Stevie Cameron: 'There are lots of Mr. Picktons
VANCOUVER ó The Globe and Mail
Over eight years, award-winning journalist and author Stevie Cameron researched
and wrote two books about the case of convicted serial killer Robert William
published in 2007, andOn
The Farm:Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouverís Missing
published in 2010. Since then, Ms. Cameron has continued to follow the case and
the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, headed by former B.C. attorney-general
Wally Oppal. Mr. Oppalís report from the inquiry into how Mr. Pickton was able
to get away with his crimes for so long is to be released today. Ms. Cameron,
who lives in Toronto, is now working on a book about the history of Kingston
What are you hoping the Oppal report accomplishes?
I hope it comforts families of the missing women who see their fears and
concerns and anger and all of those things were understood and have been taken
into account as he brings this report out. I think that he cared very much and I
know his staff cared very much and I think this will be reflected in his report.
As a reporter, I didnít have access to the information Commissioner Oppal had.
He and his colleagues heard testimony and had a chance to have information that
was never available to me and is still not known to me. Iíd like to know more
about how the Vancouver Police Department failed the women. Similarly, with the
RCMP, why it took so long to get somebody on that farm? I want to know why the
situation in the Downtown Eastside is not much better than it ever was, why
women are still suffering there, why addiction treatment is not available for
them, why the Downtown Eastside just jogs along the way it did when I went out
there, what 10 or 11 years ago? From my recent visits, I donít see whatís
There is no predator like Mr. Pickton thoughÖ
Not right now, perhaps, but there are lots of Mr. Picktons around. Mr. Pickton
was extreme, I grant you that, but there are a lot of vicious human beings
around who traffic these women. I wonder if Wally Oppalís report will deal with
these issues and perhaps offer advice and very strong recommendations so that
all of these issues are dealt with.
Mr. Oppalís process has been criticized. Do you think the report, despite that
criticism, still has value?
Of course it does. Vancouver Police were held to account during his
investigation. I sat there and watched them squirm while they tried to explain
themselves and brought in big shot lawyers Ė in one case anyway Ė from Ontario,
of all places, to try and defend themselves. I would be very interested to know
what heís going to say about police who ignored the problem and then tried to
duck and weave at the end. Thatís a very important issue to be looking for. I
believe it has value. I have already looked online at a lot of the work they
have done, including forums with family members, major efforts to reach out to
the families, to the workers working with these women in the Downtown Eastside
now, to all kinds of groups to get their advice and their input. Because I had
the opportunity to attend the inquiry for awhile, I could see and talk to a lot
of people involved there. I could see the commitment they had, the intelligence
and the compassion [commission staff] had. I have great confidence and can see
there will be a lot of value in this report.
Did you have earlier concerns about Mr. Oppal that have changed as you have seen
the way he conducted himself?
Yes. I didnít know enough about him. I didnít think he had taken it seriously at
the beginning but I know from being there, watching him, listening to his
questions and his fury when somebody didnít take something seriously that he
understood the issues very clearly and I felt he was in control, he knew exactly
what he was doing and listening hard. He didnít suffer fools lightly.
Ultimately, I knew it really mattered to him.
Some people may distance themselves from all of this, saying it only happened in
a particular part of British Columbia. Why do you think members of the public
should pay attention to this report?
Because it isnít just in Vancouver. I live in Toronto and Iíve spent nearly 20
years running a soup kitchen at my church. Thatís the experience that allowed me
to go out to Vancouver and work on this story. If I hadnít done that, I think I
would have been out at sea, but I see the problems here. I see the homelessness.
We have the same things here. We have girls coming and been trafficked. Donít
misunderstand my use of the word girls. We call them girls. I have two
daughters. They are my girls. These women became my girls. So we have the same
problems here and I am hoping people will have a broader perspective. Itís not
just that terrible place in the Downtown Eastside. Itís across Canada and maybe
we can learn lessons from this commission for all these places where women are
treated like this.
What lingering effect has this story had on you?
Gratitude for the opportunity to do it. It is the most important thing I have
ever done in my life. I loved meeting the families. I loved meeting the people
in the various communities. I enjoyed every minute of it in a way because it was
such a huge challenge. The people, in a way, were so amazing, particularly the
women in the streets downtown. One of the very best things that ever happened to
me was the opportunity to meet the women who were working the streets in the
Downtown Eastside and see them offering their hospitality to me, their
friendship to me, their stories to me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to
have been able to write that both books. If I never wrote another book, it would
have been enough.