VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing women march draws hundreds
February 14, 2006
VANCOUVER (CP) - About 800 people, many crying and hugging, marched through the streets of the gritty Downtown Eastside on Tuesday to remember up to 90 women murdered and missing from the area.
Christine Welsh left and Lorraine Crey take part in a march to commemorate missing women while carrying the picture of a friend in Vancouver Tuesday. (CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody)
Some carried colourful banners bearing the names of the women through the drug-riddled part of town where women began disappearing in the 1980s. Many of the missing women from one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods were First Nations sex-trade workers whose lives were snuffed out in and around nearby hotels.
Robert Pickton has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 27 of the women. He has pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of first-degree murder.
Some elders and family members dressed in traditional First Nations attire beat drums and sang native hymns as they marched. They stopped along the way at sites where some of the women are known to have died to lay long-stemmed roses and perform a cleansing ceremony.
Lori-Ann Ellis of Calgary said she was marching in the 15th annual women's memorial march to honour her slain sister-in-law Cara Ellis.
"We want people to remember that these are human beings and they cannot just pass away or be murdered and go missing and not be remembered," Ellis said of her third straight year marching in the procession.
"As long as there is breath in my lungs we will come every year," said Ellis, who wore a red T-shirt with the inscription Cara Ellis R.I.P.
Ellis was last seen in 1997 when she was 25. Pickton has been charged with her death.
Before the march, an overflow crowd of about 300 family members and friends gathered at a community centre to hear people talk about their loved ones.
Maggy Gisle said 54 women she met on the streets and in detox centres and recovery houses between 1983 and 1998 had gone missing.
"I'm here today to remember my friends because they were so much more than prostitutes and junkies," Gisle said crying.
Gisle said she is a former drug addict who straightened out her life after she had a child.
"I have a beautiful six-year-old daughter and not one day goes by that I don't think Cara should be here. Cara should hear my daughter's laughter. Cara should see the sunset."
Robin Ashton held a photograph of her daughter Kandace Kemp, who she said was beaten to death at a hotel near the community centre by her boyfriend when she was 19.
One woman said her sister's remains were found near Highway 16 in Prince Rupert, the so-called Highway of Tears from where a number of women have disappeared over the last decade. At least nine women are missing from Highway 16.
Copyright© 2006, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.
Updated: August 21, 2016