Thursday, February 24

March honouring missing and murdered women brought to Abbotsford

gwynne hunt

By Kerrie-Ann Schoenit - Abbotsford News

Published: February 23, 2011 3:00 PM
Updated: February 23, 2011 3:45 PM

Hundreds of women are murdered or go missing every year in Canada, with a disproportionate number coming from aboriginal backgrounds.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada reports that 582 indigenous women and girls have disappeared or were murdered over the last five years. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 162 women were killed every year between 2005 and 2009. That number doesn’t account for more than 1,500 other women the Canadian Police Information Centre has identified as missing.

Local activist Gwynne Hunt draws attention to the plight of those who are lost to violence through a silent walk and vigil called The Memory March. She’s organized the event in Vancouver for five years and now brings the campaign home to Abbotsford on March 19.

“It’s to honour and inform,” said Hunt. “You can’t just build a few transition houses and say ‘there, we fixed the problem,’ because it’s way bigger than that. We need to change our language and the way we talk about violence, rather than glorifying it.”

The march starts at 10 a.m. in front of the picnic area off Emerson Street at Mill Lake. Walkers will head to Civic Plaza behind Matsqui Centennial Auditorium for a memorial tribute honouring 4,000 women and girls.

Gladys Radek and Bernie Williams, founders of Walk4Justice, will lead a circle prayer.

Memory March is sponsored by Art Matters Society, a charitable organization based in Abbotsford that produces live, unjuried, social and political theatre.

The event is being held in conjunction with the International Celebration of Women at the Best Western Regency Conference Centre, located at 32110 Marshall Rd. The forum includes music, dance, poetry, films and monologues focusing on women’s topics. Performances will feature local singers Kat Wahamaa, Judith Reeves, Lori Watt and Jane Perrett.

Psychologist Dr. Lyne Piche and Pat Kelln from Advocacy for Women will also speak at the event.

“It’s a day of discovery and reflection,” said Hunt. “Ending violence against women is the underlying message.”

The International Celebration of Women is presented in two sessions, noon to 5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $6, or $10 for both shows, and must be purchased in advance. They’re available at She’s My Florist in Abbotsford and through Hunt at 604-859-2407 or

Proceeds will fund the Memory March and the launch of Hunt’s new book titled Rampage: The Pathology of an Epidemic, which chronicles five years of research into missing women and children in Canada.

Friday, February 18

WEEKEND EXTRA: 16 years later, police still on hunt for Pickton-linked Jane Doe’s real name

RCMP release new composite sketch of woman whose partial skull was found near Mission


A new composite sketch of a woman, known only as Jane Doe, whose partial skull was found near Mission in 1995 but who has never been identified. Police sent all that was found of her head -- the upper right side of her skeletonized skull -- to the National Research Council in Ottawa, which in 2006 used new technology to create a digital computer image of the skull. Then Carl Adrian, a forensic artist with the FBI, used the 3-D computer image to create this composite.

Photograph by: Carl Adrian, RCMP - Missing Women Task Force

Bill Wilson was selling homemade whirligigs from a roadside stand near Mission and stopped to fill his water bottle in a small creek when he spotted something that resembled an old bowl.

He used his bottle to flip over the object. It was no bowl. Staring up at him was half of a human skull.

That was 1995. Police called the victim Jane Doe, as they did not know her name, when she died, how her skull ended up in the Mission-area swamp, or where the rest of her remains were hidden.

Fast-forward 16 years and officers still don’t have the answers to any of those questions.

However, they at least now have a face — or the best guess police can make of what Jane Doe’s face might have looked like.

Thanks to modern technology, a new composite sketch of Jane Doe has been created for B.C.’s Missing Women Task Force. Police provided it exclusively to The Vancouver Sun, hoping the image will spark a memory among people who knew the woman when she was alive.

“We hope the public will be able to push this to a conclusion. Somebody knows who this is,” said task force Sgt. Dan Almas.

“There are many missing people whose cases aren’t solved. But because so much effort has been made to identify this person, it is surprising it has taken this long.”

This Jane Doe is one of the most mysterious missing person files in British Columbia.

The task force believes it has exhausted every effort to identify her through police missing person reports, and is now hoping the composite will generate new tips from the public to crack open this old case.

Over the years, information about Jane Doe’s file has been sent to nearly every police agency and detachment in Canada, and to many in Washington State.

Her DNA has also been sent to every police lab in the country for comparison to other unsolved missing women files.

Police last issued a public appeal in this case in 2000, releasing a far-less-detailed composite sketch and airing a CrimeStoppers segment on a local TV station.

Pickton connection

Jane Doe was back in the headlines after police made a shocking find in 2002 while searching Robert (Willie) Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm for evidence in the notorious serial murder case: a heel and rib bone with the same DNA as the skull were found buried in a pit behind a slaughterhouse.

Pickton was charged (although never convicted) in her death, and her case received substantial media attention throughout his year-long trial, which ended in 2007 with his conviction for six other murders.

In 2008, Jane Doe’s DNA and the new composite sketch were sent to Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization. It issued a so-called “black notice” on unidentified bodies to its 188 member countries for comparison to unsolved files worldwide.

The Interpol effort elicited no clues.

In fact, throughout the last decade, there has been little to no response from the public about Jane Doe — a frustrating situation that Almas hopes will now change.

The composite sketch was completed in 2008 by an FBI artist, but couldn’t be released publicly until after Pickton had completed all his court appeals. (Last summer, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Pickton’s final appeal.)

It took police more than a decade to create such a detailed composite because they had very little to work with: All that was ever found of Jane Doe’s face was the skeletonized upper right half of her head.

Her skull had been crudely cut in two with a reciprocating saw. The left side has never been located. The lower jaw is also missing.

Desperate to advance this case, the task force sent the partial skull in 2006 to the National Research Council in Ottawa, which Almas said had the most advanced scanning technology police could locate in North America. It created a high-resolution, three-dimensional digital computer image of the skull.

In 2007, Carl Adrian, a top forensic artist with the FBI, used the 3D computer image to create the composite — as best he could given the limited information forensic scientists could conclude about Jane Doe: She was Caucasian with no other racial mixes in her blood and was between 20 and 40 years old.

Adrian sketched what the right side of her upper face would likely have looked like based on the shape of the skull, and then made a mirror image to fill in the left side of the upper face — which isn’t a perfect solution, Almas noted, because no face is exactly symmetrical.

Then, Adrian approximated what Jane Doe’s nose, mouth and lower jaw would have looked like based on information from experts who had examined the skull over the years. For example, a forensic dentist determined Jane Doe had teeth removed from her upper right jaw at different times before her death, and could not rule out that she may have worn dentures.

The hair and shirt collar in the sketch, of course, were done randomly — there is no way to know how she styled her hair or its colour, or what she was wearing when last seen.

For all of those reasons, Almas stressed he wants members of the public to contact police even if they think this sketch merely resembles someone they once knew who is now missing; despite Adrian’s best efforts, it is unlikely Jane Doe looked identical to this composite.

“Even if it doesn’t look exactly like someone they are thinking of, we still want them to call us. We will follow up on every tip,” he said.

No missing persons report

Police now believe it is possible that Jane Doe has never been reported missing. Perhaps that’s because she was estranged from her relatives and they don’t know she disappeared, or because her family is under the mistaken belief that someone else made a missing persons report, Almas said.

Precisely when Jane Doe died could never be pinpointed by forensic experts, who have suggested a range of one to 10 years before the skull was found. So, Almas said, police are interested in tips from the public about women who disappeared as early as 1985 and as late as 1995.

The mystery of this case deepens by how police became aware of Jane Doe in the first place — the strange discovery in February 1995 by the man selling whirligigs along Highway 7, close to where the Fraser and Stave rivers intersect.

Why and how the skull was dumped at the Mission slough is a conundrum. A pathologist testified at Pickton’s trial the skull had likely not been lying in that rural patch of land for longer than a couple of weeks.

The site was searched by police dogs and the nearby waters probed by the RCMP dive team in 1995, but no further remains were ever found.

A kilometre-long stretch of the area was analyzed even more extensively for several weeks in 2003 after police found the heel and rib bones on Pickton’s farm. Officers returned to the Mission slough with some students of anthropology and archeology to sift through the leafy ground cover, conduct detailed hand and line searches, and excavate some portions by hand.

Still, no further evidence linked to the skull was located.

Tool experts later concluded Jane Doe’s skull had been cut in the same manner as three other partial skulls police found on Pickton’s farm.

Although investigators still didn’t know any more details about Jane Doe’s identity or death, they charged the former pig farmer with her murder.

Evidence disregarded

Her journey for justice, however, hit many road blocks.

Pickton’s trial judge ruled the first-degree murder charge pertaining to Jane Doe should be stayed because of an administrative error on the indictment.

Prosecutors later convinced the judge to allow jurors to hear details about Jane Doe as so-called similar-fact evidence during Pickton’s 2007 trial. At the end of the Crown’s lengthy case, though, the defence successfully argued prosecutors hadn’t proven there were enough similarities between Jane Doe and the six women Pickton was on trial for murdering.

Justice James Williams then told the jurors they must disregard all the evidence they had heard for the previous eight months about Jane Doe, including testimony from 26 of the 98 Crown witnesses.

Prosecutors, who believe as many as three other bones from Pickton’s pit (another heel and rib, as well as an ankle) may have also come from Jane Doe, complained the ruling had “tremendous implications” for the trial.

It was the Crown’s theory that Pickton regularly drove to Mission to get rid of body parts that were too big to take to the Vancouver rendering plant, where he disposed of pig innards. Jane Doe’s skull was crucial evidence to support this theory, which was also bolstered by the testimony of a witness who said Pickton dumped unspecified things on back roads near Mission.

Jane Doe’s removal, return, and final removal from the trial was all the more troubling given a pre-trial ruling the judge made in 2006: “I consider it likely that the same person is responsible for the dismemberment of Jane Doe and at least three of the six [victims at the centre of the trial].”

Almas, who became involved in this file in 2002 when Pickton was first arrested, said rather than being frustrated by this 16-year-old puzzle, he and his task force colleagues remain hopeful they will one day find the answer.

“There is so much importance to trying to solve a case like this,” he said. “There is a family somewhere who would like to know what happened to their loved one. And knowing this case is such a mystery, to put a name to this woman and bring some closure would be very satisfying.”

Almas is asking anyone with information that might be relevant to this case — no matter how big or small — to call the task force’s tip line at 1-877-687-3377.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Thursday, February 17

Owen apology just the beginning

Former mayor formally apologizes to former VPD geographic profiler for comments made on radio


You may have missed the apology from former mayor Philip Owen to Dr. Kim Rossmo that appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Province and a couple of other papers across the country on Tuesday.

It was hardly eloquent. It read more like what it was; a deal between lawyers to avoid a lawsuit.

Rossmo created controversy as a Vancouver cop the moment in 1995 that then-police chief Ray Canuel catapulted him from constable to the newly created position of Detective Inspector. Rossmo had just become the first cop in the country to get a PhD. He was already attracting worldwide attention because of the thesis he’d written detailing his theory for tracking down bad guys called “geographic profiling.”

The RCMP was hot to hire him. But Canuel was looking for a star to put a shine on a VPD with a tarnished image. So he offered Rossmo the promotion on a five-year contract. The Geographic Profile Unit was born.

At the time, Owen was mayor and therefore chair of the Vancouver Police Board that approved Rossmo’s contract. It was noted in the minutes of that meeting that the senior ranks of the force were not amused. They immediately shunned him—even refusing to allow him to join the officer’s mess, a lounge in the VPD headquarters where police inspectors could drop in for a beer. And, while police forces around the globe were making use of his skills, many of his colleagues at the VPD refused to avail themselves of his help.

It was also about that time Vancouver was awakening to the fact that a growing number of women—mostly sex trade workers—were going missing from the Downtown Eastside.

When, in 1998, Rossmo suggested those missing women could possibly be the victims of a serial killer, the inspector in charge of the major crimes section dismissed him out of hand.

Owen just drank the Kool-Aid. He repeatedly rejected the view there was a serial killer at work. Not so unusual: Chairs of police boards—our frontline of civilian oversight—are typically cheerleaders for the police force rather than representing the community and asking hard questions about how the cops are doing their work.

Owen, by the way, was still chair of the board in 2001 when the decision was made not to renew Rossmo’s contract for budget reasons. Rossmo sued for wrongful dismissal and lost.

He then quit the force and ended up teaching at a University in Texas and consulting globally.

A year after Rossmo left the force, Willy Pickton was arrested, charged and eventually convicted as a serial killer.

This brings us to Owen’s apology.

Last summer after Pickton’s appeal for a new trial was refused, Owen was called upon by CKNW and CBC Radio to comment. It was during those interviews that he criticized Rossmo, to generally suggest that Rossmo impeded the investigation into the missing women.

But two weeks after those broadcasts, the VPD issued a report on the missing women investigation written by Deputy Chief Doug LePard. It seriously challenged Owen’s version of events.

In it, LePard said the VPD could have done a better job and apologized. He also put a fair amount of blame for the foot dragging on the RCMP. They had jurisdiction over Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm. But most significantly LePard vindicated Rossmo, making several favourable comments about his contribution to the investigation.

Tuesday, Owen was forced to retract his radio comments: “Those statements were completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading.”

That, however, isn’t the end of it for our former mayor. We are about to head into the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. I expect Owen will be called as a witness. And I know that Rossmo is seeking legal standing at that inquiry. If that’s granted, his lawyer will be able to cross-examine Owen about his role and the role of the police board.

If he doesn’t, others most certainly will.


Here is the text of Philip Owen’s apology to Kim Rossmo as it appeared in ads in the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers Feb. 15:

On August 6, 2010, I made statements on morning talk shows on both CBC Radio One and CKNW News Talk 980 relating to the Vancouver Police Department’s Missing Women Investigation that culminated in the conviction of Willy Pickton for numerous murders. In some of those statements, I was critical of former Detective Inspector Kim Rossmo’s involvement in that investigation. Those statements were completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading. I apologize to Dr. Rossmo for having made those statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that Dr. Rossmo was one of the first people to identify that a serial killer was likely involved in the disappearance of women from the Downtown Eastside. I further acknowledge that in August, 2010, Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard released the Vancouver Police Department’s Missing Women Investigation Review in which he noted several times Dr. Rossmo’s unique skills and contributions to that investigation.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Tuesday, February 15

Former Vancouver mayor: I was wrong about missing women, apologizes t ocop


This file photo shows Kim Rossmo when he headed the Vancouver Police Department's geographic profiling unit.

Photograph by: File, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Vancouver detective Kim Rossmo knew there was something wrong in the downtown eastside. Women were missing, and Rossmo, who was inventing a research technique he dubbed geographic profiling, felt in his gut there was a serial killer at work.

Rossmo's intelligence largely fell on deaf ears at the force for years and his contract was not renewed.

Eventually police stepped up their work which culminated in the arrest and conviction of Robert "Willy" Pickton.

Now former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen is apologizing to Rossmo in newspaper ads running in today's Vancouver Sun, Province and other papers across Canada.

"On August 6, 2010, I made statements on morning talk shows on both CBC Radio One and CKNW News Talk 980 relating to the Vancouver Police Department's Missing Women Investigation that culminated in the conviction of Willy Pickton for numerous murders," Owen's ad says.

"I was critical of former Detective Inspector Kim Rossmo's involvement in that investigation. Those statements were completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading. I apologize to Dr. Rossmo for having made those statements and I fully retract them.

"I acknowledge that Dr. Rossmo was one of the first people to identify that a serial killer was likely involved in the disappearance of women from the downtown Eastside. I further acknowledge that in August, 2010, Deputy Chief Constable Doug Lepard released the Vancouver Police Department's Missing Women Investigation Review in which he noted several times Dr. Rossmo's unique skills and contributions to that investigation."

Rossmo has been a research professor in Texas State's Department of Criminal Justice since 2003 and the university's Endowed Chair in Criminology since 2009, the university says on its website.

Rossmo sent The Sun an e-mail which said: "It was disappointing to see former Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen engage in revisionist history last summer. However, I am pleased he has now apologized. This matter illustrates the challenge facing the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in terms of establishing the facts of what occurred over a decade ago and the tendency for some to try to dodge responsibility and shift blame."

Since the 1990s, Rossmo has worked with law enforcement on more than 200 serial crime cases, representing about 3,000 crimes spanning the globe, the university says. This includes many high-profile cases, such as the Washington, D.C., sniper killings and one of the largest manhunts for a serial rapist in Great Britain's history. His work was also the basis for the pilot episode of "Numb3rs," a TV series.

"Rossmo also heads Texas State's Center for Geospatial Intelligence and Investigation (GII). In addition to assisting in criminal cases and training law enforcement on how to use his methodology in serial property crime investigations, Rossmo is exploring its versatility by applying it to projects ranging from border control to counterterrorism — projects for which he has secured more than $2 million in grants," the university says.

Rossmo could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Vancouver Sun

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

The DTES’s mysterious non-profit machine



Lorne Mayencourt stands at Pigeon Park in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside April 3, 2009.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, The Province

Navigating the labyrinth of Downtown Eastside non-profit groups is no easy task. It is something former Vancouver Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt tried over several years without any luck.

And that failure came despite Mayencourt's considerable success lobbying for and eventually having enshrined in law the Safe Streets Act.

"There was a lot of resistance within the bureaucracy to build up the kind of infrastructure you need to monitor non-profits," said Mayencourt, who served between 2001 and 2008. He now operates a drug-treatment centre near Prince George.

Mayencourt said he asked the B.C. Auditor-General to include performance standards in any contract given to a non-profit agency. He proposed that those standards include a record of the non-profit's objectives, the number of people served, how they measure performance, and annual-meeting minutes, all to be made available online. Mayencourt's plan was backed by the government's public accounts committee.

However, when the auditor-general took the proposal to the various ministries that handle Downtown Eastside contracts, they responded that is was "too onerous a task."

"There was also resistance from smaller non-profits," Mayencourt said.

Mayencourt's staff did determine there were 120 non-profit groups serving Downtown Eastside residents.

However, half of those were not registered charities and therefore their basic financial information wasn't available.

"Non-profit agencies are performing an important role and people want to support those that are legitimate and do good work," Mayencourt said. "But, if there's no real oversight, then people will be less inclined to support them, so the good guys suffer. It's a very low bar to start a non-profit agency in B.C. You basically have to have six like-minded friends, a constitution they will provide to you, a board of directors and there you go. We need to make sure a non-profit is not just a make-work project for a chosen few."

Ron Townshend, registrar of B.C. Registry Services, said there are several types of non-profits in B.C.

"It's a huge mix," Townshend said.

"At the bottom of the mix are non-profits that aren't registered at all. There's no legislation forcing a non-profit to incorporate. Then there are non-profits that are registered in B.C., some from B.C. that are only registered federally and some from B.C. that are registered federally as a charity."

Townshend could not say how many B.C.-registered non-profits operate in the Downtown Eastside because B.C. Registry Services still operates on a "largely manual system." He said that, since 2004, B.C.-registered non-profits have not had to file annual financial reports due in part to "deregulation." However, a society must release its financial report if a member of the public asks to see it.

Financial information on federal charities is available via the Canada Revenue Agency website, where The Province identified 65 non-profits that are registered charities and provide Downtown Eastside services. Some also provide services outside of this area.

In 2007, those 65 charities had revenues of $180 million and assets of $315 million, mostly buildings.

There are three solely Downtown Eastside-focused charities with more than $10 million a year in revenues -- the St. James Community Services Society, the PHS Community Services Society and the Lookout Emergency Aid Society.

There were 21 charities with revenues greater than $1 million a year.

The largest Downtown Eastside charity by assets is PHS, with $62-million worth of mostly property.

There are at least 650 unpaid people serving on the various boards of directors and around 1,500 paid staff.

Apart from Mayencourt, no-one interviewed by Operation Phoenix was able to identify the number of non-profits providing services in the community.

"It's not an easy thing to determine," Townshend said. "The 65 gives you a sense of how many there are given a half of B.C. non-profits are charities, but beyond that it's just guessing."

Former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen guessed as many as 300, while Pivot Legal Society's John Richardson guessed at least 100.

Pivot is not a registered charity, so its financial reports were not publicly available. However, on request, Richardson provided the figures to The Province -- noting he had never before been asked by a media outlet to provide financial information.

Aside from the CRA-registered charities, there are many others providing services, including the Odd Squad Society that produces documentaries, Justice For Girls and the Wilson Recovery Society. There are also foundations that provide money and support, such as the More Than A Roof Foundation, Coast Foundation and Streetohome Foundation.

Former Vancouver city councillor and Downtown Eastside charity organizer Jim Green was once hired by the provincial government to try to find out how many organizations were servicing the Downtown Eastside.

"I was asked to do a study on what was being delivered, but had real trouble doing that. That's part of the problem," he said.

Green said there is still a great need for an assessment of non-profits in order to make them generally more accountable and transparent.

The Big Three

PHS Community Services Society

20 W. Hastings St.

Provides housing and support for 450 marginalized people, including respite and hospice. Operates Canada's only supervised-injection site,

life-skills centre, dental clinic, art gallery and needle exchange.

Incorporated: 2002

Revenue: $19 million

Assets: $62 million

Full-time employees: 139

Seven employees earn between $80,000 and $120,000

Executive director:

Mark Townsend

Number of board members: 8

St. James Community Services Society

329 Powell St.

Operates shelter beds, hospice beds, mental-health beds and related services.

Incorporated: 1975

Revenue: $14.1 million

Assets: $17.7 million

Full-time employees: 118

Wages: $10.2 million

Executive director:

Jonathan Oldman

Number of board

members: 12

Lookout Emergency Aid Society

429 Alexander St.

Provides services to marginalized people through 15 programs in 12 housing projects.

Incorporated: 1982

Revenue: $11.7 million

Assets: $36 million

Full-time employees: 118

Wages: $6.6 million

Executive director:

Karen O'Shannacery

Number of board

members: 9

II This week's lineup:

Monday: A million a day

can't buy clarity


A pharmacy of their own

Thursday: Our Unsung Hero

Friday: Your feedback

What do you think?

Join the conversation

Send your suggestions, feedback and ideas to

Unsung heroes

Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Downtown Eastside? Write and tell us about him or her and what's special about what the person does. Include your name and contact information. Once a month, editors at The Province, Global B.C. and CKNW will go through the nominations and choose an Unsung Hero, to be featured by all three media outlets. Send nominations to with "Unsung Hero" in the subject line.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Monday, February 14

Former Vancouver mayor apologizes to Pickton investigator


VANCOUVER — Former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen has placed newspaper ads apologizing to a former police officer involved in the missing women investigation that led to the conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton.

An ad to run in Tuesday's Vancouver Province says that on Aug. 6, Owen made statements on CBC Radio One and CKNW morning talk shows that were critical of former detective inspector Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler.

"Those statements were completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading," says the ad. "I apologize to Dr. Rossmo for having made those statements and I fully retract them."

Owen acknowledged that Rossmo was one of the first people to identify that a serial killer was likely involved in the disappearance of women from the Downtown Eastside. He also acknowledged that in August, Deputy Chief Const. Doug LePard released a review of the Pickton investigation noting Rossmo's skills and contributions to the investigation.

The ad also will be published in the Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald and Ottawa Citizen.

"I'm pleased that he's made the apology and corrected the inaccuracies," said Rossmo on Monday. "I'm pleased that we were able to resolve this."

Rossmo said the issue had been resolved "quite quickly" and had not reached a stage where legal action had been decided upon.

After Rossmo's contract with the Vancouver police was not renewed, he filed a wrongful dismissal suit, which was eventually decided in favour of the Vancouver Police Board.

He is currently a professor in the criminal justice department of Texas State University.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Rain can't dampen spirit of March through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside



A file photo from the 2010 Women's Memorial March as it proceeds down Vancouver's Main Street.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

The 20th annual Feb. 14 Women's Memorial March will go forward in the pouring rain today because organizers say women continue to go missing and be murdered "every week" in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

March organizer Marlene George said the procession will stop at places in the DES from which women have gone missing or where their bodies have been found.

George says approximately 10 women in the DES have been murdered in the last year, including Ashley Nicole Machiskinic, a young Kawacatoose Cree from Sask who was allegedly thrown into an alley behind the Regent Hotel on Sept 15, 2010.

George praised the efforts of the Vancouver Police Department in setting up Sister Watch, a new program for community members to pass on information or evidence to police without any risk to themselves.

However, George said, although the community has come forward consistenly with the name of a suspect allegedly connected to Machiskinic's death and that of two other young women, as of today no charges have been laid.

"As we sit here, women are being preyed upon and, in fact, a woman's body was found behind the Balmoral Hotel last week," charged elder Mable Mipshank, citing other cases of women who've gone missing recently in Burnaby, North Vanocuver and Surrey.

The March began 20 years ago after a woman was murdered in the DES. The March, which begins outside the Carnegie Centre at 1 p.m., is held to honour and remember the 32 women who are still missing, the 36 women who were brutally murdered by Robert Pickton, and all of the other women from the DES who die at the hands of violence, said George.

The March began in Vancouver and is marked in nine other Canadian cities: Victoria, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary and London.

Check back for updates.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Friday, February 11

Vancouver march for missing and murdered women to mark 20th year | Vancouver, Canada |

Vancouver march for missing and murdered women to mark 20th year | Vancouver, Canada |

Body found wrapped in plastic in North Van park was missing Surrey woman

Body found wrapped in plastic in North Van park was missing Surrey woman

Homicide investigators have now identified the woman found dead in a Lynn Valley Park on February 2nd. Jennifer Ferguson, also known as Jennifer Sondergaard, was reported missing by her family on January 30.

Photograph by: Handout, RCMP

Police say a body found bundled in plastic in a North Vancouver park last week is that of Jennifer Ferguson, 40, of Surrey.

Ferguson had been reported missing by Surrey RCMP on Jan. 30 and had not been seen since Jan. 22. She was not known to police.

Her body was found by a passerby in a park in the 2300-block Kirkstone Road on Feb. 2.

"Investigators are now able to confirm reports that suggested that Ferguson's body was wrapped in plastic when it was discovered," said the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr in a release Friday.

Police say it appears Ferguson was killed somewhere other than the park where she was found.

"Based on what the evidence is telling us, we believe Jennifer was murdered at one location and later placed in the park," said Carr.

Investigators will not be releasing a cause of death as it will be key evidence in an eventual prosecution.

Anyone with information that could help determine how long Ferguson's body was at the park or who has any other information is asked to call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-4448.

Wally Oppal appointed Thompson Rivers University chancellor

Wally Oppal appointed Thompson Rivers University chancellor

Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney general and judge, has been appointed chancellor of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops.

Photograph by: ., .

Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney general and judge, has been appointed chancellor of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops.

The university made the announcement today, saying Oppal was recommended by a committee that included students, alumni, faculty and community representatives.

"Wally Oppal is a well respected British Columbian," Karl deBruijn, chairman of the university's board of governors, said in announcing the appointment. "I know his commitment to justice and to our province will inspire a whole new generation as they build their futures at TRU."

Oppal, who will be formally installed June 8, described TRU as B.C.'s most innovative and creative post-secondary institution in meeting diverse needs in the 21st century.

The university said Oppal, who has been a Crown counsel, a defence lawyer, a judge and a lawmaker, will provide valuable guidance as it launches the country's first new law school in 30 years.

Oppal, who is now leading the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, was appointed to the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2003 and served as B.C. attorney general and minister responsible for multiculturalism from 2005 until 2009. He replaces Nancy Greene Raine as chancellor.

Sex workers' killer gets 23 years

Sex workers' killer gets 23 years

Davey Butorac not eligible for parole until whole sentence is served

Irene Reitz holds her daughter Gwendolyn Lawton's photo alongsideGwendolyn's dad, Bill Reitz, and his wife, Cheryl.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG, The Province

It will be 23 years before ­Davey Butorac, convicted of seconddegree murder in the deaths of two "very vulnerable" Fraser Valley women, can apply for parole.

"It took four long years since our girl's been gone and we got him. At least we got him for 23 years -it isn't what we wanted. It's been really tough. It's been really, really tough. We can hardly speak about it," Bill Reitz, whose daughter Gwendolyn Jo Lawton was one of Butorac's victims, said outside court.

Lawton's mother, Irene Reitz, called her daughter her mentor, confidante, teacher and the love of her life.

"I'm glad I can go home and talk to my daughter's ashes and say, 'Gwennie, we did it.'"

Lawton's body was found on March 13, 2007, dumped over an embankment beside a rural road in Abbotsford. The 46-year-old had been beaten and strangled to death.

In July 2007, 50-year-old Sheryl Lynn Koroll's body was found in a Langley industrial park. Koroll, who was also beaten, died of bluntforce head injuries that caused a skull fracture.

A second-degree murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence, but the number of years before parole eligibility can vary. The minimum is 10 years.

Eleven members of the 12-person jury that convicted Butorac, 32, recommended the maximum period of 25 years, while one suggested 20.

Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson said 25 years is unusual in second-degree murder cases but appropriate for Butorac, and described the murders as "brutal" attacks that preyed on "very vulnerable" women.

McPherson said both women were addicted to drugs and worked in the street-level sex trade.

The women led tragic lives, McPherson said, but they loved and were loved by others.

Lawton's son, Kyle, wrote in a victim-impact statement that his mother was always there for him.

"She was the only family I was close to," he said. "It was hard watching her go down the road she did."

Koroll's parents, John and Sophie Okrainetz, wrote in their statements that their daughter did errands for them and helped take care of Sophie, a paraplegic.

Defence lawyer Richard Fowler argued that an ineligibility period of 20 to 22 years was enough.

Fowler said there is nothing in Butorac's history that explains why he killed Lawton and Koroll.

Butorac's family confirmed that ordinariness in their letters of support, describing Butorac as helpful, compassionate and sensitive.

Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey decided to impose a period "slightly below" the maximum.

"I find that he poses a real danger to the safety of the community and will do so for years to come," Arnold-Bailey said.

Butorac has also been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 47-year-old Margaret Redford. Her body was found floating face down in Aldergrove's Bertrand Creek on May 20, 2006.

Thursday, February 10

CTV British Columbia - Double killer gets no chance of parole for 23 years - CTV News

CTV British Columbia - Double killer gets no chance of parole for 23 years - CTV News

Langley killer Mato Butorac facing 25 years

Langley killer Mato Butorac facing 25 years

Crown counsel compared Davey Mato Butorac to Robert Pickton, another killer of sex trade workers.

Davey Mato Butorac is depicted here in January, 2008, in court on two charges of murder in connection with the killing of two drug-addicted sex trade workers.

Photograph by: Felicity Don, Special to the Sun

METRO VANCOUVER -- Convicted murderer Davey Mato Butorac is no different from the infamous Robert Willie Pickton, in the mind of Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson.

McPherson compared Butorac to Pickton when he recommended in Provincial Court in New Westminster that Butorac not be allowed to seek parole for at least 25 years.

In 2010 Butorac was convicted of second degree murder in the deaths of Abbotford’s Gwendolyn Jo Lawton, 46, and Aldergrove’s Sheryl Lynn Koroll, 50. It took a jury just five hours to find Butorac guilty on both charges.

The conviction carries an automatic life sentence but the court is now deciding when and if he might be eligible for parole.

“There’s no qualitative difference in the Crown submission between murdering six vulnerable sex trade workers over the course of four years and murdering two over the course of four months,” McPherson told the court.

The Aldergrove man was in court today as both sides argued about how long he should stay in prison before being eligible for parole. Under Canadian law, 25 years is the maximum for these crimes.

The Crown and defense were continuing to make their submissions to the court mid-day Feb. 10.

In the courtroom today were Irene Reitz, Lawton’s mother, and her son, Kyle Lawton, as well as other relatives.

The families of both murdered women had provided victim impact statements to the court.

Butorac also faces charges related to the death of Margaret Redford, alleged to be his first victim, an Aldergrove woman not linked to the sex trade.

Watch for updates at and in the Feb. 11 edition of the Langley Advance.

Langley killer facing 25 years

Langley killer facing 25 years
Crown counsel compared Davey Mato Butorac to Robert Pickton, another killer of sex trade workers.

Read more:

With "The Forgotten," MOA sought to open conversation about murdered and missing women | The Vancouver Observer - News, Culture, Sports, Blogs in Vancouver, BC

With "The Forgotten," MOA sought to open conversation about murdered and missing women | The Vancouver Observer

This story is Part Two in a three-part series on the cancellation of Pamela Masik’s “The Forgotten” portrait collection from the UBC Museum of Anthropology, originally scheduled to run February 15 – March 21, 2011. Read Part One: When an outsider paints the DTES missing women.

Wednesday, February 9

CTV British Columbia - Police pursue Vancouver's other serial killer - CTV News

CTV British Columbia - Police pursue Vancouver's other serial killer - CTV News

When an outsider paints the DTES missing women

This story is Part One in a three-part series on the cancellation of Pamela Masik’s “The Forgotten” portrait collection from the UBC Museum of Anthropology, originally scheduled to run February 15 – March 21, 2011.

Kelly Parkatti
Posted: Feb 8th, 2011
missing women

Last night I spoke at a National Conference at SFU talking about 'The Forgotten” Project. There was so much hostility in the room by a group of women from the DTES [Downtown Eastside]…These women are so drowned in their own stories and take claim on the loss of lives, passionately taking ownership of any of the inherent problems that were the cause of this tragedy… These women are so blind and deaf to any greater perspective on the issues, that illustrate they are not theirs to own. -  Pamela Masik’s blog post “The Conference Was Hijacked,” August 14, 2010

Full Article:
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CTV British Columbia - Police pursue Vancouver's other serial killer - CTV News

CTV British Columbia - Police pursue Vancouver's other serial killer - CTV News

By: Jon Woodward,

Date: Tuesday Feb. 8, 2011 7:55 PM PT

At the same time convicted serial killer Robert Pickton was prowling Vancouver's downtown eastside for victims, another man was doing the same.

While Pickton brought sex trade workers in his truck to his Coquitlam farm, this other killer dumped women's bodies up logging roads in the Fraser Valley.

And while Pickton sits in a federal prison, this other killer roams free.

Police say it's time he was caught.

"We will absolutely not give up," said Staff Sergeant John Cater of the E Division Missing Women Task Force. "These women did not deserve to meet the demise in the way they did."

The bodies of Victoria Younker, Tammy Lee Pipe, and Tracy Olajide were all found in mountains near Mission in the Fraser Valley in 1995. At the time, police noticed similarities in the cases and believed they had a serial killer on their hands.

"I think when I saw the second crime scene, that was the indication that something was going on," said Sgt. Paul McCarl, who was the file manager in the early days and now works for RCMP Unsolved Homicide.

"As time progressed, another month and a half, the third victim was found in Mission in similar terrain, and the scenes were basically the same," he said.

Police thought they had found the culprit when they raided Pickton's farm in 2002. They found the DNA of more than 30 women, but they found no trace of Olajide, Pipe, or Younker.

Younker's family thought they would get answers then -- but were crushed when they found out Pickton wasn't connected to their cases.

"It really hurt," said Younker's sister Cathy. "I want the public to know that it wasn't Pickton and there is another serial killer out there."

She says her sister worked as a stripper in Victoria and had a loving relationship. But then health problems and drugs caused her to gain weight.

"She started working on the streets here in Victoria," said Cathy. "She could make more money to support her habit in Vancouver, so that's where she went."

No one knows whose vehicle Younker got into, but she got into the wrong one. Cathy never saw her sister again.

16 years later, police are still hunting Vancouver's other serial killer. They look for any patterns to connect victims with suspects. Last month they asked RCMP members in Alberta to interview someone.

They already have perhaps what would be a key piece of evidence: the killer's DNA.

"Every week someone else is being compared that we're interested in, and being eliminated," said McCarl. "Eventually we'll hit on the right person, and that person will be identified."

But to narrow down the suspect list police need to solve certain mysteries. They want to know exactly what a set of tiny yellow flecks that were found in the crime scene are.

They want to know who had a red four by four that could have navigated the rough terrain in the Valley. McCarl says a fleck of red automotive paint is connected to the killer.

They also showed a set of zap straps that are like one the killer would have used.

On top of that, the team of detectives constantly goes over the patterns of interactions that the victims and the suspects may have had to find new leads.

"Each of us thinks about the case pretty much every day," said Cater.

Police and the families are asking for help from the public -- any tip could be useful and should be forwarded to the tip line: 1-877-687-3377.

Cathy Younker says she wants to find out what happened to her sister.

"I'm hoping to get this man off the streets," she said. "My sister's gone, no matter what happens. But I'm hoping that people can, if they have any tips, if they see anything different, call in and let the police know."

It's been 16 years, but Younker's family still hope they can one day learn the truth.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward

Tuesday, February 8

Burnaby homicide victim identified

Burnaby homicide victim identified

Second woman in a week found slain in a Metro Vancouver park

Carla Marie Smith, 27, has been identified as the woman found slain in a North Burnaby park Monday.

Photograph by: Handout, IHIT

Click here to see more photos related to this story

METRO VANCOUVER -- The woman found slain in a North Burnaby park Monday has been identified as 27-year-old Carla Marie Smith.

Smith is known to Vancouver police as being involved in the sex trade, Cpl. Dale Carr, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said Tuesday.

She also used the names Carmen and Justine.

Carr said investigators have not yet determined the cause of death or if Smith died where she was discovered or at another location.

"We are hoping that today's autopsy will assist us with that determination," Carr said.

A passer-by out for a walk in Warner Loat Park, just off Burnaby Lake Regional Park, found the woman's body about noon Monday.

The body was off a trail in a wooded area, but close to Winston Street, a busy road running along a series of industrial strip malls.

And the smaller park is used to access the larger regional park which has a series of trails.

Carr said police are looking at other cases where women have been found murdered in Metro Vancouver parks in recent years.

"Investigators have continued to consult on all files and have found that there are no links between each of the events," he said. "Each of the investigations are separate and distinct investigations, the only similarities are that they are women found in a park."

No charges have been laid in several other similar cases.

Last week, a woman was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in a ditch at North Vancouver's Kirkstone Park. Her name has not been released.

Last September, 15-year-old Laura Szendrei, a North Delta high school student, was found slain in a wooded area of North Delta's Mackie Park.

In June 2010, 41-year-old Teri-Lyn Williams was found in the bushes off 104A Avenue between King George Boulevard and Whalley Boulevard. She was also a sex trade worker.

Carr said anyone who recognizes Smith and has information that may help the investigation should call the IHIT tip-line at


read The Real Scoop at

Sounding the drum for missing and murdered women | OpenFile

Sounding the drum for missing and murdered women | OpenFile

Friday, February 4

When art comes back to say hello, only to be released again. #honoring #missingwomen #artevent « Katarina Thorsen Art Blog

When art comes back to say hello, only to be released again. #honoring #missingwomen #artevent « Katarina Thorsen Art Blog

Centretown News Online - Controversial exhibit may come to Ottawa

Centretown News Online - Controversial exhibit may come to Ottawa

Friday, 04 February 2011
By Amanda Mrezar

Views : 6

Favoured : None

Published in : Centretown News, Arts

Artist Pamela Masik’s much-anticipated exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, The Forgotten, was cancelled as a result of immense outrage from women’s activist groups.

The Forgotten features the faces of women deemed missing persons from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The Vancouver-based artist has been accused of exploiting the women’s sufferings (and that of their families) to further her own career, expanding the “Masik brand."

While she may not have been welcomed in Vancouver, Masik wants to continue with the show.

She was quoted in The National Post as saying,“I want to show it where decisions are made, and then take it international.”

As the cornerstone of Canada’s decision-making process, Masik has expressed interest in bringing the show to Ottawa.

Masik was unwilling to comment for this story.

She told The National Post last week that her motivation in painting the images was driven by a need to shine light on marginalized women largely ignored by society.

“There are still missing and murdered women all over Canada and it’s going to continue to happen until we acknowledge our role in making this happen," she told The Post.

"How do we create change if we can’t even talk about it?”

Tony Romeyn, a Vancouver resident and creator of the Highway of Tears website (one of several dedicated to B.C’s missing women) says that while Masik’s art may not be for everyone.

“She desires to leave an impact as to what is truly happening to the girls,” he wrote in an email.

An RCMP victim services volunteer for 17 years, he says his main purpose now is to help small groups from within his community’s church to “understand all the pain and hurt in our communities.”

John Kelly, a journalism professor at Carleton University and co-director of the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education, says that while it may not be the case with Masik’s work, aboriginal people are “ . . . used to being exploited, you might say we’re a little bit sensitive to it.”

Kelly, who focuses largely on the issue of ethical journalism when teaching his courses, says that as long as Masik covered the ethical basics (contacting the women’s families for permission prior to) then “it’s fine."

But he adds, “if there’s an agenda that’s present and she’s taking advantage of the marginalized groups then it’s not fine.”

It would be beneficial for the artist to bring the exhibit to Ottawa, Kelly says, if it will ignite public awareness and spark political support.

No date has been set for the exhibit coming to Ottawa.