Andrea Joesbury

Andrea taught baby sister dance moves, shared secrets

By Dirk Meissner
The Canadian Press

Andrea Joesbury was the kind of big sister little sisters dream about.

She included her baby sister in big sister things like meeting friends and sharing secrets. She was protective. She read `The Little Mermaid' over and over again.

And she taught hilarious dance moves.

``We loved to dance, me and her,'' says little sister Heather Joesbury, who lives in Victoria where Andrea grew up.

``Dance to Madonna. `Like a Prayer', that's me and Andrea's song. I remember this one dance move she taught me,'' Joesbury says. ``It was pretty funny.''

Andrea Joesbury was reported missing by her doctors in June 2001 after she stopped picking up her methadone treatments in Vancouver. She had been trying to kick drugs in an effort to clean up her life and win back custody of her daughter.

But in 2002, pig farmer Robert Pickton was charged in her death and the deaths of 25 others.

``I talked to her in 2000, the Christmas of 2000,'' Heather Joesbury says. ``She said she was going to come over here and have Christmas with us. Then ... that's the last I talked to her.''

Her sister always called. Or she would write, says Joesbury, 19, the youngest of three Joesbury children.

``We always had plans.''

Andrea Joesbury was beautiful, with a huge smile that leaps off the page of the poster of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Growing up, she witnessed alcoholism, physical abuse and mental illness. She left Victoria for Vancouver in her mid-teens after an older boyfriend persuaded her to move to the big city.

Joesbury says her big sister needed a father figure, but the boyfriend was a drug dealer and she ended up drug addicted and working as a prostitute.

``She fell for this guy because he showed her a lot of stuff,'' Joesbury said. ``All of a sudden it came, OK, now it's time to pay up.''

Once on the street, Andrea Joesbury suffered abuse from her pimps.

``She one time got her head smashed off the coffee table,'' her sister says of one encounter with a pimp. ``She had a big friggin' bruise on the back of her head.''

The pimps were ruthless, Joesbury says.

They would regularly come to Victoria seeking new candidates for prostitution and when her sister was too drug-sick to work, ``they came here looking for me, too,'' says Joesbury, who was 15 years old. ``To pimp me out.''

Andrea Joesbury lived in room 201 of the Roosevelt Hotel, then at Main and Hastings streets in Vancouver. The area is known as one of the poorest, sickest, drug-infested neighbourhoods in North America.

It is not uncommon to see addicts sitting on street corners, openly injecting drugs into their veins. Others aimlessly stagger the neighbourhood in search of their next fix, while steps away the modern, growing, cosmopolitan city of Vancouver goes about its daily business.

Jack Cummer, Andrea Joesbury's grandfather, says Andrea was lured to Vancouver by the kind of people who feel no guilt introducing a friendly and naive teenager to drugs and prostitution.

Cummer declined to be interviewed, saying the media has spent too much time focusing on the drugs and prostitution angle, while disregarding the real lives of the victims and the families they left behind.

In an e-mail to The Canadian Press, Cummer declared his love for Joesbury is everlasting.

``I am content with the image I have in my heart of Andrea, as well as the rest of the family,'' Cummer wrote.

``We know all her faults and blessings and her smiling face is with each and everyone she had met.''

He disdains the media who consistently portrayed her granddaughter and the other women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside as drug-addicted prostitutes.

Only now, as some of the tragic cases are about to be heard in court, are reporters wanting to put together deeper looks into their lives, he said.

But the damage is already done: the public will continue to see the women only as drug addicts and prostitutes, Cummer wrote.

``This is the picture the media have planted in the public's eye, heart,'' he said. ``The media has had a field day. At no time did anyone attempt to paint a real picture.

``You are unable to change what you have caused,'' he wrote.

``We have `closure' (Peace). Closure comes between the parties and their God. Nothing anyone can say or write will alter this process.''

Cummer signed off saying: ``Good luck.''

Cummer did support the release of a song, `Missing', featuring lyrics by award-winning Victoria poet Susan Musgrave and haunting music by Galiano Island guitarist Brad Prevedoros.

Musgrave wrote the lyrics in Andrea's memory.

``How far from home is missing?/In our prayers you're close beside us every day/When you left to chase the wind so high/The rain moved in to stay,'' goes the chorus.

Proceeds from the sale of the song go to Haven Society, a Nanaimo-based non-profit organization that for 28 years has been helping women and children escape violence and sexual exploitation.

Heather Joesbury, who has her sister's name tattooed on her left ankle, says the missing women of the Downtown Eastside were short-changed in life and the bad news continued after they disappeared.

If the police had been investigating the disappearances as if each missing woman was one of their own daughters, some may still be alive today, she says.

``They didn't wake one day and be like, `Well you know what, I'm going to be a prostitute,''' she says.

```Then I'm going to have HIV and then I'm going to get murdered.'''

Joesbury keeps a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings about her sister. She wants to write a book.

2006 The Canadian Press

MISSING LIVES - The Canadian Press

Five years ago a pig farm near Vancouver became one of Canada's largest crime scenes
What followed were headlines about the massive forensic investigation and 26 murder charges against Robert William Pickton.
Far from the headlines have been the stories of the dead women. Twenty-six women who lived on and disappeared from the streets of Canada's most dismal inner-city neighbourhood Vancouver's bleak Downtown Eastside. Twenty-six missing lives.

In the five years since the Pickton pig farm made national headlines, the memories of the women have faded even further from the public spotlight. When mentioned, they are usually referred to only as "drug addicts" or "street prostitutes." They are often only numbers 26 victims, their names seldom used in news reports. All of the stories behind the names have never been told. Until now.

The Canadian Press, Canada's independent news agency, felt those stories needed to be told. Six reporters from across the country spent hundreds of hours researching details not previously reported. The result is Missing Lives: profiles on each of the 26 women.

Missing Lives reveals the 26 women as daughters, sisters, mothers: troubled souls whose lives touched others in lasting ways.



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

Updated: August 21, 2016