Sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton ponders pulling out of missing women inquiry
A long-time Downtown Eastside activist who tried for many years to raise the alarm about a serial killer preying on sex-trade workers in her neighbourhood may choose not to testify at the B.C. missing women’s inquiry.
“I am seriously considering withdrawing, because it makes me feel as though the report has already been written, with all the focus on the policing aspect of it, and the actions of the commissioner,” Jamie Lee Hamilton, an advocate for LGBT issues, said by phone on February 1.
Hamilton confirmed she is scheduled to speak to the commission, but added, “They’re spending so much time with the police, the different various policing officials. I believe that they have 34 policing officials on their witness list and I think they’ve only got through four of them so far. So it’s very concerning.”
Earlier, Hamilton slammed Commissioner Wally Oppal for his treatment of lawyer Cameron Ward, who is representing the families of 25 missing and murdered women. Hamilton told the Straight that lawyer Jason Gratl, hired by the commission to represent the interests of Downtown Eastside residents—and in particular sex workers’ interests generally—is also getting short shrift at the inquiry.
“And yet, there are all these lawyers for the police—I think there are 19 now—and they are always getting up and taking their time, they are objecting, objecting, objecting,” Hamilton claimed. “If the commissioner wants this to be a credible inquiry, he needs to take a stand now, and he needs to get rid of all the lawyers. Because there doesn’t have to be those lawyers there.”
Hamilton said she had a clothing boutique on Hastings Street from 1993 to 1997, where many of the Downtown Eastside murdered sex-trade workers had shopped and “hung out”.
“I knew Sarah de Vries, who lived right around the corner,” Hamilton added. “I knew Angela Jardine, I knew Helen Hallmark. I knew Andrea Joesbury, I knew Serena Abbotsway.”
And Hamilton also knew Det. Const. Lori Shenher, who is now testifying downtown.
“I phoned her [Shenher] to say that, during the past three years, there’s been 21 women go missing,” Hamilton said, referring to a 1998 conversation. “I had a complete breakdown of the years. She demanded to know how I got that information. I said, ‘It doesn’t matter how I got the information. These are the facts. Are you going to verify those numbers?’ Just previous to that, I had reached the civilian person in the office, Sandy Cameron, who was just awful to me and rude. I kept notes of that. So when I talked to Shenher, Shenher then said to me, ‘Yeah, your numbers are correct, but please don’t release that information, because it’s going to create a panic.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I said women have to be warned that there is a serial killer down here.”
Hamilton conceded in closing that it could be “sad” for a lot of people if someone with her history and close relationship to the victims of Robert Pickton does not testify when she has the chance to.
“I think it’s sad as well, but it appears that the commission of inquiry is a whitewash, and it doesn’t appear that they want to hear from community members or family members,” she said. “They’re giving allocation of all the time to police officials. Doug LePard, who wasn’t even involved in the cases back in the day—but wrote the report—he was on the stand for two weeks. The officer from Ontario [Jennifer Evans] was a week. Kim Rossmo was close to a week, and now we’re already on the third day for Lori Shenher. And she’ll be on most of this week and most of next week.”