After certain allegations concerning mismanagement financial and otherwise concerning our society and the Living Memorial Stones project, we filed a Notice of Civil Claim against the individual who made those defamatory claims. This week, we settled, and while it doesn’t mitigate the damages caused to the society, the project or our reputations, we wanted to post this apology letter from the individual who made those claims.
On December 17, 2012, three Living Memorial Stones were unveiled on behalf of Brenda Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Georgina Papin in front of the Balmoral Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Balmoral Hotel, like many of the Single Room Occupancy hotels along the Hastings corridor was home to many of the missing and murdered women. Attending the unveiling was Brenda Wolfe’s daughter Angel and her adopted mother Bridget Perrier. Gerogina’s sisters, Cynthia Cardinal and Bonnie Fowler as well as friends and family and retired nurse Bonnie Fournier read a letter from Lynn Frey who was recovering from an almost fatal heart attack.
BRENDA WOLFE liked country music and jazz, liked to dance, liked a joke. Tall and heavy-set, Wolfe cut an imposing figure. She worked as a waitress and bouncer at the Balmoral, not afraid to roust rowdy drunks – male or female. Brenda looked after the people who called the Downtown Eastside home and struggled to take care of children. Police say the last time anyone saw her on the Downtown Eastside was in February 1999.Robert Pickton was charged in her death, along with the deaths of 25 others, after he was arrested in 2002.
GEORGINA PAPIN was was outgoing and gregarious and friendly and personable – quite charming, By the time she was 18, Papin had lived in dozens of different homes and institutions. But despite her on-again, off-again addiction to drugs, Papin never forgot her daughter. She called on every birthday and each Christmas. Georgina was last seen in March, 1999.
MARNIE FREY had a keen enthusiasm for life setting her apart from the other kids growing up and inspiring interests in everything from motorbikes and books to horses and hunting with her dad. Marnie never forgot a birthday and would always call from the Downtown Eastside, where she nicknamed herself KitKat after Lynn Frey’s favourite candy bar. Marnie Frey disappeared in 1997, five years before Robert Pickton’s arrest.
BERLIN (AP) – Germans across the country on Saturday commemorated the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass – during which the Nazis staged a wave of attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria.
On Nov. 9, 1938, hundreds of synagogues were burned, numerous homes and Jewish-owned stores were ransacked, some 1,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps.
The attacks marked the beginning of the state-organized, violent persecution of Jews which ended in the murder of six million European Jews by the end of the Third Reich in 1945.
Germans in many cities and towns held candle-light vigils, listened to Jewish survivors share memories and met at Jewish cemeteries to remember the victims of Kristallnacht during Saturday’s commemorations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the night of broken glass “was an event that humiliated Jews in an unbelievable way … a real low point in German history had been reached.”
She added, “Unfortunately, later on German history developed in an even more dramatic way which eventually ended in the Shoah” – or Holocaust. The chancellor also called on Germans to never forget the past.
Across Berlin, guided groups of residents walked through their neighborhoods, noting sites where Jewish stores, schools and other locations once stood before being destroyed by the Nazis and their supporters.
Several Berliners came together to polish some of the city’s 5,000 Stolpersteine, or stumbling blocks, which identify by name individual victims of Nazis in front of their former homes. The cobblestone-sized brass plaques are inserted on sidewalks and called stumbling blocks because one unexpectedly trips over them -figuratively speaking – while strolling through the city.
“We have organized 16 groups who are out today cleaning the stumbling blocks and we are hoping to turn this into an annual event in the future,” said the coordinator of the tours, Silvija Kavcic.
Despite the many positive activities, some speakers sounded a note of caution, reminding their listeners that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Europe.
A poll of European Jews released Friday found that more than three-quarters of those questioned believe anti-Semitism is surging in their home countries and close to one-third have considered emigrating because they don’t feel safe.
I would like to announce that effective today Carrie Kerr, the older sister of Helen Mae Hallmark, one of the victims of the Pickton farm will take over the Living Memorial Stones Project. Carrie will put as much passion in this project and will liaise with the City of Vancouver to ensure that this project is completed in a timely manner.
Vancouver , BC, June 28, 2012 — A special memory-The Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation, will install bronze memorial stones to commemorate murdered and missing women from the Downtown Eastside, most of whom were believed victims of Robert Pickton. Here family members of three victims Sarah de Vries, (holding stone) who lost her mother, Lorelei Williams (lback left) lost her cousin, Tanya Holyk and Michele Pineault (right) (who lost her daughter Stephanie Lane) on east Hastings in downtown Vancouver on June 28, 2012 (Mark van Manen/PNG Staff
I don’t know about you, but I was struck by a terrible irony presented by the plan to install 62 brass plaques on city streets to mark the missing and murdered women of the Downtown Eastside.The project, mounted by the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation, would see 4” by 4” plaques with the each of the women’s names and the term “Murdered” or “Missing” placed at their last known locations or where they last lived. In front of Skid Row hotels, bars, even Save On Meats.
It seems like such a noble idea, a way of marking lives lost not only by the violence of people like Robert Pickton, but also in the shadow of incompetent police and inept public officials whose failure to act swiftly allowed a serial killer to flourish.
The project has the support of all but one of the 62 families of those missing and murdered women, and I am sure it offers them some solace to know their mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins aren’t going to be forgotten.
But at the risk of offending people without meaning to do so, I wonder if this is really such a good idea, and if we can’t actually do much better. Let me tell you why.
In 1989 a misogynist madman named Marc Lepine went on a rampage at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and killed 14 female college students. It was a terrible and senseless massacre, and we all recoiled in horror.
Five years later, in an effort to honour those women and remind us that we should shine a light on such senseless violence, a memorial of granite benches was built in Vancouver’s Thornton Park. It’s a peaceful, leafy place in front of the Pacific Central train station, and it has endured as a monument to a tragedy that Vancouver played no direct part in but felt the collective impact of.
Within a year or two of those benches being built, Pickton had already killed his first victim, someone he picked up just a few blocks from the park on the edge of the Downtown Eastside. He would continue killing for years, uncaught by a police force unwilling to pursue missing persons reports for people they considered “cokeheads” and “hookers” and people who didn’t fit their profile of a citizen worth protecting.
The women Pickton victimized, and the women who continue to be victimized in the Downtown Eastside may not be of the same economic status or race as Lepine’s victims, who were young and aspiring engineering students. Yes, many of them were marginalized, often with drug or alcohol issues. But these women still had or have families who loved them, as Michele Pineault, Sarah de Vries and Lorelei Williams told me Thursday.
So here’s the trouble with the plaques. Why is it acceptable for these women to be remembered on pieces of metal on some grotty street or in front of some crappy rooming house, to be seen only by people who live there. They will be immortalized on streets and in a neighbourhood where their lives were hard and painful, unable to escape for eternity.
The people who really should remember them, the police, the public officials, the johns in their homes with their wives and children, aren’t the sort who will need to step around these glorified headstones.
Want to celebrate their lives?
Want to make sure we don’t ever forget the likes of Stephanie Lane, Sarah de Vries and Tanya Holyk? Erect a shrine to these women in a very public place with a sign that all but says “This way we never want to go again.”
My vote: Put the plaques into the sidewalk right outside the entrances to the Vancouver police department headquarters and City Hall. The ring of steps of every officer and every bureaucrat and every politician on those plaques will be a constant reminder that indeed, we never want to go this way again.
June 29, 2012. 5:23 pm • Section: Civic Lee Speaking
Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation will install bronze memorial stones to commemorate murdered and missing women from the Downtown Eastside, most of whom were believed victims of Robert Pickton. Here family members of three victims Sarah de Vries, (holding stone) who lost her mother, Lorelei Williams (left) lost her cousin, Tanya Holyk and Michele Pineault (right) (who lost her daughter Stephanie Lane) on east Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver on June 28, 2012
Photograph by: Mark van Manen , PNG
Michele Pineault has nothing left of her daughter Stephanie Lane to mark her passing. No body, no headstone. Nothing to show for the 20-year-old who was one of the 62 women who went missing from the Downtown Eastside during Robert Pickton’s murderous rampage.
Eventually, a small brass plaque bearing Lane’s name, birthdate and the word ‘missing’ will be installed in the sidewalk at Victoria and Hastings, the place she was last seen.
It will be one of 62 such sidewalk memorials for women believed to have been Pickton’s victims — 26 of whom he was charged with killing and 36 who were never found. (He was tried and convicted in the deaths of six.)
But beginning later this year the 26 victims Pickton was charged with killing, and another 36 who have never been found will be memorialized with small brass plaques placed on sidewalks where they were last seen or lived.
The project is being done by a non-profit Vancouver group that uses art for therapy and restorative justice, the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation. It has received support from all but one of the families and has been unanimously endorsed by the city’s public art committee.
Sean Kirkham, a foundation director, said the idea for the plaques was taken from cobblestone-sized “Stolperstein” or “stumbling block” memorials erected in Germany to remember those killed in the Holocaust. The fact that the victims took a back seat in the Missing Women’s Inquiry only underscored the need to celebrate them, he said.
“The message that we tried to display in this is that throughout the debacle of the Missing Women’s Inquiry it is the women who have been forgotten. Not a lot was said in this about them” he said. “It was more about the police shortcomings and Pickton. We wanted to put back the focus on the women.”
But the idea of placing what some see as a headstone into a public sidewalk has raised eyebrows, particularly among the city’s business improvement associations, which were asked for feedback by the city’s streets department.
“Will people know it is public art? When is it no longer a grave marker and when is it public art and will people know what it means?” asked Sharon Townsend, the executive director of the South Granville Business Improvement Association.”
“Do we put a marker at 16th Ave and Granville where police shot that guy crawling across the street so that it never happens again? Everyone is quite passionate about the fact that yes, we need to make sure this never happens again, but is this the right way to do it?”
Kirkham said the $18,000 project, which was funded entirely by the group without government support, has not faced any negative feedback and has been endorsed by the Hastings Crossing BIA, where most the plaques will be placed.
The project will see each woman’s name and birthdate engraved into a 4″ by 4″ brass plaque attached to a brick.
For each of the 26 Pickton was charged with killing the word “Murdered” will be inscribed below the birthdate. For everyone else whose remains have not been found, the word “Missing” will be used.
Nine women whose DNA was found but who remain unidentified will have plaques marked with their police case file number. If they are ever identified, the plaques will be replaced with their proper name, Kirkham said. Only one person, the father of Heather Bottomley, has asked that her plaque not be installed in the Downtown Eastside.
Kirkham said the city has also asked the foundation to create a memorial that explains the context of the art work. It will be mounted somewhere in the Hastings and Main area. The foundation is also building an interactive website that will give biographical information about the women but won’t focus on Pickton, he said.
The foundation is paying for the cost of the installation, but to keep costs down the blocks will only be placed as the city repairs the sidewalks. While most of the blocks will be installed in front of rooming houses and street corners in the Downtown Eastside, a few will be located elsewhere, including in front of St. Paul’s Hospital, the last known location of one victim. Cara Ellis, who was last seen in front of The Bay store, will have a memorial stone placed at Granville and Georgia Streets, Kirkham said.
For Lorelei Williams, having her cousin Tanya Holyk’s name on a plaque outside the Vernon Rooms
breathes a little memory back into a woman she worries has been largely forgotten.
“Everybody knows Robert Pickton’s name but they don’t know the girls behind all of this. This is a way to honour them and have them not be forgotten. I love the idea that it could help another lady down there in the Downtown Eastside if they see their name and realize it could happen to them too,” she said.
Williams said at first she was bothered about the macabre idea of someone walking on her cousin’s memorial. “But you know, it is a good view for the women down there if they are sad and looking at the ground, and they see her name. It is the perfect spot for them to see it.”
Sarah de Vries said she has a lot of faith that those who live in the Downtown Eastside will respect the memorial stones, even though some may walk on them.
“It is a street, so I think it will happen. But for the people who know it is there, they won’t do that,” she said, adding she was touched by the art group’s efforts. “It means a lot to me as her daughter to know that people are remembering them and doing so much for them even though they are gone.”
Calls to the Hastings Crossing BIA were not returned. The city also did not provide a spokesperson for comment.
Charles Gauthier, the executive director of the Downtown Vancouver BIA, said he accepts that the murders and disappearances were a terrible chapter in the city’s history. “If it means something to someone who lost a loved one, I am not going to stand in the way of that,” he said.
Townsend said she’s not opposed to memorializing the missing and murdered women. But she thinks some people will be offended or concerned about walking over what essentially are macabre headstones.
And she’s had experience dealing with misunderstandings when it comes to street fixtures. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the BIA installed on sidewalks 250 decals representing the stylized flags of every nation participating at the Games. The association was criticized by some politicians and by several countries’ consular staff for supposedly breaching international protocol not to disrespect their flags.
“We got beaten up a lot by people who didn’t like the idea someone might be walking on their flag, even though it wasn’t a flag,” she said. “The idea of essentially a headstone on a sidewalk is going to bring just as much concern.”
Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara’s DNA was found on Robert Pickton’s farm, looks at the first of 62 memorial plaques throughout Vancouver. Photo by David P. Ball.
Family members of missing and murdered women lauded the first of 62 bronze memorial plaques for their loved ones installed yesterday on Vancouver’s streets.
A small gathering of dignitaries and families spoke of the need to change policing and social attitudes towards sex workers, only four days after B.C. granted an extension to the beleaguered Missing Women Commission of Inquiry’s Wally Oppal to file his final report on the Robert Pickton murder investigation.
And while they may only measure four-inches square, the humble bronze squares will serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting marginalized women, said Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara’s plaque was unveiled at Georgia and Granville, where she was last seen.
“Every day in our country, and around the world, women go missing,” she said, as other women’s family members wept and comforted each other nearby. “These plaques are to make people pay attention.
“It’s a way to make people question things, […] to make people accountable. The plaque is a sad reminder of what can go wrong when good people, who have the power to make a difference, look the other way.”
For Sean Kirkham, director of the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation (CFCDI), the organization which commissioned the plaques in consultation with missing women’s families, the memorials will honour the memory of women like Cara Ellis, whose DNA was found on serial killer Pickton’s farm.
“The Living Memorial Stones Project is based on the notion that cities need to attend to their emotional landscape via their physical landscape,” he told the gathering. “This art installation serves as an example of a living, personal reminder, because it commemorates where the terror began — in most cases where these women were last seen or where they once lived.
“It makes it clear that these women were individuals, and gives names to the deceased to keep their memory alive.”
Addressing the gathering, BC New Democrat leader Adrian Dix said the plaques are a warning against dismissing groups of people as expendable or less worthy of protection in society.
“This memorial is a living memorial that’s going to be throughout this city,” he said. “It’s going to make a difference.
“We need to remember, and we need to place the focus on what matters: […] those that lost their lives when they shouldn’t have. This is a community recognition that change needs to happen. It’s hopefully a living reminder of what can happen when we don’t speak out for one another, when some people are seen as not being our brothers and our sisters.”
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu attended the first stone’s unveiling with several other high-ranking officers, and reiterated his department’s apology for the way it handled the missing women’s investigations, where family members say they were rudely dismissed by police when they reported loved ones missing.
But families continue to blame police and government for failing to protect vulnerable women.
The missing women’s commission held eight months of hearings ending this summer and was granted an extension last Thursday, allowing Commissioner Oppal an extra month, until Nov. 30, to complete his final report on what went wrong with the missing women and Pickton investigations.
The inquiry itself came under repeated criticism, starting with the province’s refusal to fund community and human rights organizations’ participation, and leading to a mass boycott by groups such as Amnesty International, the Assembly of First Nations and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.
Over the course of hearings, officers and other witnesses testified about racism, sexism and bullying in the police force, and even officers having sex with the very survival sex workers they were supposed to be protecting.
Both the VPD and the RCMP apologized to family members of missing and murdered women for failing to catch Pickton sooner, despite numerous early tips and warnings.
The memorial stones project had faced some early criticism in the community, with some questioning whether sidewalk pavement markers were a respectful way of honouring the murdered women. Kirkham countered the concerns, saying the stones are a reminder of the lives lost under tragic — and preventable — circumstances.
“We’ve heard through the critics that the stones only highlight victimhood, and that when pedestrians trample over the names of the dead, some argue they are being victimized again,” he said. “I say the Living Memorial Stones become reminders and voices calling out that these women had a name.
“And although they are just four inches square, and may in the future become obscured by the dirt and dust of urban life, they tell an emotional story to the casual walker who comes upon them: that he or she is standing where this woman once stood.”
David P. Ball is a Vancouver-based journalist and contributor to The Tyee.
For Cara Ellis and several other victims of serial killer Robert Pickton – memorial plaques to be set in Downtown Eastside sidewalks will be the only gravestone they’ll have.
Ellis’ only remains – a small piece of bone the size of a fingernail – were returned to her family in 2009 and preserved in an urn.
For her sister-in-law Lori-Ann, the Living Memorial Stones art project unveiled Tuesday to commemorate the DTES’s murdered women will help rectify that.
“It’s so nice these girls are being returned to the Downtown Eastside,” said Lori-Ann. “The fact there’s a marker here where she lived, loved and had friends and lived a huge chunk of her life is just amazing.
“And for some of us, the memorial plaque will be in lieu of a grave marker.”
Lori-Ann and Lillian Beaudoin, the sister of Diane Rock whose blood was found on Pickton’s pig farm, have both attended the ongoing Missing Women Inquiry. The plaques were a bright spot in an otherwise grueling ordeal.
“Every day we go to the inquiry . wondering if we will hear horrible things,” Lori-Ann said. “To come here and see . people do respect the lives of the girls outside is very moving.”
The aim is to work with the city to install small bronze plaques where the women are thought to have disappeared. The 26 plaques, created in tandem with the families, will include only the woman’s name and date of birth and the word “MURDERED.”
“We wanted to give them a voice to remind people, “I was alive, I was happy, I laughed.'” said Sean Kirkham of the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation, which also commissioned a plaque in memory of Ashley Machiskinic, 22, and Verna Simard, 50, who plunged to their deaths from windows of the Regent Hotel a year apart.