Monday, October 29

Memorial plaques in Vancouver unveiled to honour missing and murdered women

By David P. Ball October 29, 2012 05:25 pm

Family members of missing and murdered women lauded the first of 62 bronze memorial plaques for their loved ones installed yesterday on Vancouver's streets.
A small gathering of dignitaries and families spoke of the need to change policing and social attitudes towards sex workers, only four days after B.C. granted an extension to the beleaguered Missing Women Commission of Inquiry's Wally Oppal to file his final report on the Robert Pickton murder investigation.

Friday, October 26

Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report delayed

By Sarah Ferguson, The Tribune

Friday, October 26, 2012 5:34:30 EDT PM

dianne rock

WELLAND - Lilliane Beaudoin hopes Wally Oppal, head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, wraps up his report into the police investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton soon.

The report was expected to be finished by the end of 2011, but was extended to June 30 this year and again to Oct. 31.

“I hope (it’s finished soon). I hope to see really good recommendations brought in to help people on the streets,” said Beaudoin.

Beaudoin's sister Dianne Rock was one of Pickton’s victims.

B.C.'s Attorney General’s office confirmed the report is now due Nov. 30. The report began looking at why police failed to catch Pickton who murdered sex workers and drug users from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Pickton was arrested and charged with killing two women after Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a task force raided his pig farm in 2002.

After police began digging for DNA remains on Pickton’s property, he was charged with 26 counts of murder.

In August of the following year, the Crown decided to try only six counts first, postponing the remaining 20 counts for a later trial, however the prosecution decided not to pursue these charges with another trial.

Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and handed a life sentence on Dec. 9, 2007.

Thursday, October 25

Advocates have high hopes, even as report delayed on killer Robert Pickton

25 October 2012, Canadian Press

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VANCOUVER - Even as a report is delayed yet again into the actions of police around serial killer Robert Pickton, there are high expectations from advocates and activists in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside that the report will have life-saving solutions.

The province has granted an extra month to the commissioner who oversaw the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton serial murder case to hand in his final report.

"Members of the community who could have played a critical role in the inquiry process were not able to participate. That needs to be healed," said Esther Shannon, with the Honouring Truth sex workers' organizing group.

"If there's no effective way of integrating the community, the recommendations have a very high mountain to climb."

Shannon and a couple dozen people participated in a public reading Thursday aimed at highlighting the sexism and racism they believe was part of the problem that allowed Pickton to continue killing women for so long.

About 30 people, including advocates and friends of the serial killer's victims, took turns reading from a 102-page assessment written by the lawyer appointed to broadly represent the interests of the Downtown Eastside during the inquiry.

Some 13 groups, including those representing aboriginal concerns and civil liberties, withdrew from the inquiry before it began to protest the province's denial of legal funding for them at the inquiry.

The report by lawyer Jason Gratl offers its own analysis of why Pickton was able to hunt women in the gritty Vancouver neighbourhood for so long, and puts forward 37 recommendations of its own.

Oppal's task was to examine why police failed to catch Pickton as he murdered sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The former B.C. Appeal Court judge held 94 days of formal hearings to gather evidence, and also collected written submissions and information at public forums throughout the province.

The government says it has spent $8.6 million on the commission's work to date.

"You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind to sit through that entire inquiry and not write good recommendations out of it," said Kerry Porth, a former sex worker who attended much of the inquiry and helped organize the event.

"I'm really hopeful."

When the inquiry was first announced in 2010, Oppal was given until the end of 2011 to finish his work, but that was extended to June 30 of this year and then again to Oct. 31.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond signed an order in council this week that gives Oppal yet another extension until Nov. 30.

"The public release date of the report will be determined in consultation with the commission, taking into consideration the information and privacy review and the time needed to print the report," said a release from the government.

Porth said she was disappointed the report has yet again been delayed, but said she'd prefer the necessary time be taken to craft recommendations that could lead to "serious change."

"But a report is just a report and it could end up on a shelf gathering dust," she added. "We will continue to push the provincial government to implement those recommendations when they come out."

Porth said she would like to see recommendations such as police officers training on issues faced by aboriginal women, that the missing person's intake process by reformed and that there be compensation for the children of the murdered women.

Shannon said there's desire for the report to offer a funding model for sex-worker outreach groups, and for the report to be structured in such a way that it can be regularly revisited. The goal would be to easily tell what actions have been taken.

Gratl said his top recommendation would be for a "discrimination audit" to be conducted within both the Vancouver Police Department and B.C. RCMP forces.

"Usually auditors have close access to the institution, the type of access the commissioner didn't necessarily take advantage of, entirely," Gratl said.

"All we saw was a tiny time slice from 1998 to 2002 of discrimination in respect of a specific investigation. What we didn't see was a much broader overview."

Gratl said such an audit would look at how resource allocation decisions are made, how many officers are devoted to the safety of sex workers and drug users, and also how many officers are devoted to incarcerating such individual.

The inquiry heard that Vancouver police and the RCMP received evidence implicating Pickton in the disappearances of sex workers several years before his arrest.

Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, but the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He told an undercover police officer he killed a total of 49.

Bond has said she will be drawing heavily on Oppal's report when her government releases the second phase of a plan to reform the province's justice system, due some time early next year.

Wednesday, October 24

Cara Louise Ellis the first of 62 women to be remembered in CFCDI Living Memorial Stones Project


Cara Louise Ellis the first of 62 women to be remembered in CFCDI Living Memorial Stones Project

Memorial plaques to be placed in downtown Vancouver to commemorate murder victims

Vancouver, Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10am

The streets of downtown Vancouver will soon be transformed. On Monday, October 29, the first memorial plaque, bearing the name of Cara Louise Ellis, will be unveiled in front of The Bay, at Granville Street and West Georgia. Inspired by Germany’s Stolperstein or “Stumbling Stones” The Living Stones Memorial Project will place memorial plaques throughout the sidewalks of the Downtown Eastside to represent each of the 62 women who were murdered, went missing, or were victims of Robert Pickton. The bronze plaques, each approximately 4x4 inches, will bear the name of each victim, followed by their birth date as well as the word “MURDERED” or “MISSING”, and will be strategically placed at the approximate location that each woman disappeared.

The concept for the memorial developed from a realization that throughout the Oppal Commission, the parties involved were attracting greater attention than the women victims. Working with the City of Vancouver the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation (CFCDI) pioneered the project in a hope to keep the memory of the women alive. As CFCDI Director, Sean Kirkham, states: “The Living Memorial Stones become reminders and voices; they call out that these women had a name.” For many of Pickton’s victims, the living stones will serve as the only gravestone they will have.

The unveiling of Cara Louise Ellis’ plaque next Monday marks the commencement of the first phase of the project. In total, 26 plaques have been cast and are ready to be placed in the sidewalks. A second group consisting of 36 plaques is set to be cast at a yet to be determined date, based on funds raised through the CFCDI’s fundraising efforts. Other components of the project include a memorial plaque providing a backstory to the Stones, as well as an interactive website that will serve as an educational tool to find out more about the personal lives of the women. The website will also provide the platform to raise awareness of abuse to women and children, as well as those disappearing in Canada.

For more information and to find out how you can be a part of creating a Living Legacy, contact: 604.783.7326
The Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation (CFCDI), the society is a registered [S-0059138) non-profit organization, incorporated in the Province of British Columbia. It advocates supporting community based arts in Vancouver through art therapy, restorative justice, training, education, mentoring and job skills, as well as offering opportunities to persons to give back to their community through the creation of art related projects.

Wednesday, October 17

Families of Highway of Tears Victims Meet with Investigators

Prince George Local News:

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Relatives of Highway of Tears victims to meet with RCMP Wednesday


The disappearance of Colleen MacMillen (left) has been linked to deceased Oregon inmate Bobby Jack Fowler.

Photograph by: File photos, The Province

Up to 20 relatives of women who were murdered or have gone missing along the so-called Highway of Tears in northern B.C. plan to gather Wednesday for an annual meeting with police.

The relatives will meet with homicide investigators in Prince George, where they expect to get updates on the cases of their loved ones.

The sister of Monica Jacks, who disappeared while riding her bike in 1978, says the meeting will be very emotional.

RCMP revealed last month that DNA evidence linked a dead American convict named Bobby Fowler to the murder of one young woman, and they say he is strongly suspected in two other deaths.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Tuesday, October 16

Amanda Todd Facebook page trolling costs Toronto man his job


The Facebook page dedicated to Amanda Todd, who passed away last week at the age of 15.

Amanda Todd's memorial page on Facebook has been very active since the teenager's death, drawing more than 700,000 Likes. Not all the activity on the site has been positive, however. The page has also been beset by trolls looking to anonymously stir up controversy by leaving upsetting messages on the site.

But one troll lost his anonymity when a woman tracked him down. Not long after, he lost his job.

Christine Claveau, a mother from Calgary, saw the man's comment on Todd's Facebook page and, rather than simply getting upset or lashing out from her computer, she made a concerted effort to find out who was behind it.

“I just saw all these hateful comments, outrageous things, tormenting her after her passing,” Claveau told Global News. “This one gentleman said something that just triggered something in me.”

After finding out the man's name and where he worked, Claveau contacted his employer via e-mail and shared what the man had done.

The employer, a menswear chain in Toronto, responded immediately by firing the man, saying they will not tolerate the mistreatment of others under any circumstance.

Trolling has moved into the mainstream in the wake of Todd's death and a recent Gawker article outing Violentacrez, one of Reddit's most notorious trolls. But it's the mask of anonymity that allows it to continue. On Tuesday, it was reported that Violentacrez, whose real name is Michael Brutsch, lost his job after his identity was revealed as well.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Friday, October 12

Fort St. John shows support for families of missing and murdered women |

Fort St. John shows support for families of missing and murdered women |

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UNBC Writer in Residence teaching Fort St. John to write from within

missing sarah

Maggie de Vries knows first-hand the plight of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in B.C.; her adopted sister Sarah went missing in 1998 and was discovered as one of the women murdered by Robert Pickton. De Vries is in Fort St. John this week as part of her mandate to visit all of the University of Northern B.C.'s campuses as its Writer in Residence.

She has been speaking to various classes at the university and North Peace Secondary, as well as meeting one-on-one with writers. Although she's here as a writer, she says she ends up talking about her sister during her presentations. "Missing Sarah: a memoir of loss" was published in 2004, while de Vries struggled to process what had happened to her sister.
"I learned a lot and went through a lot trying to figure out what had happened and realizing that the police weren't taking action, trying to press them to take action."

Sarah was one of the women identified by DNA found on Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C. All of the women identified were sex workers or prostitutes, and de Vries believes the stereotyping and shaming of these women is what caused there to be such a delay before the police and the media took their disappearances seriously.

"A lot of reasons for the interest had nothing to do with people," she argues. "It had to do with the stuff of horror movies. I felt that part of the reason why my sister was vulnerable to somebody like Robert Pickton, and why all these other women were vulnerable too, was because as a society we don't see them; we see a set of stereotypes and we don't really care what comes to them."

De Vries says Sarah was much more than just a drug addict or sex worker; she was a writer and poet, and Maggie wanted to share some of what Sarah had to say, along with her own journey. That's what she says she tries to share with the students she speaks to.

"The most important message is that marginalizing people like Sarah, marginalizing members of our society who are drug addicted or selling sex or whatever it is, places them in danger, and that they are fully dimensioned human beings just like the rest of us with the same rights to safety the rest of us have."

She believes that everyone as an individual has a responsibility to work to bridge that gap, to see our prejudices in ourselves, and not just blame the police or the "system".

"Yes, Robert Pickton is responsible for my sister's death, he killed her, but if we as a society had paid more attention, then she wouldn't have had to die."

De Vries relates that to writing, by saying writers need to start with themselves when looking for something to write about.

"Go deep with your writing and find what it is within yourself that needs to be told, rather than kind of grasping for stories out there or thinking, 'hmmm, what's there a market for?', she recommends. "I think that most people have the most success with writing and experience the most satisfaction and personal fulfillment with writing if their writing comes from deep inside."

However, writing from your "core" doesn't always have to mean a dark and serious book. While "Missing Sarah" and soon to be published "Rabbit Ears" are much more serious and intended for adults, de Vries also writes light hearted books for children. Some of those stories revolve around West Coast animals like bees, black bears, sturgeon and salmon. She will be talking about those books to school aged children tomorrow morning at the Fort St. John Library from 10 to 11 a.m. That event is free and open to the public.

De Vries will finish her campus tour in Quesnel next week.

- Erica Fisher

Tuesday, October 9

Mounties get 250 tips in missing and murdered women cases in northern B.C.


The disappearance of Colleen MacMillen (left) has been linked to deceased Oregon inmate Bobby Jack Fowler.

Photograph by: File photos, The Province

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Mounties say they’ve received 250 tips since making a new plea for information in the deaths and disappearances of women in B.C.’s northern Interior, including the so-called Highway of Tears.

The plea came after police revealed two weeks ago that Bobby Jack Fowler, who died in an Oregon jail, was responsible for one of the murders and was a strong suspect in two others.

Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary says that aside from Fowler, some of the tips were about other historical crimes that may not have been previously linked to this investigation.

He says it’s too soon to say whether any of the tips will yield any substantial leads, but they will be followed up.

DNA from Fowler has been positively matched to the 1974 murder of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen of Lac La Hache, and he is also suspected in the 1973 deaths of Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington.

All three were among 18 women who disappeared or were murdered along northern B.C. highways, including Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, in the last four decades.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Sunday, October 7

Hundreds demonstrate for action to end violence against women


Michelle Audette, left, and Daryle Gardipy attend the vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women on Parliament Hill. Later, the vigil joined the annual Take Back the Night March.

Photograph by: Jean Levac, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Michele Pineault sits on the steps on Parliament Hill, tears rolling down her cheeks as she describes the six years of not knowing after her daughter disappeared in 1997 — then the nightmare that followed when her DNA was confirmed to have been found on Robert Pickton’s pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

She clutches a sign with the image of her daughter, Stephanie Lane, who was 20 when she vanished and left behind “a beautiful baby boy” who was then just eight months old.

“Can you imagine trying to raise a child when you don’t know where your child is?” Pineault said. “The pain and the grief will never go away.”

Pineault travelled to Ottawa from Vancouver for the Families of Sisters in Spirit vigil. It was one of 166 in Canada and abroad on Thursday in honour of missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women.

Pickton was convicted of killing six women but he is suspected of killing and butchering as many as 49. He was not charged in Lane’s death.

Pineault said the Missing Women Inquiry into why it took police so long to catch the notorious serial killer didn’t offer closure; it simply raised more questions.

The vigil capped the end of the Oct. 4 day of remembrance for missing and murdered aboriginal women and — for the first time — led into Take Back The Night, a march to protest violence against women.

Hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill before the march to hear stories from family members of aboriginal women who died under brutal circumstances or who vanished without a trace. Their images were held up high as a drummer played in their honour.

On a sign in the crowd the words: “We demand justice now.” On another, “No more stolen sisters.”

Some speakers called for a national public inquiry while people in the crowd shouted “shame” for the lack of government response.

Since the RCMP does not collect data on missing and murdered women by ethnicity, the Native Women’s Association of Canada launched its own research project. It found there were at least 582 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, said spokesperson Jennifer Lord.

“First Nations, Métis and aboriginal women are disproportionally impacted by this form of extreme violence,” Lord said before the vigil. “Each number — when we say 582 — represents someone who was loved and cherished and is missed by their family.”

The vigil began just after 6 p.m., and as the sun set the grounds were illuminated with candles.

A canvas “prayer scroll” was laid out on the pavement with hundreds of messages.

“Peace not harm.”

“Time to heal.”

“We will never forget you.”

After the vigil, organizers of Take Back The Night led women (and some men, too) in a march. The group took over Wellington Street, blowing whistles and holding up signs, walking toward their final destination, City Hall.

“Women unite, take back the night,” the crowd chanted in unison.

Ottawa held its first Take Back The Night match in 1978 to protest violence against women. Sisters in Spirit held its first vigil in 2006.

Lord said organizers were glad to work together this year, to begin with a solemn vigil and to end with a rally that calls for action.

“It’s a good link,” Lord said.">

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Sisters in spirit offers support


Marchers gathered in Saskatoon Thursday evening to draw attention to the disproportionate number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Saskatchewan.

Photograph by: Richrd Marjan, The StarPhoenix

Comfort is in short supply when remembering a missing or murdered love one, but events such as the annual Sisters in Spirit can help, according to one mother.

"We need to support each other," said Carol Wolfe, whose daughter Karina Wolfe has been missing for two years. "A lot of people come (to Sisters in Spirit) and I don't know them personally, but it's comfort for the family."

Wolfe, who spoke through a sign language translator, still believes her daughter, who was 20 when she went missing, will be found safe, just as the hundreds of people at Thursday's Sisters in Spirit event believe society can better provide for vulnerable women.

"We have to keep positive," Wolfe said. "We stay strong. I'm not giving up hope."

Sisters in Spirit vigils, which honour the missing and murdered aboriginal women of Canada, were held in a record 100 communities this year, organizers said. In Saskatoon, more than 250 people gathered at Oskayak High School before a march.

The Native Women's Association of Canada, which established the event, has documented 153 cases of murdered aboriginal women in Canada between 2000 and 2008. That number accounts for 10 per cent of murdered women in Canada in that period despite aboriginal women making up only three per cent of the country's female population, the organization said.

"Violence has impacted our communities and people in many ways," event MC Tori-Lynn Wan-otch said before the march. "We all suffer directly and indirectly. Sadly, no one is immune."

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Friday, October 5

Vancouver vigil remembers missing and murdered aboriginal women | Vancouver, Canada |

Vancouver vigil remembers missing and murdered aboriginal women | Vancouver, Canada |

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Vancouver vigil remembers missing and murdered aboriginal women

Publish Date: October 5, 2012

Lorelei Williams believes people are increasingly “getting the message” about the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women across the country.

The young woman’s family has been particularly affected by violence. The DNA of her cousin, Tanya Holyk, was found on Robert Pickton’s farm, while her aunt, Belinda Williams, has been missing since 1977. Two other family members have also survived violent attacks.

“It’s a huge issue, especially with my family,” she told the Straight.

But Williams believes much remains to be done in spreading the message outside the aboriginal community.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t even realize that this is a huge issue,” she said. “When I actually raise awareness to non-aboriginals, they’re shocked.”

Williams spoke at a candelight vigil that she helped to organize in Crab Park near Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Thursday (October 4). The event was one of over 160 Sisters in Spirit vigils held in communities across the country to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women, and to increase public awareness of the issue. Local vigils were also held earlier in the day at Douglas College and Vancouver Community College.

According to information gathered by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, more than 580 aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered across the country.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was among those holding candles at the Crab Park vigil Thursday evening. He also believes the issue has garnered more public attention since community members began organizing events like this one.

“I don’t think there’s any question that over the last several years, through the dedication and commitment of a variety of women’s groups that the profile of this issue has been raised to the point where it’s now the subject of the attention of the United Nations itself,” he said.

“The marches, the candlelight vigils, the political work, has brought the basis of support for this issue, but there’s a lot of work that remains to be done.”

“The tragic dimension of this issue is there is no one single serial killer out there,” added Phillip. “There’s a lot of sick, depraved men out there that continue to prey on vulnerable aboriginal women, and other women that live on the margins of society.”

Phillip said the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is now focusing its efforts on pushing for a royal commission of inquiry at the national level.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo also reiterated his call Thursday for a national public inquiry on the issue. In July of this year, Atleo declared October 4 a National Day of Remembrance for murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.

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Monday, October 1

DNA tracked suspected killer of one of Highway of Tears victims

By T'ash Spenser

October 1, 2012 - 

DNA testing has proven yet again just how important and significant a tool it is in law enforcement and in solving cold cases.

Parents of one of Highway of Tears slaying victims from British Columbia, Canada, Colleen Rae MacMillen, have found their closure after Bobby Jack Fowler has been proven through DNA testing as her killer. Fowler was convicted of an attempted rape in 1996 and died in prison in 2006.

Retired Mountie Fred Bodnaruk, who headed the murder investigations of MacMillen and Pamela Darlington in the early 1970s, is in awe as to how DNA is able to find matches accurately. Haunted by unsolved cases, he is grateful that one of his cold cases has been solved.

“We never dreamed about DNA and what a tool it would be in my time,” he told the Vancouver Sun in an interview.

He and his team worked 15 to 18 hours a day just to narrow down suspects from hundreds. It halted when it exhausted the suspects and could no longer go anywhere. Two boxes of evidence from the said case were sent to Kamloops RCMP detachment’s evidence room for storage.

DNA fingerprinting was discovered by Sir Alec Jeffreys in 1984. In the early 1990s, samples needed to be about the size of a dime. Since then, there have been significant developments in DNA testing and analysis. Now, forensic scientists can use DNA samples from tiny saliva droplets, or dead skin cells.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has invested in setting up national DNA database and collecting DNA samples from suspects and those convicted. In fact, it was in utilizing FBI’s database that led to a match with the American killer, Fowler.

As Bodnaruk summed up, “It’s almost divine intervention that this clever person found DNA and made it work for police work. Fingerprints are great, but this science (DNA) is almost beyond belief.”

Should the police invest more in the improvement of DNA technology?


T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.

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