VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Hundreds march in Vancouver to remember dead and missing women
Friday, February 14, 2003
VANCOUVER (CP) -- To the pounding of native drums, hundreds of people marched through the city's drug-infested Downtown Eastside neighbourhood Friday to commemorate abused and murdered women.
CREDIT: Global BC
The 12th annual Valentine's Day memorial march this year was dedicated to more than 60 women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside.
Robert (Willy) Pickton, a pig farmer from suburban Port Coquitlam, faces 15 first-degree murder counts in some of the disappearances.
But dozens of other women, most drug-addicted prostitutes, who vanished from the Downtown Eastside's mean streets remain unaccounted for.
"Getting hurt down here is inevitable," said Maggie Gisle, who spent years on the streets before getting clean and sober five years ago.
"I've gone through three different life incidents where people have tried to take my life."
The crowd wandered through Vancouver's skid row, dropping roses at the last place many of the women woman were last seen.
Kerry Koski, whose sister Val Hughes disappeared in 1998, said governments must do more to help women who end up in places like the Downtown Eastside.
CREDIT: Global BC
"I hope that nobody else has to go through what may family and everyone else's family went through in the past 10, 15, 20 more years," she told marchers, some of whom sobbed as they remembered missing friends and loved ones.
Gisle said she knows 36 women on the missing list and said they weren't disposable.
"What it does is it leaves unsaid who these women really are," she said. "They're friends, they're sisters, they're mothers, they're aunts, they're cousins, they're daughters."
These are women who suffer from addiction and who didn't want to be there, she said.
Pauline Johnston told the crowd she lost two sisters and a niece to the drug-ridden neighbourhood.
"I've been coming to this march for the years that they've had (it) and always spoke in a reverent way of prayer for them," she said.
"Today I'd just like to speak in relevance to all of our young people ... who have been taken to the streets as prostitutes. It hurts me to see that."
Johnston said the courts and government have failed the people in the area.
"They just push them through the cracks and they don't care," she said.
Johnston called for changes in the law to allow for firmer intervention to help children falling into a life of addiction and prostitution.
Aboriginal women make up a large percentage of the women who end up on the Downtown Eastside.
A small demonstration was held on Parliament Hill on Friday to highlight the plight of aboriginal women in many communities.
"Aboriginal women are marginalized in life and in death," Terri Brown, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a news release.
"If those were wealthy women, the situation would be much different."
© Copyright 2003 Canadian Press
Updated: August 21, 2016