12/20/2012 08:13 EST | Updated 02/19/2013 05:12 EST

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


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."


Robert Pickton: Women Linked To Serial Killer

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.