Even in your darkest times, you will find light.
The past is dead, the future hasn't arrived.
This moment is all you have.
HOPE is your soul awake.

Stevie Ryan

Monday, June 9

'Why the silence?'

Gwenda Yuzicappi issues statement through RCMP about need for public to speak to RCMP about daughter's murder
Veronica Rhodes

Amber Redman's mother Gwenda Yuzicappi at one of a number of searches for her daughter.
CREDIT: Troy Fleece, Leader-Post
Amber Redman's mother Gwenda Yuzicappi at one of a number of searches for her daughter.

REGINA -- A message from Amber Redman's mother released through the RCMP on Monday pleads for the public's help in investigating her daughter's murder.

In an e-mail sent out to the media, the RCMP Regina historical unit shared the letter prepared by Gwenda Yuzicappi, stating she is concerned that people with knowledge that would aid the investigation have not shared it with police.

"We have every confidence in the justice system and we trust in the efforts of the investigators. However, in order for justice to be served, those with information must share it with the police. There has been too much silence from those with knowledge already," reads Yuzicappi's statement.

"Every day we struggle with the frustration that has kept our minds questioning -- why the silence? Silence which for three years hindered our ability to ease our hearts and minds in knowing the whereabouts of my daughter. While this tragedy has made our family and community stronger we are dealing with tremendous hurt and anger. We are appealing to the general public to share any information they may have in order to ease our minds and help prevent future violence."

Yuzicappi's statement concludes by thanking the media for its "assistance, patience and respect over the past three years."

Redman vanished from outside a Fort Qu'Appelle bar on July 15, 2005. Albert Patrick Bellegarde and Gilbert Allan Bellegarde were arrested and charged with Redman's murder last month, when the 19-year-old's remains were found on the Little Black Bear First Nation.

She is alleged to have died on the reserve the day she disappeared. Yuzicappi hasn't spoken to the media since her daughter was found.

RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Carole Raymond said that while investigators have a "very strong case" with plenty of information to support the charges that have been laid, it remains imperative that all information comes forward.

"At this time, I won't confirm or deny that we're looking at anyone else," said Raymond.

A day after Redman's remains were found, several people in the area told theLeader-Post that they had heard rumours of where the teenager was and who was involved in her death since shortly following her disappearance -- rumours that appeared to be reality after the teenaged girl was found.

Raymond explained that Yuzicappi had planned to release the statement right after her daughter was found, but the elders in her community felt she should wait. The RCMP agreed to accommodate Yuzicappi's personal request for information by facilitating the statement's release.

"There has been so much information that has been in the community for three years. There are still rumours that we're hearing. So if anyone has any solid information that is of value to this investigation, it would be very, very good if it comes to our attention ... This is her plea to break that silence," said Raymond.

"I guess really what (she is asking) is making sure whatever is available, whatever happened to her daughter, it comes out, as to why it happened and when it happened and who was involved. Those are fair questions."

Anyone with information about this case are asked to contact the Regina historical crimes unit at 780-5582 or Saskatchewan Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

© Leader-Post 2008

Wednesday, June 4


Thanks to Glendene Grant mother of Jessie Foster for the following links.

LINKS to sites, media articles, about the Walk4Justice:
BC Association of Specialized Victim Assistance & Councelling Programs:
Lists Gov.BC:

Justice walk headed for Ottawa

Written by
Citizen Staff
Prince George Citizen

June 3, 2008

Gladys Radek, who lost a niece to the Highway of Tears, is marching her concerns right to the prime minister's front door. She is bringing hundreds of friends with her and hopes for thousands of signatures along the way.
She launched the Walk4Justice to draw attention to all the missing and murdered women not only in the Highway of Tears file but many others besides.
The Walk4Justice begins on National Aboriginal Day June 21.
"The Highway of Tears march to Prince George and the symposium there was the kicker," Radek said. "I felt that something more needed to be done because ever since the Highway of Tears walk (March 2006) virtually nothing has happened. No new leads after four decades of missing women. The numbers of victims out there are not matching the RCMP's list. We want people to realize that these women, when they go missing, are also leaving behind children and we want those children to know that we care, as a society, what happened to their mothers and we will look after them."
Radek has been a social activist in the Vancouver area for about 15 years, although she was raised a member of the Wet'sewet'en nation in northern B.C. She is the aunt of Tamara Chipman, 22, who disappeared while hitchhiking east of Prince Rupert on Sept. 21, 2005. Chipman's young son Jaden plays a large role in Radek's activities now.
We want these women and children to have a voice," Radek said.
Radek said the march is intended to push Canadians, especially those in government, to set up safeguards against violence against women, put more mechanisms of transparency and accountability for authorities into place, and overhaul the justice system, among other goals.
"In my heart I know these women will get some justice, some closure," Radek said, but insisted that those named in the official RCMP investigation were only a fraction of the real death toll. "We are gathering names of victims through each province so we can present the truer number to the prime minister."
Radek is leading the march from Vancouver to Kamloops, to Jasper, east to Edmonton then south to Calgary and east to Parliament Hill, where they have a ceremony scheduled for Sept. 15.
"We already have over 1,000 people nationwide communicating over this," Radek said. "Since I started organizing this in January I have learned that we do have a very caring society."
Many events are already planned for along the way. Several residents of the Highway of Tears - generally located on Highway 16 between the coast and the Cariboo - will meet with the walkers on Kamloops. Radek also hopes that northern contacts might be willing to organize an associated walk along the Highway of Tears and meet up with them at Mount Robson on June 30.
For information on the march and how to donate or volunteer, log on To sign the petition destined for Prime Minister Stephen Harper log on to, click the International Politics and Government button and scroll down to First Nations Missing and Murdered Women heading.

Prince George Citizen

Missing Jessie Foster

Fifty five RCMP assigned to Highway of Tears

Fifty five RCMP assigned to Highway of Tears

June 4, 2008

There are now 55 RCMP officers and civilian employees working on the murders and disappearances of 18 women dating back nearly 40 years.

And some of those involved bring with them skills and experience learned from previous lengthy and complicated investigations such as the Willy Pickton serial killer case on the Lower Mainland, said RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lematire.

That and more information was passed along by Lemaitre and other officers to family members of the murdered and missing at a regularly-scheduled meeting held May 15 in Terrace.

“Two sessions are held a year in various places so that the need to travel is spread out as much as possible to be as fair as possible for all concerned,” said Lemaitre.

“At this session there were 18 people, some from as far away as Bella Coola,” he said. The last session was held in Smithers.

Until last fall, the murders and disappearances of nine women were connected to the stretch of Hwy16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George which became known as the Highway of Tears.

But an extensive review by officers of open criminal cases elsewhere in the province resulted in the expansion of both the number of women either murdered or who have disappeared and of the geography. The territory under investigation now stretches as far south as Kamloops and into Alberta.

Probably the worst thing that can affect families are rumours which can spread rapidly based on information that is not always correct, he said.

Lemaitre said the on-going investigation is thorough, painstaking and that it is the full time job of those involved.

“This is not something being run off the corner of someone’s desk. These people have experience and knowledge gleaned from years of being involved in other projects,” he said.

A lot of the current work involves using a computer program called the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (ViCLAS). It involves entering as much data about individual violent crimes as possible and then works to find commonalities between the crimes.

Lemaitre also commented on the recent warning given Lower Mainland private eye Ray Michalko that he not delve too far into the disappearance of one woman along Hwy16.

That was done to avoid having Michalko’s work somehow impede the police investigation by tipping off any potential suspects, he said.

“The one thing we don’t want is for the person or persons who may be involved to get the hair on their head to stand up,” added Lemaitre.

Until just recently, the task force was headed up by one of the RCMP’s most experienced investigators in the province, Superintendent Leon Van De Walle. He’s just retired and his place has been taken by Superintendent Rus Nash. He was one of the officers present at last week’s briefing.

Until last fall’s expansion of the list of missing and murdered women, the earliest person on the Hwy16 list was Monica Ignas who disappeared outside of Thornhill in 1974. In Sept. 2005, Terrace resident Tamara Chipman went missing. She was last seen hitchhiking outside of Prince Rupert.

© Copyright All rights reserved.

Murder verdict doesn't end mystery

Karen Kleiss
Edmonton Journal

Natalie Pangnanouvong, victim Theresa Innes's sister, is surrounded by reporters outside the provincial courthouse in Edmonton Tuesday.
CREDIT: Chris Schwarz, Edmonton Journal
Natalie Pangnanouvong, victim Theresa Innes's sister, is surrounded by reporters outside the provincial courthouse in Edmonton Tuesday.
Rachel Quinney's mother, Delia Quinney, had to be helped out of court by family after Thomas Svekla was found not guilty in Rachel's death.
CREDIT: Ed Kaiser, Edmonton Journal
Rachel Quinney's mother, Delia Quinney, had to be helped out of court by family after Thomas Svekla was found not guilty in Rachel's death.

A 40-year-old mechanic who once called himself the "Pickton of Alberta" was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder in the death of one of two prostitutes he'd been charged with killing.

Thomas Svekla murdered Theresa Merrie Innes, 36, but there was no evidence linking him to the death of 19-year-old Rachel Liz Quinney, an Edmonton judge ruled.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman also ruled that Svekla was guilty of committing an indignity to the body of Innes, a mother of two who was working as a prostitute to support her addiction to crack cocaine.

The judge found Svekla killed Innes around Christmas 2005, cocooned her body in his shower curtain and an air mattress, stuffed it into a hockey bag and hauled it home to Fort Saskatchewan in May 2006, after getting out of jail.

He rejected Svekla's claim that he simply found the elaborately wrapped body in his truck, calling the explanation "fanciful," "ridiculous" and "preposterous."

"It is the grand lie spun by him since the very beginning," the judge said.

The changing stories and countless lies that came later were his attempts to fill in the gaps in the story, Sanderman added.

"Mr. Svekla reminds me of the little Dutch boy attempting to plug the hole in the dike with his finger," Sanderman said.

Svekla showed little emotion as the verdicts were read, but gulped several times when the judge characterized him as a liar or put forward some aspect of law that tied Svekla to the crime.

Innes's family wept when they heard the verdict midway through the two-hour decision, clutching one another and burying their heads in each other's shoulders.

Meanwhile, Quinney's large family sat silently in the front row as Sanderman began detailing the problems with the Crown's case against Svekla in her death. The 19-year-old mother of two also struggled with drug addiction and turned to prostitution to support her habit.

Rachel's mother, Delia Quinney, was on the verge of collapse as she left the courthouse.

Sister-in-law Charlotte Lajimodiere said the judge's decision was deeply disappointing to the family, who sat through most of the trial.

"I guess we're going to ask questions forever. It is a shock," she said. "Today is the worst."

After the judge left the courthouse, Theresa Innes's brother, Mike, stood and shouted at Svekla across the packed courtroom: "Why don't you have the courage to stand up and tell the truth for the first time in your life?"

The medical examiner was unable to say how Quinney died and could not rule out the possibility that she died from a cocaine overdose.

The last sightings of her working on the stroll do not match up well with expert evidence about when she died, and the Crown could not prove that Svekla knew Quinney, the judge said.

In June 2004, Svekla was out smoking crack with a prostitute in Strathcona County outside Edmonton, when he discovered Quinney's naked, mutilated body. He later told police about the find and led them to the body.

The judge noted that Svekla went to police, took a lie-detector test and offered up his DNA -- behaviour inconsistent with murder.

"(Mr. Svekla's) core account of finding Ms. Quinney's body is unassailable," the judge said.

"Though it is highly suspicious, it is not proof of wrongdoing," he said. "It would be a travesty to act upon evidence of that sort."

Svekla was the first man charged in the deaths of prostitutes who fell under the mandate of Project Kare, an Alberta police team investigating the deaths and disappearances of more than 70 people living high-risk lifestyles.

Project Kare interrogated Svekla after the discovery of Quinney's body, but the results of the lie detector test were inconclusive, and police eventually moved on. In June 2005, Project Kare announced police were hunting for a serial killer.

A year later, Svekla hauled Innes's body in a hockey bag from High Level in northern Alberta to Fort Saskatchewan in the Edmonton area -- a distance of about 780 kilometres.

He told friends and family the bag contained 800 compost worms worth $1 apiece, but his sister didn't believe that anyone would trust her delinquent brother with anything worth $800. One night she surreptitiously inspected the bag, and realized it was a body. She called police.

Svekla was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body in connection with Innes's death.

While he was in custody, RCMP told Svekla he was a suspect in the deaths and disappearances of as many as 12 prostitutes whose deaths had been linked by profilers.

Five months later, he was charged with second-degree murder in Quinney's death. He was not charged in any of the other deaths.

During the trial, the judge heard that Svekla told his family he was "like the Pickton of Alberta" -- a reference to B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton.

© The Calgary Herald 2008

Tuesday, June 3

Svekla guilty of one murder

Responsible for slaying of Theresa Innes, but not Rachel Quinney


June 3, 2008

It’s time for the bogeyman to face the music.

Thomas Svekla will be handed an automatic life sentence June 16 after being convicted today of second-degree murder in the slaying of prostitute Theresa Innes, 36.

The 40-year-old mechanic was also found guilty of interfering with human remains for transporting Innes’ wire-bound and wrapped remains in a hockey bag from High Level to his sister’s garage in Fort Saskatchewan in 2006.

However, Svekla was acquitted on charges of second-degree murder and interfering with human remains in the 2004 death of prostitute Rachel Quinney, 19.

Today’s ruling in a standing-room only courtroom was met with tears of relief, anger and several outbursts.

After Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman left the room, Innes’ brother stood and shouted at Svekla.

“Tom, why don’t you have the courage to stand up and tell the truth for the first time in your life,” said Mike Innes.

Quinney’s sister-in-law Charlotte Lajimodiere then yelled something about the judge not having any daughters.

Delia Quinney appeared stunned that Svekla was not found guilty of her daughter’s killing and mutilation and needed help leaving the courthouse, weeping and looking like she was on the verge of collapse.

When Sanderman ruled Svekla was guilty of Innes’s slaying, her parents and brother began crying while the convicted killer simply looked down with his arms folded.

Outside court, the Innes family refused to talk to reporters and Mike Innes angrily grabbed his wife and pulled her away as she began speaking in front of TV cameras.

“We’re happy, really happy,” said Nataile Pangnanouvong. “But I feel bad for the Rachel Quinney family.”

Lajimodiere, who spoke on behalf of the Quinney family, called it a “harsh verdict” and “a great letdown by the justice system” resulting in “great pain and great anger.”

She said the family was torn apart during the trial and the verdict has not brought them any closer. “There is still no justice for the Quinney family,” she said. “It doesn’t give us any justice.”

Sanderman said the Crown failed to prove any link between Svekla and Quinney and while he found the fact Svekla found her body to be “highly suspicious behaviour,” it was not evidence of any wrongdoing.

Regarding Innes, the judge “completely” rejected Svekla’s claim that her body had been planted in his truck by someone trying to frame him and that he had “panicked” and transported it to Fort Saskatchewan.

“It’s fanciful. It’s ridiculous. It’s preposterous and incapable of belief,” said Sanderman. “It’s the grand lie spun by him right from the beginning.”

The judge ruled Svekla’s ever-changing lies and “concoctions” told to police, coupled with his elaborate wrapping of the body to conceal it, led him to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he had murdered Innes.

The judge also noted separate admissions Svekla made to a friend and a co-worker that he believed were true.

The first was when Svekla asked a high-school friend to tell a high-school girlfriend that she had been the first person he had hurt and “the first to see the bogeyman.”

The second was when Svekla told a fellow worker at the Fountain Tire in High Level after Innes had disappeared that he had a “dark past” and had “killed someone.”

Testimony by more than 100 witnesses was heard since Svekla’s trial began on Feb. 19, following several months of voir dire hearings to determine whether certain police evidence would be admitted.

He was charged in Innes’ death after his sister found the hockey bag containing the remains in her garage and called police. Svekla had claimed the bag contained $800 worth of composting worms.

Quinney’s naked body was found in a wooded farmer’s field near Fort Saskatchewan in June 2004. Both of her breasts and parts of her genitalia had been removed.

Police had alleged Svekla killed Quinney earlier and interfered with her remains by mutilating her body and improperly disposing of it.

Court has heard Svekla told police he discovered Quinney’s body while smoking crack with another prostitute.

The cause of death in both cases was undetermined.

Ceremony outside courthouse before verdict

Elise Stolte

Family and friends of Rachel Quinney and Theresa Innes gather in a circle holding a smudge ceremony outside the Edmonton courthouse Tuesday morning before the Svekla decision.
CREDIT: Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal
Family and friends of Rachel Quinney and Theresa Innes gather in a circle holding a smudge ceremony outside the Edmonton courthouse Tuesday morning before the Svekla decision.

EDMONTON - About a dozen friends, relatives and supporters of two slain women gathered outside of the courthouse this morning in anticipation of the verdict in the Thomas Svekla trial.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman will decide this morning whether the 40-year-old mechanic is guilty of killing Theresa Innes, 36, and Rachel Quinney, 19.

"For this to go on today is final closure," said Danielle Boudreau, a friend of Quinney family. "My biggest fear is that they'll be forgotten."

Boudreau said she didn't sleep well last night, waiting for this moment.

"It's been four years. All of our lives have been changed for the rest of our lives."

The people gathered in a circle for a traditional smudging ceremony. They washed themselves with the smoke from a bundle of sweetgrass in a small fryingpan.

Dean Brown of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre led them in prayer, asking the Creator to be with them as the verdict was delivered: "Stand beside them so their strength is full."

© Edmonton Journal 2008

Monday, June 2

Provisions lead to 'lack of safety' for sex trade

Alan Young takes aim at consensual crimes
By Gretchen Drummie | Publication Date: Monday, 02 June 2008
Over the past decade, Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young has, with a quiver-full of constitutional challenges, been taking aim at the consensual crimes found in the Criminal Code.

Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young and his students are trying to topple three provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with the sex trade.
“I’ve had a shot at obscenity, a shot at gambling, a shot at the drug laws. Unsuccessfully,” Young tells Law Times. “I became somewhat discouraged.”

But then it hit him. When he lost the marijuana possession challenge in 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada, “without knowing it, gave me the basis for my final challenge.” And so, Young is going after the last so-called consensual crimes on the list: three prostitution-related activities that “are leading to a lack of safety within the profession.”

Joining forces with current and former prostitutes, and some of his students, Young has set his sights on toppling a trio of provisions of the code dealing with the sex trade. The application is seeking an order declaring that ss. 210 (bawdy house), 212(l)(j) (living on the avails) and 213 (1)(c) (communication) violate s. 7 of the Charter and are thus unconstitutional, and an order declaring that s. 213(l)(c) of the code violates s. 2(b) of the Charter.

“After crying a little bit over what I thought was a bad loss,” Young says he realized the Supreme Court talked about a doctrine of gross disproportionality, whereby a law could be constitutionally challenged if you could show that the harms created by the laws grossly outweigh the benefits of the law.

“They had already started digging up the bodies on [Robert Pickton’s] pig farm [in British Columbia],” he says. “A voice went off in my head saying, ‘You talk about the harms of the law being death, abduction, and assault, and the benefits of the law are a big question mark. No one’s ever really known what the benefits are’ . . . I’m thinking this sounds like a no-brainer. Death versus no positive effect from the law.”

Armed with $10,000 from Legal Aid to marshal witnesses (with the stipulation that he and two other lawyers, Stacey Nichols and Ron Marzel, working on the challenge not get paid), Young filed in March 2007.

The applicants are Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott. Twenty-two witnesses have tendered affidavit evidence, and according to the application they “outline the nature and frequency of physical and psychological violence experienced by sex trade workers in various cities and towns across Canada. Some of them are experts who’ve done empirical work. Some of them are civilians who work in the sex trade.

Some of them are civilians who operate prostitutes’ rights groups,” says Young. “It took a year but the federal government has finally responded . . . We are at a stage where we’re about to get into the evidence-testing stage where we have cross-examinations set up.” They are working to get all cross-examinations done this year with a view to having the argument next summer.

The federal Crown has submitted 33 affidavits and has witnesses from Australia, Nevada, Holland. “They’ve gone around the world,” says Young. “What I’ve been told, without really assessing it, is they’ve recruited pretty much all the radical feminists who believe that prostitution is inherently degrading and violent.

My issue about having prostitutes have the legal right to move indoors is a non sequitur because it’s not going to make anything better. And so, this case has become not just about constitutional law; it’s become very much about politics.

I’m trying to keep it as a non-political constitutional challenge and just deal with gross disproportionality, but the Crown has thrown everything and the kitchen sink in here, including why people become prostitutes, the prevalence of trafficking, the prevalence of child prostitution.

“Let me say for the record very clearly I’ve never supported and never will support trafficking in women or child prostitution,” he says. “My case does not touch any of the provisions that are designed to protect us against those evils.”

The primary challenge, he says, is the doctrine of gross disproportionality as being a violation of fundamental justice and “my evidence should demonstrate that the harms of the law are significant and severe, dealing with daily brutalization, leading to murder of many sex trade workers. Those are the harms created by the law, and the benefits are nil.”

Young says the law “significantly” contributes to the lack of safety for a profession that the government considers legal. And yet, unlike any other legal profession, “you are not allowed to legally move inside, which is a secure setting. That’s bawdy house law. No one should ever have to choose between complying with the law and their personal safety.

“Secondly, the other way you secure some degree of safety in a volatile profession is have security and have people work with you,” says Young. “Well no one can work for a prostitute because it’s considered living on the avails. So you can’t move indoors, you can’t have any form of security, and if you do choose to work on the street — which I think is a mistake but many people do — you can’t communicate.”

Young asks, “How are you supposed to screen the vehicle to determine if Robert Pickton is driving it, or whether a legitimate john is? I’m not saying communication is the end-all-be-all, but the government of Canada said, ‘Get in a car, and don’t talk.’”

He says the bottom line is if you can’t communicate you can’t screen. If you can’t communicate, you’re “entering into insecure locations in haste and precipitously, and we know that people have been abducted . . . Would their ability to communicate have prevented it? Maybe. Maybe not,” says Young.

“But the fact that the law prevents you from doing something that’s necessary for self-preservation means the law is contributing to the lack of safety in a legal sex trade.”

Young says if he succeeds there would no longer be a criminal offence to work with prostitutes, to communicate and work indoors. But, he adds, what the future brings after the challenge is not his issue. “I’m a constitutional lawyer. My job is to destroy, to topple institutions, not to build them . . . If a constitutional challenge topples an institutional framework, it’s up to the government to decide what they want.”

But, he notes, if the law is struck, there’s a way to “do it right, and there’s a way to do it in a stigmatizing, marginalizing way . . . Hopefully, if we are successful in the challenge, there will be a more progressive approach by our government.”

Young says the only reason he’s been able to do challenges like this one on a shoestring budget is his one resource, “which is idealistic and energetic students who want to change the world. I exploit that.”

He currently has three students working pretty much full time on the case, and a group of volunteer students have pitched in. “That’s the only way I’ve been able to do any of these cases, because I couldn’t single-handedly put together a record of 22 witness, it would have taken me two-and-a-half years.

“The case is only doable because of the assistance provided by my students. They do pretty much most of the groundwork, quite frankly. They put the record together. They are right now looking at the Crown’s evidence to tell me where the weaknesses are and what type of evidence I should be calling as they look for reply witnesses. It’s a very valuable asset and it’s the only way that these cases can be done,” says Young.

He doesn’t feel like the tired old David and Goliath cliché, however. “If you’d asked me that 12 years ago, yes. Now, I don’t feel that anymore because I’ve done this too much. I don’t notice the government as Goliath. I know they are, [but] I’m not impressed by their resources and their commitment to preserving the law. I’m not impressed or intimidated.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general of Ontario has given notice of intervention.
“ . . . It is a serious battle with the government feeling they have a very strong position to advance . . . [and] it’s become clear to me for reasons that I can’t explain the government is desperate not to lose these laws,” says Young.

Haunting art exhibit of dead or missing women in Edmonton


June 2, 2008

The faces of 50 women who vanished from Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside will be on display in Edmonton later this month, as part of a poignant art exhibit at the downtown library.

Room Full of Missing Women by Prince George, B.C. artist Betty Kovacic features portraits gleaned from media and from families of the missing and dead women. A short piece of instrumental music was also written for each portrait.

Also in the exhibit are dozens of mannequins wrapped in black shrouds, on which are written the hopes and dreams of women.

The exhibit, which has been shown in several B.C. communities, has been described as eerie, but beautiful and moving.

Kathy King, head of the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation of Edmonton, which is sponsoring the show, saw it in Prince George and described it as "overwhelming."

"It brings to life 50 souls that had been destroyed," she said. "I felt it was really important that we bring this exhibit to Edmonton, because there are at least as many women who've disappeared from this area."

Kovacic said she is surprised by the huge response to the exhibit.

"I think it's so important that this issue isn't swept under the carpet," she said. "Women are still disappearing."

Among the portraits are Georgina Papin and Mona Wilson, both from Alberta. They are among the six women serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering.

The exhibit will be at the Stanley Milner Library's Edmonton Room during the Works Art and Design Festival, which runs from June 20 to July 2.