Many Missing - Many Murdered
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Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
The Native Women's Association of Canada called for a public inquiry into how police handled the missing women case in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It is being suggested that as many as half of the more than fifty missing women are Aboriginal. The Native women's group points to delays in the police investigation. There are allegations by some families of the missing women that tips about suspicious activities at a Port Coquitlam pig farm were not taken seriously by investigators. One of the owner's of the farm now faces six first degree murder charges in connection with human remains found on his property, believed to be that of the missing women. President of the Native Women's Association of Canada Kukdookaa Terry Brown knows Janet Henry, one of the missing women who is related to Donna Joseph, a well known Native Courtworker in Victoria. Her story is reported elsewhere on Turtle Island Native Network. If you have questions or require further information please phone NWAC at 1-613-722-3033 ext. 232 or email email@example.com
Missing Women's Ceremony
I first want to send my sincere condolences to all the families who lost a cousin, an aunty, a sister, a daughter, and a mother. Second I want to thank all of you who have come out today to honour the spirits of the women and families. Without the many dedicated people working to assist the families and the police, we would not have seen the justice being exercised today. I applaud the Family Haven tent for being there and assisting family members.
The Native Women Association of Canada does not wish to stop the progress into the on-going investigation. We want to see justice run its course. We applaud the long hours the police have spent on the investigation. We hope that more clues will surface which will lead to the other missing women. Any assistance from the public will help families such as Ernie Crey to find their lost loved ones. Should you have any information that could assist in the investigation we urge you to come forward. Your assistance could help find the suspect to these hideous crimes.
Aboriginal women have been victims to such crimes for years, in Saskatchewan for example in 1992; Shelley Napope, Eva Taysup and Calinda Waterhen are all Aboriginal women who were victim of violence. In 1996 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada reported that, "Aboriginal women with status under the Indian Act and who are between the ages of 25 and 44 are five times more likely to experience a violent death than other Canadian women in the same age category. (Aboriginal Women: A Demographic, Social and Economic Profile, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Summer 1996)" The crime has not stopped and with approximately 1.5 million aboriginal people in Canada and half of that population being women, we have become prime targets and are the most vulnerable to such acts of violence. Today we see that more than half of the women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are aboriginal women. August 2001, in preparation for the World Conference on Racism I participated in a paper entitled. "Stop the undeclared war against aboriginal people." We found that killing and maiming of aboriginal women is not uncommon. Rather it is far too common to have women disappear, and killed without any investigation. We want to stop the undeclared war against aboriginal women. In the spirit of women, young, old, women of colour, white, native, we must work together in solidarity to find solutions for a better life for all women. We are calling on all national, provincial and local aboriginal organizations to take action on this issue. We must stop the violence.
For years, women organizations have been lobbying government to get more money for women's services and programs. We would like to see more funds donated by government, organizations, and individuals to assist in the war against sexual abuse and violence on women. If you have any further questions you can call the Native Women's Association of Canada at 613-722-3033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your time.
Donna Joseph Talks About Her Missing Sister Janet Henry
March 18th, 2002 - 34 yr old Gina Houston, friend of pig farmer - alleged killer - said she may be prime suspect in case of missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. CBC reported Houston said police have been following her for several years, and have searched her storage locker which she said was coincidentally beside Robert Pickton's locker. He is the man charged with two counts of murder related to the missing women. Houston told the CBC she expects police to arrest her any day now.
March 16, 2002 - Two former Vancouver police officers called for an inquiry into the police department's handling of the case of 50 missing women, many of whom are Aboriginal. One of the officers, Kim Rossmo a geographic profiler warned senior officers almost three years ago that there likely was a serial killer who was preying on women in the Downtown Eastside. Rossmo and retired inspector Doug MacKay-Dunn both called for an immediate inuiry so that similar tragedies never occur again. Rossmo said he knows for a fact the Vancouver Police department did not devote enough resources for a proper investigation.
Police Ask Families for Clues
March 11, 2002 - Aboriginal families were among those to respond to a police request to view personal belongings and possible clues to the fifty missing women in Vancouver. Sandra Gagnon, a Kwakwaka'wakw woman whose sister Janet Henry is among the missing, said it was a heart wrenching procedure to have to look at personal belongings that might identify a missing relative. Gagnon said she and others went to a satellite office of the Surrey RCMP detachment where she saw running shoes, clothes, rings and moccasins in dozens of photographs pinned to a board. Gagnon didn't see anything she thought might belong to he rsister, but she didn't know what she was wearing when she went missing in June 1997. Ernie Crey, a Sto:lo Nation member whose sister Dawn also is among the missing said he had mixed emotions. He said at least the police investigation appears to be going better than a year ago when very little was happening.
Vancouver Mayor Rejects Idea of Probe
What if the women had been of a more affluent economic class?
February 28, 2002 - Large number of missing Aboriginal women in Vancouver, BC sparks women's groups to ask pointed questions. In fact, questions have been raised about the police investigation of the fifty missing women - known drug users and prostitutes and whether it would have been different if women from other walks of life were involved. More questions have arisen in the wake of the recent revelation of murder charges being laid in connection with the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and that one of the victims was Aboriginal, and that many of those still missing are Native women. Among those wondering about the police probe of prostitue deaths over the last two decades, is the West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund LEAF. LEAF is a national organization which promotes equality for women through legal action and public education. When questioned by Turtle Island Native Network Audrey Johnson, LEAF's West Coast Executive Director said -- We do not feel we have enough information to comment on the performance of the authorities involved in the investigation. However, the fact that there is a disproportionately high number of Aboriginal women among the missing is a further example of the systemic discrimination Aboriginal women face that makes them vulnerable to that kind of violence. That most of the women were involved in the sex trade does beg the question of why it took so long for the authorities to act in a substantive way. It also raises the question of whether or not swifter action would have been exercised if the women had been of a more affluent economic class.--
February 26, 2002 - Missing Aboriginal woman identified as alleged murder victim of Port Coquitlam pig farmer - Family and friends of Sereena Abotsway set-up a make-shift memorial near the Port Coquitlam pig farm where police are investigating the disappearance of fifty women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Sereena's adopted family, sisters and brothers held an Aboriginal circle in her honour, saying she became more interested in her Native culture and heritage before she went missing.Sereena was 30 years old last August. Mona Wilson was identified as one of the two women allegedly murdered by pig farm owner Robert Pickton. Mona Wilson was 26 years old when she was reported missing last year.
February 25, 2002 - February 25, 2002 - In the latest developments involving Vancouver's missing women's case - an Aboriginal woman was identified as one of those no longer missing but believed dead and the victim of murder. Serena Abotsway was being mourned by her family and friends. She and Mona Wilson were among the fifty missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Police say she and Serena Abotsway were victims of accused murderer Robert Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer who made a brief court appearance. He was charged with two counts of first degree murder based on evidence uncovered by police during their probe of the Port Coquitlam pig farm that has become the focus of world wide media attention over the past three weeks. Mona Lee Wilson would have celebrated her 27th birthday last month. Sereena Abotsway was 30 years old last August but never got to celebrate it with her family because she suddenly disappeared.
Crey and Gagnon Families Await Further Word
February 23, 2002 - Police arrested Robert Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farm owner in connection with two of the cases of the fifty missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. 52 year old Pickton faces two counts of first degree murder. Out of respect for the families, police say they will wait until Monday to release the names of the victims related to the charges against Pickton. The missing women's police joint task force had searched the grounds and buildings of the pig farm for the last two weeks and turned up a lot of evidence, but they will not say what it is they found. One of the family members attending the news conference Friday was Ernie Crey of the Sto:lo Nation whose sister Dawn Crey is mmong the missing women. He said he wasn't told if the charges relate to his sister's disappearance but he was pleased with the latest development in the police probe and said people should continue to be encouraged to provide police with tips. Since they launched their massive search police have received more than eight hundred tips.
Aboriginal Community Mourns for Missing Women
Born in 1961, Janet is the youngest. Her sister Donna who worries and weeps for her today, is the oldest of the thirteen children of this Namgis family from Kwaguilth Nation, Alert Bay, BC. They grew up in Kingcome Inlet on northern Vancouver Island but for a variety of reasons, most were attracted to the cities.
For all too many painful years, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia has been home to dozens of Aboriginal women whose spirits got lost somewhere along the way and whose lives were consumed by drugs and prostitution.
The mysterious disappearance of Jan Henry has touched the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in First Nation, urban Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and especially in their homes too. For Donna Joseph, the phone calls of care and concern and the prayer circles, are proof. They also are her support.
Janet Henry is one of the more than fifty women who are missing - a story that has been sensationalized internationally in recent weeks because of a police investigation at a pig farm in Port Coquitlam.
Families of the missing women have stories that share similarities. Despite their lives on the streets, these women stayed in touch with their families, surprisingly often. What prompted Donna Joseph to believe her "baby sister" had disappeared was her sudden silence.
"She always stayed in contact with my other younger sister Sandra Gagnon . . . and if it wasn't with Sandra, it was with my baby brother Lance who also lived in Vancouver," said Donna Joseph in an interview with Turtle Island Native Network.
In the summer of 1997 there were no more phone calls. Donna said that after three days the family know something was wrong, "She never ever did not call on a daily basis."
It was then Donna Joseph started to learn more about her sister's lifestyle, "tylenol shooting and from that she became addicted to heroin and whatever other drugs were out there." When she went missing, Donna's sister Sandra who had been able to previously protect the family from some sordid details, revealed that Jan was 'on the street' to support her drug habit.
Almost five years later the family was sent into another state of shock when the news broke about the police investigation in Port Coquitlam. "I was devastated when I saw it again . . . the story and her picture on the tv," recalled Donna as she sobbed and paused to hold back tears and another wave of emotion. There have been so many recently, including when she got word of the sudden death of her 23 year old nephew the other day.
But Donna Joseph, a Native courtworker in Victoria, is one of those growing number of Aboriginal women you meet nowadays --- gentle, warm and caring but also strong and solid as a rock. Despite her feelings she agrees to carry on with the interview because it is her nature to share. She wants others to know how grateful she is for their support --- the prayers, hugs and comforting conversations.
It seems Aboriginal people have more than their share of trials and tribulations, but it is during these times they come together the best, not just families but communities too. Donna Joseph is quick to agree that when a crisis happens, we somehow pull together!
"Oh the support is just awesome", she acknowledged. From the community - Alex Nelson of Aboriginal Sport and Recreation and the Kwaguilth Urban Society, family members up and down the island, from Vancouver to Winnipeg and Ontario --- members of the Kwaguilth, Nuu chah nulth, Cree and Oneida Nations. They said prayers, some lit candles, others burned tobacco, and sweats were being planned. The Salvation Army offered help.
Donna Joseph is in awe of the outpouring of help, something she has desperately needed. As the oldest she knows her responsibilities in the family. They might be a burden if it weren't for all the prayers and her own connection to the Creator, "Sometimes it just becomes so overwhelming, because for me and my family we buried my baby brother in November and we buried my older sister in April last year, now the investigation, and then the suicide".
A few hours from now she will board a ferry to the mainland so she can again join her family and friends. This time for her nephew's funeral in Maple Ridge. As well, she plans visits to Port Coquitlam and the observation tent that the police have established for families of the missing women, so they can be close to the scene of the intensive investigation, and be able to learn of developments from the regular police briefings.
As the police investigation is expected to be a lengthy one, we must remember there can not be too many prayers offered for the families, and for the missing women. No matter who you are, or to what faith your prayers are attached. They are valued!
Witness the gratitude of Donna Joseph, "I feel really blessed that I'm receptive to all nations and the tools that come from them for my strength and spiritual maintenance."
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