A very sad time in my city’s recent history is prominently in the news today. This date marks the first day of the trial against Robert (Willie) Pickton who is charged with murdering 26 women at his pig farm in a nearby suburb. These women were for the most part living high risk lives of prostitution and/or drug use. As a result the fact that they were missing was not really acknowledged by the police for many years. The families are angry and our police force has been criticised a great deal over this issue. I can honestly see both sides in this situation. Most of these women were from the Downtown Eastside,
It has taken several years for the prosecutors to amass all the evidence needed to go to trial and during this time our media had to follow strict black-out regulations so the evidence wouldn’t be tainted and a jury could be successfully gathered. I believe that some information is still off limits but I heard details today I had only suspected in my worst nightmares. They found body parts in freezers. Human bones in manure piles. Boxes of victims’ clothing. They confirmed rumours that neighbours of this pig farmer were warned they may have received meat from him containing human remains. I have always heard that pigs eat anything and that appears how he disposed of many of the bodies. Truly horrific things to hear about.
At this point I believe there are over sixty missing women and Pickton admitted to an undercover cop he had killed 49 women. I doubt we will ever know the true figures. What they do forecast is this trial taking over a year to complete and that means more and more terrible details and further questions about how this could have happened. The TV news program I watch vowed to try to offset the horror of this situation by presenting a ‘feel good’ story every night. For this I am grateful.
My city, that I love, is one of shocking contrast. We are a place of beautiful people and locations. It is a place where evidence of the good life is all around you. It is very easy to get caught up that everything is perfect. A dangerous delusion. It is also a place with a terrible drug problem resulting in prostitution and crime and poverty. It is very easy to drive around and never see anything that might offend your senses but if you look closer or walk the streets you stumble upon people sleeping on the sidewalks or are approached by panhandlers looking for spare change. You can literally walk two blocks from expensive downtown stores to seedy hotels and rampant drug dealing. The line separating these two extremes is very, very thin.
I really don’t know how I can wrap all this up. What it all means. I guess I hope that people see how women living high risk lives can fall through the cracks and what that can mean. I hope people see that these women were daughters and moms and sisters and not just a product of how they lived their lives. I just hope that something good can come of all this sadness and negativity and horror we will be marinating in over the next several months.