Pickton verdict won't be cause for celebration

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Ernie Crey could stay at home to watch the news on TV or just read the papers the next day when the verdict on accused serial killer Robert William Pickton is delivered.

      But Crey, a 58-year-old Sto:lo Nation man, says he'll make the trip from his home in Chilliwack to Courtroom 102 in New Westminster's Begbie Square on the day the jury's decision will be announced. He said he feels he has to.

      The DNA of his younger sister Dawn was among the forensic evidence gathered from the Pickton pig farm in Port Coquitlam. However, no charges have been laid against Pickton or anybody else in Dawn's disappearance or death.

      "It's because I had responsibilities for her as a young boy," Crey told the Georgia Straight. "I was together with all of my brothers and sisters when they were like children, toddlers, and babies. In Dawn's case, I remember changing her diapers and feeding her when she was a little baby. The emotions run deep, and the attachment we have for one another is enduring."

      The Crey siblings subsequently got separated, and they grew up in different foster homes. They managed to stay in touch, Crey said, and he recalled that in later years, when Dawn lived with him for a short while, he tried to get medical assistance for her drug addiction. "She lived a hard life," he said. "It took a toll on her emotionally and mentally and physically. I didn't meet with much success."

      The Crey family has been told by the Crown that prosecutors will proceed with the cases wherein they have the most evidence against Pickton. Until now, according to Crey, the family hasn't been told exactly where Dawn's DNA was found.

      Crey, a policy adviser for the Sto:lo Tribal Council, recalled that no charges have been laid in the cases of other women whose DNA was also recovered from the farm.

      "For families like mine, it leaves us in a really troubling, upsetting kind of place, because we may never know, like I may never learn what became of my sister," he said. "I'll never know if the police will ever get enough evidence to charge anyone for her disappearance or her death."

      Crey said his family has been assured by the police that the Pickton file will never be closed until answers are found about what happened to those other women. "I'm taking their word for it," he said. "I don't know what else to do but just hope that one day we'll discover what happened to Dawn, and maybe one day somebody will be held accountable for her disappearance."

      Crown and defence lawyers have rested their respective cases in the trial that has spanned 10 months. A total of 128 witnesses testified during the course of the trial, in which Pickton stood accused of having murdered six women. He will face trial for the deaths of 20 more women at a later date.

      Pickton's alleged victims are among the dozens of mostly sex-trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside starting in the 1970s.

      While the Pickton trial was under way, two charter challenges were launched against Canada's prostitution laws, the first one before the Ontario Superior Court in March, and the second in August before the British Columbia Supreme Court.

      Sex-trade workers like Susan Davis blame the country's laws for marginalizing women in the profession, thus making them vulnerable to predators. In a phone interview with the Straight, Davis said it's not only street-level prostitutes who are exposed to violence, but indoor sex workers as well. She recalled the case of her friend Nicole Parisien, a 33-year-old masseuse who was found dead behind an apartment building in Vancouver's Kitsilano area in August this year.

      "Certainly, there's a lot of violence," said Davis, a spokesperson for the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Women.

      Kate Gibson is the executive director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, which provides support services for women in the sex trade. According to Gibson, her office gets e-mails and phone queries from families looking for loved ones.

      "We get reports of people who haven't been heard [from] or [are] missing," Gibson told the Straight. "The circumstances haven't changed. We get bad-date reports. There was a woman stabbed on Main Street eight or six weeks ago. Don't think for a moment that women aren't dying within this realm or violently being attacked every day."

      On the day the Pickton verdict will be known, Gibson said staff and sex-trade workers will gather at WISH. But she said that no matter what the judgment, there will be nothing to celebrate.