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Fallen trees got more attention than missing women: marcher

Hundreds rally for annual march through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | 6:35 PM PT

CBC News

Vancouver mourned when a windstorm toppled trees in Stanley Park, but the city barely noticed when more than 60 women went missing from the Downtown Eastside, a relative of two missing women said Wednesday.

Pauline Johnson was among hundreds of people who marched through the poor downtown neighbourhood Wednesday in honour of the missing women.

She said Vancouver authorities and citizens for years ignored the plight of the women, many of whom have since turned up dead, including Johnson's niece and sister.

By comparison, Johnson said, a massive fundraising campaign was launched soon after a storm downed more than 1,000 trees in Stanley Park in December.

"A tree falls in Stanley Park and everybody runs," said Johnson. "A human being gets murdered on the Downtown Eastside and everybody turns his back."

The march, an annual event led this year by the beat of traditional native drums, slowly made its way along rain-soaked Hastings Street, considered the heart of the neighbourhood.

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was among the marchers.

His presence was fitting, as a large number of the women who have gone missing and turned up dead are aboriginal.

"People in authority didn't value our sisters, and our mothers," Fontaine said. "Sadly for these women, they've remained hidden away from people, our people and others. I don't know any good reason for that."

He pointed to how long it took police to begin investigating the missing women as proof of apathy towards to the women.

Police have since charged Robert William Pickton with first-degree murder in the deaths of 26 of the women. He is currently on trial for six of the slayings.

While marchers mourned for the women who have been murdered, many also prayed for the safe return of those who are still missing.

Gladys Rabek hopes she will see her niece again. Tamara Lynn Chipman was last seen in 2005 on a stretch of Highway 16, between Prince Rupert and Prince George in northern British Columbia.

The highway has been called the Highway of Tears because at least nine women have disappeared or been killed while hitchhiking there.

"I pray that some day we will find out where she is and if anything has happened to get closure and lay her to rest," Rabek said of her niece.

The march was first organized in 1991 following the murder of a woman.

With files from the Canadian Press

Courtesy
CBC News


Hundreds gather in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to remember missing women

Stephanie Levitz
Canadian Press

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

VANCOUVER (CP) - A woman who lost three relatives to the rough streets of the Downtown Eastside says people seem to care more about storm-ravaged trees in Stanley Park than about murdered women.

Pauline Johnson spoke as hundreds of people gathered in the Vancouver neighbourhood to mourn the lives of missing and murdered women.

But between their teardrops many also decried the indifference they believe has allowed many of the disappearances to go uninvestigated and the murders unsolved.

Family members of the women were among those attending the 16th annual Missing Women's Memorial March.

"A tree falls in Stanley Park and everybody runs," Johnson said. "A human being gets murdered on the Downtown Eastside and everybody turns his back."

Maggie De Vries, whose sister Sarah De Vries is among the women whom Robert Pickton is accused of killing, said it was wonderful to be able to gather and be with people who knew and cared about her sister.

Pickton has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 26 women from the Downtown Eastside. He is currently on trial on six charges.

The steady drumming of First Nations masked the sound of the raindrops falling as the marchers slowly moved down Hastings Street, the heart of the Downtown Eastside.

The route took them past the spot where more than 60 women have disappeared over the last 30 years.

First Nations women are represented disproportionately among British Columbia's missing and murdered women.

Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called on Canadians to become more aware of those who have disappeared.

"Sadly for these women they've remained hidden away from people, our people, and others," Fontaine said. "I don't know any good reason for that."

Though the spectre of Pickton's trial loomed over the march, those gathered also spoke through pain and tears of the many women still missing.

Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared along Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George in 2005. That stretch has become known as the Highway of Tears. At least nine and perhaps as many as 30 women have also vanished or been killed while hitchhiking on Highway 16 in northern British Columbia.

Chipman's aunt, Gladys Rabek, said she has made it her mission to find out what happened to those women.

"I pray that some day we will find out where she is and if anything has happened to get closure and lay her to rest," Rabek said of her niece.

"And find some way to protect our beautiful young women from the predators who are running rampant in this country."

The Vancouver memorial march began in 1991 following the murder of a woman from the neighbourhood.

A similar march was to be held in Edmonton Wednesday night.

Thomas Svekla has been charged with killing two prostitutes there.

 The Canadian Press 2007

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Updated: August 21, 2016