Remembering Sarah

By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter

Wednesday, Nov 17, 2004

The Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam is inviting the public to what may be its most emotional reading and discussion series.

Maggie de Vries - whose sister, Sarah de Vries, was confirmed dead when police investigators found her DNA on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam - will read selections from her book about the ordeal, Missing Sarah, on Monday, Nov. 22.

Sarah de Vries

The evening is a co-operative program by the Terry Fox Library, the Port Coquitlam Area Women's Centre and Art Focus. It includes the reading by de Vries and a discussion on women's issues to be held three days later.

De Vries said she was honoured to be invited to the library series, as it allows her to put a face to the name Sarah de Vries.

"I really respect this effort that the library is making and the city is making," she said. "It's easy to forget that each of the women who died was a person, especially when they're people who are dehumanized already in our society and that, as a society, we don't understand."

De Vries visited the Dominion Avenue farm where her sister's DNA was found. She said local residents approached her and offered kind words.

"Those are just a handful of people, but they create a feeling of warmth and support, a feeling that the city, the population, feels terrible about what has taken place within its borders and would like to reach out in some way," de Vries said.

Maggie de Vries

A display of Sarah's drawings, diary entries and photographs will be on display this month at the library. De Vries hopes it will help people to understand her sister was a human being long before she was a sex-trade worker.

"We tend to only see images of women like my sister standing on street corners in short skirts and high heels. We don't see them at home with their friends," de Vries said. "We don't see them in the rest of their lives, so we don't really know who they are at all.

"I think that's a really powerful way to break through all these limitations and misunderstandings - simply by presenting one human being to people as best as I can. I just try to bring Sarah to people, and that's what I'm hoping this exhibit will do."

De Vries, an acclaimed children's author and teacher, wrote a memoir of her sister, who was missing from April 1998 to August 2002 when police declared Sarah officially deceased.

De Vries won this year's VanCity Book Prize, which recognizes the best book in B.C. that is related to women's issues. Missing Sarah also received the first George Ryga Award for social awareness in B.C.

The follow-up discussion on Thursday, Nov. 25, will be facilitated by the women's centre. Participants can talk about various issues facing women at risk of violence.

Teresa MacLeod, the Terry Fox Library information services supervisor working on promoting the event, said the Port Coquitlam library has eight copies of Missing Sarah.

"There are eight holds on the book and most of them are from Port Coquitlam," she said. "So there is obviously something going on (in the community), although we don't have a lot of people registered yet.

"I think it's a wonderful event, and I just hope we get a good response. It's a difficult issue and some people have said, 'I'd love to come, but I don't think I can. It's too emotional.'"

This may be the opportunity the community needs, de Vries said, to begin the healing process.

"From my understanding, the city has been wounded by this," she said. "It's very important, then, for people in the community to talk about it and reach out and not just not acknowledge that something terrible has happened under their noses."

While fear, guilt and horror may consume people, de Vries encourages residents to take part, as the series may help people brace themselves for the upcoming trial of Robert Pickton for first-degree murder.

"Quite a lot of time has gone by now and I think the timing is quite good," she said. "Once the trial starts, then there will be all these horrors in the papers every day, so this kind of calm before the storm is a good time to maybe do some of that talking - because then everything will change."

Maggie de Vries will read from her book Missing Sarah on Monday, Nov. 22, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Terry Fox Library.

On Thursday, Nov. 25, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the library, a discussion on the book and women's issues in general will be facilitated by the Port Coquitlam Area Women's Centre.

The programs are free of charge, but participants are asked to register by calling 604-927-7999.

posted on 11/17/2004

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Missing Sarah, A Vancouver women remembers her vanished sister-2003



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