Saturday, November 29, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


I have recently become involved in a project to turn the notorious Pickton property into a Memorial Park and of course nestled among the park trees would be a commemorative area for the women murdered there.

This land I have referred to as a cemetery and I say this not as disrespect to the women who were tortured there.

We will never know how many women are actually buried on this property and I'm strongly of the opinion that the only appropriate redress is by honouring them in a substantial way. Their place on earth must have some meaning and we must never forget the atrocities which happened on that property. We must turn what happened there into something positive.

If the land was paved over with concrete for big box stores or condo developments, this would be a further indignity to the women who lost their lives there. We can honour the women and pay tribute to them by remembering them in a beautiful setting and the proposed memory gardens would bring healing for many. Society also needs to heal from the horrendous brutalization which took place.

A few families of the murdered women are expressing concerns that it would be inappropriate to have a memorial garden on the Port Coquitlam farm.

Of course mainstream media are fuelling this position by continually asking bereaved family members what they think of the idea of the memorial garden concept on this property.

Media and even some family are forgetting something key in all this and that is, many of their family members also had other family.

The Pickton victims had friends and lived in communities which became their surrogate families. These family members, include cherished friends, lovers and boyfriends, vital care-givers & advocates also experienced loss.

These individuals also have valid perspectives regarding planning around the concept of a Memorial garden and Memorial legacy fund. These forgotten folks, of which many provided on-going daily support also have vested interests in what are appropriate actions and tributes to the women who were so tragically taken from us.

I ask family members to consider this.

Other community members are hurting as much as you and their opinions in this affair should not be discounted simply because they were not blood related. So far their perspectives have been completely over-looked. Personally I know many who are hurting with no place to properly remember or grieve just like you and this is tragic.

Many forms of families exist in society and especially none more so than in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where many of the women were forced to live after their broken lives and families fell apart.

This community was left to pick up the pieces after the women's lives spiralled out of control. Living in poverty, drug addicted amid lost hope were daily staples of life for the now murdered women. Many of these women had community families which they leaned on for support and we must not ever forget this.

The murdered women in unique ways had community in which they were accepted and were part of. Friends who they interacted with, including care-givers, faith groups, advocates and even business operators addressed their worth and human potential with compassion, respect and dignity. Many worked hard to lessen the pain of others,including the Pickton victims who supported other women to ensure their lives had some comforting and happier qualities to it.

The depravity which occurred at the Pickton property should never of happened, moreover, we must never allow it to happen again.

We must collectively share the blame for what happened, however, we must move beyond blame and begin to heal. We must move forward.

We can work to ensure the murdered women have positive lasting legacies. Their legacies should not be Pickton's legacy and I believe the creation of a Memorial Park and the Women's Memorial Legacy Fund will bring redress for the absolute degradation which occurred.

It seems only fitting that those who care and cared about what happened to the murdered women step forward, which many of us are doing, committing and re-dedicating ourselves to continued advocacy on behalf of our deceased friends, family and community members. The women who lost their lives prematurely and through no fault of their own, deserve this respect and honour.

Caring members of society need to come together and work across our values and differences to make this memorial Park into a place where people can visit, grieve, pay respect and honour the countless lives which were stolen. A Memorial Park will enshrine that the victims are never forgotten.

One group, PICA (Professionals in Care Alliance) led by past Notary President, Tom Crean and landscape architect and former MLA, Art Cowie and this blog-writer, among others have stepped forward and initiated re-dress among one of the worst human tragedies in Canadian history.

I'm happy to be working with PICA as a community liaison. Already I have met with a number of family members, interested parties and community members who are supportive of the proposed Memorial Park and Women's Legacy Fund.

Creating lasting legacies and remembrances of the murdered women is beneficial in so many ways.

Children of the deceased will have opportunity to access scholarship funds or to assist with education. Women trapped in addictions or the survival sex trade will have the potential to access treatment or detox programs and groups working to advance rights will gain from legacy funds being available to assist with their work. Most importantly, we all have an opportunity to finally put closure to the carnage by re-shaping the tragedy into lasting, fitting and honoured tributes.

Commemorating the lives of women across this country who are still missing will ensure we never forget or turn our backs on those less fortunate in our society.

While it is understandable that a few family members feel squeamish over this Memorial Park, the process which will be followed is based on trust, consultation, community visioning, love and respect.

Many cherished family and friends are supporting this Memorial Park and Women's Legacy project and I hope all those who have ever lost a loved one or cared about this deeply troubling carnage join us in creating something powerful which bring a message that the murdered women's lives had meaning.

Let us honour their places here on earth.

Jamie Lee Hamilton