Missing women must not be forgotten to time, say locals

By Matthew Burrows

May 19, 2006

As the May 25 pre-trial conference of Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert William Pickton nears, two advocates working with women on the Downtown Eastside are in the early planning stages for a lasting memorial for all women who died from the Downtown Eastside.

Marlene Trick (left) and Carol Martin, with poster of missing women. The two are on a committee dedicated to setting up a lasting memorial to missing women. Photos by Doug Shanks.

This includes the 15 women Pickton stands accused of murdering, though the total number of missing faces identified numbers 69, with three unidentified and many more unknown.

The lasting memorial is slated to cost around $100,000 and will be unveiled sometime in the summer of 2007, according to Carnegie Community Centre's community programmer Marlene Trick.

"The idea is that the artist [picked to work on the memorial] will also include the people in this community," says Trick. "This is an opportunity for people in the community to pay a tribute to these women in a meaningful way. It's definitely about time we had this."

Trick reiterates the desire of many who knew missing/murdered women in the Downtown Eastside to see something lasting and fitting erected in their honour.

Carol Martin, victim services worker at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, is one such person who had contact with many of the women.

Last Friday was a busy day for Martin, who ducked out of the Carrall Street centre for an hour to meet with Trick.

"I knew some of the women," she says somberly, on her way up Carrall Street. "You don't forget them, but working in this centre you see so many faces all the time you can't really dwell on it, because things are always changing down here. But yes, I knew some of them."

Martin moved to Vancouver, she says, to "lose herself" and flee an abusive family in Prince Rupert, but instead she found the women in the Downtown Eastside.

Trick has worked in the community nine years, and enjoys what she does, but admits the daily combination of impoverished seniors, addicts and SRO dwellers can wear on you.

"They are wearing me out," she laughs, before her serious demeanor returns. "I have never known so much death in all my life. Hardly a month goes by without someone passing away."

But the plight of the missing women represents an especially shameful chapter of Vancouver's history, and every year Trick helps organize the Women's Memorial March to bring that to the forefront.

Originally started in 1991 to commemorate the death of a woman on Powell Street, it has taken on added significance over the last three years since Pickton.

This year, on Feb. 14, 500 people showed up. In 2002, shortly after the raid on Pickton's pig farm, there were 700 in attendance at Main and Hastings.

Trick says she is not sure what form the memorial will take, but says it will likely involve a "stone and water" theme.

"It is going to be for all the women who have died in this community and left a void here," she says. "We have $6,746 left from the two women's marches, and we're at about $10,000 overall. But we plan to begin fundraising in the fall with an art auction and go from there."

Currently there is a bench in Crab Park, right at the Burrard Inlet, dedicated to the missing women and a general commemorative pole in Oppenheimer Park.

Maggie deVries, sister of Sarah deVries, who vanished from the Downtown Eastside in 1998, has heard of Trick's proposal and is calling it a "good idea."

"I guess that's a bit of a no-brainer," said deVries, speaking from Victoria, where she spends three days of the week at Orca Book Publishers. "It sounds like it is in the early stages, with no concrete plans yet. In terms of what I think, I'd say it's important for the women in the community to be involved and coming up with ideas, as it's their community and some of the women were their friends and loved ones."

Courtesy of



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016