In the Blog

Pickton trial begins

January 22nd, 2007     by Nicole Cohen     Comments

The first part of the trial of Robert Pickton, a B.C. pig farmer charged with six counts of first-degree murder, begins today. According to the Toronto Star, Pickton is charged with the murder of 26 women, all sex-trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (investigators have found DNA from seven other women on his farm so far, which would significantly increase his murder charge). As Rosie DiManno writes, “If found guilty on all charges, divided over two trials, Pickton would go down in the annals of crime as the worst serial murderer in Canadian history, and among the most prolific killers in North America.”

I wouldn’t usually link to a DiManno piece, as I often find her columns reactionary and infuriating, but in this piece she explores some of the important issues that have come out of the lead-up to the trial. The most unbelievable thing, in my mind, is the fact that these women were disappearing for years and, despite the urging of family members, fellow sex-trade workers and even a concerned police officer, no serious investigation was launched to locate the missing women (almost 70 in total, the majority of them Aboriginal women).

As one woman tells DiManno, “If those were university students, you can bet they would have paid more attention.” The article does a decent job of exposing the class, gender and race elements at play in this tragic story, emphasizing the lived experience of violence these women face every day.

Also interesting is the way in which local agencies that support to sex workers have been preparing for the trial, out of concern that media will descend upon the nieghbourhood in search of a juicy quote or footage, exploiting the stories and lives of the women who live and work there. For the past year they’ve held sessions on media awareness with women, and have created a booklet on their rights, including demanding questions in advance and protecting their anonymity by not having their faces shown.

It will be interesting to monitor mainstream media accounts of the trial (and I wonder how different coverage will be in Canada and the U.S.?). This blog provides commentary, details and links to sites concerned with the missing and murdered women.

Tags: media savvy, news flash

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