Friday, November 28

Pickton memorial shameless idea

Vancouver Courier

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?

Lori-Ann Ellis,

Calgary, Alta.

© Vancouver Courier 2008

Thursday, November 27

Picktons lose appeal to have notorious property rezoned as farmland

The Canadian Press

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.


Forget memorial idea

The Province

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

Serial Killer's Farm Should Be Memorial, Say Missing Women's Supporters

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

UFV prof speaks at Pickton farm

The Times

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

Memorial park a fitting reminder

The Province

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

Ending violence against women begins at home

Andrea Bottner
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

On Hallowed Ground

A proposal to turn the desecrated Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam into a memorial for the missing women is sure to stir debate.

Michael Mccarthy
Vancouver Courier

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

Drop-in for Vancouver's street sex workers finally opens new home

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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