VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Foster brother of alleged Pickton victim furious he's not considered family
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
VANCOUVER (CP) - The foster brother of a woman allegedly killed by Robert Pickton is furious he's being denied funding to attend the trial on the basis of not being a blood relative.
Greg Garley was Mona Wilson's foster brother for eight years. Wilson is one of 26 women Pickton has been charged with killing and he will stand trial for her murder and five others starting on Monday.
"I am her brother, but I can't go. We raised her, but I can't go," said Garley, whose family raised several foster children.
"We're the ones that opened our doors, took them in, fed them, housed them, took them to school, took them on holidays to Disneyland, but suddenly we don't matter."
Family members of Pickton's alleged victims can apply for provincial funding to attend the trial under the auspices of the Victim Services' Program.
Family will have a special seating area in both the main and overflow courtrooms, as well as a respite room in another section of the courthouse.
There are 86 seats set aside for family members.
The catch with the program is that only two family members will be funded to attend the trial and Victims Services only pays for a maximum five-day stay.
Garley said the province reneged Wednesday on an offer to cover the cost of his trip from Peachland, in the B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, to Vancouver for the trial, even though he was told Tuesday he could receive the money.
Victim Services spokeswoman Pardeep Purewal said in an interview late Wednesday that though the province was only allocating funding for two family members to travel, that didn't mean others would be turned away from the courthouse.
"Anyone can attend the trial," she said. "The limit only applies to who we can provide funding for.
"We'll do our best to make sure all the family members have a seat."
How those seats were being allocated among family members was being determined on a case-by-case basis, but families connected to the six charges at trial were being given priority.
Purewal said there was no limit on funding for victim's services like counselling but when it came to travel costs, the province had to draw a line.
Determining which family members are eligible for travel funding is being left up to the families, Purewal said, adding she could not speak about Garley's case specifically.
The province has asked the person designated as the main family contact by the Joint Missing Women's Task Force to discuss among known family members who will get the money, said Purewal.
"We can't make that decision for them," she said.
Garley said Wilson's blood relatives had already been allocated funding.
"People who had nothing to do with (these women's) upbringing, they are the ones the government is going to fly from wherever and put in hotels and bring to the trial," Garley said.
Wilson was the youngest of five siblings.
Georgina Papin's daughter Kristina Bateman was told this week she also couldn't receive funding to travel from her home in Las Vegas to Vancouver. Two of her aunts had already signed up to attend the trial.
Papin's death is also among those being covered in the upcoming trial.
"I guess I'll have to try and come another time," Bateman said in an interview on Wednesday. "My aunts will be there, so that's good at least."
The program is governed by the Crime Victim Assistance Act, which defines what family means when the province is giving aid.
Foster families are included in that definition.
Victim Services initially connected with families thanks to a list provided by the Joint Missing Woman's Task Force.
They also added family members to the list as they became known to them.
Purewal said contact had been made with more than 200 family members and to the best of her knowledge, staff had managed to reach family of every one of the 26 women.
Inga Monique Hall's daughter said she's never heard from them.
"I've never once gotten a call from police, from the government, anyone," Dianna Hall said in an interview.
Hall wasn't aware of the funding or a handbook mailed to families on how to handle the upcoming trial.
Garley would likely be known to Victim Services' as he had been approved for consulting money by the same program over the last few years. But he had never been contacted by staff regarding the trial, he said.
After being informed by The Canadian Press last week that Victim Services' was offering travel and lodging assistance to family members, he called the program himself.
He said he was initially told on Tuesday they'd help cover the cost of his trip from Peachland to Vancouver.
He said they called Wednesday morning to say he wouldn't be given funding.
He called the process "discrimination."
"Accommodate the people that raised these children from little kids into young women," he said.
"We were there. A lot of these blood relatives, I'm sure they are all great but where were they? We raised their kids and we don't get any acknowledgement at all."
© The Canadian Press 2007
Updated: August 21, 2016