Photos of Georgina Papin adorned the missing women's memorial in Vancouver's
Crab Park Tuesday, as dozens of relatives, friends and activists gathered under
the golden autumn sun to say goodbye to the spunky, petite first nations woman.
Following the memorial, Papin's remains will finally be taken to her home
reserve in Hobbema, Alta. for a funeral on Thursday -- eleven and a half years
after she was murdered.
"I've been waiting a long time to bring her home and put her to rest. We've
been struggling to do this for a long time," Cynthia Cardinal, Papin's sister,
said as she fought back tears during the moving service.
Papin was well known in the Downtown Eastside when she vanished from the
streets in March 1999. Her whereabouts were a mystery until police confirmed in
September 2002 that her remains had been found on the Port Coquitlam pig farm
owned by Robert (Willie) Pickton.
But authorities said Papin's remains -- and those of other missing women
found on his property -- were evidence in the case and could not be returned to
the families for burial.
Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the murders of Papin and five other women;
but it was not until the Supreme Court of Canada denied his appeal for a new
trial this summer that the families could finally retrieve their loved ones'
All that was found of Papin was 14 bones from her left hand, unearthed from
an outbuilding on the farm. After their long wait, her relatives had the bones
cremated and put in a small blue velvet box.
"It is just overwhelming because I've been waiting for this day for a long
time," Kristina Bateman, the eldest of Papin's seven children, said Tuesday,
clutching the box with her mother's ashes.
Bateman, 25, is a beautiful, small-statured woman -- "the exact duplicate,"
relatives said, of her mother.
Bateman believes her mother wanted the best for her when Papin, who fell on
hard times, asked her in-laws in Las Vegas to raise her daughter, thus giving
the young girl a more stable childhood than Papin had.
The last time Bateman saw her mother was in the mid-1990s, when, at 12, she
attended a powwow in Mission and was given a native name -- Snowbird.
"I am really proud to be her daughter," she said.
A clear message emerged from the many speakers at the vigil: There are still
many questions and the fight must continue for the answers.
Vancouver police say 64 women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside between
1978 and 2002.
DNA evidence of 32 of those women was found on Pickton's farm, but B.C.'s
attorney-general decided no trial for the other 26 victims would be held. The
whereabouts of the remaining 32 women on the list are still unknown.
"There are still 32 families who don't have the answers to where their
daughters are, their mothers are, their sisters are," said native advocate
"The violence [against] and murder of women in this community needs to stop."
The provincial government has agreed to hold a full public inquiry into the
botched police investigations into the missing women. An emotional Grand Chief
Stewart Phillip, president of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs, said the inquiry
must explore the legal injustices, the violence and the socioeconomic challenges
endured by these victims, many of whom were native women.
Mourners remembered Papin as a loving mother, a good guitar player and
someone who celebrated her native heritage.
"So many people loved your mother down here," community member CJ Julian told
"She was a beautiful person, and in my eyes she still is."