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The World Comes To Vancouver
(Item: On December 3, 1998, The Canadian Olympic Association chooses Vancouver as its candidate city. Winning this process meant Vancouver was free to make its case to secure an Olympic bid for the 2010 Winter Games).
NOTE: This story first appeared on BASN in September of 2007.
PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — Vancouver , British Columbia, Canada is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Located in the Pacific Northwest somewhere above the 48th parallel, it is a beautiful combination of contrasts. You have beaches and mountains within walking distance of each other, and a good mix of urban and rural culture within its Lower Mainland area.
The downtown area is vibrant, with enough amusements to get you in trouble (smile). You can shop ’til you drop along Robson Street, or hit some of the clubs and pubs in Gastown and along Granville Street.
Anyone who lived in the area during the 1990s all the way down to Portland, Oregon knew about the Warehouse and Shampers, one of the best night clubs anywhere before Asian investors turned it into a country & western bar; it was alleged they felt too many Black men concentrated in one space wouldn’t be good for the kind of business they wanted to attract.
The world-famous Cecil Hotel, whose marquee once proudly boasted their strippers ” have done more for pussy than kitty litter” still sits at the foot of the Granville Street Bridge.
I speak from experience in this regard because from 1992, I was proud to call Vancouver my home for about 11 years — and still have some extended family there that I miss very much.
But one thing that wasn’t missed was the lack of effort by police and other law enforcement officials to track down a serial killer.
If you haven’t heard of Robert Pickton, it’s because the Canadian press and our own — at least in Washington State — made sure that wouldn’t happen.
Pickton, a pig farmer who lived in a Vancouver suburb, Port Coquitlam, is currently on trial, charged with the first-degree murders of 26 women, following his capture five years ago.
Like other big cities, you have your rough areas — and one of the most notorious was Vancouver’s downtown East Side. The view along East Hastings Street will no doubt be sanitized by the time Olympic guests come a ‘callin, but in 1998, it looked more like the opening scenes of ” Blade Runner.”
You had a five square block area of drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless and what may have been one of the breeding grounds of a Hepatitis C pandemic that still affects over 500,000-and-counting Canadians the government seems to pretend don’t exist serving as territory for this predator, who plucked prostitutes out of the area to take out to the farm — only they never came back.
During that time, I lived in the Bad Lands of the East End — further up along Hastings Street. The buzz among residents and street people was about the fact people were missing but nothing was being said.
On Saturdays, in between covering sports, I produced and hosted a radio show on a college station, CITR 101.9 FM. When I started out with the show, the goal was to play music and have a little fun.
But as the word on the street became more pronounced, the show took on a different tone because we began to ask why women were missing and why nothing was being done about it.
This message was repeated on-air during our show week after week; and as more women went missing, we brought up the ancillary issues of race and class.
While most of the women were white, some were black, mixed and “First Nations” or native Canadian. It’s more than fair to say if one of these women were from a more affluent area like West Vancouver or the British Properties, news of their disappearance would have the six o’clock evening news — at 6:01.
By the time someone among the police or press finally did say something, a Vancouver paper eventually printed that 51 women were missing from the downtown east end — over two years later.
When Pickton was arrested on February 22, 2002, 63 area women were reported missing.
Meanwhile, the efforts to push Vancouver further into the Olympic mix were spurred by a referendum in which city residents were asked if they would shoulder the responsibilities that come with being an Olympic host.
Over 60% said yes, and the referendum was passed.
What Americans didn’t know was that then-Washington state governor Gary Locke passed a similar resolution in support of Vancouver’s bid.
One really gruesome sidebar to this was the actions of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). If anyone doesn’t think this group is about saving animals, they need to think again.
PETA attempted to compare the deaths of some of the missing women to what was done in slaughterhouses to animals, and attempted to buy ad space in the Vancouver Province to make their point.
In my humble opinion, they didn’t give a shit about these poor women — and looked to use their deaths as fodder for their cause.
What PETA tried to do is significant because it occurred in November of 2002, months after Pickton had been arrested.
Canada had posted a media ban against releasing information pertaining to this story.
While news outlets in Washington State were aware of the ban, they never aggressively sought to provide information of what happened in Vancouver to the general public.
This ban stayed in effect even as the trial finally commenced on January 22, 2007, when the Crown court ( Canada’s Supreme Court) stated that Pickton confessed to 49 murders.
In between Pickton’s arrest and trial, Vancouver has spent untold millions in their Olympic effort and subsequent renovation; something that doesn’t sit right with not just a few.
As part of their presentation to representatives of the International Olympic Committee, Vancouver spent millions turning their downtown into a winter carnival, including a game of shinny on one of their main streets.
I covered a previous Super Bowl in Atlanta and talked to many people who said having the Olympics there hadn’t done jack for their situation. Some with down-and-out family members even mentioned that the “powers that be” bused their relatives out of town for the sake of the “Olympic image.”
Back in British Columbia, some old-timers I spoke with mentioned how the city attempted to cover up their blight in a similar manner when Vancouver hosted a World’s Fair in the 1980s — and figured the same thing would happen in 2010.
But the unreported murders and the lack of effort — because these women were considered not worth anyone’s time — is the real story.
Body parts of some of the missing women were unearthed at Pickton’s farm, and it was initially alleged some of the murdered women were fed to his animals. In 2004, it was revealed that human flesh may have been ground up with pork from the farm.
Crown court testimony revealed human skulls were found, cut in half, with hands and feet stuffed inside. Remains of another victim were stuffed in garbage bag in the bottom of a trash can, and her blood-stained clothing was found in Pickton’s trailer.
Part of one victim’s jawbone and teeth were found in the ground beside the slaughter house along with a .22 revolver — with an attached dildo to the weapon’s nozzle as a makeshift silencer.
Among other things found at the farm was a videotape of Pickton’s friend, Scott Chubb, saying Pickton had told him that a good way to kill a female heroin addict was to inject her with windshield-washer fluid.
A second tape revealed another associate of Pickton’s, Andrew Bellwood, said Pickton mentioned killing prostitutes by handcuffing and strangling them. He would then bleed his victims before gutting and feeding them to the pigs; however lawyers for Pickton’s defense are challenging their credibility.
As of right now, Pickton’s property is sealed off and all the buildings have been demolished.
How many of these women would still be alive if they were richer? Or lived in a nicer neighborhood? Or perhaps how many would have had a chance to change their lives if someone — anyone — acted quickly enough to save them before an unclaimed welfare check would be the first signal something was amiss.
When I returned to the East Coast, I knew Vancouver had won the bid — but also knew that even before the Torch could be lit, Vancouver would already have a standing Olympic tragedy under its feet — with all its potential visitors soon to walk on cursed ground.
In spite of all of this, I could still give you a thousand reasons to see beautiful British Columbia — but I’d rather give you 27 reasons to think about your visit:
1. Sereena Abotsway, 29 when she was last seen in August of 2001.
2. Mona Lee Wilson, 26 when last seen 11/23/01; reported missing on 11/30/01.
3. Jacqueline Michelle McDonell, 23 when last seen January of 1999.
4. Dianne Rosemary Rock, 34 –last seen 10/19/01 — reported missing 12/13/01.
5. Heather Kathleen Bottomley, 25 when reported missing on 4/17/01.
6. Andrea Joesbury, 22 when last seen in June of 2001.
7. Brenda Ann Wolfe, 32 when last seen in February of 1999 — reported missing in April of 2000.
8. Jennifer Lynn Furminger, last seen in 1999.
9. Helen Mae Hallmark, last seen August, 1997.
10. Patricia Rose Johnson, last seen March, 2001.
11. Georgina Faith Papin, last seen in 1999.
12. Heather Chinnock, 30 when last seen April, 2001.
13. Tanya Holyk, 23 when last seen April, 2001.
14. Sherry Irving, 24, when last seen in 1997.
15. Inga Monique Hall, 46 when last seen February, 1998.
16. Marnie Lee Frey, last seen August, 1997.
17. Tiffany Drew, last seen December, 1999.
18. Sarah de Vries, last seen April, 1998.
19. Cynthia Feliks, last seen December, 1997.
20. Angela Rebecca Jardine last seen November, 1998.
21. Diana Melnick, last seen December, 1995.
22. Jane Doe.
23. D ebra Lynne Jones, last seen December, 2000.
24. Wendy Crawford, last seen December, 1999.
25. Kerry Koski, last seen, January, 1998.
26. Andrea Fay Borhaven, last seen March, 1997.
27. Cara Louis Ellis, aka Nicky Trimble — 25 when last seen 1996; reported missing in October, 2002.
May God have mercy on their souls. My sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased.