VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Prayer service set for eve of Pickton hearing
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Police officers, scientists and the families of the missing women have been invited to attend a special prayer ceremony at a longhouse Sunday, on the eve of accused serial killer Robert Pickton's preliminary hearing.
Victims' services officials have been calling the families of Vancouver's 60 missing women and police officers have been told of the invitation issued by Katzie First Nation elder Agnes Pierre, who is also a member of the RCMP's national aboriginal advisory committee.
"We know the turmoil the families must be in and we wanted to offer our prayers and words of encouragement to help relieve a little bit of their pain, to let them know they are not alone at this terrible time," said Pierre, who met this week with RCMP Staff Sgt. Murray Lunn, the officer in charge of site security at the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam. "The longhouse is our church, it's our place of healing and learning and we are leaving it open to the police officers and the people who have to work at that place with death all the time to come to get some comfort and strength."
The Pickton farm on Dominion Road is a 15-minute drive from the Swan-e-set longhouse on the Katzie reserve, where the prayer ceremony will be held at noon Sunday, followed by prayers outside the pig farm itself.
The Pickton farm falls within the traditional territory of the Katzie, who are Sto:lo Nation members.
Lunn, who visited the longhouse this week, said he appreciates Pierre's invitation.
"My understanding is they're offering support and prayers for everybody involved, families and investigators. "We've asked victims' services to call all the family members and officers will be notified."
Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry vanished in 1997, said she "appreciates what the Katzie people are offering," and Carrie Kerr, whose sister Helen Hallmark is one of Pickton's alleged murder victims, said she and her mother Kathleen Hallmark will try to attend.
Pierre said the media are not invited to the longhouse. "We want people to have privacy and feel at ease."
Pickton, 53, is charged with the murders of 15 of the 60 women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
His preliminary hearing starts Monday but his publicly funded lawyer, Peter Ritchie, who will be in Port Coquitlam court today to discuss disclosure, has complained that he has still not resolved funding issues with the B.C. government.
Pickton is co-owner of a farm that has become the focus of Canada's largest serial killer investigation. As many as 100 police officers, forensic scientists and students have been sifting through soil on giant conveyor belts, several of which are now covered from the weather.
© Copyright 2003 The Province
Updated: January 01, 2007