Eastside victim's relative speaks out
Mother-in-law breaks her silence, calls for answers

Globe and Mail

June 27, 2006

VANCOUVER -- When Patricia Johnson was alive, the government never gave her as much as a penny to help her break her drug habit.

After she was killed, the B.C. government offered $5,000 to her children for counselling because their mother had been murdered.

That's not the way it should be, Ms. Johnson's mother-in-law, Laura Tompkins, said yesterday during an emotional address at the World Peace Forum in Vancouver.

"The forces that created this terrible tragedy can be changed. Something should be done about it," she said.

Ms. Johnson was last seen Feb. 27, 2001, near the intersection of Hastings and Main streets.

"She vanished right off the face of the earth and she was only 24 years old," Ms. Tompkins said.

Ms. Johnson was vulnerable, a woman in the Downtown Eastside who was doing what she had to do to support herself and her drug habit, Ms. Tompkins said.

"She was not proud of what she was doing. But she was a person with a lot of dignity and inner strength. I loved her a lot," she said.

Port Coquitlam farmer Robert Pickton has been charged with the murders of Ms. Johnson and 25 other women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Most of the women were drug addicted and supported their habits through prostitution.

Mr. Pickton's trial is in its fifth month of hearing motions on the admissibility of evidence. A court order prohibits publication of evidence before the material is presented to a jury. Selection of a jury is expected later this year.

Ms. Tompkins said she is pleased that the criminal justice system is dealing with the murders. But she said she is concerned about social justice and the lack of change in the Downtown Eastside.

She said she had been reluctant to speak out publicly, preferring to protect the privacy of the family, and especially of Ms. Johnson's children. But she decided to break her silence to draw attention to the pressing need for change before the publication ban on reporting the evidence is lifted.

"We can talk about social justice and the values our community have without all that other publicity," she said.

"We need to look at the reason these things occur," she asserted, pointing her finger at the lack of government support for drug rehabilitation and authorities' reluctance to investigate complaints about prostitutes who go missing. Foremost, she said, she wants to know why her daughter-in-law was killed.

She believes her daughter-in-law was murdered with the complicity of the entire city of Vancouver, which she said tolerates the conditions in the Downtown Eastside.

"Collectively, it is our responsibility. We let that happen," she said, adding that she is equally concerned about women who have gone missing in Prince George, Edmonton and elsewhere in Canada.

Ms. Tompkins was also worried about the attention that the trial may bring to the victims' families.

Representatives of the government's victims' services branch have warned the families to brace themselves.

"They said, be prepared, it is going to be really, really bad," she said.

Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Light and Darkness in Canada-June 1, 2003



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