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'Always woke with a smile'

Local alleged Pickton victim remembered fondly in Vancouver

By ANDREW HANON, SUN MEDIA

November 27, 2007

VANCOUVER – For the past two weeks, Wade Raw Eater has been wandering the bleak streets of the Downtown Eastside, handing out portraits of his ex-girlfriend to anyone who will accept them.

The 37-year-old, originally from the Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta, is determined to ensure that Georgina Papin is remembered for her life, not her horrifying death on a remote pig farm 20 km east of the city.

“She always woke up with a smile,” Raw Eater told Sun Media today. “She wasn’t very tall, but whenever she walked into a room she was the biggest person there.”

Papin, who grew up around Edmonton and was a member of the Enoch Cree Nation, vanished in 1999. Her remains were discovered a few years later, along with the remains of dozens of other troubled women linked to the Downtown Eastside, on the property of accused serial killer Robert Pickton.

•  Raw Eater talks about Papin

As Judge James Williams gave his final instructions to Pickton’s jury today, Raw Eater, who makes ends meet by selling sketches on the street, was doing the only thing he could think of to honour her memory.

“Whenever I can scrape a few bucks together, I’ve been making copies of the sketch and then handing them out around here,” he explained. “If anyone gives me money for them, I use that to make more copies.”

The inscription on the sketch reads: “In memory of a lady, a mother and a best friend – Georgina Papin.”

Raw Eater met Papin in 1993 a few blocks from Downtown Eastside, the poorest most drug-infested neighbourhood in Canada.

“She was playing pool with a friend,” he recalled, smiling at the memory. “I asked her where she was staying and she said she didn’t have a place yet. I found out later that she’d just walked out of an open-custody jail.”

While Georgina had scrapes with the law, she was never violent or dangerous, Raw Eater said. In fact, her gentle kindness became something of an endearing joke among the denizens of Vancouver’s inner city.

Georgina struggled with drug addiction, leading her to do things Raw Eater is certain she wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“She’d disappear for a couple hours and come back with a few hundred dollars,” he recalled. “When I asked her where she got it, she’d smile and say she robbed people. There was no way she was capable of doing that, so I knew what she was doing.”

Looking to the ground, he whispered, “but hey, I don’t judge people. I just wish I had lots of money so that she was taken care of. I believe in God and everything, but sometimes He pisses me off. She was so good. So good.”

They broke up in the mid-1990s but remained good friends, often drinking together in the seedy bars that line East Hastings Street, the area’s main drag.

Raw Eater drew a deep breath and then walked up to a native couple in front of the area’s community centre. Behind them scores of homeless people loitered. Some openly selling drugs while others huddled in nearby alleys and smoked crack.

Raw Eater shows the woman a sketch. Without touching it, she asks suspiciously, “how much?”

“It’s a gift,” he replies, explaining who the picture depicts and what he’s doing.

Tears of recognition fill her eyes as she accepts the sketch.

“Migwech (Thank You),” she says, carefully rolling it up and tucking it gingerly into her threadbare coat before disappearing back into the crowd.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016