Missing & Murdered Women in the DTES

The Missing Women Commission of Enquiry commenced today, in downtown Vancouver.

For those of you not familiar with the case, Robert Pickton was convicted in 2007 for the murders of six women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (map).  He was also charged in the murders of twenty more women, all of them from the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

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As a matter of association, I am not at liberty to speak of the investigation or resulting public inquiry.

What I will say, however, is how several of the now missing and murdered women had an impact on my early years in law enforcement.

I knew several of them through working in the Downtown Eastside, and two of them from when I was a correctional officer with the British Columbia Correctional Centre for Women, called BCCW for short (it is now the Burnaby Youth Custody Services Centre).  It is the memories from my time as a guard that remain more true, as I was interacting with these women as they went about the daily routines of prison life vs dealing with them as a result of a 911 call.

Two woman always comes to mind.

One, I last saw when I was walking west in the south lane of the 100 East Hastings St.  She was on a fire escape landing, far above my head.  She watched our progress the same way a rabbit watches the passage of a fox, partially hidden and her face marred by the shadows of wrought iron.

The other woman – it is her face I see most often when talk turns to the pig farm.

I picture her family and her loved ones.  Her friends.  Her laugh.  How she joked at BCWW, calling me ‘Blondie’, telling me sbout her son when it my shift to supervise her unit in the jail.  How, a few years later, once I was on the job and she had her freedom, she saw me on the street out front of the Balmoral Hotel and called out, ‘Hey Blondie! I was wondering what happened to you!’

She was different.  More wary.  Not as friendly.  She was smart, funny and had her wits about her.

She shot me a wink the last time I saw her.

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The stone in my gut when I read her name as a possible murder victim.  I thought of what her family was going through, and pushed the memories away.

“There’s no way she would fall to a serial killer,” I thought, “She’s way too street savvy.”

Then it was confirmed through DNA.

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To her family and loved ones, you know of whom I speak.  You are in my thoughts and prayers, as are the family and loved ones of all the women.

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