Film goes beyond missing woman's case

Debuting at the 11th annual Amnesty International film festival, NFB documentary examines violence against native women

Kevin Griffin
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Of the 60 missing women from the Downtown Eastside, almost half were native. Number 23 was Dawn Crey, one of the People of the River, the Sto:lo from the upper Fraser Valley around Chilliwack. Her remains were found on Robert Pickton's farm but there wasn't enough DNA to include Crey as one of 26 women he's charged with killing.

Dawn Crey (right) and her sister Lorraine from the NFB film Finding Dawn about the 500 native women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada during the last 30 years.

In the National Film Board documentary Finding Dawn, Crey becomes much more than a number. She becomes a daughter and a sister who was on methadone and trying to turn her life around when she disappeared.

But as her brother, Ernie, says, Dawn didn't live in a tony west-side neighbourhood with political connections. Because she lived in one of the country's poorest urban areas, he says, Dawn's disappearance along with the other missing women wasn't given the attention by police that they deserved.

"These are not powerful people in this society," said Ernie Crey, a policy adviser for the Sto:lo Tribal Council.

"We cannot pretend that police are equally responsive to different parts of society."

Finding Dawn receives its local premiere this evening at 7 p.m. when it opens the 11th annual Amnesty International Film Festival at Pacific Cinematheque. Due to demand, the festival has added a second screening of Finding Dawn on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

Metis filmmaker Christine Welsh takes Dawn's story as a starting point for a journey into the native women who have gone missing or been murdered in Western Canada in communities such as Saskatoon or along Highway 16, the Yellowhead in northern B.C. Welsh, who narrates the film, never uses the "r" word as the cause, although she easily could have to describe what's happened to native women. Instead, Welsh interviews the relatives and friends who not only talk about never forgetting those who have been murdered, but of changing attitudes that treat native women as marginalized and disposable.

One of the many powerful native women interviewed in Welsh's documentary is Mattie Wilson, mother of Daleen, who was murdered on Highway 16. She's part of a group that holds a three-km walk every year from where Daleen was last seen to where her body was found.

"I will let people know we will never forget the loved ones killed along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears," Wilson says.

When Wilson speaks, her voice sounds soft and small. But when you listen, you hear the power of her love for her daughter in every word.

Finding Dawn is more about the living than the dead and how native women are organizing to combat violence against native women. Going way beyond media stereotypes of native women as victims, it presents the real stories of native women who are actively engaged in making changes on and off reserve.

The AI Film Festival is showing 21 films about human rights during the next four days. Other films being screened include:

Visioning Tibet: Ophthalmologist Marc Lieberman, founder of Tibet Vision Project, hopes to end preventable blindness in Tibet, which has the highest rate of cataract blindness in the world. Isaac Solotaroff's documentary follows Karma and Lhasang who travel to a remote clinic where they hope doctors can restore their sight using equipment and training provided by Lieberman. Visioning Tibet is on Friday at 9:30 p.m. following Missing: Sri Lanka's Silent Tsunami.

Total Denial: Five years in the making, Total Denial is about Ka Hsaw Wa's battle on behalf of the Karen people of Burma to gather information on human rights abuses and environmental damage that resulted in a lawsuit against two multinational law companies: Total of France and Unocal of the U.S.

It screens Saturday at 3:25 p.m.

The Tank Man: In June 1988, the world watched a lone man staring down a procession of tanks in Tiananmen Square. In the process of trying to find the story of the courageous man, the producers of this Frontline documentary discover a continuing fight between the communist government and those who want a more open society.

The last film in the festival, it will be shown on Sunday at 9:35 p.m. There's no charge for admission to this special presentation.

A full list of the films is available at Tickets are available through

 The Vancouver Sun 2006

FINDING DAWN - National Film Board of Canada



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

Updated: August 21, 2016