VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
March to remember the fallen women
February 10, 2006
Marlene Trick will not say the woman's name, describing her only as a native woman who in 1991 joined a staggeringly long list of prostitutes murdered in the rotting jungle that is Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The woman, Trick explained, could easily have become just another anonymous statistic, but instead the ghastly circumstances of her death became emblematic of the soul-killing horror of Canada's sex trade.
In late January 1991, people in the neighbourhood discovered her dismembered corpse and body parts strewn over several blocks. Despite the gruesomeness of the crime, the grisly killing got barely a mention in the local media.
More dead hookers, no matter how spectacular their deaths, were hardly newsworthy anymore, it seemed.
But for some in the Downtown Eastside, it was the final straw. For decades women had been culled from their midst, never to be seen again, but no one outside Canada's poorest and most marginalized neighbourhood seemed to care. They organized a protest march to draw attention to the issue of more than 70 missing or dead women in the area, most of whom were prostitutes.
"We used to name her," explains Trick, who works with the Carnegie Community Centre, which operates programs for the area's huge homeless, prostitute and drug addict populations. "But her family asked a few years ago for us to stop using it. They said they needed that in order to move on, and we're honouring that."
Every Feb. 14 in the 15 years since her death, a memorial march has gone through the Downtown Eastside, right down the middle of the streets. This year, with accused serial killer Robert Pickton's court case on the front page, Trick expects 700 marchers, including families of the victims, to be there.
"We do it to inconvenience people for a few hours, to force them to stop and take notice," she says. "The women in the community were getting fed up and they felt they needed to do something so the world would notice."
Her voice tinted with weary sadness, Trick adds: "So few women in the (sex trade) make it to 65 years old."
Now the idea is going national, with similar marches planned for Toronto and Edmonton.
"I only found out about the Vancouver march on Jan. 19, but I figured we just had to do one here, too," explains local organizer Danielle Boudreau, who grew up with Rachel Quinney and Ellie May Meyer, whose bodies were discovered in fields just outside the city.
Boudreau is one of the people behind www.seenmelately.ca, a local website and discussion board devoted to missing women across Canada, but particularly those here. Since it was launched last August, the site has had thousands of hits.
Webmaster Bekkie Fugate says while the site's been around for months, it's only had its own domain name for a few weeks. Now that it can be found through search engines like Google, she expects traffic to grow dramatically.
Given how little time she's had to get everything together, Boudreau doesn't expect Edmonton's march to have nearly the numbers there'll be in Vancouver. She estimates 50 to 150 will take part. But it's a start, she explains, and she hopes it will become an annual event here, too.
They don't plan to disrupt traffic, sticking mainly to sidewalks in the Alberta Avenue area.
The march will begin at 7 p.m. and leave the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, 11205 101 Street, wind its way east to 93 Street and then back.
It will be followed by a gathering in the friendship centre, where family members of Edmonton's missing women will have a chance to speak.
"I was delighted to hear from Danielle," says Trick. "There are so many parallels with what's going on in Edmonton and what's happened here."
Updated: August 21, 2016