Friday, December 20

Serial killer Robert Pickton continues to deny his guilt in series of lawsuits against him


Robert William Pickton, shown here in an undated image from TV, has submitted his defence in a series of lawsuits.

Photograph by: HO, CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — Serial killer Robert Pickton continues to deny responsibility for the years he spent hunting sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, filing statements of defence in a series of lawsuits against him.

The families of several women whose DNA or remains were found on Pickton's farm launched lawsuits earlier this year targeting Pickton, his brother David, and various levels of government.

Pickton, who was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder and is believed to be responsible for deaths of dozens more, filed statements of defence from Kent Institution, the maximum-security prison near Agassiz, B.C., where he is serving a life sentence.

The documents don't offer any details, but instead use a standard court template to deny liability.

"None of the facts in Part 1 of the notice of civil claim are admitted," says one of the statements of defence, dated Nov. 29 and officially filed with the court this week.

"The defendant opposes the granting of the relief sought in all paragraphs of Part 2 of the notice of civil claim."

Each statement of defence is punctuated by Pickton's signature, with "Robert — William — Pickton" written in cursive and separated with hyphens.

The lawsuits were filed by the children of nine women whose remains or DNA were found on Pickton's property after the serial killer's arrest in February 2002.

Since his conviction, Pickton has repeatedly denied responsibility for killing Downtown Eastside sex workers, offering vague, rambling denials and suggesting someone else was to blame.

In August 2010, shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada denied the final appeal of his murder convictions, Pickton spoke to a CTV reporter from jail and claimed others were responsible.

He made similar claims in a series of letters to The Canadian Press in 2012.

In each instance, Pickton includes cryptic claims that there is more to the story, but he never takes the opportunity to fill in the blanks.

Likewise, he did not use his statement of defence to offer any explanation beyond yet another denial.

A senior officer from Ontario's Peel Regional Police visited Pickton at Kent in 2011 as she prepared a report for a public inquiry into the case. Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans told the inquiry that Pickton maintained his innocence, but she didn't reveal anything else about their conversation.

A lawyer for the inquiry said he was considering calling Pickton as a witness, but concluded the killer's denials would add nothing to the hearings.

Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing the families, said he wants the court to force Pickton to turn over his assets — namely, property he still owns — to the victims' families.

Gratl said he's prepared to call Pickton as a witness if the case proceeds to trial. Currently, Pickton is not represented by a lawyer.

"If the government settles, we'll carry on against Pickton," said Gratl.

"We'll get damages from him. We're trying to transfer all of his assets our clients."

Gratl has argued the lawsuits wouldn't have been necessary if the governments responsible for the police forces were prepared to seriously talk about financial settlements. The City of Vancouver is acting on behalf of Vancouver police, while the B.C. government and the federal government are acting on behalf of RCMP.

The lawsuits allege police failed Downtown Eastside sex workers and contributed to the women's deaths by botching the investigations into Pickton.

The Vancouver police and the RCMP, which have each offered public apologies for failing to catch Pickton, filed statements of defence in October, arguing the forces acted reasonably when they received reports of missing sex workers.

While Pickton was convicted of killing six women, the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver.

He once boasted to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.

© Copyright (c)

Monday, December 16

Opinion: Missing women’s inquiry produced important recommendations

Darrell Roberts: Unfortunate that lawyer continues to call it a failure because his theory was rejected


The Missing Women Inquiry had many different aspects, including an opportunity for the families to tell their stories, an examination of the lives of sex workers in the Downtown Eastside and their relationships with police and other service providers, a study of the policies that affect them, and a detailed examination of protocols for best practices in missing persons investigations.


On Nov. 29, Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew published an article entitled Missing Women Inquiry Slammed, with the subheading No scrutiny of police: Lawyer Darrell Roberts says review was ‘a failure of major proportions.’

The article reported on allegations that lawyer Darrell W. Roberts recently levelled against the Missing Women Inquiry, including statements that the inquiry was “a failure of major proportions,” “a huge underachievement,” and that the evidence of Deputy Chief Constable LePard in cross-examination was “only helpful to show his incompetence” These allegations are misguided and untrue.

Roberts had the privilege of acting as counsel on behalf of the mother of one of the missing women. His singular focus in the inquiry was on a theory he had constructed that if only the VPD investigators had pursued an investigation of “kidnapping by fraud,” the investigation would have been more successful. Roberts’ called his theory the “elephant in the room.” He cross-examined almost every police witness on the subject and made final submissions urging the commissioner to adopt his analysis.

None of the parties, witnesses or experts agreed with Roberts’ theory. The witnesses largely saw the kidnapping by fraud theory as “interesting,” but with little practical value. In his report, while critical of many aspects of the VPD’s investigation into the missing women, the commissioner was of the same view.

Despite Roberts’ theory having little traction in the proceedings, a year after the commissioner’s report was issued, he is still pursuing it and is disparaging those who disagreed with him. That Roberts has made these statements is unfortunate, but it is particularly disappointing that Mulgrew provided a platform for such views in the absence of any balanced analysis.

With respect to Deputy Chief LePard’s evidence, for example, he might have noted the commissioner’s conclusion that the “LePard Report” was an “unprecedented” analysis of great assistance to the inquiry, the commissioner’s positive comments regarding the quality of Deputy Chief LePard’s 14 days of testimony, or that during the Inquiry, Roberts was reproached by the commissioner for making unfounded allegations against LePard.

The inquiry was a substantial undertaking and an important process for the participants and the public.

The assertion that there was “no scrutiny of the police” is simply not true — 43 police witnesses were cross-examined, tens of thousands of investigative documents were reviewed and two volumes of the commissioner’s report are devoted to a detailed critique of the VPD and RCMP investigations.

Importantly, the inquiry had many different aspects, including an opportunity for the families to tell their stories, an examination of the lives of sex workers in the Downtown Eastside and their relationships with police and other service providers, a study of the policies that affect them, and a detailed examination of protocols for best practices in missing persons investigations.

Thus, leaving aside whether Roberts’ theory had any merit at all, it was only one issue in the inquiry; it does a profound disservice to the Inquiry and everyone involved for Roberts to call it a failure because the witnesses, other counsel and Commissioner did not agree with him.

The inquiry produced important recommendations which the VPD has implemented. There are many other important recommendations to be acted upon and more work to be done to improve the safety and welfare of sex workers in the Downtown Eastside.

The inquiry’s legacy will not be written by disappointed lawyers, but by the strength of our collective resolve to improve the lives of the vulnerable women in the Downtown Eastside. The VPD is committed to that goal.

Inspector Mario Giardini is in charge of the Diversity & Aboriginal Policing Section of the Vancouver Police Department.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Friday, November 29

Missing Women inquiry slammed

No scrutiny of police: Lawyer Darrell Roberts says review was 'a failure of major proportions'


Lawyer Darrell Roberts has written a stinging legal paper slamming Missing Women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal's year-old report.

Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press, Vancouver Sun

A respected B.C. lawyer who represented a victim's family at the Missing Women inquiry has produced a stinging legal paper slamming commissioner Wally Oppal's year-old report.

In a presentation Monday to an audience of lawyers and judges - including Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin - Darrell Roberts said the review of the police handling of Robert Pickton's serial killings was a "failure of major proportions."

He said the former attorney general and B.C. Court of Appeal justice failed to address a key element in his 2010 mandate - findings of fact about the conduct of the police investigations.

"Oppal called his report, The Forsaken," Roberts said. "He did the forsaking."

In future, he recommended the Attorney General's office supervise such inquiries to ensure they do what they are intended to do.

"Since all of the missing and murdered women were from Vancouver's Downtown East the Eastside and were picked up while engaged in the sex trade on the east side streets and transported elsewhere (to Pickton's property in Coquitlam), one might have expected that a major focus if not the focus of the inquiry and the commissioner's findings of fact in The Forsaken would be the conduct of the VPD in their police investigations," Roberts said in his 60-page paper.

"However, this is not the case. The commissioner neither made it a major focus of The Forsaken, nor made any findings of fact as to the crime or crimes the VPD investigated or ought to have investigated in the disappearance of the missing women, or of the VPD conduct in relation to such failed investigations."

The Vancouver litigator, who is preparing to argue two separate cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, maintained the $10-million commission was "a huge underachievement."

Roberts contended Oppal accepted without proper scrutiny the police department's internal review prepared by Deputy Chief Doug LePard. "But, the facts, as well as the purpose and main terms of reference in the inquiry order, cries out for the inquiry to address what the VPD did or did not do in Vancouver in investigating the disappearance

and murder of the missing women," he insisted.

Roberts said LePard's evidence was a "mishmash" and his answers "only helpful to show his incompetence."

The lawyer said from 1997 through 2002 - the period of Pickton's killing spree covered by the inquiry - the VPD persistently failed to investigate the kidnapping and murder of the women. He said it failed because its officers, including thenchief constable Terry Blythe, "were ill-informed on the law of kidnapping ... they did not know or recognize how the crime of kidnapping applied to the missing women."

Had they done so, in Roberts' view, a search warrant for the pig farm could have been obtained earlier and damning evidence discovered. The DNA of 33 women was found on the property after police executed a search warrant in Feb. 2002. Pickton claims to have slain 49 women.

During the inquiry, Roberts represented Marion Bryce, mother of Patricia Johnson, who vanished in the spring of 2001 and was almost immediately reported missing.

Her remains were found on the farm and, though Pickton was charged with her murder, Johnson's case was one of 20 stayed last year after the infamous killer exhausted appeals of his six second-degree murder convictions.

Rather than focus on police misconduct, which he acknowledged included "irresponsible failure to act and wilful blindness," Oppal chose to address more systemic issues. In his four-volume report totalling some 1,230 pages last December he made 65 recommendations - most of which have been ignored.

"Thus, there is this dichotomy," Roberts said. "Mr. Oppal as attorney general in the years 2005, 2006, and 2007 approved funding from the province for a reward authorized by the Vancouver Police Board to assist the VPD in the investigation of Vancouver's crimes of kidnapping and murder in the disappearance and murder of the missing women, and Mr. Oppal as commissioner of the inquiry in 2012 failed to make findings of fact as to the failure of the VPD to conduct any investigation at all of Vancouver's crimes of kidnapping and murder in the disappearance and murder of the missing women."

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Thursday, November 7

Preview: Playwright gives Robert Pickton victims a voice in Pig Girl


Nadien Chu and Randy Hughson in Theatre Network’s Pig Girl running Nov 7-24 at The Roxy Theatre.

Photograph by: Ian Jackson, Epic Photography


Pig Girl

Theatre: Theatre Network at the Roxy

Written by: Colleen Murphy

Directed by: Bradley Moss

Starring: Nadien Chu, Elinor Holt, Brian Dooley, Randy Hughson

Running: through Nov. 24

Tickets: 780-453-2440,


EDMONTON - “I do scare myself,” agrees Colleen Murphy, with a wry sort of grimace. “How could I not?”

It was, after all, the most frightening of stories — the real-life contemporary horror kind that unspools in the news and induces a collective shudder — that inspired, no, provoked, Murphy’s new play, premièring Thursday at Theatre Network. Pig Girl was born in fury.

In 2010, three years after a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, Robert “Willie” Pickton by name, had finally been convicted of the grisly murders of six women from Vancouver’s downtown eastside, the Crown opted not to proceed with 20 outstanding murder charges against him.

“I got angry,” says Murphy simply, “and that was Pig Girl.” Since then, legal arguments have tempered her thoughts on that decision, says the Governor General’s Award-winning Toronto-based playwright/filmmaker. “But I don’t censor my reactions; if I did I’d probably be a more successful playwright.”

Revealingly, Pig Girl gets its première production not at one of the country’s big regional theatres, but at a small Edmonton company with a known appetite for danger. Risk attaches to it at every level.

There’s the violence of the story, of course; the sight of a large meat hook with a hoist and pulley arrangement centre stage is a chilling one. There’s the inflammatory fact that the characters, named simply Dying Girl, Killer, Sister, Police Officer, remain onstage throughout, speaking for themselves. “Whenever you offer the audience a very charged emotional experience, it’s ‘risky’,” Murphy says. “And when the event is still in the zeitgeist, well ... How will the audience react? Not for me to know. They may leave, they may get angry. I can only offer the play ...”

Murphy, a forthright but genial conversationalist, cites a fellow playwright, American Paula Vogel, who said “a writer can talk to the dead.” Murphy thinks in reverse: “I can make the dead talk.” The women — mostly aboriginal, mostly addicts, mostly sex workers — whose deaths, like their lives, were a matter of indifference to the police, and to the culture at large, “were victims in every way, reduced to awful mug shots in the news,” she says. “I wanted to imagine a woman like a Roman gladiator fighting for her life. We go though it with her ... and by doing that honour her suffering, find the heroic in the tragic. Dying Girl, in my imagination, fights against her terrible fate. She has a voice; she has memories of beauty.”

“I have no message; I’m not interested in messages ... But this is the reality; we still live in a world where women are crucified, figuratively and literally.”

Her final confrontation with the Killer happens in real time onstage. Meanwhile, the Sister and the Police Officer are looking out over the audience “as they experience time over the course of nine years,” the stage directions say. And that lethal duration — the official complacency, inertia, delays, excuses that permitted the death toll to mount as the women’s relatives push for action — is part of Murphy’s story, too. “During that time, the Police Officer’s own conscience comes into play,” says Murphy. “He’s realizing he’s made a terrible and undoable mistake. I didn’t want it to be easy for people ...”

“I wrote it fast, but my fast is pretty slow,” she sighs, recalling the year she spent writing the first draft, the first months with all the characters in pig masks. “Anger triggers the switch. But you always have to scratch anger and find human complexities beneath.” And that applies not only to the policeman, but to the marginalized women, and even to the damaged and dangerous serial killer himself.

The intricate double-time was “a choice that chose itself,” Murphy smiles. “The characters and form arrived in my mind simultaneously ... No exits. No entrances. The audience can experience all four characters at the same time. Watch whoever you want.” Similarly, time takes on an unexpected and revealing configuration in another Murphy play inspired by a horrific act of violence. The scenes of her award-winning two-hander The December Man (at the Citadel in 2008) play out in reverse chronology, as it explores the fallout not on the victims but the survivors of the horrific shooting spree at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. The Breathing Hole, Murphy’s current opera libretto-in-progress with the young composer Aaron Gervais, unfolds over 500 years. Its protagonist? A polar bear. “Aaron allows me to be mad! And big!”

In Murphy’s other theatre première of this season, Armstrong’s War, currently at Vancouver’s Arts Club, the darkest questions, mercy killing for one, are intimately framed by “the budding and conflicted relationship,” as she puts it, between a 21-year-old soldier wounded in Afghanistan and the 12-year-old who reads to him. “I can’t put war onstage, so ...”

“That’s the beauty of theatre over film, Murphy thinks. “The theatre allows for more powerful emotional reality, since you’re with live actors. It’s the tension of us being all in the same place, actors and audience.” Pig Girl was never going to be a movie.

Murphy, who grew up in northern Ontario and left home to be an actor, is one of a select group of Canadian playwrights entitled, by experience (and awards), to muse on the differences. After her first play All Other Destinations Are Cancelled opened at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in 1987, she married the late Canadian filmmaker Allan King and de-camped to the world of cellulois, starting distinctively with Putty Worm, controversial for its violence, which premièred at the Toronto Internation Film Festival in 1993. And eventually, she came back to theatre.

“It’s one of the few places left where there’s spontaneous combustion!” The thought makes her smile.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Wednesday, November 6

An Awkward Silence Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System

An Awkward Silence Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System:

'via Blog this'

Fewer than half of Pickton inquiry recommendations ‘in progress’ or complete


Robert Pickton is shown in an artist's drawing listening to the guilty verdict handed to him BC Supreme Court in New Westminster, Sunday, December 9, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Felicity Don

VANCOUVER - The B.C. government says it has taken action on fewer than half of the recommendations from a public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case, nearly a year after the report was released.

Commissioner Wally Oppal's report, released last December, made 65 recommendations for change and outlined a litany of police failures that allowed Pickton to kill women.

The Justice Ministry has released a progress report, identifying just 28 recommendations where action has been taken, with nearly all of them still considered in progress.

Oppal's report highlighted two recommendations as urgent, including funding for a drop-in centre for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside and transportation along Highway 16, dubbed the Highway of Tears, in the province's north.

The government was quick to announce funding for the WISH drop-in centre, but the progress report says the province is still studying potential transportation options for the Highway of Tears.

One of the most high-profile recommendations was Oppal's call for a regional police force in the Vancouver area, and while a review of policing in B.C. is about to begin, the province has largely steered

clear of the regional policing debate.

© Copyright (c)

Tuesday, November 5

An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System

An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System

Pearce, Maryanne

The murders and suspicious disappearances of women across Canada over the past forty years have received considerable national attention in the past decade. The disappearances and murders of scores of women in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have highlighted the vulnerability of women to extreme violence. Girls and women of Aboriginal ethnicity have been disproportionally affected in all of these cases and have high rates of violent victimization. The current socio-economic situation faced by Aboriginal women contributes to this. To provide publicly available data of missing and murdered women in Canada, a database was created containing details of 3,329 women, including 824 who are Aboriginal. There are key risk factors that increase the probability of experiencing lethal violence: street prostitution, addiction and insecure housing. The vast majority of sex workers who experience lethal violence are street prostitutes. The dissertation examines the legal status and forms of prostitution in Canada and internationally, as well as the individual and societal impacts of prostitution. A review of current research on violence and prostitution is presented. The thesis provides summaries from 150 serial homicide cases targeting prostitutes in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. The trends and questions posed by these cases are identified. The cases of the missing women of Vancouver and Robert Pickton are detailed. The key findings from the provincial inquiry into the missing women cases and an analysis of the most egregious failings of the investigations (Projects Amelia and Evenhanded) are discussed. Frequently encountered challenges and common errors, as well as investigative opportunities and best practices of police, and other initiatives and recommendations aimed at non-police agencies are evaluated. The three other RCMP-led projects, KARE, DEVOTE and E-PANA, which are large, dedicated units focused on vulnerable women, are assessed. All Canadian women deserve to live free of violence. For women with vulnerable life histories, violence is a daily threat and a common occurrence. More must be done to prevent violence and to hold offenders responsible when violence has been done. This dissertation is a plea for resources and attention; to turn apathy into pragmatic, concrete action founded on solid evidence-based research.



PDF: Pearce_Maryanne_2013_Thesis.pdf

Sunday, November 3

Murderer took lie detector test about missing B.C. tree planter Nicole Hoar, but police aren’t releasing the results


Police and a dog squad search a property on Isle Pierre near Prince George in August 2009 as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Nicole Hoar. A convicted murderer who once lived there has since taken a polygraph test but the results aren't known.

Photograph by: Dave Milne, PROVINCE

A convicted murderer who has long been a person of interest in the disappearance of Nicole Hoar along the Highway of Tears has taken a polygraph in connection with the case, but police won’t reveal the results.

Leland Switzer was arrested for the murder of his brother Irwin just a few days after Hoar went missing from a gas station on the outskirts of Prince George on June 21, 2002. He is currently serving a 25-year sentence.

Nicole Hoar was a 25-year-old tree planter from Alberta, an art student on a break from her job who planned to hitchhike to Smithers to meet her sister and attend a music festival when she disappeared. Her death is part of the RCMP’s E-PANA investigation into the deaths and disappearances of 18 women along three highways in B.C.

In 2009, police named Switzer a person of interest in Hoar’s disappearance. They searched his property in Isle Pierre, about 30 kilometres northwest of Prince George, but he was never charged.

The polygraph development came to light this week after a private RCMP letter to Switzer was released on social media.

The letter, sent in July, is addressed to Switzer from Sgt. Rob Barrett of the RCMP’s E Division Major Crime Section, Unsolved Homicides Unit. In it, Barrett states Switzer agreed to take a polygraph test on July 25 regarding Hoar’s murder.

The letter states that after Switzer took the test — and if he passed it — the RCMP would “release a letter to the media as well as to the Parole Board advising them of your cooperation and that the RCMP does not consider you a person of interest in the Nicole Hoar investigation.”

There has been no such release.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen confirmed this week that the letter was genuine and that Switzer “participated in a polygraph examination that allowed us to further the investigation.”

However, he would not release the results of the polygraph.

“The Nicole Hoar investigation remains active and ongoing and all possible investigative techniques are being used in order to solve this case,” Thiessen said. “Over 100 persons of interest have been polygraphed by Project E-PANA investigators. It is a complex investigation and we are not in a position to discuss the specifics around Nicole’s case. However, no one has been charged in connection with her death.”

He added, “the search for answers is also continuing in the other E-PANA cases. We continue to encourage the public to come forward with any information.”

The E-PANA investigation covers 18 women who have been murdered or gone missing along highways 16, 97 and 5 since the late 1960s, from 27-year-old Gloria Moody, found dead in 1969, to 14-year-old Aielah Saric Auger, found dead on Highway 16 in 2006.

In September 2012, the RCMP linked deceased U.S. serial killer Bobby Jack Fowler to the 1974 death of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen via DNA evidence.

Fowler was also a suspect in the deaths of Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, who disappeared around the same time, but investigators have not been able to link him to any more cases.

At that time police stressed the deaths were not the work of one killer, but that police had three or four persons of interest.

In December 2012, the RCMP began working with U.S. authorities looking into U.S. serial killer Israel Keyes. Keyes travelled to B.C. in 2005 and 2007 and admitted killing eight people, while alluding to others, but he has yet to be linked to any E-PANA cases.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Thursday, October 24

The discriminatory attitudes against natives are rooted in our DNA, an attitude inherited by children and new immigrants to Canada


Alvin Dixon, 76, was forced into a residential school when he was a child, where he was deliberately malnourished as part of scientific experiments conducted by the state.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG, The Province

Racism against aboriginals in B.C. runs so deep that we barely recognize it. It's in our DNA, it's in our children's vocabulary, it's absorbed by new immigrants as soon as they land.

The stereotypes: Indians don't work, don't pay taxes.

They're 'chugs' - lazy drunken welfare bums. They're chronically poor because they settle for handouts, and they deserve what they get.

Many average Canadians harbour these attitudes, legacies of racist policies baked into government laws that continue to reverberate throughout our institutions.

And the impacts are clear. Aboriginals are suffering more acutely than any other Canadian community, by any economic and health measure. Proportionately, they vastly over-populate jails and the foster-care system. They die sooner and face the highest levels of poverty, disease and violence.

They are also the youngest, fastest-growing group in Canada, with a median age of 28 compared with 41 for the rest of the population.

Social assistance transfer costs will skyrocket for all Canadians if the suffering continues, says Calvin Helin, a First Nations author who advocates greater self-reliance and economic power for indigenous people.

"This is probably the most important issue that Canada faces," Helin says. "If we will continue to be a prosperous nation we have to fix this, not for altruistic reasons, but in our self-interest."

As far as 76-year-old Alvin Dixon can tell, the racism comes down to everlasting greed.

Dixon - a self-described guinea pig in newly revealed government experiments - was taken from his parents in Bella Bella under the Indian Act. His parents would have been jailed if they refused to release their six children, who were scattered across western Canadian residential schools.

Dixon was placed in Port Alberni Indian School when he was 10. He recently learned the horrific secrets behind questions that always puzzled him.

Dixon and his friends milked cows for chores, but were fed powdered milk. Fresh salmon was abundant nearby in the Pacific Ocean, but they ate stale rations of fish from the Atlantic. The kids were made to record their daily portions in spread sheets. They stole potatoes from local farms and ate them raw, Dixon says, because they were always hungry.

"We were all under-nourished and thin," Dixon recalls. "I guess if we didn't fill out those sheets we'd be punished. We were strapped, slapped, our knuckles hit with the yardsticks."

When a University of Guelph, Ont., historian published new evidence showing Dixon's school was among six that Canada used to conduct scientific malnourishment experiments on about 1,000 aboriginal children, Dixon wasn't really surprised, just disappointed. "The first reaction was anger because nothing has changed, the racism is still here," Dixon says.

Dixon, who was 128 pounds when he graduated Grade 12, studied English at university and eventually became a manager in a fishery business.

He believes racism toward aboriginals in Canada stems from the land grab that established the wealth of our nation at aboriginals' expense. The same factors are still at work, according to Dixon.

"White Canada thinks that we are getting everything for nothing, when they are really getting everything for nothing, because they stole the land and resources from us," Dixon says. "The resource corporations are still after our territories, and they are offering us peanuts. It's beads and trinkets. The racism comes from greed - I've said that over and over again."

Stereotypes are so entrenched and tolerated in Canada, Dixon says, that recent immigrants quickly turn on aboriginals.

"It is in Canadians' DNA, newer immigrants are acquiring this racism from older Canadians," Dixon says. "One of the aboriginal girls I know that goes to school in North Vancouver was racially bullied. She was told she should go back to the reserve she came from, and we at first assumed it was a white kid. But we found out it was a South Asian girl.

"And where did she learn it? From the white kids she is with."

Mo Dhaliwal, a young Vancouver high-tech executive who's passionate about eliminating racism, shares Dixon's assessment. Racism toward aboriginals is in Canada's bones. Dhaliwal noticed it first in Abbotsford's Punjabi community, where he grew up.

"Some people would talk about them, like, 'They're just a bunch of chugs,'" Dhaliwal says. "In the Punjabi community, if you talked about Indians it was just dismissive. It was an assumption that they were savages, drunk and lazy."

Dhaliwal says he believes Canadian immigrants are deeply sensitized to systemic racism because of what they face upon arrival. But they also quickly recognize Canada's racial pecking order, with aboriginals stuck at the bottom.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children, probably knows better than anyone the institutional and personal racism that aboriginals face in B.C. Turpel-Lafond - a Harvard-educated judge from Saskatchewan who is Cree - and her husband, George Lafond, a treaty commissioner in Saskatchewan, are arguably at the top of Canada's meritocracy, and look the part. But even they face racism.

"It is painful, I bear witness," she says. "We see the situation where we've gone to the pharmacy and my husband buys mouthwash and they've made the point to him, 'Please don't drink it.' It's the reminder that this is how we see your family, this is how we see your children.

"It's imprinted on me."

Many of the abuse and self-harm cases Turpel-Lafond investigates involve foster children. Of 8,000 kids placed in foster care in B.C., 5,000 are aboriginal. That ratio is much higher than the already stunning national average of 48 per cent aboriginal children in foster care.

It's "grotesquely clear" that destruction to aboriginal families in residential schools continues to echo and disintegrate First Nation children in the system, Turpel-Lafond says.

She says the failed policies of the Indian Act still directly impact, as family maintenance orders can't be enforced on reserves and police are barred from stopping assaults.

"I feel like we are screaming in a snowstorm - we have to have basic equity in family supports," she says.

"I've had hundreds and hundreds of cases where a woman is victim of persistent domestic violence, there are children in the home, and there is no safe house," said Turpel-Lafond. "It creates a ghetto mentality, because the nuts and bolts of our family policy in Canada don't apply on our reserves.

"The Indian Act still has racist statutes on the books, which is quite an affront. It needs to be torn up."

The children Turpel-Lafond deals with are doubly hurt, by institutional failings and the racist thoughts that other children have absorbed in Canadian society.

"When they go to school, they face other children saying aboriginal people are drunks or homeless or they don't pay tax. Young people are hurt by that, and they express that to me regularly," she says. "The weight of racism on top of failed policies is a pretty toxic combination."

Racial bullying makes many young aboriginals feel shame about their origins and dream of being white, according to social workers and teens interviewed by The Province. Some aboriginal teens even use racial taunts against others.

"Older girls were telling me, 'Your mom is a welfare bum. She's alcoholic,'" said one 14-year-old girl put in care for cutting her wrists.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers - a young aboriginal leader working with the City of Vancouver - helped complete a 2010 Environics Institute survey of non-natives in major Canadian cities that suggests racism against aboriginals is well-hidden.

Very few respondents made racist remarks, but 25 per cent of nonnatives surveyed in Vancouver had dismissive opinions of aboriginals as freeloaders.

Ernie Crey was the first high-profile aboriginal leader to speak out when women began disappearing from the Downtown Eastside in the early 1990s. In a horrible irony, his sister Dawn Crey disappeared from the neighbourhood in 2000, and her DNA was found in a trailer on Robert Pickton's pig farm.

Crey compares the crisis for aboriginals in the DTES with the first case he had as a young social worker in the 1970s. He remembers travelling into the bush off Highway 16 outside Prince George to meet 150 members of the Tsay Keh Dene band, who were flooded out of their territory by the building of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in 1968.

Band members were suffering from tuberculosis and impetigo, and weren't being accepted into schools and hospitals. Flooding destroyed their hunting grounds, homes, trap lines and graves. Promises made to the band by the government were broken.

"They were living in the direst poverty in Canada," Crey recalls. "I don't see the difference between what I see in the Downtown Eastside, and what I saw 40 years ago in the bush near Prince George. All sorts of promises were made to these people that were not kept, so here they are, high and dry."

There is much work to do, but there is evidence of progress says Wade Grant, a young Musqueam band councillor who also sits on Vancouver's Police Board.

"My grandfather never would have believed I'd be sitting on a board," Grant says. "It took about 100 years for the Government of Canada to almost decimate our culture, and it will take a long time to heal."

Life of Hardship

Statistics show how aboriginal people are faring compared with the rest of the population:

. The life expectancy of a First Nations child born today is six years shorter than that of a non-native child.

. Aboriginal children die at a rate that is three times higher.

. Aboriginal children are more likely to be born with severe birth defects and debilitating conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

. The suicide rate is six times higher for aboriginals.

. Natives have three times the rate of diabetes of non-natives.

. Members of aboriginal and Inuit communities suffer traumatic injuries at four times the rate of the general population.

. Nearly half of children under 14 in foster care in Canada are aboriginal children. Four per cent of aboriginal children are in care (15,345) compared with 0.3 per cent of non-aboriginal children.

. Tuberculosis rates are 16 times higher in aboriginal communities than in the rest of Canada.

. Aboriginal peoples have lower median after-tax income. They also are more likely to: - Receive employment insurance and social assistance.

- Live in housing needing major repairs.

- Experience sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

- Be victims of violent crimes. - Be incarcerated.

Myth Busting

Sales tax Status Indians do not pay the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) on goods purchased on reserve.

In other cases, where status Indians make purchases off reserve and take possession of the goods at the time of sale, such as restaurant meals or clothing, they are required to pay both PST and GST as applicable.


Income earned by status Indians on a reserve is exempt from provincial and federal income tax.

If income is earned from an employer located off reserve, and employment duties are carried out off reserve, status Indians are required to pay income tax.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Death of Vancouver woman on rural Surrey road continues to haunt homicide investigators, 12 years later


Cpl. Mike Hall, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP's Unsolved Homicides Unit, took over Angela's case in July 2007.

Photograph by: ., Surrey Now

SURREY — As crime mysteries go, they don't get much more puzzling than the one surrounding the death of Angela Hazel Williams.

Nearly 12 years have passed since the 31-year-old Vancouver woman's body was found lying face down in a patch of weeds and gravel on the shoulder of Surrey's infamous Colebrook Road.

A father and son driving in the 13200-block spotted her, got out to have a look, and called 911. This was at 7:50 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, 2001.

Angela's body was still warm to the touch. According to a police report, a trickle of blood ran from her nose and right eye. Otherwise, there was no visible sign of trauma or sexual assault.

It looked like she had simply fallen to the ground.

Another witness told police she'd seen her walking down the road, clutching her stomach, shortly before her body was found.


Colebrook Road cuts through the fields below Panorama Ridge from Mud Bay eastward into Cloverdale, where it abruptly ends, only to resume near the Langley border.

Homes are few and far between, and deep ditches separate the roadway from farmers' fields. Traffic on Highway 99, to the south, is within faint earshot, but civilization still seems a world away.

It's a lonely place to die.

This past year alone, the bodies of four murder victims have been found either on or beside the road, earning it the indelicate moniker of "Killbrook."

But even before Angela met her end, Colebrook Road had borne witness to several tragic crashes involving trains, cars and bicycles, as well as murders, suicides, sexual assaults and stabbings.


Angela lived in East Vancouver, almost an hour's drive from Surrey.

What was she doing when she disappeared?

"That's the confusing part," said her eldest sister, Eliza Williers, 44, "because that's the side of my sister I didn't really know."

Eliza said her parents, now deceased, were raised in residential schools and the girls grew up apart, but connected in their teens.

Angela was raised on the north end of Vancouver Island, by her father and his family.

"I don't know much about her upbringing, over there," Eliza said.

She wrestles with newspaper reports indicating Angela dabbled in prostitution.

"There is speculation that, you know, she was experimenting with that but she was out of place in that," said Eliza.

"I can't say she was addicted to drugs, because I don't know. I know my sister had some issues.

"I didn't want that around my family, around my kids, and she respected that. She never brought it around.

"She didn't want to upset me, or she didn't want me to feel disappointed with her because this was the road she was going down, because it was the same thing my parents went through. We went through this with the alcohol and the drugs, and being apprehended by the ministry. But she never went through any of that, because she was on the Island. She was the lucky one, and didn't have to go through any of that stuff."

Angela had three daughters.

"They're still very upset and grieving," Eliza said.

Angela's eldest is now 24, and the others are in their teens. Eliza said her younger sister was "very sweet, quiet and passive — just a timid girl.

"My sister, she was a beautiful person, inside and out. She was a kind, loving mother. She was just a caretaker — all of her life, she took care of her grandmother.

"She'd be a grandmother today. We were supposed to grow old together. It's disturbing still. It's very frustrating, not knowing what happened to our sister.

"I feel like we were robbed," Eliza said.

Angela had another sister, Karen, and a brother.

At one point Angela had a husband, Eliza said. She was working as a hairdresser and the couple was "doing well," living on the Island until "apparently they fell off the wagon there."

Angela came to the Lower Mainland, and never went back.

The couple split up, and lost custody of their children.

Her last home was near 29th Avenue and Renfrew Street in Vancouver.

Because Angela didn't frequent Surrey or know much about it, Eliza thinks the Surrey RCMP is a "strange fit" for the investigation.

Eliza works as a letter carrier and one of her colleagues is filming a documentary about Angela's case.

"I want this to be remembered long after I'm gone, that she was a human being."


Angela's death was treated as suspicious from the outset, but police still don't know for sure if she was actually murdered.

Dr. David Charlesworth autopsied her body the day after she was found and discovered a small amount of bruising on her right and left arms, and a small amount of bruising inside her neck.

The forensic pathologist found it unlikely that the neck bruising was what caused her death, but he couldn't rule it out. Toxicology tests revealed she hadn't died of a drug overdose. A small amount of gamma hydroxybutrate, or GHB - also known as "juice," and a date rape drug - was found in her blood, but no ethyl alcohol or cocaine.

The Surrey RCMP issued a press release eight days after her death, describing her clothing and the rose tattoo on her back, hoping this would turn up some clues.

By Christmas Day, the police had received seven calls from the public in response to the press release, but each tip led investigators nowhere.

Meantime, Angela's family hadn't seen her since Dec. 9 and reported her missing to the Vancouver Police on Boxing Day, completely unaware of the investigation unfolding in Surrey.

Eliza said her family searched for Angela for five days straight in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, talking to prostitutes, posting posters, and walking up and down alleys.

"It was scary," she said. "My family was out there around the clock."

While they were handing out posters, Eliza recalled, a man on the street mentioned to her that Angela's description resembled that of a woman whose body had been found in Surrey. Eliza faxed a copy of their missing person poster to the Surrey RCMP on Dec. 28, and five days later dental charts confirmed Angela to be the woman found on Colebrook Road.

Police suspected she had been strangled. Nevertheless, a full year after her death, they were no closer to solving the case. On Dec. 11, 2002, Coroner Chico Newell classified the cause of her death "undetermined."

A special task force called Project Evenhanded, set up by the RCMP and Vancouver Police in 2001 to investigate 68 cases of missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside, reviewed Angela's file and concluded her death was not linked to serial killer Robert Pickton.

The investigation is now in the hands of Cpl. Mike Hall, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP's Unsolved Homicides Unit. He took over Angela's case in July 2007.

What Hall needs to know is how a woman from Vancouver's eastside, who knew very little about Surrey, ended up on this rural road out in the 'burbs.

"If we knew how she got here, it would provide a great deal of information as far as what happened to her," Hall said.

"Over the course of the first year following the discovery of Angela's body several investigative steps and lines of inquiry took place which were unable to answer the question, 'What happened to Angela?' This question remains unanswered to this day."


A week prior to her disappearance, Angela showed up at her aunt's house in Vancouver. "She was very upset. She was crying; she was saying that she was in a place with somebody, a fellow I guess, that was kind of holding her against her will there, and she managed to get out," Eliza recalled.

Eliza said she doesn't think this person was a boyfriend.

"No, no, I think it was just somebody she had met downtown, and she went to his place and it turned bad, and she had to escape through a window. And she showed up at my aunt's house, about 3 o'clock in the morning, very upset, crying. She had left there that morning, maybe 8 or 9.

"She didn't explain what was going on, or why she was there or who this fellow was. She was just so upset. My aunt was just trying to console her. She did tell my aunt that if she didn't come back, when she left her house that morning, that she knew something happened to her."

Hall said this has been checked out. "We are aware of this incident and have an account of what happened," he said.

Angela was reportedly last seen on Hastings and Gore, in Vancouver.

"The lady who my sister I guess kind of hung out with down there, she said she saw Ange get into a blue car," Eliza said.

"She was at a third floor window from a hotel and she saw Ange, at the corner of the street, and saw her get into a vehicle but she didn't get a licence, she didn't get a description, nothing."

Hall told the Now, "I do not know who this person is, although we have spoken with other individuals that Angela hung out with."

Eliza also noted that her sister was seen at the Wish Foundation, just before she disappeared. "It's for Downtown Eastside women, they go there if they need clothing or whatever, bus tickets, food, that sort of thing. Apparently she had attended some function there that day, and when it was over everybody left, and she was the last one.

"She was kind of stalling, she didn't want to leave - it was like she was afraid to go back to where she had come from," Eliza said. "And so the lady there at the Wish, I forget her name, but apparently the police didn't follow up on her, even though she was one of the last people to see my sister, and give her a bus ticket."

"Until this day, she said, she kicks herself until this day, wishing she had offered Ange a ride because she said she was going to her aunt's when she gave her the bus ticket. She never arrived at my aunt's, and that was the last time they'd seen her.

"I didn't know there was a gap in between there, like a five or six hour gap, where they don't know where she was and nobody had seen her."

Hall noted that police have already interviewed a person who they believe was the last to see Angela at the Wish Foundation.

"If there is anyone else who can provide information on what happened to her prior to her death, I'd be interested in speaking with them," he said.


Eliza has not been to the site where Angela's body was found, but she did see a psychic in Surrey last December who had some chilling things to say about her sister.

Eliza said the psychic told her Angela was re-enacting for him how she died, by strangulation, and that he saw her get into a blue truck, but couldn't see the driver's face.

"Right away he said he found a tightening sensation around his neck."

She said the psychic told her he was struggling to see the man she was with, but it was difficult. "He said he was trying to get into his energy. He said he's very cold. He said he comes off as somebody who is a bully and that people are afraid of him. He said he has a very cold energy and he couldn't get into it."

Eliza said the psychic told her that her sister's killer "looked kind of like a biker," and said he is about six feet tall, had black hair and some facial hair - perhaps a goatee - and wore a red bandana.

"He figures this is what he used to strangle my sister."

She said the psychic also told her this man is still around, "and he's done this before." Eliza said the psychic believes he stalked Angela, and she was afraid of him.

"Possibly she knew him, but he was not a friend."

The psychic told her that if police can find that truck, they'll find Angela's DNA all over it.

Eliza said she didn't put much stock in psychics before seeing this fellow in Surrey but changed her mind after he told her things about her life that only she would know. "I'm a believer now," she said. "I didn't tell him any details. I didn't mention anything about my family prior to going in there.

"He's willing to speak to the RCMP as well," she said.

Asked what he thinks about what the psychic's account, Hall replied, "I've spoken with Eliza previously about her visit. Any credible information or tips received in relation to what happened to Angela will be followed up accordingly."

The homicide investigator hopes someone out there might yet have information to share that could shed light on Angela's case. Eliza is appealing to their conscience.

"This is something that needs to be done for our family," Eliza said. "It's been over 10 years and we still have no answers."

Police ask anyone with tips to contact Cpl. Mike Hall, Surrey RCMP, at 604-599-7634.

Read more Fraser Valley stories at

© Copyright (c) Surrey Now

Son of suspected Pickton victim given 5-year prison sentence for manslaughter


Donald Denis Cote, the son of a woman suspected of being a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton was sentenced Thursday to five years in jail for manslaughter. In April, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Cote, 27, guilty in the October 2011 slaying of Jessie David Daniel Thomson, 22. Cote, was 15 when his mother Dianne Rock was believed to have been slain by Pickton. Cote was also convicted of assault with a weapon and assault.

Photograph by: Graphic, The Province

The son of a woman suspected of being a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton was sentenced Thursday to five years in jail for manslaughter.

In April, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Donald Denis Cote, 27, guilty in the October 2011 slaying of Jessie David Daniel Thomson, 22.

Cote, who was 15 when his mother Dianne Rock was believed to have been slain by Pickton, was also convicted of assault with a weapon and assault.

Prior to the slaying, he had joined a small group of people travelling on SkyTrain from Surrey to Vancouver.

When they arrived in Vancouver, they came upon a woman whose vehicle had run out of gas on Terminal Avenue.

Cote, Thomson and a third man took a jerry can, got in a cab and went looking for gas but when they couldn’t pay the cab fare they left the vehicle.

Thomson returned to the woman’s vehicle on Terminal Avenue in an agitated state and got into the rear of the vehicle.

Cote, who has a violent criminal record, followed Thomson back to the vehicle and used a heavy chain to smash the rear window.

He then pepper-sprayed Thomson, who fled the vehicle but was hit by a car as he tried to cross Terminal, a busy city thoroughfare. Thomson died of a traumatic brain injury two weeks later.

In sentencing Cote, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Voith noted that although Cote’s actions were not premeditated, they were part of an extended assault.

Cote’s actions were not reactive, nor were they the product of a single violent act, he added.

“Mr. Thomson made no effort to defend himself. Mr. Cote was the aggressor.”

The judge noted Cote’s “chaotic” family background in which both his parents had substance abuse problems and he was moved through a series of foster homes.

He sentenced Cote to five years in prison but reduced it to just over three years after giving him credit for pre-sentence custody.

Cote also received one year of jail for each of the assault counts, to be served concurrently with the manslaughter sentence.

The judge said he hoped that Cote would get programs in prison that would help him with his substance abuse issues and provide him with the skills to foster his employment prospects.

The remains of Rock, Cote’s mother, were found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.

Rock, who was identified on one of the 20 Pickton murder counts stayed by the Crown after the killer was convicted of six murders, is believed to have been Pickton’s last victim. Pickton received a life sentence with no parole eligiblity for 25 years.

Rock’s family, including her son Donald, have joined a lawsuit alleging police should have been aware that Pickton was attacking sex trade workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They’re making a number of other allegations including that police failed to pursue all investigative leads and mismanaged information.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Monday, October 7

Vancouver police, RCMP insist they acted reasonably in Pickton case


Robert Pickton is shown in an artist's drawing listening to the guilty verdict handed to him BC Supreme

Court in New Westminster, Sunday, December 9, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Felicity Don

VANCOUVER - The two police forces that failed to catch Robert Pickton as the serial killer hunted sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say they acted reasonably when they received information that women were vanishing and that Pickton might have been responsible.

The Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP each filed statements of defence Monday in a series of lawsuits involving the children of nine missing women, who accuse both forces of inadequately investigating reports of missing sex workers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The case was the focus of a high-profile public inquiry last year that identified a long list of failures and concluded that, had the victims not been poor, drug-addicted sex workers, the police would have done more to investigate what happened to them.

Both forces have issued public apologies acknowledging they could have done more to catch Pickton sooner. The Vancouver police has repeated that apology numerous times in the past several years, while the RCMP offered its apology during the public inquiry.

But in separate statements of defence, each force denies responsibility and argues they should not be held liable for the deaths of women who ended up on Pickton's farm.

"At all material times, the Vancouver police made reasonable efforts to locate and investigate the disappearances of women upon receipt of information or reports," the City of Vancouver, on behalf of its police force, says in one of its statements of defence.

The RCMP's statements of defence offers a similar argument: "The defendant says that the actions of those (RCMP officers) were at all times taken in good faith, were reasonable and were not negligent, particularly given the information available and the circumstances prevailing at the time of those investigations."

The Vancouver Police Department also says in its statements of defence that there is no evidence any of the women disappeared from Vancouver. The force has long insisted no crime occurred in Vancouver, because the women were believed to have willingly left the city with Pickton only to be killed on his farm in Port Coquitlam, which is in the RCMP's jurisdiction.

There were three separate investigations linked to Vancouver's missing women.

The Vancouver police investigated reports of missing Downtown Eastside sex workers, while the RCMP examined Pickton as a potential suspect. In 2001, both forces formed a joint task force to review missing-person cases involving sex workers.

Pickton emerged as a suspect as early as 1998, when the Vancouver police received tips implicating him, but he wasn't caught until February 2002.

Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report from the public inquiry, released last December, identified a list of "critical failures" in the various police investigations.

Those included poor report taking, a failure to take proactive steps to protect sex workers, the failure to pursue all investigative strategies, and poor co-ordination between Vancouver police and RCMP, among others.

At the inquiry, the forces urged the commissioner not to judge their actions with the benefit of hindsight, insisting officers did the best they could with the information they had at the time.

The Vancouver police and the RCMP also spent considerable time at the inquiry blaming each other. Vancouver police accused the Mounties of botching their investigation into Pickton, while the RCMP said the Vancouver police weren't passing along information and resisted forming a joint investigation.

The Vancouver department released its own internal review in 2010, which identified a number of problems with how the force's management handled the case while also laying considerable blame at the feet of the RCMP.

The City of Vancouver's statement of defence says the force will rely on that report as its version of what happened.

The families' lawsuits also allege Crown prosecutors were negligent when they declined to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

Pickton was set to stand trial in early 1998, but prosecutors dropped the case days before trial over concerns about the victim's ability to testify.

The B.C. government has filed court documents arguing prosecutors are immune from being sued.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.

He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.

Pickton is also named in the families' lawsuits, as is his brother, David. Neither has filed a statement of defence.

Wednesday, September 25



Occasionally, the stamp world will be illuminated by a striking image bursting from some designer's active imagination that catches the eye and holds your attention.

This pre-stamped envelope from Romania did it for me when this dazzling crying sun and smiling blue moon leaped off the page at me.

It was issued to mark the total eclipse of the sun over Romania on Aug. 11, 1999.

Hang on, I thought, I've seen something exactly like that before. I was having an episode of "deja vu."

And then I remembered.

It was in 1999, too. I had travelled out to Vancouver to write a feature about 31 missing women, all street workers engaged in the oldest profession in the world, all of whom had disappeared off the face of the earth without so much as a trace.

Pretty well everyone I met, other working women on the street, their friends, women's shelter workers, all reckon the missing women have been murdered.

About the only people who don't believe a "serial killer" is stalking the strolls in Vancouver's East Hastings district are the police.

But there's a deeply felt conviction among everyone else that someone's murdered the women. And there's a deeply held fear among many out there that the missing women were taken out onto ships in the harbour and when the ships left port, the women went with them.

I wrote a feature about this opinion that "sex slave death ships" were a factor behind these disappearances.

And it was while I was researching this feature, I came across this crying sun image for the first time.

One man who knows more about the missing women than anyone outside the police force is Wayne Leng, who has the closest possible personal ties to the tragedy unfolding out there, since one of his personal friends, Sarah, is among the missing.

One night Sarah was working a busy street corner in the very heart of this dangerous district, left and never returned. Ever.

Wayne's personal attempts to find his friend turned into a crusade, which flourished into a large-scale campaign aimed at finding Sarah, but also finding all the women so their friends and families could have some answers and if necessary, some closure.

At that time, most of Wayne's home had been turned into a campaign office with posters and flyers and photographs of missing women.

But in one special folder, Wayne showed me many of his personal memories of Sarah, including a large portfolio of all her drawings and paintings, sketches and doodlings, an insight into her mind.

She had lived a troubled life, often sad, always struggling.

And there, among her artworks, was this expressive painting (see picture above right).

Her crying sun was a theme depicted in many of her pictures -- in colour, in black-and-white, as a background to other images, and sometimes up front and centre.

Sarah, sadly, has gone and although she's only officially listed as "missing" no one, not even Wayne, expects to ever see her again.

But her poignant images will live forever in her art.

And every now and then, from unknown surprising directions, as with this striking item from Romania, she'll be remembered through her art.

As I always say, there's a surprise around every corner in the world of stamps.

Bobby Jack Fowler Highway of Tears investigation stalled - British Columbia - CBC News

Bobby Jack Fowler Highway of Tears investigation stalled - British Columbia - CBC News:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, September 18

Missing woman’s charges stayed - Terrace Standard

Missing woman’s charges stayed - Terrace Standard:

'via Blog this'

Woman found dead in farmer’s field had been missing since Sept. 3


A photo of homicide victim Amy Paul taken from a Facebook page set up to help locate her when she disappeared in the first week of September.

OTTAWA — The woman police found dead in an Osgoode hay field was “too young to die,” her cousin said Wednesday.

Amy Paul, 27, was found Tuesday morning by a farmer while on his tractor in southeast Ottawa, setting off an investigation into the city’s eighth homicide of the year.

Paul’s family reported her missing on Sept. 9, six days after they’d last heard from her.

Police said Paul was listed in their system as having no fixed address. Family members posted in a Facebook group dedicated to finding her that the young mother of one daughter was known to frequent areas in Vanier, Lowertown and Overbrook. A police source told the Citizen on Wednesday that Paul was known to be a sex-trade worker.

“She was a great person,” cousin Melissa Leblanc told the Citizen just minutes after police publicly confirmed Paul’s identity. The family had been notified hours before. Paul will be missed by her daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, nieces and nephews, Leblanc said.

Adding to the family’s new-found grief, police did not issue a media alert when Paul was initially reported missing. While such alerts are often issued, Ottawa police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy said Wednesday they are not issued as a rule. It’s up to the investigator to determine whether a news release will be helpful.

Police generally issue releases when they suspect foul play, if a child is involved, or they have reason to believe someone is in immediate danger. In this case, Soucy said, investigators had many “active leads” on Paul’s whereabouts, and opted not to notify the public. Soucy said the decision had nothing to do with a perceived high-risk lifestyle that accompanies sex work, but Paul was known to police and investigators believed their leads were solid.

Without an Ottawa police call for the public’s help, Paul’s family and friends were left to spread the plea themselves. They established two Facebook pages, set up an email account specifically for tips, and listed their own telephone numbers as well as the Ottawa police phone number on a poster they circulated on social media and posted around Vanier. The poster included a photo of the red-haired woman, who was 5-4 and weighed about 90 pounds.

“All we want is for her to be safe ... so if you know where she is tell her to call someone in the family,” said the page posted in the days following her disappearance.

A Facebook group set up during the search was filled with condolence messages Wednesday, from some who knew Paul and from others who were saddened to hear of another woman’s life ended in an apparent homicide. People in the affected community of Osgoode, wondering Tuesday who the woman tragically found in the hayfield was, grieved alongside friends and family.

Ryan Sullivan, a former high school classmate, wrote that he “will always remember (Paul’s) beautiful face and smile.”

A smile, he said, that “would always brighten the darkest of days.”

Paul, “a great soul,” would help others when they were down, he added.

The investigation into Paul’s death began Tuesday when police received a 911 call around 9:13 a.m. notifying them of the gruesome discovery in a southeast Ottawa hayfield on Cabin Road, between Nixon Drive and River Road.

Paul’s body appeared to have signs of injury to the head and judging by the level of decomposition she might have been in the field for more than a week, according to sources. At that point, she had been missing for two weeks. Police were not sure whether other signs of trauma were the result of severe decomposition or of the body having been partially burned. Police ran fingerprints Tuesday night, hoping for a match to identify the victim before an autopsy scheduled for Wednesday.

That autopsy has been completed but police have not released a cause of death.

The Ottawa police major crime unit continues to investigate.

There are no suspects.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, September 4

‘Not acceptable to turn a blind eye’ to sex workers using PEERS drop-in centre, MLA says

  • VKA-LITTLE10364.jpg
  • Executive director Marion Little says donations are already coming in to help reopen PEERS's drop-in centre.  Photograph by: BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Politicians, police and frontline workers are questioning the abrupt closing of a drop-in centre and pre-employment program for sex workers in Victoria.

Crippling funding cuts forced the non-profit society PEERS to close its centre and cut its Elements pre-employment program. The organization’s day and night outreach programs will continue.

“I’m quite surprised, given the issue of violence against women was at the forefront of discussions with the government in recent months,” said Maurine Karagianis, MLA for Esquimalt-Royal Roads.

“The government assured us they were going to follow through on the recommendations of Wally Oppal on things just like this. … Instead, they seem paralyzed to make any progress.”

In his 2012 Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, Oppal urged the B.C. government to commit to provide funding to existing centres that offer emergency services to women engaged in the sex trade so the centres could stay open 24 hours a day.

“It’s not acceptable to turn a blind eye to these women in the sex trade who are most vulnerable to violence,” Karagianis said.

PEERS serves 515 clients a year, about 80 per cent of whom are women, said executive director Marion Little.

As a stop-gap measure while the drop-in centre is closed, AIDS Vancouver Island has opened its café at the Access Health Centre at 713 Johnson St. to PEERS staff and clients to meet on Wednesday afternoons.

Little said donations have started coming in to help revive the centre. If sufficient money is raised, the centre could reopen for even one day a week, she said.

Karagianis said she and Michelle Mungall, the NDP opposition critic for the Ministry of Social Development, will raise the issue of the PEERS program’s closing with the government, and will reach out to the PEERS board to offer help.

PEERS has struggled since its core funding was shifted from federal to provincial jurisdiction six years ago. Its undoing came when funding moved to a subcontract through the Employment Program of B.C., and it was forced to fit its services to meet a fee-for-service billing model. This required that PEERS provide detailed personal information for its services, even though the society worked to support sex workers unconditionally and protect their confidentiality.

In a statement Tuesday, Social Development Minister Don McRae said sex workers would still have access to employment programs. “PEERS was a sub-contractor of the contracted service providers in Victoria, who have confirmed that there will be no disruption to services as a result of PEERS withdrawing its employment-related programs,” McRae said. He did not explain how such services would be provided.

Victoria police are concerned its officers might feel the effects of PEERS’s reductions in service, “as the [sex] workers may not be as well-informed, cared for and supported, potentially leaving them more susceptible to exploitation and abuse,” said Det. Sgt. Todd Wellman, supervisor of the Special Victims Unit.

He said PEERS acts as a conduit between sex trade workers and police, building a sense of trust. “With them, we’ve helped build a safe place for sex trade workers to report crimes.”

In a recent example, police knew that a sex trade worker, who was the victim of an aggravated assault, was hesitant to report it. PEERS encouraged the woman to come forward.

“PEERS supported the worker through the process and we actually conducted our interview at PEERS, whereas we would likely not have obtained a statement from the victim [otherwise] as she was not comfortable attending the police station,” Wellman said.

Kristen Kvakic, director of programs at AIDS Vancouver Island, said the organization has worked closely with PEERS over the years and can’t see how its services will be replaced.

“PEERS provides a specialized, niche service. I’m not sure anyone can pick up that work,” she said.

“When people say this program changed my life or saved my life, and then it’s gone, it’s heart-breaking.”

© Copyright 2013

Safe haven for sex workers forced to close as outreach society PEERS sees funding cut

  • a1-LITTLE10355.jpg
  • PEERS executive director Marion Little: "We've tried to contort and juggle things as much as we could, but it's impossible."  Photograph by: BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

A drop-in centre that provided a safe, non-judgmental place for Victoria sex workers for almost two decades has closed. PEERS, the non-profit society that ran the centre, has also cut its Elements pre-employment program.

These are the latest casualties in a series of cuts due to a complicated restructuring of funding that began about six years ago with a shift from federal to provincial jurisdiction, said PEERS executive director Marion Little.

“We’ve tried to contort and juggle things as much as we could, but it’s impossible,” Little said. “Ever since that transfer we’ve had significant cutbacks and layoffs.”

The organization’s operational budget of $32,000 a month has been cut in half, three full-time staff positions are gone, and Little’s hours have been reduced to 15 hours a week from 25. The drop-in centre on Fairview Road in Esquimalt closed Aug. 16, and programs set to start in the fall have been cancelled.

PEERS serves about 515 clients a year, which Little estimates is a fraction of the sex workers in the region.

Losing the drop-in centre will be devastating for sex workers, said Tracie Faulkes, who has been helped by PEERS. “This place saves lives.”

People in the sex trade could go to the centre for everything from a hot lunch to shelter to information on rehabilitative programs. The office also maintained a “bad date sheet,” where sex workers could report and peruse information about violent clients.

“This place was like a warm blanket where you could finally be safe and get help,” Faulkes said.

Faulkes, 49, was a sex worker in her early 20s in northern B.C. Finally motivated by the trauma of her sister’s murder, she sought help 17 years after leaving the sex trade. She enrolled in the Elements program and went from waiting tables to social work at AIDS Vancouver Island and PEERS.

In 2012, PEERS’ core funding contract with the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation shifted to the Employment Program of B.C. fee-for-service billing model — which proved its undoing. Little said PEERS struggled to fit its programs into the employment service model, but it didn’t work.

The problem, she said, is the new model treats PEERS like a conventional employment agency, without acknowledging the clientele’s specialized needs and a mandate to support sex workers unconditionally and protect their confidentiality.

The fee-for-service model requires detailed personal information for every service provided, which runs the risk of being shared with other agencies. While PEERS managed to bill for many clients, it also served others who were uncomfortable with the new requirements.

“The problem is registration happens through PEERS, which basically outs a person as a sex worker,” Little said. The model also requires a lot more administration. “What this program asks us to do is hustle our clients to get money out of the government.”

The day and night outreach programs at PEERS will continue because they are funded separately by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, B.C. Gaming Commission, United Way and private donors.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said the cutbacks at PEERS are “truly unfortunate,” and that the drop-in centre and services are crucial to making outreach programs work. “Who’s going to do that work now?” he asked, noting the police and several organizations work closely with PEERS.

Former PEERS executive director Jody Paterson lamented the loss of the drop-in centre and programs for those in the sex trade. “It was a place where they knew they could completely relax about being past and present sex workers and that they wouldn’t be judged because everybody there got it,” she said. “Outreach is great, but unless there’s a drop-in space to go with it, it can be much harder to find for someone in the moment that they need it.”

© Copyright 2013

Tuesday, August 27

B.C. escort deaths prompt criticism of police - British Columbia - CBC News

B.C. escort deaths prompt criticism of police - British Columbia - CBC News:

'via Blog this'

Police investigate suspicious deaths of two online female escorts in New Westminster

Police said the two victims were located in their own apartments within the same complex


Police search for clues on August 26, 2013 at a New Westminster building where two online escorts have died under suspicious circumstances within weeks of each other.

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

METRO VANCOUVER -- The suspicious deaths of two online escorts in the same building complex within weeks of each other has triggered a joint investigation by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and New Westminster Police.

It has also triggered an extraordinary warning from the RCMP for escorts to be vigilant given the similarity of the two deaths.

“Investigators know both women were engaged in a high-risk lifestyle and were working as online escorts,” RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Pound said in a statement. “IHIT’s priority is to reach out to all escorts and remind them of the risks involved and to take extra precaution as it is unclear at this point why, or even if, they are in fact being targeted.

“There’s a number of outreach programs for sure that people can reach out to and get assistance from.”


VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SCENE HERE, or if you're using a mobile app, tap the story image and swipe.


Pound said the first death occurred August 12 just before 10 p.m. at an apartment complex in the 200 block of 11th Street. Police found Jill Lyons, 45, dead in her own apartment. There was no obvious cause of death and an autopsy was inconclusive. As a result, police are awaiting results of toxicology tests.

On August 25, police were again called to the building where they found the body of 48-year-old Karen Nabors. Pound said they retrieved evidence that suggests Nabors died of foul play. Nabors was also found in her own apartment, and the two women knew each other.

“As a result of the similar nature and geography of the two deaths IHIT has taken conduct of both investigations,” Pound said.

Police have attended incidents at apartment building before. In 2003 a New Westminster Police officer was shot and several others got into a gunfight with a suspect. The next year a resident of the building was stabbed to death.

Anyone with information can call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-IHIT or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

With a file from Mike Hager

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Saturday, August 24

Mountie who alleges abuse by RCMP says force seeking to dismiss her


VANCOUVER - A Mountie whose sexual harassment complaints against the RCMP prompted dozens of similar allegations and heralded legislation to modernize discipline for "bad apples" within the force says her employer is moving to dismiss her.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford said she received a letter saying the RCMP is seeking to discharge her because she's unable to do her job.

Galliford has been on sick leave since 2006 and filed a civil suit against the RCMP two years ago alleging sexual harassment and bullying spanning nearly two decades.

The Mountie who was a spokeswoman for investigations such as the Robert Pickton and the Air India bombings cases said the dismissal process will involve a medical board hearing.

"About two years ago they wanted me to take an early medical pension, and I said No. I asked for a medical board instead," she said.

"A medical board takes longer and I have a lawsuit ongoing and I need to have my income going to pay my lawyer. And I would be able to have my voice, be able to tell my story. I don't know if I'm invited to the board, but I would like to be."

Galliford said the medical pension she was initially offered seemed to be another way for the RCMP to do away with dealing with the conflict.

"My notice of intent to discharge, which I received last week, is telling me that they are going to appoint two or three doctors of their own choosing."

Galliford, who said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, added that one of her own doctors will also be on the board.

However, she said she does not know when the process will start.

Galliford said that while she was initially angry about getting the letter about the dismissal process, she has accepted she won't be returning to her job as a Mountie.

"The funny thing is my doctor has already told me I can never go back to the RCMP. And I know that myself so I'm kind of happy that I'm moving ahead on this. But they haven't given me a guidebook as to how this is going to turn out."

Galliford said other officers who have complained about being harassed at work have also received intent-to-discharge letters.

The RCMP was not immediately available for comment. But the federal government, which represents the force, filed a statement of defence a year ago denying Galliford's allegations, which have not been tested in court.

The statement of claim also said that if Galliford had concerns about conflict, harassment or intimidation in the workplace or by other members, she was obliged to make a complaint.

However, Galliford has said there's no union within the force and that her only option was to retain a lawyer and file a lawsuit but that she never intended to become a "poster child" for harassment within the RCMP.

In addition to the RCMP, Galliford's lawsuit named three officers and a doctor employed by the force, along with a Vancouver officer who was part of the joint RCMP-Vancouver missing women investigation.

She first outlined her allegations in media interviews two years ago, prompting several other female Mounties to come forward with their own allegations of abuse against the national police force.

An open letter by RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson in March 2012 expressed frustration about the antiquated discipline procedures in the RCMP Act.

Paulson said his ability to disciple "bad apples" within the force is hindered by a system that was set up 25 years ago.

Then-public safety minister Vic Toews said new legislation would change discipline procedures involving wayward Mounties.

Bill C-42 is awaiting royal assent to become law.

Daughter of Campbell River woman killed by Robert Pickton launches lawsuit LOUISE DICKSON

AUGUST 20, 2013082122013-marniefrey.jpg

Marnie Frey disappeared in August 1997.  Photograph by: HANDOUT

The daughter of a Campbell River woman murdered by Robert Pickton has launched a civil lawsuit against the serial killer, his brother, the Crown, the RCMP and the Vancouver police.

Brittney Frey, 21, filed a notice of civil claim Friday over the death of her mother, Marnie Frey, who disappeared in August 1997.

Statements of claim were also filed Friday by Brenda Wolfe’s daughter, Angel Wolfe, and Georgina Papin’s daughter, Kristina Bateman.

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of killing Wolfe, Frey and Papin, along with Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway and Andrea Joesbury.

The lawsuits target the City of Vancouver on behalf of its police department; the B.C. government on behalf of the RCMP and the criminal justice branch; Pickton; Pickton’s brother David; and several individual police officers.

None of the agencies or people named in the lawsuits have filed statements of defence. The B.C. government has filed a narrowly focused application that seeks to have allegations against the Crown thrown out on the grounds that prosecutors are protected from such lawsuits, but the province has not responded to any of the other allegations.

Marnie Frey’s DNA was found on the Pickton property after his arrest in 2002. Her daughter’s lawsuit is the ninth one launched by the families in the wake of former attorney general Wally Oppal’s report on B.C.’s missing women inquiry.

Oppal concluded that “blatant” police failures triggered by systemic bias against the poor, vulnerable women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside allowed serial killer Robert Pickton to evade arrest for years.

Brittney Frey’s notice of claim — which contains allegations not proven in court — says Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to investigate reports of missing women and failed to warn women in the Downtown Eastside that a serial killer was at work.

“The failure to warn and provision of false assurances by VPD and the RCMP was a contributing cause of Marnie’s death,” Frey’s claim alleges.

“The VPD and RCMP owed and breached a duty of care to Marnie as a member of the public and as an individual within a group at heightened risk from a serial killer.”

Frey alleges Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to properly investigate her mother’s disappearance. Marnie talked to her parents for the last time on Aug. 30, 1997, her 24th birthday. They told her a package containing gifts, baking, clothing and a hand-drawn picture from Brittney had been sent by bus. The gifts were never picked up and Marnie was never heard from or seen again.

When Marnie’s stepmother tried to report her missing, she was told to call back in a few days. Lynn Frey called police again in October and November, but a missing persons file was not opened until December, the claim says.

Frey also alleges the Crown failed to protect the public from Pickton and to prosecute the serial killer after a near fatal attack on a sex-trade worker in March 1997.

The claim alleges police investigations were negligent and did not have enough resources to properly look into Pickton.

Frey also alleges David Pickton knew his brother was bringing sex-trade workers to the farm, torturing them and killing them. David Pickton lied to police about the March 1997 attack on a sex-trade worker, the claim says.

Frey claims the Crown, RCMP and VPD caused her aggravated psychological suffering and grief by failing to tell her about her mother’s death in a timely or appropriate manner. She says she suffered loss of affection and emotional support, loss of financial support and loss of guidance.

The claim describes Marnie Frey as “an ongoing and compassionate woman who loved animals” and “a loving mother.” She became a heroin addict in high school, the claim says. She lived in Vancouver and returned to Campbell River about once a month to visit Brittney. She called daily.

Frey could not be reached for comment.

With a file from The Canadian Press

© Copyright 2013