Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
J.J. McCullough

GET UPDATES FROM J.J. McCullough
 

Media Bites: The Missing Women Report Finds Canada's Dark Side

Posted: 12/20/2012 8:05 am

For those looking for a cheerier Media Bites in the wake of Monday's Debby downer, all I can say is: keep looking. Over the last couple of days, gore and slaughter once again dominated the nation's editorial pages, only this time with a uniquely Canadian twist.

Monday morning marked the long-awaited release of former B.C. attorney-general Wally T. Oppal's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report, which for those who haven't been following west coast affairs particularly closely, is essentially a 1,448-page grad school dissertation (single-spaced!) seeking to explain why noted skeezball Willie Pickton was able to murder all those Vancouver prostitutes without anyone caring.

Now, to say commissioning this report was a bit controversial is like saying Pickton himself was a bit murdery. Oppal's investigation basically entailed a jaunty stroll across a packed minefield of modern Canada's touchiest subjects, including racism, sexism, classism, aboriginal politics, the sex trade, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, bureaucratic cruelty and police incompetence, all headed by a party hack from an embattled provincial government that might very well poll worse than all the others put together.

Yet with all that being said, Wally's final product is still an admirably "comprehensive and compassionate" document that's "tough" and not "another whitewash" at all, writes famed Pickton scholar Stevie Cameron in Wednesday's Globe and Mail. Such a pity, then, that all those judgy cynics at the release party tried to scream the poor fellow off the stage.

Far from being the purest players in the room, Stevie thinks a lot of Vancouver's righteous activists need to "examine their own responsibilities" for the ongoing woe of their inner-city underclass, noting that, while "well-meaning," much of the urban charity elite spend far more time "blaming and bickering" than actually bandaging the "running sore" that is the Downtown Eastside.

Running sore? More like "slow-burning, never-ending tire-fire of misery" ante-ups Jon Kay in the National Post. The plight of Pickton's victims is the real story here, he says -- and their murders merely marked the end.

Jon sees women "marked for misery from birth," growing up, as they did, against a horrific backdrop of addiction and exploitation. And all the liberal prostitution/drug laws in the world can never help those whose "severely damaged psychology systematically drives them to enablers and clients who are exploitative and sadistic."

BLOG CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOW

Loading Slideshow...
  • Sereena Abotsway

    Born Aug. 20, 1971, Abotsway suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and lived with a foster family most of her life. She was 29 when she was last seen in August 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Georgina Papin

    Born March 11, 1964, Papin had seven children. She was last seen in March 1999. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Mona Wilson

    Born Jan. 13, 1975, Wilson had a son. She was last seen in November 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Marnie Frey

    Born Aug. 30, 1973 in Campbell River, B.C. Her daughter, Brittney, was born five years before she disappeared and gave an impact statement at Pickton's trial. Frey was last seen in August 1997. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Brenda Wolfe

    Born Oct. 20, 1968, Wolfe had a son. She was last seen in February 1999. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Andrea Joesbury

    Born Nov. 6, 1978, in Victoria. Joesbury had a daughter. She was last seen in June 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Cara Ellis

    Known on the street as Nicky Trimble, Ellis was born April 13, 1971 and was last seen in January 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Andrea Borhaven

    Born Jan. 19, 1972 in Armstrong, B.C. Borhaven was reported missing to police on May 18, 1999, but was last seen in 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Kerry Koski

    Born Aug. 14, 1959, Koski had three daughters. She was last seen Jan. 7, 1998. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Wendy Crawford

    Born April 21, 1956, Crawford had a son and a daughter. She was last seen in December 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Debra Jones

    Born in 1957, she was last seen in December 2000. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Tiffany Drew

    Born Jan. 31, 1975, Drew had three children. She was last seen March 2000. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Sarah DeVries

    Born May 12, 1969, to a troubled mother and adopted at 11 months. De Vries' journals and poetry have been widely published since she was last seen April 21, 1998. Her sister, Maggie de Vries, wrote about her sister in the award-winning book Missing Sarah. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Cynthia (Cindy) Feliks

    Born Dec. 12, 1954 in Detroit, Feliks was a mother and grandmother. She was last seen in December 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Angela Jardine

    Born Dec. 12, 1954 in Detroit, Feliks was a mother and grandmother. She was last seen in December 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Diana Melnick

    Born Aug. 26, 1975, Melnick was last seen Dec. 27, 1995. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Jacqueline McDonnell

    Born June 6, 1976, McDonell had a daughter. She was last seen Jan. 16, 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Dianne Rock

    Born Sept. 2, 1967, Rock had five children. She was last seen in October 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Heather Bottomley

    Born Aug. 17, 1976, Bottomley had two children. She was last seen April 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Jennifer Furminger

    Born Oct. 22, 1971, Furminger grew up in St. Catharine's, Ont. She had a son and police say she was last seen in December 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Helen Hallmark

    Born June 24, 1966, Hallmark had a daughter. She was last seen June 15, 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Patricia Johnson

    Born Dec. 2, 1975. Johnson had a son and a daughter, and was last seen March 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Heather Chinnock

    Born Nov. 10, 1970 in Denver, Colo. She had two children. She was last seen April 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Tanya Holyk

    Born Dec. 8. 1975, Holyk had a son. She was last Oct. 29, 1996. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Sherry Irving

    Born March 19, 1973, Irving was last seen in April 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Inga Hall

    Born in 1952 in Germany, Hall had two daughters and two granddaughters. She was last seen in February 1998. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Nancy Clark

    Born July 29, 1966, Clark was last seen Aug. 22, 1991 and reported missing to Victoria police the following day. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Stephanie Lane

    Born May 28, 1976, Lane grew up in Vancouver. She was 20 years old and had recently given birth to her only son when she disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in January of 1997. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but there was never any charge in her case.

  • Dawn Crey

    Born Oct. 26, 1958, Crey was a member of the Sto:lo First Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., and had a son. She was last seen in November of 2000. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Jacqueline Murdock

    Born Jan. 28, 1971, Murdock was the youngest daughter of a large First Nation family in Fort St. James. She had four children. She was last seen on Aug. 13, 1997. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Sharon Abraham

    Last seen in 2000. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Yvonne Boen

    Born Nov. 30, 1967, Boen had a son. She was last seen in March of 2001. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.


But that's still no reason to treat them as "nobodies," responds the Toronto Star editorial board, who prefer to view the Wally report as a grim indictment of racist cops who basically considered residents of the Downtown Eastside barely one step above the trash they slept on.

If "nothing else," they declare, post-Oppal the "police are on notice that their bias against aboriginal women is under scrutiny and must change."

Which would be ironic indeed, says the Winnipeg Free Press board, since Wally himself actually "underscored that police attitudes were merely a reflection of social attitudes," and not, in fact "a characteristic unique to police."

In other words, while it's always easy to denounce the racist cops running our cities, it's a great deal harder to confront the racist cops within.

***

As is the case with most preventable tragedies, one imagines we'll probably see a big government report about last week's massacre in Connecticut someday, too. And it'll most likely be written by Joe Biden, who President Obama plopped in charge of some gun violence task force thing on Monday, around the same time Minister Oppal was dodging rotten fruit.

But c'mon, this is Joe Biden we're talking about -- it might take a while. If we're looking for firm conclusions about massacres in the meantime, we'll just have to make do with the nattering of the Canadian editorial pages, who, not for the first time, apparently hold all the answers to America's violence woes.

Aha, Yankees, here's yer problem, say the jolly technicians at the Globe board -- too much NRA.

The Globeos know that preventing future killing sprees will require "tighter restrictions" of killing contraptions, so naturally they're mortally opposed to the lobby group that's spent decades opposing "even the most common-sense restrictions on gun ownership," including the "banning of high-muzzle-velocity assault rifles that come with handy grenade launchers" (though to be fair, how else are you supposed to hunt armour-plated deer?).

Bah, retorts George Jonas at the Post. You bleeding hearts can impose restrictions till you're chaffed and raw, but ultimately all this gun control busy-bodying will do "is to force lawbreakers, which maniacs are by definition, to kill with illegally acquired weapons." And then soon we'll all be commie thugs in the Chinese Army! (George is a man of swift conclusions).

Ugh, enough with these "incessant theories" groans Warren Kinsella in the Sun. By the way, here's mine: it's the media's fault.

Sure, says Warren, "that little bastard" may have pulled the trigger, but the press "made him famous" by making such a big fuss about it. The promise of 24/7 coverage is "like a telegram delivered by God" to these lunatics, so we'd better think twice before burning the name "Adam Lanza" into our brains like we did with Jared... whatever in Arizona and uh... orange hair guy from Colorado.

But Warren has a point. Maybe we in the media world do spend too much time plunking out column after column about murderers when a better approach would be keeping our big laptops shut.

In fact, watch me lead by example.

 

Follow J.J. McCullough on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JJ_McCullough

FOLLOW CANADA