Waking up to plight of hookers
Disappearance a national disgrace

By ANDREW HANON -- For the Edmonton Sun

Friday, June 25, 2004

It will come as little comfort to the family of Rachel Quinney or the hundreds of other women who have vanished from the streets of Prairie cities, but at last there is some good coming from their tragedies: acknowledgment.

Muriel Stanley-Venne, president of the Edmonton-based Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, said that she is finally seeing widespread recognition that the disappearance of street prostitutes is a national disgrace. She hopes that perhaps now something can be done to address the social causes
that lead women into that world.

"We still have a long way to go," she said. "But the first thing that must happen before any problem is addressed is awareness. We're finally at that point."

The mere fact that this issue has captured the attention of the media and the public is a sign of progress. And by and large, the way it's covered is encouraging. Take, for example, Sun scribe Doug Beazley's heartfelt reporting of Quinney's funeral in the tiny town of Frog Lake, which allowed her family the
opportunity to describe the 19-year-old before she got lost on the streets of Edmonton. Such coverage helps the public to see the victims of these crimes not as merely dead hookers, but as real people whose potential was cut short through no fault of their own.

It wasn't that long ago that such interest and compassion didn't exist. Just ask journalist and author Warren Goulding, whose 2001 book, Just Another Indian - A Serial Killer and Canada's Indifference, chronicled the horrific exploits of John Martin Crawford, probably the most prolific mass murderer of
which you've never heard.

Crawford is presently in Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert for savagely raping, torturing and killing three Prairie prostitutes in the early 1990s. In the early 1980s he was convicted of manslaughter for another killing. He is suspected of other similar crimes.

One would think, with Crawford's impressive body count, that he'd enjoy the same perverse celebrity as Clifford Olsen or Paul Bernardo, but hardly anyone has ever heard of him. Goulding thinks he knows why. All of Crawford's victims were native women and street prostitutes.

The underlying inference is that the victims aren't significant enough to warrant attention, that they are partly to blame for their own deaths and therefore don't deserve our compassion. As the sister of one of Crawford's victims put it, "It seems that any time a native is murdered, it isn't a major case. It's just another dead Indian."

Crawford's 1996 trial was largely ignored by the national media, who at the time were transfixed by another unfolding horror story, this one involving a beautiful white woman. Melissa Carpenter had been abducted from her Surrey, B.C. home and the hunt for her was played out on the nightly news. All of Canada held its breath and prayed for her, and when her body was discovered a few weeks later we all wept alongside her family.

When his book was released three years ago, Goulding said to me, "It sounds horrible, and I don't want to minimize what happened to Melissa or what her family went through, but why does the national consciousness kick into high gear when this happens to a white person and not when the victims are native women?"

At long last, times are changing. And what's most encouraging to Stanley-Venne is that it's coming from within the native community.

"There's almost a groundswell, or revolution in thought among (aboriginal) women," she said.

"We realized that things were bad, but we didn't think that we could do anything to change it. We're coming together, and now we're no longer willing to believe that we to accept these things."


Just Another Indian-By Warren Goulding



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Updated: August 21, 2016