Saturday, March 31
Sex worker Nikki Thomas talks about normalizing her profession in the light of Ontario's prostitution ruling | News | National Post
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Thursday, March 29
BY ELAINE O'CONNOR, THE PROVINCE MARCH 29, 2012 11:48 AM
MLA Jenny Kwan (L) and NDP leader Adrian Dix listen to Lilliane Beaudoin (centre), during a press conference in which they all are asking for the government to extend the Missing Women's Inquiry. Beaudoin's sister Dianne Rock was one of Robert Pickton's murder victims.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
The government’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry into the murder of dozens of women is getting shortchanged when compared to the inquiry into the four-minute Tasering of Robert Dziekanski that was granted an extension, advocates say.
New Democrat leader Adrian Dix joined MLA Jenny Kwan and family members of the women murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton Thursday to plead for more time for the Inquiry to do its work.
“The issues brought forward at this inquiry are some of the most important faced in our province,” Dix told reporters at a press conference at the NDP’s downtown Vancouver office, backing the families’ call for a six-month extension.
“Issues of poverty, issues of racism and inequality, issues of conduct and how we deal with crime. All of those issues are here at this inquiry. And I think it is fair to say that so far...the inquiry has not met that test.”
Dix added that the voices of the Downtown Eastside and aboriginal communities need to be heard and “that’s why the official opposition thinks that there absolutely...needs to be an extension in the time of the inquiry.”
Kwan, the NDP representative for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, argued that the Braidwood inquiry — which examined the Tasering of one victim, Dziekanski, during a four-minute incident — was granted an extension. She reasoned that the commission’s complex case involving dozens of victims and spanning a decade at minimum deserves the same treatment.
The inquiry formally began in October 2011 to help determine why it took police so long to catch the man preying on women in the Downtown Eastside.
Pickton was arrested in 2002 although the murders date back to the 1990s. In 2007 Pickton was convicted of six of the murders, with another 20 murder counts stayed.
In March, lawyer Robyn Gervais resigned from the commission, citing concerns that aboriginal interests were not represented. Commissioner Wally Oppal adjourned the hearings until April 2 to find a replacement. Oppal previously had asked for a year-long extension and was granted six months, until April 30. His final report is due June 30.
However, B.C. Attorney-General Shirley Bond says the inquiry will not be extended.
Family member Lillianne Beaudoin, sister of Dianne Rock who was found on Pickton’s farm in 2002, said her hopes that the inquiry could put her unanswered questions to rest have faded over time.
“This inquiry has been called to investigate the most significant serial murder case in Canadian history,” she said. “Yet this inquiry is facing a rapidly approaching deadline of April 30 with much work left to do, many stones left to uncover, and many questions left to answer.”
Lori-Ann Ellis, sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, whose remains were also found on the farm, said that the inquiry must be extended because “the voices of the Downtown Eastside and aboriginal communities must be heard as well.”
Ellis was deeply concerned that the limited time frame that’s left impedes the ability of the remaining 31 witnesses to share their testimony, whereas police have been afforded several months to testify.
“We cannot accept that this inquiry that we fought so hard for could be cut short before it has completed its important mandate,” she said.
“Our loved ones were victimized by a serial killer in life and victimized by a failed police investigation after death. Let them not be further victimized by a failed public inquiry that does nothing to prevent a similar tragedy from recurring.”
© Copyright (c) The Province
Wednesday, March 28
NDP leader Adrian Dix backs call for Missing Women inquiry extension Victims’ families are looking to carry on inquiry
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 28, 2012 6:50 PM
VANCOUVER — New Democrat party leader Adrian Dix is backing the call by families of victims of serial killer Robert Pickton for a six-month extension of the Missing Women inquiry.
Dix and NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, whose Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding includes the Downtown Eastside, where Pickton preyed on vulnerable women, plan to attend a news conference today at 9 a.m.
Also planning to attend is lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents the families of 25 murdered women at the inquiry, along with victims’ family members, including Lilliane Beaudoin, whose sister Dianne Rock was killed by Pickton; Lori-Ann Ellis, who lost her sister-in-law Cara Ellis; and Ernie Crey, who lost his sister Dawn Crey. Her DNA was found on the Pickton farm.
The families are calling on the attorney-general for a six-month extension of the inquiry, which is set to resume Monday after an unexpected three-week break.
The break was called after lawyer Robyn Gervais, who represented aboriginal interests, resigned from the inquiry, saying she felt there was insufficient time devoted to hearing from aboriginal witnesses.
Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal recently appointed lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt to replace Gervais.
The victims’ families feel there is not enough time left to hear full testimony from the 31 remaining witnesses, considering there are only 16 hearing days left.
Oppal said earlier he wants to wrap up hearings by the end of April, with public policy hearings to be held throughout May and his report to government due at the end of June.
The victims’ families would like a six-month extension granted from the June deadline, bringing the inquiry end date to Dec. 31.
B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said in an interview Wednesday she is not contemplating further extending the inquiry. Oppal was granted a six-month extension last year, although he had requested a one-year extension.
“This inquiry is about police conduct,” Bond said, adding she is anxious to receive Oppal’s recommendations on how to avoid a similar tragedy. “We need to be thorough but we need to move on and implement any recommendations.”
The inquiry, which doesn’t sit on Fridays, has held 61 days of hearings since it began last Oct. 11.
The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who once confessed to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.
He wasn’t arrested until 2002, despite tips in 1998 and 1999 about Pickton being responsible for one or more of the missing women.
Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six murders. After exhausting all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial on another 20 murder counts.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
By: The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - The families of several of Robert Pickton's victims are calling on the B.C. government to give a public inquiry more time to examine why the serial killer wasn't caught sooner.
Commissioner Wally Oppal is currently scheduled to wrap up hearings in May as he attempts to meet the June 30 deadline, but the process has been dogged by delays that have put that timeline in doubt.
The latest came earlier this month when Oppal put the hearings on hold for three weeks until April 2 after a lawyer representing aboriginal witnesses quit.
But the inquiry still must hear from a list of witnesses that includes police officers, aboriginal witnesses and Crown prosecutors involved in a decision in 1997 to stay charges against Pickton.
Several families will hold a news conference in Vancouver on Thursday calling on the premier to extend the inquiry to ensure key witnesses are heard.
The commission hasn't formally asked for an extension and earlier this month, Attorney General Shirley Bond said she wasn't prepared to consider one.
The Canadian Press
Reposted: from Cameron Ward’s blog.
MWCI: Hearings resume April 2
March 27, 2012 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, News, Opinion
After a three week hiatus, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will resume hearings on Monday, April 2, 2012. A panel is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, followed by Det. Cst. Lori Shenher, who is expected to retun Wednesday.
The Comission earlier announced that it has appointed Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt ”as Independent Co-counsel to present issues related to Aboriginal interests.”
It is obvious that an extension of time will be required to complete the hearings, as only15 hearing days are available in April and the Commission has yet to hear from dozens of its listed witnesses, including many of the police officers who recently retained counsel.
posted by Cameron Ward
A. CAMERON WARD & COMPANY
BY STAFF REPORTER, THE PROVINCE MARCH 28, 2012 9:50 AM
Grade 10 student Loren Leslie's body was found off a Vanderhoof logging road.
Photograph by: Screengrab, Facebook
Police are asking hunters and anyone headed into the woods to be on the lookout for evidence to link a suspected serial killer to several murders in northern B.C.
In a release Tuesday, Prince George RCMP Const. Lesley Smith said they are still searching for evidence after the 2010 arrest of Cody Legebokoff in connection with the murder of 15-year-old Loren Leslie.
After an extensive investigation involving U.S. forensic experts, Legebokoff also was charged in the deaths of Jill Stacey Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Frances Maas, 35, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 23.
Police say as spring nears, hunters, riders and all outdoor enthusiasts could spot evidence on side roads, logging roads, near power lines and gravel pits between Prince George and Vanderhoof, as well as between Vanderhoof and Fort St James.
Legebokoff, 21, originally was arrested after an RCMP officer from Fort St. James spotted a truck turning out of a unused logging road the evening Loren disappeared.
He pulled over and questioned the driver before calling in a conservation officer to investigate whether the man had been illegally hunting.
The conservation official traced the tire tracks back down the logging road and found the teen dead in the snow. Loren had been murdered just hours before, RCMP said at the time.
Stuchenko was reported missing in October 2009 and found dead four days later in a gravel pit on the outskirts of Prince George.
Maas and Montgomery, 23, were both reported missing on the same day in September 2010. Maas's body was found in a Prince George park the following month but Montgomery's body was never found.
Police ask that if any remains are located, that they not be disturbed in any way. The location or GPS co-ordinates should be noted and police ask anyone with information to call the specially created Tip Line 1-877-987-8477 (TIPS).
RCMP say Legebokoff is not a suspect in the 18 murders and disappearances along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears, because of his age.
© Copyright (c) The Province
Monday, March 26
BY PETER MCKNIGHT, VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 26, 2012 9:33 PM
Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford (L), and York University professor Alan Young seen during press conference in Toronto, March 26, 2012. The Court of Appeal for Ontario has swept aside some of the countryís anti-prostitution laws saying they place unconstitutional restrictions on prostitutesí ability to protect themselves. The landmark decision means sex workers will be able to hire drivers, bodyguards and support staff and work indoors in organized brothels or ìbawdy houses,î while ìexploitationî by pimps remains illegal. argued that the government had a responsibility not to increase the potential harm against its citizens.
Photograph by: Alex Urosevic / National Post
In a decision released Monday, the Ontario Court of Appeal highlighted the federal government’s contradictory position on prostitution: While the feds maintain that prostitution laws are designed to, among other things, protect prostitutes, the court heard that the laws instead place sex workers in danger.
But when it comes to prostitution law, there are enough contradictions to go around. So the court managed to render a decision affirming that prostitutes have as much right to constitutional protections as anyone else engaged in legal, if dangerous, activities, yet that very decision did virtually nothing to protect the most vulnerable prostitutes from the danger posed by the law itself.
The court considered three laws – those prohibiting bawdy houses (brothels), living on the avails of prostitution (pimping), and communicating for the purposes of prostitution – and found the first two, as now written, infringe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As for the first law, the court noted that brothels are much safer places for prostitutes than working the street. Yet since the criminalization of bawdy houses drives prostitutes into the street, it places them in much greater danger, and this negative effect far outweighs the law’s salutary effect of protecting public health and safety.
Consequently, the court declared the law invalid, though it suspended the declaration for a year, to give the government time to redraft the law if it wishes.
As for the pimping law, the court concluded that while it was directed specifically at protecting prostitutes, it often had exactly the opposite effect. This is because it doesn’t, strictly speaking, apply only to pimps – to those who exploit prostitutes. Rather, it also applies to people who offer sex workers protection, such as bodyguards and drivers, thereby placing prostitutes in greater danger.
Consequently, the court found that this law is also unconstitutional as written, though instead of declaring it invalid, the court held that living on the avails of prostitution is only illegal if it occurs “in circumstances of exploitation.”
Taken together, these two aspects of the decision mean that prostitutes may now enjoy the protection of brothels without worrying about the law knocking on the door, and may hire bodyguards and others who offer them protection without those people being subject to arrest. One can’t underestimate just how important these measures are in ensuring the safety of sex workers, which means the decision represents a victory for prostitutes.
Yet, that said, there is a sense in which the decision as a whole is something of a hollow victory, since the court’s decision on the third law — communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution — ensures the most vulnerable prostitutes will remain bereft of protection.
The court did acknowledge that the law places street sex workers in danger, since it forces them to divest themselves of the minimal protections they normally enjoy, such as assessing the trustworthiness of a client before getting in his car.
Despite this, the court declined to declare the communicating law invalid, in part because, as a result of this decision, prostitutes will have the (legal) ability to move indoors. To be sure, the court did acknowledge that the most marginalized prostitutes — “survival sex” workers, who are often struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems, like the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton — are unlikely to be able to get off the street. Yet it concluded that since poverty, addiction, gender, race and age are the primary sources of their marginalization, the communicating law is not a “significant” factor in placing them at risk.
This is a deeply problematic analysis and it led to a split in the court: Although the five judges who heard the case agreed with regard to the first two laws, two judges disagreed with the majority’s analysis of the constitutionality of the communicating law.
Indeed, the dissent issued a stinging rebuke to the majority’s position that the adverse effects of the law are not significant because the law is not a primary source of the marginalization of survival sex workers.
In what is surely a proper analysis, the dissent stresses that the majority analysis has things the wrong way around – that the vulnerability and marginalization of survival sex workers magnifies any adverse impact the law might have. This means that any law that denies vulnerable people the opportunity to protect themselves represents a grave threat to their constitutional rights.
Nevertheless, the majority analysis stands, at least in Ontario, and at least for now. The judgment will, however, no doubt be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which will be responsible for sorting out the contradictions in the Court of Appeal’s analysis.
In the meantime, the federal government ought to consider sorting out the contradictions in the law by designing a regime that protects, rather than persecutes, some of the most vulnerable people among us.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE MARCH 26, 2012 4:03 PM
Katrina Pacey (L) of the Pivot Legal Society is joined by sex trade worker Susan Davis (R), March 26th, at a press conference in Vancouver about a recent Ontario court case and how it effects sex trade workers.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
Street-based sex workers who are still forced by desperation to jump into cars with strangers will get no help from the Ontario top court ruling Monday.
Although the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Monday that not allowing safe indoor brothels is a violation of sex workers’ constitutional rights, the five judges still upheld laws against street “soliciting” or “communicating.”
What that means, sex worker advocates agreed, is that the survival sex trade workers in Vancouver — those targeted by serial killer Robert Pickton and hundreds of other predators — still will be working in fear for their lives.
The Ontario court ruled sex workers can still be prosecuted for “soliciting.”
“We’re very disappointed with the result on the communicating laws, and we hope that (the decision) will shift on appeal” to Canada’s highest court, said Pivot Legal Society lawyer Katrina Pacey, an intervenor in the Ontario case.
Although the Ontario case has direct application to that province, it will affect B.C. and is expected to eventually go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Pacey noted that women who work in the Downtown Eastside sex trade are also battling drug addiction, homelessnes, poverty and mental illness — all factors that contribute to their vulnerability in accepting any client who can pay.
Even Pickton, who preyed on DTES sex workers for decades and lured them to his Port Coquitlam farm, where he claimed to have killed 49 women, did not turn up on “bad date” sheets because he always paid in cash, booze and drugs.
Pacey said PIVOT is pleased that the Ontario Court ruling declared the law against brothels to be unconstitutional.
The court ruled that brothels and indoor sex workers should be able to hire security, drivers and other employees without facing charges of living off the avails of prostitution.
The Ontario judges said that in cases of exploitation of women or underage girls by pimps, the “living off the avails” laws would apply.
“The concern we have is that the court seems to be saying that the living off the avails will only apply in circumstances where exploitation is evident,” said Pacey. “The question is, whose definition of exploitation.”
Longtime Downtown Eastside sex worker advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton called the Ontario ruling “truly bizarre.”
“I was on the Downtown Eastside this weekend and things are worse than ever for women in the ‘containment zones’ north of Hastings and East of Glen Streets,” said Hamilton, who now makes her living through a city-licensed micro-brothel or private club.
“It’s good the court is recognizing that brothels are a safe alternative for sex workers, but for the women who are truly desperate through poverty and drug addiction, they are still in grave danger, as we saw from the Pickton carnage.”
Hamilton says that women are forced to “jump into cars with dangerous predators because the communicating section has and continues to be used as a sledgehammer against them in response to community complaints on prostitution. “In fact the ruling will continue to make survival sex workers easy prey for violent men and serial predators,” she said.
The Ontario Court of Appeal’s landmark decision means sex workers will be able to hire drivers, bodyguards and support staff and work indoors in organized brothels or “bawdy houses,” while “exploitation” by pimps remains illegal.
Pacey represents several DTES groups associated with the sex trade and sent a representative to Ontario last June to speak before the five justice hearing the case.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver police department quietly quit enforcing laws against solicting or communicating for the purposes of prostitution back in 2007.
There were more than 600 women charged with soliciting in 2006, but by 2007, no women were charged at all. Only one woman was charged in each of 2008, 2009 and 2011, but the 2008 and 2011 charges were stayed and the 2009 charge resulted in a conditional discharge, said VPD spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton.
© Copyright (c) The Province
Serial Killer Robert Pickton: Prison Officials Keeping Media Away, Pickton Tells Canadian Press To Pose As Lawyer
VANCOUVER - From inside the walls of a maximum-security prison in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, serial killer Robert Pickton offers a suggestion to a reporter interested in visiting him for an interview.
"If you are looking for a story, 'boy do I have one for you!!!'" Pickton writes in a letter to The Canadian Press.
"Tell them (prison staff) when making appointment by telephone that you are my new defence lawyer being appointed to this case, in defending Mr. Pickton's rights."
The bizarre ruse is Pickton's solution to what he describes as a "certain stumbling block" — an apparent restriction that has kept the killer away from reporters since his arrival at Kent Institution, east of Vancouver. He was transferred to Kent after his final appeal for the second-degree murders of six women failed in 2010.
In the one-page letter, written by hand in tidy block letters, Pickton says he's willing to sit down for an interview, but he suggests the only way to see him is by becoming an impostor.
If the scheme works, prepare for a long session, Pickton warns, and best to bring along an actual lawyer for good measure.
"To get an upper hand on this particular case, plan for a four-hour interview to exchange information, as we have much to talk about to fully understand this case," writes Pickton, who has carefully underlined what appear to be his most important points.
"Also, bring another lawyer with you as a junior lawyer to help you with the workload. You need one."
The Canadian Press wrote to Pickton requesting an interview, and the letter was his reply.
Pickton, who is believed to have killed dozens of sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, never actually outlines just what he's prepared to say, and he may have little opportunity to ever say it.
While inmates in the federal prison system are permitted to arrange interviews with journalists, Correctional Service of Canada guidelines allow prison staff to restrict that access in certain cases.
Pickton appears to be one of those cases.
"At this point, what I can tell you is that the case-management team has made the decision that it's not in his correctional plan to give interviews," said Jean-Paul Lorieau of the Correctional Service of Canada.
"So far, everyone who's asked has been given the same answer."
Lorieau said several journalists have made similar requests since Pickton arrived at Kent, and all have been rejected.
Another corrections spokesman, David Harty, later clarified that there is no blanket ban on Pickton speaking with journalists and that each request is considered in light of his correctional plan. However, Harty couldn't expand on exactly what Pickton's plan says about interviews with the media.
Harty said Correctional Service policies state that mail is typically not read by prison staff except in rare circumstances. He couldn't say whether mail to or from Pickton is ever vetted.
A written response from the prison's warden, Mark Kemball, doesn't outline why Pickton is being kept away from reporters, but Kemball notes an inmate's correctional plan "establishes goals for the individual inmate, addresses the dynamic factors that contributed to his criminal behaviour and employs the most effective intervention techniques for that inmate."
Pickton was arrested in 2002, when RCMP officers executing a search warrant for illegal firearms on his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., stumbled upon the remains and belongings of missing sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
He has been in custody ever since, sitting through a trial that convicted him of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007 and several appeals that ended in 2010. He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years.
Pickton was able to give one media interview before was transferred to Kent.
In August 2010, days after the Supreme Court of Canada denied his appeal and before he was transferred into the federal system, Pickton spoke to a CTV reporter from a provincial jail.
In that interview, Pickton claimed he was a scapegoat and that others were responsible for the murders, though he didn't know who. He cryptically suggested there was more to the story, but then, as now, he didn't fill in the blanks.
The only time since the CTV interview that the public has heard anything from Pickton was during the ongoing public inquiry examining why police failed to catch him.
A senior officer from Ontario's Peel Regional Police visited Pickton at Kent as she prepared a report for the inquiry. Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans testified that Pickton maintained his innocence, but she didn't reveal anything else about their conversation.
Pickton isn't the first serial killer to be kept from the media.
Clifford Olson, who murdered 11 children and young adults in B.C. in the early 1980s, was infamous for contacting journalists and taunting his victims' families.
Corrections officials responded by cutting off Olson's access to journalists.
Harold Schechter, an expert on serial killers who teaches at the City University of New York, said he hasn't heard of many cases in which serial killers have been prevented from speaking to reporters.
"It's very unusual here in the United States; I'm not aware of any analogous situations," said Schechter, author of several books about multiple murderers, including "The Serial Killer Files."
"Very notorious serial killers — John Wayne Gacy and (Ted) Bundy and the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, and all those people — they seemed to communicate from behind bars all the time with journalists."
Schechter said restrictions on Pickton may be an attempt to avoid fuelling his notoriety.
"I'm going under the assumption that it has something to do with not allowing someone like Pickton to gratify his narcissism, and partly as a way of protecting the families," said Schechter.
"I don't know if this is part of it, but there's so much focus now on serial killer collectors and serial killer groupies, there might be some of that element of it."
Schechter said reporters should have access to serial killers, which he said can help the public and experts such as himself understand their heinous crimes.
Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara Ellis's remains were found on Pickton's farm, said she wants to hear what Pickton has to say.
Pickton was charged but never put on trial for the murder of Cara Ellis. That means her family has never heard a detailed account of what happened to her.
The only person who knows, said Lori-Ann Ellis, is Pickton. Even if he isn't prepared to come clean now, Ellis hopes that will change one day — and if it does, she wants journalists to be able to tell that story.
"We don't want to hear a bunch of babble, but if he eventually gets so bored that he's just screaming to tell his story, who is the prison system to stop us from hearing that?" said Ellis.
"When people are on death row, they have those death row confessions. We don't have the death sentence, but I think he's going to get so bored for some kind of attention, eventually he may give up some information."
Pickton was convicted of killing six women, but the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.
He once bragged to an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49.
Here is his letter (spelling and punctuation of the original has been maintained):
I have received your letter in hear at Kent, and you have stated that you would like to have a inter-view with me which I have no problem with that situation at all what so ever. But now to address this one particular major problem with dealing over that certain stumbling block. That is for you getting in hear to arrange a formal visit with me. If you are looking for a story, "boy do I have one for you!!!"
Now to over-ride this particular problem tell them when making appointment by telephone, "that you are my new defence lawyer being appointed to this case, in defending Mr. Pickton's rights. To get a upper hand on this particular case plan for a four hour interview, to exchange information as we have much to talk about to fully under-stand this case.
Also bring another lawyer with you as a junior lawyer to help you with the work load you need one.
If by any chance you can arrange to get a copy of the interrogation report when this took place on February 23-2002 for a 12-hour interview, please bring that with you which also help clear up the air.
("Thanks for your courtesy, and hope to have this visit soon.")
- Copyright © 2012 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Sunday, March 25
Canadian sex tourists are among those exploiting Cambodia's most vulnerable
BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM, VANCOUVER SUN COLUMNIST MARCH 24, 2012
More U.S. bombs dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War than fell on Europe during the Second World War. Genocide and civil war followed.
The terrible legacy is that Cambodia is one of poorest, most corrupt countries in the world with the second highest number of landmines.
There is no social safety net. No welfare. No health care. No free schooling.
A third of Cambodians survive on less than $1 a day. The average factory worker earns $61 a month. Police are not only poorly paid, their meagre wages also have to cover the cost of uniforms, guns and ammunition.
Judges are frequently bribed.
Cambodia is brimming with children. More than half of Cambodia's 14.7 million citizens are 18 or younger.
With all of its problems, Cambodia is a choice destination for so-called sex tourists.
British Columbians Donald Bakker and Kenneth Klassen - two of only five Canadians convicted under the Criminal Code's Section 7 "sex tourism" provisions - came here. So did Chris Neil, of Maple Ridge, who was on Interpol's most wanted list before being convicted in Bangkok for sexually abusing two underaged boys.
It's impossible to know how many Canadian sex tourists have visited Cambodia and escaped detection, just no one knows how many from other countries have come and abused children.
The only statistic that even hints at how many Canadian sexual predators are abroad is from Canada's Foreign Affairs Department. In response to a request under the Access to Information Act, it says that 73 Canadians were arrested or detained abroad for abusing or molesting children or for possessing child pornography and sought consular assistance between 2009 and 2011.
Canada has no diplomatic office here. So any Canadians arrested would have sought help from the Australian embassy.
The number of tourists to Cambodia - both good and bad - grows every year. Inbound tourists increased 12 per cent in 2010 to 2.5 million. That number increased a further 26 per cent in the first half of 2011.
What sets Cambodia apart among so-called sex-tourist destinations is the age of the children, according to charitable organizations that rescue and counsel the survivors. Children as young as three have been, and continue to be, rescued; the youngest are almost always procured for foreigners.
Because raping children is normalized here, some experts say it creates situational or opportunistic pedophiles - men who might not dream of having sex with a child at home, but will try it here.
The Cambodian government has never updated its 2006 estimate of 30,000 children being commercially sexually exploited.
It's also never estimated how many children have been trafficked into or out of Cambodia bound for brothels or other forced labour.
But last June, the United Nations committee on the rights of the child special report on Cambodia expressed "deep concern" that thousands of children are exploited in prostitution - that's child rape. It also noted, "an alarming proportion of children are exposed to sexual violence and pornography."
Among the committee's other concerns are that: perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation are rarely prosecuted because of the widespread practice of out-of-court settlements and compensation paid to victims' families; limited action is taken against sex offenders and operators of brothels and other sex establishments where under-aged girls are sexually exploited; and, that rehabilitation services and shelters for victims of sexual exploitation are almost all in the capital and almost all are run by non-governmental organizations.
In the first nine months of 2011, 118 cases involving trafficking and children were heard in Phnom Penh municipal court.
More were heard in other tourist-friendly places such as Siem Reap, near the famous Angkor Wat, and the beach resort villages in and around Sihanoukville.
Part of what's pushing travelling sex offenders into Cambodia is neighbouring Thailand's increased enforcement of child sexual abuse laws, according to western diplomatic sources and non-governmental groups such as World Vision and ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).
And with six million Cambodians under the age of 18 - and 1.6 million under the age of five - there's a boundless supply of victims.
ONLINE AND UNDERGROUND
Things have changed since 2003 when Donald Bakker arrived from Vancouver and found his victims in the notorious pedophile paradise called Svay Pak, 11 kilometres from downtown Phnom Penh.
Little girls and boys are no longer openly marketed on Svay Pak's main street.
The trade has largely gone underground and online.
It's likely because of the Internet that Burnaby art dealer Kenneth Klassen stepped off a plane a decade ago and within 48 hours had procured, assaulted and videotaped eight girls, the youngest of whom was eight.
Klassen, 59, pleaded guilty in 2010 only after his attempt to have Canada's sex tourism law declared unconstitutional failed. The court upheld the law that says any Canadian committing sexual offences against children outside Canada is deemed to have committed that offence in Canada. In sentencing Klassen to 11 years in jail - less than a year each for abusing six Colombian girls and eight Cambodian girls - B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen described what Klassen had done as "a gross violation of the natural imperative to protect children."
It was the longest sentence given for that offence.
Canada's first sex tourist - Bakker - received seven years in prison; two years for a horrifically violent assault on a Vancouver woman and five for abusing seven Cambodian girls, the youngest of whom was only seven. Bakker gets out of jail in June.
Compare that with the sentence given ex-marine Michael Pepe, who abused seven Cambodian girls. In a Californian court around the same time as Klassen was sentenced, Pepe was given 110 years in prison. He was 55 at the time. It's a ridiculous sentence even for a young man, but it makes the point that Americans view sex tourism as an intolerable crime.
And while Canada's sex tourism law is well-crafted, Klassen was the last person charged under it.
Another British Columbian, Orville Mader, was arrested at Vancouver airport in 2007 after a worldwide manhunt. Mader had fled home from Thailand carrying only his laptop to avoid arrest on charges of sexually abusing a sevenyear-old boy.
A judge set Mader free on bail, but placed restrictions on him, while police investigated and Crown prosecutors determined whether to lay sex tourism charges. Mader was restricted from using the Internet, being in contact with children or going anywhere they might congregate. His passport was taken away and he was to report regularly to Surrey police.
While he lived under those restrictions, Mader was convicted in absentia in Thailand. But in November 2010, police and B.C. prosecutors allowed Mader's conditions to lapse. The Crown had decided that the evidence didn't meet Canadian standards.
Mader was free. Whether he got his passport back, Canadian officials won't say, citing privacy laws.
Then there's the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh. Last year, the 67-year-old from Cape Breton had his conviction on 17 charges of gross indecency and indecent assault of six Canadian boys overturned because it had taken so long to get to court. Their allegations dated back to the 1970s and by the time the victims came forward in 1995, MacIntosh was in India.
Twice, the Canadian passport office failed to revoke his passport. Finally, in 2006, Canada requested MacIntosh's extradition from India. That was the same year the Toronto Star reported that two Indian men had alleged MacIntosh assaulted them while they were boys living in an orphanage.
"I think there's a need for a more aggressive stand with respect to the acquisition and analysis of intelligence and a better co-ordinated approach to [sex tourism]," Insp. Sergio Pasin of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children said in a phone interview.
Pasin is in the process of formulating a national strategy that is likely to focus mainly on men who access child pornography online.
"In my view, these are the individuals you really need to look at because they're grooming and luring and then they transition from the online offender or have the potential for transitioning from the online offender to the handson offender. So then the next phase you have to look at is whether they have the potential to travel and have they travelled in the past? Where have they gone? And so on."
Pushed by faith-based and non-governmental organizations as well as celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and the formidable Somaly Mam, who was a child sex slave in Cambodia, other Western governments such as the United States, Australia and Britain have made greater efforts to prosecute sex tourists and protect children abroad.
The United States passed its sex tourism law in 1994, which was amended and renamed the Protect Act in 2002 when it also began Operation Predator which links American police agencies to U.S. border security, and allows them to partner with foreign governments in both overt and covert child pornography and sex tourism investigations.
Among the recent investigations, one involved setting up a website for sex tourists that had Canada as its destination. The two-year project, which ended in March 2011, resulted in the conviction of two Germans and two Americans.
Operation Twisted Traveller, which was conducted in Cambodia over two years in collaboration with a Frenchbased, non-profit organization - Action Pour Les Enfants - resulted in the arrests of three Americans who had previous convictions in the United States for sexually abusing children. The three were arrested in 2009.
One pleaded guilty; the other two are in jail awaiting trial in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, Britain closed what was described by the international child protection group ECPAT as "the three-day loophole," which allowed registered sex offenders to leave the country for up to three days without notifying police. Now, they must notify authorities of all foreign travel plans.
Earlier this year, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) began Project Childhood, a $7.5-million, three-year program involving the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, Interpol and World Vision. Working with police and courts to increase enforcement and with community leaders to educate children and their families, the project aims to reduce sexual exploitation of children in tourism in the Mekong Delta region including Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.
Pushed by western countries and NGOs - and because of a growing fear that "good" tourists are now avoiding it - Thailand has increased enforcement of its child exploitation laws. But that increased enforcement has resulted in sexual predators seeking out countries such as Cambodia where the commitment to prosecuting and jailing child sex offenders is far from certain.
Last year, three foreign pedophiles were granted royal pardons at the government's request.
Among those pardoned was Alexander Trofimov.
Also known as Stanislav Molodyakov, Trofimov is wanted by Interpol for having allegedly raped six girls under the age of 10 before he fled Russia for Sihanoukville, Cambodia's coastal resort town.
There, the 44-year-old executive director of Koh Puos Investment Group negotiated a deal to build a $300-million resort.
But while he was doing that, Trofimov also sexually abused 15 under-aged girls, including a mute 13-year-old.
Trofimov's sentence was initially 15 years, but that was reduced to eight years in 2010. Then, in May 2011, Trofimov was pardoned after having served half of the reduced sentence.
Freed in Cambodia, he remains on Interpol's mostwanted list. The Cambodian government has not responded to a request from 14 international children's rights organizations to deport him to Russia.
Pedophiles most often escape arrest. Others may do their time, get pardons and disappear to other countries where they'll likely re-offend.
But the victims are never free. "They'll always have scars," says Sue Taylor, who has counselled dozens of survivors since coming to Cambodia in 2005. Among the survivors are Donald Bakker's victims.
The girls refused a request to be interviewed.
"They want to put it behind them. They don't want to be reminded of the past and they don't want to be labelled as one of Bakker's girls," says Taylor, who works for Hagar International, an Australia-based NGO.
Even though the abuse occurred more than a decade ago, all but one of the girls is still a minor. That's how young they were when Bakker raped them in tiny rooms in a filthy brothel in Svay Pak, a dusty village outside Phnom Penh that's a notorious pedophile paradise.
As part of their recovery, the girls have all completed school. One or more of them may qualify for university scholarships; others have completed training programs in administration, child care and hairdressing.
By the end of 2011, all had moved back to Svay Pak to live with their families or foster families even though, as Taylor says, their families were complicit in selling them into Svay Pak brothels.
"Our choice would not be to have them there. But we have to believe that with what they've learned about empowerment and resilience, they will be able to make the right decisions."
Taylor hopes these young women have learned enough to have fulfilling lives, jobs and relationships. She hopes that if they choose to have families, they will be good mothers and wives.
But, she says, "I worry that they're naive and that they're really not out of danger. If they hit hard times, I don't know if they'd go back [to a brothel]. I used to be so idealistic. Now, I realize that you have to let them go, just as you have to let your own children go and you hope that they remember some of the things you taught them."
What makes it all the more troubling, says Taylor, is that images of one of the girls recently showed up on a pornographic website. She's also seen images of other sexually exploited children on kiddie porn videos sold for a couple of bucks along the roadside in Phnom Penh.
"It's just sick that this can go on and on," she says.
"How can the survivors really ever escape?"
How foreign sex tourists exploit Cambodia's children
DAY 1, TODAY: The commercial sexual exploitation of children
DAY 2, March 26: Inside the notorious village of Svay Pak, Cambodia
DAY 3, March 27: Brian McConaghy: One man, making a difference
DAY 4, March 28: The boys
of Cambodia DAY 5, March 29: Problems with politics and the law
DAY 6, March 30: Where we go from here
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected government.
King Norodom Sihamoni was crowned in October 2004. Hun Sen is prime minister and leader of the Cambodian People's Party, which has ruled since the Vietnamese-backed overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot's leadership seized power in 1975. During its four years in power, estimates of the number who died of starvation or were killed range from 1.7 million to 3 million out of an estimated population of 7.3 million.
. Khmer is the official language.
. The population is 14.7 million
. Nearly 80 per cent of Cambodians live in rural areas. Half of the rural households are headed by women.
. One-third of Cambodians survive on less than $1 a day.
. Cambodia is second only to Afghanistan in the number of hidden and unexploded landmines within its boundaries.
. Cambodia ranks 139th out of 187 countries on the United Nations 2011 human development index.
. Half the government's annual budget comes from foreign aid.
. Garment manufacturing and tourism drive the economy, which over the last decade has grown by an average of eight per cent a year.
CANADA AND CAMBODIA:
. Canada has no diplomatic presence in Cambodia.
. Between 2002 and 2009, the Canadian International Development Agency helped Cambodia issue nearly 1.4 million land titles to poor, rural farmers providing them with land security and contributed to the de-mining of 35 square kilometres.
Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Thursday, March 22
Lawyer recommends cop trainees interact with sex workers
BY CHERYL ROSSI, STAFF WRITER MARCH 22, 2012
VPD Deputy Chief Const. Warren Lemcke says the new guidelines will hold cops “accountable.”
Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier
Police need to talk to sex workers as part of their training, says Katrina Pacey, litigation director and campaigner for the Pivot Legal Society.
“It’s one thing for there to be guidelines in place directing police officers on how to deal with these sex work-related calls, it’s another thing for police to be able to make that response and actually have a conversation with a sex worker where the history of intimidation and history of disparaging attitudes does not come across in the context of that communication,” Pacey said at a Vancouver Police Board meeting, March 21.
She and representatives of organizations involved with sex trade workers expressed their support for the department’s draft guidelines on how to carry out enforcement related to the sex trade. They also provided additional recommendations.
Insp. Cita Airth, officer in charge of the Vancouver police special investigation section and co-author of the guidelines, said afterward that the department’s vice unit trains recruits at the Justice Institute of B.C. She said that training is being discussed in relation to the guidelines.
“I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but it will probably most certainly involve more consultation with the community so that we get it right,” she said.
The draft guidelines are about “protection over punishment,” noted Susan Davis, an active sex worker of 26 years and a representative of various organizations including the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities. Concerns she expressed to the board in October 2010 prompted development of the guidelines.
Deputy Chief Const. Warren Lemcke agreed with her assessment.
“Once it’s a finalized document, you’re going to be able to hold the Vancouver Police Department accountable,” he said.
The guidelines emphasize a need for police to build trust and communication so sex workers would be more likely to call police when they’re in trouble or when they are aware of human trafficking and involvement of gangs or youth in prostitution. Enforcement action would be taken in such cases, but enforcement would be the last resort in cases of nuisance complaints about survival sex trade workers.
Airth said the guidelines differ little from current practice. Instead, they clarify the Vancouver Police Department’s policies for the community and officers.
Police haven’t arrested sex workers on the street for three years.
“We still do enforce against the customers,” Airth said. “We are very thoughtful and mindful of the potential displacement, so that is still under discussion, how we want to continue to approach that.”
The guidelines were developed in consultation with five agencies working with sex trade workers. Airth noted the work started before the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Further input will be sought before the guidelines return to the police board for approval. Airth wasn’t sure when this would occur.
“It’ll also be important for us to take this policy, which I think is going to be unique in Canada, and talk to other policing agencies, as well,” Lemcke said.
© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, March 21
BY JUDITH LAVOIE, TIMES COLONIST.COM MARCH 21, 2012 11:18 PM
Robyn Gervais, left, and Laura Track at Wednesday's panel discussion at the University of Victoria.
Photograph by: ADRIAN LAM, timescolonist.com
Quitting was better than giving credibility to a flawed process by continuing to struggle to represent aboriginal interests at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, lawyer Robyn Gervais said Wednesday.
Gervais withdrew on
March 6, saying there was a disproportionate focus on police evidence and aboriginal interests were not being met.
“Initially, I thought it was better to have some aboriginal voices at the table,” said Gervais, who took part in a panel discussion at the University of Victoria Wednesday.
“But, as the process unfolded, with most of the evidence coming from police officers and little from the aboriginal community, I saw I couldn’t do my job and staying would lend credibility to the process,” she said in an interview.
Gervais was appointed in August to represent aboriginal interests after all First Nations groups withdrew from the inquiry when the provincial government refused to pay for legal funding. The government paid only for two lawyers to represent the families of Pickton’s victims.
Gervais’s departure was followed by the withdrawal of the First Nations Summit. Most First Nations organizations boycotted the inquiry last year after the provincial government refused to provide individual groups with legal funding.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Wally Oppal named Gervais’s replacements, appointing lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt as independent co-counsel to represent aboriginal issues at the probe examining police failures in the investigation that led to the capture of serial killer Robert Pickton.
Narbonne has more than 20 years’ experience as a lawyer, while Hunt, a member of the Kwakiutl Nation, is expected to bring the aboriginal perspective to the inquiry.
The inquiry into the Pickton case is looking at why it took police so long to catch the serial killer, most of whose victims were poor, aboriginal woman living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
But the voices of the community are missing, said Gervais and fellow panel members Laura Track, legal director for West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, and Jen Allan, a former sex-trade worker who now runs Jen’s Kitchen, a counselling, food and advocacy organization in the Downtown East Side.
The inquiry should be looking at systemic racism, said Gervais, who is Métis.
But the terms of reference are an impossible hurdle, she said.
Oppal has said he is committed to hearing the stories of how First Nations women were treated by the RCMP and Vancouver police during the Pickton investigation, but that historic injustices do not fit within the framework.
The lack of buy-in from the community means the inquiry will have little impact, said Gervais, who hopes that, when the Oppal report is submitted at the end of June, it will be followed by a national inquiry.
“This process, without an equal voice between the police and community, will not work,” she said.
Complaints have also been made to international committees under the umbrella of the United Nations.
Some evidence heard from police is valuable as it underlines the failings of the investigation, said Gervais, who believes there will be useful recommendations on improving policing.
“But they haven’t heard the other side of the story from the community,” she said.
The inquiry is set to resume on April 2.
— with a file from Postmedia News
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Coloni
March 21, 2012 – Appointment of Independent Counsel presenting issues related to Aboriginal interests announced
(Information attributable to Mr. Art Vertlieb, Q.C., Commission Counsel)
Commissioner Wally Oppal has appointed lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt as Independent Co-Counsel to present issues related to Aboriginal interests. Commissioner Oppal believes that this role is crucial to ensure that Aboriginal interests are presented at the Inquiry.
Both Ms. Narbonne and Ms. Hunt are respected, experienced legal professionals. Commissioner Oppal has every confidence in each lawyer’s ability.
Suzette Narbonne Biography
Ms. Narbonne started her legal career as a staff lawyer with Legal Aid Manitoba in The Pas, Manitoba. She was called to the Bar in Manitoba in June 1989 and in British Columbia in May 1995, when she moved to Prince Rupert. She lived in Prince Rupert until January 2011. She now makes her home in Gibsons, B.C., where she continues as a sole practitioner, primarily in the fields of criminal law and human rights.
While in Prince Rupert, Ms. Narbonne was on the executive of the Rupert Runners and was actively involved with other non-profit organizations. She was recognized for her community service in Prince Rupert County by the Canadian Bar Association, B.C. branch, in 2008.
Ms. Narbonne served as a governor of the Law Foundation of British Columbia for six years (2003 to 2009). She served on the following committees during her terms: Child Welfare, Funding Strategies, New Grants, New Initiatives, and Special Needs Fund (Chair). She served as a Bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia from September 2009 to December 2011. She was appointed to the board of the Legal Services Society in May of 2011.
Elizabeth Hunt Biography
Ms. Hunt is a lawyer and a member of the Kwakiutl Nation. Her practice areas include aboriginal law, specifically treaty negotiations, residential school claims, corporate and commercial, intellectual property, wills and estates as it relates to Aboriginal interests. She has also been a sessional professor at Thompson Rivers University and University of Victoria. Ms. Hunt has a long history of volunteerism with children and youth in the community. She is a member of the Equity and Diversity Committee of the Law Society of British Columbia.
Ms. Hunt was called to the Bar in B.C. in 1995 and started her career as an associate at the law firms of Mandell Pinder and Cook Roberts. She has been a sole practitioner for the past several years.
BY KELLY SINOSKI, VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 21, 2012 12:04 PM
Commissioner Wally Oppal says the withdrawal of Metis lawyer Robyn Gervais from the Missing Women inquiry caused him 'great concern.'
Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - Commissioner Wally Oppal has appointed lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt as independent co-counsel to represent aboriginal issues at the Missing Women's Inquiry.
The appointments, made to replace Metis lawyer Robyn Gervais who quit earlier this month, come a week-and-a-half before the Inquiry is set to resume on April 2. The hearings had been suspended as a result of Spring Break and to give the new lawyers a chance to get up to speed on the inquiry.
Commission Counsel Art Vertlieb, Q.C., said the two women are "respected, experienced legal professionals," and Oppal is confident the lawyers will ensure that Aboriginal interests are presented at the inquiry.
Narbonne has more than 20 years' experience as a lawyer, while Hunt, a member of the Kwakiutl Nation, is expected to bring the aboriginal perspective to the inquiry.
"This is just following the Commissioner's view which is that this is important," Vertlieb said. "I feel this will meet the needs of the Commission."
Gervais was appointed by the commission last August to represent aboriginal interests after all first nations groups withdrew from the inquiry when the provincial government refused to pay for legal funding. The government only paid for two lawyers to represent the families of the victims of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton.
Gervais then surprised the inquiry when she announced she was withdrawing for a number of reasons, including feeling that not enough aboriginal witnesses had been called.
Oppal said he wants the inquiry to produce a report to protect the lives of vulnerable women and he wants a lawyer representing aboriginal interests at the proceedings.
Narbonne said Wednesday she feels up the challenge. "At this point I'm just going to get myself up to speed," she said. "I don't know what we're going to achieve but I'm going to do my best ... I'm completely confident I'm up to this.
"I'm quite excited about it. I think it's going to be absolutely fascinating work and it's important."
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Sunday, March 18
Friday, March 16
Years after Pickton’s arrest, the killings have stopped in the Downtown Eastside, the violence has not
Brian Hutchinson Mar 16, 2012 – 11:11 PM ET | Last Updated: Mar 16, 2012 11:17 PM ET
Simon Hayter for National Post
“Leslie” works the corner at Heatley and Cordova in Vancouver on March 13. She has worked as a prostitute since her husband died about 10 years ago.
Sam has stepped away from her corner for a quick cigarette. It’s a slow night, mid-week, and she’s willing to talk. “Nobody likes this,” she says. “I’d rather be somewhere else, doing something better with my life.” Sam is a prostitute, one of about 400 who work the so-called low track, an outdoor stroll consisting of a dozen dark alleyways and side streets in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood filled with junkies, predators and creeps.
They call this survival sex work, and it’s as ugly as it gets. Men come here in vehicles for cheap thrills, and they treat the women — most of them drug addicts, about half of them aboriginal — like dirt. “Bad dates” are angry, aggressive guys who think it’s their right to belittle and threaten the women, hurt them. Or worse.
This is where dozens of women worked before disappearing. It’s where Robert “Willie” Pickton prowled about in a red pick-up truck. Pickton took prostitutes from these streets to his messy pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam, where he murdered them. Pickton was arrested in 2002 and charged with 26 counts of murder, and convicted of six counts of murder in 2007. The remaining 20 charges were stayed.
What has changed? The killings may have stopped, but the violence has not.
“Things are actually worse,” says Dave Dickson, a former Vancouver police officer who walked a beat in the Downtown Eastside for most of his 28-year career, which began in 1980. Mr. Dickson now works for a social service agency in the neighbourhood and keeps in touch with local sex trade workers, at least one of whom he knows began working at the age of 10.
“What you see now is a different kind of violence,” he says. “There are so many players down there now, it’s hard to keep track. Girls are getting beaten up. Girls are getting their hair chopped off. Sometimes it’s over drug debts. Sometimes it’s just sick behaviour by a predator. These guys are still out there, looking for girls, and the girls are easy to find.”
Pickton represents “just the tip of the iceberg,” according to John Lowman, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, and a prominent expert in prostitution issues and related law. “He was able to pick up women in the area without being seen. The situation hasn’t changed since his arrest. There are no eyes on the streets.”
Arlen Redekop / Postmedia News
Former Vancouver police officer Dave Dickson.
Despite its notoriety, there’s little police presence in the area, and almost no effort to enforce laws around prostitution. The Vancouver Police Department has for years left survival sex workers to their own devices, a practice that seems likely to continue. According to new “sex work enforcement guidelines,” which the National Post obtained this week, the VPD aims to follow a policy of “enforcement as a last resort … sex work involving consenting adults is not an enforcement priority for the VPD.”
This despite acknowledgement in the same guidelines that “violent crimes against sex workers are common. It is well known that those working on the streets, particularly those who are gay, female or transgendered, are at high risk of physical violence up to and including abduction and homicide.”
The VPD’s sex work enforcement guidelines are to be presented to the Vancouver Police Board next week. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who serves as board chairman, has talked about finding a comprehensive approach to deal with “negative impacts of the sex trade,” but nothing has been done to date. According to an official in the Mayor’s office, a city-wide task force on prostitution is “being developed right now and will be launched this spring.”
It’s a tardy response, at best. The city’s practice of keeping survival sex trade workers out of sight, out of mind — by pushing them into a dimly lit, isolated part of the most notorious neighbourhood in Canada — has had disastrous consequences.
According to Prof. Lowman, the long-standing “containment” strategy was conceived in the early 1990s, as a response to complaints from city residents. For obvious and quite legitimate reasons, people didn’t want sex trade workers doing business outside their homes and their children’s schools.
“Various devices and strategies were devised to move the [street prostitution] stroll to the north side of Hastings Street, into the industrial and commercial area, rather than the residential area,” Prof. Lowman has told the provincial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, set up to examine how police investigated both Pickton and cases of sex trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver’s low track.
‘Unfortunately, the area that they were moved to and the way things developed meant that those same women, in their spirit of co-operation, had unwittingly put themselves at greater risk’
“Unfortunately,” Prof. Lowman added, “the area that they were moved to and the way things developed meant that those same women, in their spirit of co-operation, had unwittingly put themselves at greater risk.”
He referred to the containment zone as an “orange light district,” because of its resemblance to red light districts, places where, in some countries, prostitution is officially sanctioned and regulated. “That’s really what it was,” said Prof. Lowman, “but nobody was admitting that’s what it was.”
Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal has also heard from Mr. Dickson, the former VPD officer; he appeared before the inquiry this month. He described a list he had made of women missing from the Downtown Eastside, years before Pickton was finally arrested and charged with their murder. Most of the missing were street prostitutes whom Mr. Dickson had known. Senior police managers refused to take him seriously, thinking he had become too invested in his work. They ignored his list.
“Most of the bosses thought he had been Stockholmed,” explained another former VPD officer, retired Staff Sergeant Doug MacKay-Dunn. The reference was to Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a hostage develops positive feelings for his kidnappers. Mr. Dickson “wasn’t believed, which was a problem.”
Worse, it’s alleged that police were themselves exploiting outdoor sex trade workers, within the very containment zone they had been directed to work. Mr. Dickson dropped the bombshell this week.
“There were some officers that would take advantage of women for sexual purposes,” Mr. Dickson testified. “I discovered one officer, for lack of a better term, preying on women and taking advantage of them. There were four that I would deem as vulnerable, and he was taking advantage of them.”
He told the inquiry he had raised concerns with senior VPD brass. As a result, one officer was transferred to other duties. But a VPD inspector later told Mr. Dickson that he didn’t consider the sexual encounters to be a problem. He compared them to a police officer having relations with courthouse staff.
After retiring from police work in 2008, Mr. Dickson learned of more cases that involved VPD members “abusing vulnerable women.” He told the inquiry he took those concerns to “management level [where] they were ignored.”
‘I discovered one officer, for lack of a better term, preying on women and taking advantage of them’
In an interview later, Mr. Dickson alleged the VPD has not taken appropriate steps to establish trust between its officers and survival sex trade workers. In the current situation, he says, officers cannot help the women who are working the streets. “The only contact the girls have with police is bad contact,” he said. “There is no positive action, no trust.”
If that’s the case, and if, as most observers agree, the survival sex trade is not going to disappear, what can be done to protect the most vulnerable women from violence? Ultimately, what is needed are solutions to poverty and addiction, says Prof. Lowman, to keep women away from the trade. But the debate over prostitution must be resolved first.
The sale and purchase of sex among consenting adults is not illegal in Canada, although many of the activities around them are, such as communication for the purposes of prostitution and operating a brothel. This curious Canadian paradox has, in effect, pushed a legal activity underground and has made outlaws of women selling sex on the street.
“Those most likely to be criminalized are primarily vulnerable women facing various difficulties including poverty, homelessness and drug dependency,” reads a December 2006 report from a parliamentary Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws. “They also engage in the most dangerous type of prostitution, street prostitution.” Adding to the confusion, police in cities such as Vancouver have decided to relax, if not abandon, enforcement efforts.
‘Those most likely to be criminalized are primarily vulnerable women facing various difficulties including poverty, homelessness and drug dependency’
There is consensus that the laws should be adjusted to long-standing realities. The federal Conservative party response, according to the subcommittee report, is to recognize adult prostitutes as victims, and to protect them by getting tough with their clients and pimps. The Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois parties, on the other hand, have advocated the decriminalization of prostitution, making it subject to local laws and restrictions.
These could include requirements to force all sales of sex indoors, where some feel it is safer, especially for women providing the service.
“Strike the criminal code provisions [on prostitution-related activities] immediately,” says Karen Mirsky, a Vancouver lawyer and board chairman of PACE, a sex worker support centre in the Downtown Eastside. “Set up indoor houses. They could be up and running in a few weeks. That would help.”
She means non-profit brothels, to operate within Vancouver’s existing “orange light district.” These could be required to have public health staff on hand, just as gay bath houses are already required. It might be one way to approach the current problem, agrees Prof. Lowman, although he can already hear a negative public response.
Back on her corner, Sam says she’d rather work inside than on a dark street, where business remains dangerous, and brisk. “I’d rather not be working at all,” she says. “But who cares what I think, right? This is the low track. We don’t exist.”
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 16, 2012 5:01 PM
The jurors at Robert (Willie) Pickton's trial never heard the testimony of a sex-trade worker who alleged the accused took her to his Port Coquitlam farm for sex, slapped handcuffs on one wrist and stabbed her nearly to death.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver police board will consider next week adopting new sex worker enforcement guidelines that will encourage officers to treat sex trade workers with dignity and respect in order to build relationships and increase the safety and protection of vulnerable women working the streets.
"The VPD does not seek to increase the inherent dangers faced by sex trade workers, especially survival sex workers," says the report by VPD Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke.
"Therefore, where there are nuisance related complaints against survival sex workers, alternative measures and assistance must be considered with enforcement as a last resort."
"Historically, there has little trust between sex workers and the police," the report said, explaining the reasoning for the new approach.
It added that "indiscriminate enforcement of the prostitution laws can undermine sex trade workers' relationships with police and decrease their ability to reach out to police for help."
The new guidelines come after concerns have been raised at the Missing Women inquiry about sex trade workers not wanting to report rapes and other violence by customers because of fear of being arrested or experiencing discrimination by police.
The inquiry, which resumes April 2, is looking at why police didn't catch serial killer Robert Pickton sooner.
Pickton preyed on drug-addicted sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and is believed to have killed 49 women before he was arrested in 2002.
"The VPD values building relationships with those involved in the sex industry in order to increase the safety of workers, reduce victimization and violence and, where appropriate (such as with children and teens) to assist with exit strategies," said Lemcke's report, which will be presented to the police board for discussion next Wednesday.
The report said the VPD will still respond to community complaints and consider enforcement action, but acknowledges that "enforcement action is sometimes at odds with relationship building, though both are necessary as part of a comprehensive approach to policing."
The new guidelines recommend enforcement action that "will be the least minimally intrusive strategy to keep both the sex worker(s) safe and mitigate the issue."
Kate Gibson, executive director of the WISH Drop-in Centre for sex workers, said the new strategy sends a clear message to sex workers and officers on the street about the force trying to boost trust.
"It's a good thing because it sends a clear message to officers on the beat and in cars," she said Friday. "What we really need to do is focus on the perpetrators."
She said new VPD guidelines may be the first of their kind across Canada.
The proposed enforcement strategy is called ICEEE, which stands for "investigate, communicate, educate, enforcement and exit," the report says.
"Enforcement action will be taken in situations deemed 'high risk' due to the involvement of sexually exploited children/youth, gangs/organized crime, exploitation, sexual abuse, violence and human trafficking," Lemcke's report said.
Some of the new enforcement guidelines are:
- Both patrol and the vice unit will build rapport with sex workers by offering assistance, providing safety information and will discuss options regarding locations of work so as to avoid residential areas, parks and schools.
- Where sex trade workers are the subject of complaints, officers will engage the Sex Industry Liaison officer or an appropriate community outreach service to help resolve the problem.
- Where enforcement is deemed necessary, officers will show respect and dignity to those involved (eg. providing blankets or robes for sex workers while in the presence of police executing a search warrant).
- The VPD will monitor and maintain intelligence reports to identify and track potentially violent sex trade "consumers/exploitive abusers." (police already monitor the “bad date sheet” put out by WISH, which lists physical descriptions of violent customers and their vehicles).
- The VPD will utilize the Sex Industry Liaison officer to participate in a dialogue with local government committees to assist in the continuing support strategies for sex trade workers.
Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness said Friday the report refers to "many of the initiatives the VPD has developed and implemented in recent years, many of which we continue to build upon.
“Successful programs like Sister Watch and our Sex Industry Liaison officer position have helped us to further protect women working in the sex industry and address high-risk safety concerns," she said.
"We recognize that there is still more work to do to overcome the distrust of police which will in turn increase reporting and help to end the violence endured by women in the sex industry," McGuinness added.
Lemcke’s full report is online here.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Thursday, March 15
By Carlito Pablo, March 15, 2012
Jennifer Allan cofounded the citizens’ group Vancouver Cop Watch to ensure that people arrested in the Downtown Eastside are treated according to procedure.
They’re out there observing, silently recording. They patrol day and night. They’re packing digital and cellphone cameras. They’re involved in the serious business of watching cops in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
These people are volunteers with a new citizens’ group called Vancouver Cop Watch. According to the group’s cofounder Jennifer Allan, their goal is to expose abuses by the Vancouver Police Department. They also want to tell the suits at city hall that people deserve better policing.
Allan is no stranger to the Downtown Eastside. She’s the force behind Jen’s Kitchen, an initiative that provides free food and other goodies to poor sex workers in the streets of the neighbourhood. It’s an area known in police circles as District 2.
“One of the complaints we have about District 2 is about how the Vancouver police were arresting people and taking them off to other areas and beating them up instead of taking them to a jail,” Allan told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “So what we do is that, when in the Downtown Eastside, whenever we see the police arresting someone, we follow behind them to make sure that the person makes it to the jail.”
Many members of Vancouver Cop Watch do their surveillance discreetly because cops aren’t too happy being observed.
“Over a hundred of us come to the Downtown Eastside at various times, day and night,” Allan said. “We do street patrols. We do surveillance on the police.”
On four occasions, Allan has followed police and made sure they’ve taken the person they arrested to jail and not elsewhere. She doesn’t mind letting police know that she’s there.
“I’m right up in their face with a camera and let them know, ‘You’re being watched,’ ” she related. “And the purpose of that…is to make the police uncomfortable. So that way, when they think about breaking the law or hurting people in the Downtown Eastside, they’ll remember, ‘Wait a minute. Somebody’s filming us somewhere. Someone’s watching.’ ”
There’s a reason why Vancouver Cop Watch concentrates on this poor neighbourhood.
“I talk to people, you know, like in the West End and ask them, ‘You have any issues with your police? Like, are your police harassing you or do they do anything?’ ” Allan said. “And a lot of them are like, ‘No. They’re a part of the community.’ And I can feel that because I live in the West End. And I can really feel when I come to this area of Vancouver that the police are part of the community, unlike when you go into the Downtown Eastside.”
Vancouver Cop Watch has no official website. But they’re on Twitter (@VanCopWATCH) and Facebook. Allan takes complaints against cops at 778-788-1545 .
The cop watchers have also teamed up with the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council. This organization includes veteran activist Ann Livingston. Every Friday, the two groups meet for dinner to discuss complaints from residents against the police.
Today (March 15), Allan and Livingston will emcee the first-ever rally organized by Vancouver Cop Watch. For this event, organizers plan to close the intersection of Main and Hastings streets starting at 6 p.m.
March 15 also marks the International Day Against Police Brutality. Earlier in the day, around 1 p.m., a separate rally unaffiliated with Vancouver Cop Watch will be held in front of the police station at 312 Main Street.
Craigslist and Facebook postings about the rally at the station read: “We’re not anti-police... We’re anti-police brutality.”
The VPD didn’t make a spokesperson available for comment before the Straight’s deadline.
Wednesday, March 14
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE MARCH 14, 2012 7:02 PM
Lawyer Jason Gratl says women are reluctant to report violence because they may be arrested for outstanding warrants.
Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG files
The missing women inquiry is being asked to recommend that a woman who is the victim of a violent crime should not be arrested herself if she goes to police.
“Any person who is a victim of violence, or who wants to report a crime, should be permitted to do so without fear of arrest,” said lawyer Jason Gratl, who was appointed by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to represent the Downtown Eastside.
“That would be a very good practical outcome of the Oppal inquiry, to recommend a temporary moratorium on arrests of women who have been assaulted themselves and wish to report that or any other crime.”
Gratl argues that police have “a great deal of discretion” over which laws to arrest and which warrants to exercise.
In fact, VPD spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton confirmed that there has been a dramatic change in police enforcement of criminal laws against prostitution.
Statistics show that there were 398 prostitution charges in 2006 in the Downtown Eastside alone.
But Houghton noted, “since 2007 three females have been arrested and charged with [soliciting], one in 2008, one in 2009, and one in 2011. No females were charged in 2007 or 2010.” No women were convicted in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
“Enforcement is only considered as a last-resort option if the risks and dangers to a female or public are so great that we need to compel her out of the situation through enforcement/court enforceable measures,” said Houghton.
Advocates for Downtown Eastside residents and sex-trade workers say that almost everyone has a warrant out for their arrest at any given time, so women don’t want to go near police, even if they’ve been viciously assaulted.
Vancouver police patrol officers make at least three “street checks” per block while on patrol, residents say. That means those checked must produce identification and their names are “run” through CPIC to check for warrants.
If the unlucky woman’s name pops up on the Canadian Police Information Centre database, she could be warned or, more often, arrested and taken into custody.
“Women are picked up right off the street into jail on remand, which could be for a very long time, so a woman will choose to stay quiet about an assault rather than approach police,” says VANDU founder Ann Livingston.
Dolores Jury and Tracey Morrison, who walk Downtown Eastside streets handing out condoms to sex workers and checking on their safety, say that women won’t go to police because they fear either being arrested or “being called a rat.”
“The cops run your name through the computer and go ‘oh I’m supposed to arrest you’ but we have no way of finding out if we do have warrants,” said Morrison, who lives in a DTES hotel room.
Residents often lack a permanent address, phone and computer access.
“You get a ticket for vending, or spitting, which is like $167, and when you can’t pay or don’t know to go to court, they issue a warrant,” said Morrison.
Jury, who said she is an alcoholic but doesn’t do drugs, said some drug dealers resent their advocacy and can target them, but police won’t help.
Jury said she was so terrifed recently by a group of Caribbean, Toronto-based drug dealers coming toward her that she ran into traffic to escape them.
Jury said a police officer then gave her a ticket for jaywalking.
“If you’re being chased, you run to a drug dealer, because he’ll know your face and protect you, but the police will just pick on you,” says Jury.
“I told the cop that I was scared of those men and to go after the drug dealers and he said they weren’t doing anything illegal, but I was.”
In a VANDU meeting this week, more than half of about 60 people in the room held up their hands when asked if they suspected or knew they had a warrant out for their arrest.
Charges ranged from spitting or drinking in public, or were drug-related.
Few of the women interviewed knew that the VPD is not arresting women for prostitution. “They still threaten that all the time,” said an older woman.
The same group, asked whether they believe police will protect them, indicated through a show of hands, and in interviews, that people consider police the enemy rather than their friends.
“There are exactly two cops down here who trust as friends,” said Morrison.
“I had a man in here recently who saw an older man beaten badly on the street and had a big gash on his chin, so the witness called 911,” says Hugh Lampkin, president of VANDU. “The police got there before the ambulance and the first thing they did was run the names of the victim and witness through CPIC, even though the man was lying there bleeding.”
Gratl said the VPD is being “disingenuous” in saying it is no longer targeting sex workers. “There is still total disempowerment, because the warrants or threat of charges are held over the women’s heads by police,” said Gratl.
“We need a clear statement of policy by the VPD that they won’t arrest a woman who has been assaulted or been a witness to a violent crime.”
VPD spokeswoman Cst. Jana McGuinness said police are trying to work with women in the DTES to build trust through programs such as Sister Watch, where community leaders meet regularly with police.
© Copyright (c) The Province
Monday, March 12
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 12, 2012 3:58 PM
Commissioner Wally Oppal issues statement at beginning of Missing Women Inquiry on Monday, March 12, 2012.
Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG
VANCOUVER - The Missing Women inquiry is going to take a break to replace the lawyer representing aboriginal interests who quit last week.
Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal said today that he has asked commission counsel Art Vertlieb to find a lawyer to represent aboriginal interests and will allow that lawyer two weeks to get up to speed.
The inquiry plans to adjourn until April 2.
This comes after the resignation last week of Robyn Gervais, a Metis lawyer appointed by the commission last August to represent aboriginal interests.
Gervais was appointed after all first nations groups withdrew from the inquiry when the provincial government refused to pay for legal funding -- the government only paid for two lawyers to represent the families of the victims of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton.
Gervais surprised the inquiry last week when she announced she was withdrawing from the inquiry for a number of reasons, including feeling that not enough aboriginal witnesses had been called.
"Her withdrawal from the proceedings gave me great concern," Oppal told the inquiry today.
He said he wants the inquiry to produce a report to protect the lives of vulnerable women and he wants a lawyer representing aboriginal interests at the proceedings.
Art Vertlieb, counsel for inquiry, told Oppal that he has contacted an experienced, well-respected lawyer to take over the role of representing aboriginal interests.
Oppal will have to appoint the lawyer.
"It's too little too late," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Chiefs, said of Oppal's attempt to carry on the inquiry with a new lawyer to represent aboriginal interests.
He said the inquiry was fatally compromised last year when the government refused to fund lawyers to represent aboriginal organizations and women's groups at the inquiry.
"At that point, the aboriginal voice was relegated to the sidelines," Phillip said.
"It's very late in the inquiry," he added. "Parachuting somebody in at the 11th hour isn't going to change that reality."
Ernie Crey, an aboriginal leader and a family member affected by the Pickton tragedy -- the DNA of Crey's younger sister Dawn, who disappeared in 2000, was found at the Pickton farm but the serial killer was never charged with her murder -- said the inquiry suffered a major blow to its credibility when Gervais withdrew.
"I'm not sure who would be up to the challenge," he said of Oppal's plan to replace Gervais.
Still, he added: "Oppal is capable of producing a good report as far as policing is concerned."
Crey said the aboriginal community will have to wait until the United Nation conducts its inquiry.
Last December, it was announced that a UN committee plans to investigate the allegation that 600 aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing over the last 20 years.
Before the UN begins its probe, it first needs the consent of the federal government
The Missing Women inquiry was already planning to take a one-week break next week.
Outside the inquiry, Vertlieb was asked by reporters how the latest delay will affect the inquiry, which began last Oct. 11 and planned to wrap up hearings by the end of April.
He said the inquiry will press on with its mandate.
The inquiry is supposed to submit its report to government by the end of June.
The inquiry is probing why police didn't catch until 2002, despite Vancouver police receiving credible tips in 1998 and 1999 that Pickton may be responsible for the continuing disappearance of prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Pickton once told an undercover officer he killed 49 women.
He now is serving multiple life sentences for six murders he was convicted of in 2007.
After Pickton lost all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial for another 20 murders.
The inquiry completed Monday the cross-examination of four retired Vancouver police officers: former deputy chief Gary Greer, former inspector Ken Beach, former staff-sgt. Doug MacKay-Dunn and former constable Dave Dickson.
Dickson, questioned by Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing 25 families of murdered women, testified that a handful of VPD officers "took advantage" of DTES prostitutes by receiving sexual favours.
Dickson recalled he told an inspector about one officer who "took advantage of four women using the uniform" and the officer was moved out of the area.
He recalled that he was later called in to a meeting with Insp. Al Grandia in internal affairs, who suggested the officer's relationship with prostitutes was no different than if the officer in question had an affair with someone at the courthouse.
Dickson recalled he was disgusted and walked out of the meeting with Grandia.
"You took your concerns to the management level and they were ignored? Is that a fair summary" Ward asked.
"That's a fair summary," Dickson replied.
The inquiry was expected to begin hearing today from another panel of former Vancouver police managers.
But that panel will delayed until a lawyer is appointed to represent aboriginal interests.
When the inquiry resumes April 2, it will hear from a native liaison panel, which will include Freda Ens and Morris Bates of the Native Liaison Society, and a VPD native liaison officer.
Ward raised questions Monday about why hundreds of officers were assigned to investigate the kidnapping of Graham McMynn, who was from a wealthy part of town, but the same resources weren't devoted to the dozens of women who went missing from the DTES.
Greer said the McMynn case had a clear crime and crime scene, whereas the missing women case had no crime scene and no clear evidence of crimes being committed.
MacKay-Dunn suggested the people of the Downtown Eastside are an "underclass" worthy of police attention.
He said too many new officers suffer from "Starsky and Hutch syndrome" - they want to kick down doors and make arrests - and say "We're not social workers" to avoid taking responsibility for those in the DTES.
"We don't spend the time helping these folks get back on their feet and clean up," MacKay-Dunn said.
He reiterated the need for more drug treatment and detox programs in the DTES to get to the root of the problem.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun