Thursday, January 30

New database lists 824 murdered, missing native women in Canada

By: Mary Agnes Welch

Posted: 01/24/2014 1:00 AM | Last Modified: 01/24/2014 3:28 PM |

Vigils for murdered and missing aboriginal women are held regularly at the Manitoba legislature. New research puts the total in this province at 111.


Vigils for murdered and missing aboriginal women are held regularly at the Manitoba legislature. New research puts the total in this province at 111. Photo Store

Some of the names are familiar, such as Cherisse Houle, the 17-year-old found lying face down in a creek just outside Winnipeg.

Some are forgotten, such as Constance Cameron, whose murder 30 years ago has never been solved.

Constance Cameron, murdered in 1984

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Constance Cameron, murdered in 1984


As part of her PhD thesis, federal civil servant Maryanne Pearce created her own database of missing and murdered women in Canada, cross-referencing newspaper articles, police websites and reports, court documents and other public sources. We’ve created an online database based on Appendix F of her thesis – a list of more than 3,300 cases of missing or dead Canadian women. See the database.

  • 111 missing or murdered dating back to Jean Mocharski's murder near the Alexander Docks in 1961.
  • 83 aboriginal women have been murdered over the last 50 years. About a third of the murders are unsolved.
  • 28 women are missing, including 18 in the last decade.
  • 10 children (aged 11 and under) were murdered, including Phoenix Sinclair.
  • 20 is the average age of the missing and murdered women (among those whose ages are known).
  • 6 women were murdered by their husband or boyfriend.

-- Source: An Awkward Silence: Missing And Murdered Vulnerable Women And The Canadian Justice System, Maryanne Pearce, 2013.



Cherisse Houle, murdered in 2009

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Cherisse Houle, murdered in 2009

Helen Betty Osborne, murdered in 1971

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Helen Betty Osborne, murdered in 1971 (CANADIAN PRESS)

One name is famous -- Helen Betty Osborne, whose death is emblematic of violent racism in Manitoba.

Those names and hundreds more appear on a new public database, the first of its kind, created by an Ottawa researcher. It pegs the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada at 824.

That's significantly higher than the widely used and often-criticized number of 582, cobbled together by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC).

The NWAC's list was never public and could not be scrutinized or validated, but it helped catapult the issue of violence against indigenous women onto the national agenda.

The new research, which dug deeper into the past and the public record, shows the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Manitoba is 111, up from NWAC's oft-quoted figure of 79.

"I'm not shocked at the number and I know the community is not going to be shocked at the number because we've always said it was more," said Nahanni Fontaine, the province's special adviser on aboriginal women's issues. "And of course, each year, tragically, those numbers go up."

The new database is the first comprehensive and fully public list of missing and murdered aboriginal women, but activists in Ontario are working on a similar one for that province. The database was created by federal civil servant Maryanne Pearce and forms part of her PhD thesis for the University of Ottawa's law school.

The thesis, along with the database, were submitted last fall and are available online.

To gather a complete list of names, Pearce spent seven years cross-referencing newspaper articles, police websites and reports, court documents and other public sources, much as the NWAC did.

Pearce identified thousands of missing and murdered women and was able to determine 824 were Inuit, Métis or First Nations. Her list includes 115 Manitoba women, but further research suggests four young women listed as missing have been found, two recently.

Pearce could not be reached for comment this week, but her thesis advisers are two well-regarded experts in aboriginal law and social science research.

When contacted about Pearce's work, they called it "excellent."

Among her findings, Pearce found 80 per cent of missing or murdered aboriginal women were not in the sex trade. That's despite the perception most cases involve prostitutes or women engaged in high-risk behaviour.

The perception that many missing or murdered women put themselves in harm's way has been used to unfairly discount the problem, said Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Shawna Ferris, a University of Manitoba gender studies professor, agreed, saying much of the reporting on missing and murdered aboriginal women focuses on whether the victims are involved in the sex trade. Mug shots and details of a woman's street life or addictions don't help to cultivate public concern.

"Shouldn't we be aiming for a city where regardless of the trials people are going through, they're not killed?"

Nepinak said a comprehensive list that can been tested and validated makes it difficult for government, especially Ottawa, to sidestep the issue, and helps bolster the case for a national inquiry into the epidemic of violence against aboriginal women.

"We've only scratched the surface of what happened here," Nepinak said.

MAP: Unsolved Cases of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Manitoba

Blue pointers indicate missing cases; red pointers indicate deaths. Use the controls at left to zoom in or out of the map, and click on any pointer for more details.  Having difficulty seeing the map below? Try opening it in a new window.

Research points to 'exhaustive list' of missing Aboriginal women - Thunder Bay - CBC News

Research points to 'exhaustive list' of missing Aboriginal women - Thunder Bay - CBC News: "t"

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Monday, January 20

Over 800 aboriginal women missing, murdered


Half a skull, and an ankle bone - that's all that remains to tell us she ever lived. Nineteen years after a roadside souvenir vendor found her skull fragment in a ditch near Mission, and 11 years after police matched her skull's DNA with an ankle bone found on the farm of notorious serial killer Robert Pickton, she has yet to be identified. Without a name there will never be a family to notify. She will have no grave - just a box in a police evidence locker.

It's the victims without names that haunt Maryanne Pearce. The 42-yearold Ottawa mother and federal government worker has devoted seven years to documenting missing and murdered women in Canada, building what may be Canada's most comprehensive database of these cases. Through her research, Pearce has discovered that the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada is higher than anyone ever realized.

The Native Women's Association of Canada's Sisters in Spirit project has documented 582 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women from approximately 1990 until the federal government cut funding to the project in 2010. With three more years of cases in her database, and intensive research, Pearce has documented 824 cases.

As with the residential0school tragedy, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission just raised the estimated death toll of aboriginal children in residential schools to more than 4,000, the more researchers like Pearce dig, the more it becomes apparent just how immense the problem is.

In 2006, the trial of Robert Pickton began. Pearce watched with mounting horror as ever more gruesome details emerged - both about the crime, and the difficulties and failures of the police in solving it. "I just couldn't stand still," she told us.

Pearce focused her doctoral degree in law at the University of Ottawa on investigating why women - especially aboriginal women - are more vulnerable to violent predators like Pickton, and why so many of their disappearances go unsolved. In September, she finished her thesis, An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System.

At the core of Pearce's work is her database. She has meticulously documented 3,329 missing and murdered aboriginal and non-aboriginal women using public sources such as newspaper articles, websites, public police files, and missing person posters. Some of the cases date back to the 1950s, but the overwhelming majority are from 1990 to 2013.

In each case, Pearce noted key factors in the victims' lives, such as homelessness, addiction, mental illness, involvement in the child welfare system or sex trade. These factors appear in a significant number of the cases in her database, and Pearce says they play a role in making women more vulnerable to violent predators.

Where possible, Pearce also recorded the ethnicity of the victim. She discovered another risk factor: simply being an aboriginal woman. Of all the missing and murdered women in the database, 24.8 per cent are aboriginal, even though aboriginal women make up only about two per cent of the Canadian population.

Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women have drawn international attention. Last year, the United Nations' review of Canada's human rights record echoed the plea of Canadian aboriginal organizations to hold a national inquiry. While Pearce does not oppose a national inquiry, she worries it would result in yet another report gathering dust on a shelf.

"I would like to see more action and less inquiry," she said, noting there are already recommendations waiting to be implemented, such as those of the Missing Women Commission that followed the Pickton trial.

According to Pearce, what is most needed to solve cases of missing and murdered women, and protect others from becoming victims, is information. Canada is long overdue in setting up a national DNA database for missing persons and unidentified human remains, she says. Canadian police forces need to better share information with the public that could help break cases and find missing women. And many smaller Canadian police detachments need better training in handling missing persons cases, learning to spot the clues that point to foul play.

Pearce plans to make all of her data available to everyone in order to provide evidence-based recommendations that will help Canada's justice system solve these cases and protect vulnerable women.

Although her thesis is finished, 3,000 horror stories have taken their toll. Pearce has written the word "murder" so often, she wakes in the night to find her fingers going through the motions of typing it out. When friends talk of visiting other cities, all she can think of are the names of the women who vanished and died there.

All Canadians should share Pearce's horror. The crisis of missing and murdered women is a gaping wound on our nation that must be healed. No one should end up as anonymous bits of bones in a police archive.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are co-founders of international charity and educational partner Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, January 15

Compensation offer coming for family members of killer Robert Pickton


VANCOUVER - An offer to provide financial compensation to the children of serial killer Robert Pickton's victims could come as soon as six weeks from now, a lawyer for the British Columbia government said in court Wednesday.

Len Doust asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge to put a series of lawsuits filed by the children of nine women on hold, because he said a settlement offer could be ready soon.

"To be clear: there will be a payment," Doust told a hearing in a Vancouver courtroom, as Pickton watched by video from Kent Institution in Agassiz, B.C.

"It wouldn't be at all unreasonable for that to occur (if the case was adjourned for six weeks to two months). It could occur even a lot sooner than that."

Doust did not reveal the potential amount of such a settlement offer.

The report from a public inquiry, released in December 2012, included a recommendation that the children of the murdered women be given financial compensation.

Doust told the court there could be more than 90 children who would qualify for compensation.

He said the provincial and federal governments and the City of Vancouver have been discussing various issues related to a compensation offer, such as the amount of an offer and what percentage each level of government would be responsible for, and he said they've made significant progress.

"It is not a fast process," said Doust.

The families' lawyer, Jason Gratl, told court he presented settlement offers to the province and the city six months ago but has yet to hear back.

He said if the governments agree on a compensation package, "that may change the circumstances significantly."

Pickton, who watched the proceedings over a video link, sat in a chair and listened with a blank look on his face.

He is now mostly bald, with a small patch of hair hanging from the back of his head and light facial hair. He wore a plain white shirt.

The families' lawyers are in court this week asking for public funding to pay for their legal bills as the case proceeds.

They also want to force the provincial government, which represents the RCMP and the Crown prosecution service, and the City of Vancouver, which represents the city's police force, to be forced to accept the factual findings of the public inquiry.

At the end of Wednesday's hearing, Pickton was asked whether he had anything to add.

He attempted to correct the date of a previous legal case cited during the hearing — though Pickton's correction was, in fact, incorrect — and then said: "Otherwise, no, I'm just going along with the information. I'm just going along."

Judge Susan Griffin reserved her decision on the families' two applications until the end of March, though she said she hoped the governments would continue their efforts to produce a compensation offer in the meantime.

The public inquiry report, authored by commissioner Wally Oppal, a former judge and former Liberal attorney general chronicled years of critical errors within various police investigations related to Vancouver's missing sex workers. He blamed "systemic bias" for the failure to catch Pickton sooner.

Gratl said it doesn't make sense to hear the same evidence as the inquiry.

"Repeating the exercise would be a colossal waste of resources," Gratl told the court.

Gratl also noted the police forces and governments involved in the case have publicly stated they accept the findings of the inquiry.

The provincial government and the City of Vancouver said they shouldn't be forced to accept all of the findings in Oppal's report, because a public inquiry isn't as rigorous as a formal trial. They also said it's difficult to distinguish between Oppal's factual findings and the commissioner's opinions.

The nine lawsuits target the provincial government, the city, several individual police officers and Pickton himself. Pickton's brother, David, is named as a defendant in seven of the lawsuits.

The families' statements of claim allege the Vancouver police and the RCMP were negligent when they investigated reports of missing sex workers and the possibility that Pickton might be responsible. They say the Crown was wrong not to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder following an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

The lawsuits also allege David Pickton helped cover for his brother in the 1997 case.

All of the defendants have filed statements of defence denying the allegations.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence with no parole for at least 25 years.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49 victims.

Tuesday, January 14

Serial killer Robert Pickton makes video court appearance in civil case

It's one of the first times anyone from outside the prison system has seen the notorious murderer in the years since his conviction


Aerial photo of the Pickton farm property in Port Coquitlam B.C. The families of women whose DNA was found at the farm have launched a lawsuit against Pickton and police who investigated the serial killings.

VANCOUVER — Serial killer Robert Pickton appeared in court by video Tuesday for a civil case involving the families of several of his victims.

It's one of the first times anyone from outside the prison system has seen the notorious murderer in the years since his conviction.

Pickton — bald and wearing a white shirt as he sat in a room at Kent Institution, a maximum security southeast of Vancouver — was polite as he listened to a B.C. Supreme Court judge and the lawyer for nine families explain the proceedings.

The families want the findings of a public inquiry to be binding on the City of Vancouver and the B.C. government, which are representing the Vancouver police and the RCMP, respectively, and they also want the governments to pay their legal bills in advance of the case.

Pickton was asked whether he wanted to be involved in this stage of the hearings, since the outcome of the families' applications wouldn't directly affect him.

"Do you wish to attend by video conference the hearing of these applications?" asked Judge Susan Griffin.

"It doesn't make that much difference," Pickton replied in a raspy voice. "I'll leave it up to you. I'll leave it to your discretion."

"I'm going to say that you should attend, just so you are informed of what's going on," replied Griffin.

Griffin adjourned the hearing until Wednesday, when Pickton will watch submissions from the families' lawyer, the city, the province, a lawyer representing several police officers, and a lawyer representing Pickton's brother, David.

Pickton will be permitted to address the court if he has anything to add, Griffin told him.

Pickton said little else during the brief hearing. He greeted the judge by saying "good morning" as the hearing started, and he occasionally said "thank you" as the case was explained to him.

The children of nine women filed separate lawsuits last year.

Commissioner Wally Oppal, a retired judge and one-time provincial cabinet minister, issued his final report on the public inquiry into missing women in December 2012.

The report chronicled the various police investigations connected to the Pickton case and identified years of critical mistakes, poor police leadership and "systemic bias" that allowed Pickton to remain at large.

The governments have opposed the families' application to bring in Oppal's report, arguing a public inquiry is not the same thing as a criminal or civil trial, and therefore the inquiry's conclusions can't be used in court.

The government's also oppose the families' application to have their legal bills paid for in advance.

The families' statements of claim, which contain unproven allegations, target Pickton for the women's death, and seven of the lawsuits also name Pickton's brother, David, who the families allege helped Pickton cover up an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

The lawsuits allege the Vancouver police, the RCMP and several individual officers botched their investigations into missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and into Pickton as a possible suspect in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

They also allege the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch was negligent when prosecutors declined to put Pickton on trial for attempting to kill a sex worker in 1997.

All of the defendants, including Robert Pickton, have filed statements of defence denying the allegations against them.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's property in Port Coquitlam.

He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence, with no parole for at least 25 years.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Sunday, January 12

Charge laid in CJ Fowler death


CJ Fowler

Photograph by: Handout, Kamloops Daily News

RCMP in Kamloops have announced that charges have been laid in the Dec. 5, 2012 murder of a 16-year-old from Terrace.

Twenty-two year old Damien Lawrence Taylor was arrested in Kelowna after a warrant was issued for his arrested last week.

Taylor had been dating CJ Fowler at the time of her death.

Fowler, who lived in Terrace and had been visiting Kamloops, was beaten to death. The teen’s body was discovered in a ravine near Guerin Creek in Lower Sahali by a man walking his dog.

Shortly after her murder, her grieving family joined First Nations leaders in a call for a national inquiry into the disappearance and deaths of aboriginal women across Canada.

Parents Glenn Wilson and Matilda Fowler spoke to the media in Vancouver following the murder.

At Sunday’s press conference in Kamloops, Fowler’s family said they were relieved that a charge had been laid.

At the December 2012 press conference, Fowler’s mom Matilda Fowler described her daughter as a “fun-loving girl” and reminisced about special moments she had with her girl growing up in Hazelton.

“She didn’t deserve this,” added Fowler. “All I want to know is who took my daughter’s life.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Friday, January 10

Robert Pickton’s brother denies any knowledge of serial killer’s crimes

The Canadian Press

January 10, 2014

VANCOUVER - The brother of Robert William Pickton says he had no idea sex workers were being taken to his family's property near Vancouver and murdered, and he denies ever helping the serial killer cover up his crimes.

The children of several women whose remains or DNA were found on Pickton's property in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, filed lawsuits last year against Pickton, Pickton's brother David, and the police.

David Pickton has now filed statements of defence, denying any knowledge of what his brother was doing and rejecting the families' claim that he should be held liable for the women's deaths.

"William's criminal acts were not known to David, nor were they reasonably foreseeable to him," says one of seven identical statements of defence filed this week.

"Any offences committed by William were on the property solely occupied by William Pickton."

The families' lawsuits also allege David Pickton lied to police after Robert Pickton was accused of attempting to murder a sex worker in 1997. The case did not proceed to trial.

"David Pickton did not aid or abet William Pickton's alleged attack in on the '1997 victim,'" says the statement of defence.

"David Pickton did not assist William Pickton in 'getting away' with any offence."

The families of nine women have filed lawsuits, but only seven of those cases name David Pickton as a plaintiff. He also filed a statement of defence this week in an unrelated lawsuit in which he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the early 1990s.

All of the court documents contain allegations that haven't been tested in court.

David Pickton has always been on the periphery of his brother's case, but he has never been formally accused or charged with anything connected to Robert Pickton's crimes.

The Pickton brothers and their sister, Linda Wright, own the infamous property in Port Coquitlam where Robert Pickton lived in a run-down trailer and where police found the remains or DNA of 33 women. The siblings inherited the property from their parents.

David Pickton's name also surfaced several times during the public inquiry that began in late 2011 and stretched well into 2012.

The inquiry heard evidence that when police attempted to interview Robert Pickton in September 1999, David Pickton asked investigators to wait until the rainy season was finished. The officers agreed and didn't interview Robert Pickton until January 2000.

Robert Pickton filed his own statements of defence last month, denying all of the allegations but offering no details.

Government lawyers acting on behalf of the Vancouver police and the RCMP filed statements of defence last fall, insisting their officers acted reasonably as they investigated reports of missing sex workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Both forces have publicly apologized for not catching Robert Pickton sooner.

He was convicted of killing six women.

Meanwhile, David Pickton has also filed a statement of defence in an unrelated lawsuit involving sexual assault allegations that date back more than two decades.

The woman's statement of claim, filed last November, alleges Pickton sexually assaulted her on a job site in August 1991. The lawsuit alleges that when the assault was interrupted, Pickton threatened to rape her, and later threatened to kill her.

The lawsuit says Pickton was convicted of the sexual assault in Burnaby provincial court in February 1992.

In his statement of defence, Pickton denies all of the allegations. Instead, he accuses the woman of breaking into a trailer in a robbery attempt.

"She was 'caught in the act' by the defendant, who told her to leave," the document says.

"The defendant administered the minimum amount of force required to expel her. The defendant specifically denies any unlawful assault. ... The plaintiff at no time threatened the plaintiff."

When contacted about the lawsuit last fall, Pickton said he couldn't remember if he was convicted of sexual assault in 1992, as the woman's lawsuit claims.

The Canadian Press is not naming the woman who filed the lawsuit because she is an alleged victim of a sexual assault.

© Tofino Ucluelet Westerly

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Robert Pickton's brother denies any knowledge of serial killer's crimes

Robert Pickton's brother denies any knowledge of serial killer's crimes:

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Monday, January 6

Charges laid in killings of New Westminster escorts, Delta man - British Columbia - CBC News

Charges laid in killings of New Westminster escorts, Delta man - British Columbia - CBC News:

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Man charged with three 2013 murders in Metro Vancouver


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

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

METRO VANCOUVER -- A 32-year-old man has been charged with three murders in the Metro Vancouver region last year.

Sarbjit Bains has been charged in the deaths of Jill Lyons, Karen Nabors, both found dead in a New Westminster apartment in August, and Amritpal Saran, whose charred remains were found on Colebrook Road in Surrey in February.

According to court documents, a woman, Evelina Urbaniak, has also been charged with accessory after the fact and interference with a dead body in relation to Saran's death.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team held a press conference at RCMP E Division in Surrey this afternoon to announce the charges.

Lyons, 45, was found Aug. 12 and Nabors, 48, on Aug. 25 in the same apartment complex in New Westminster, prompting the RCMP to issue a public warning sex-trade workers.

Saran, 29, of Delta was known to police.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun