Ashley Smith and Ernie Crey testifying Wednesday before the Missing Women Inquiry.

Ashley Smith and Ernie Crey testifying Wednesday before the Missing Women Inquiry.

‘We are all responsible’ for missing women, inquiry told

Missing Women Inquiry focusing on police delays in catching serial killer Robert Pickton must also tackle broader failure of society: Crey

The Missing Women Inquiry focusing on police delays in catching serial killer Robert Pickton must also tackle the broader failure of society, the brother of one of the victims said Wednesday.

Ernie Crey, a prominent First Nations spokesman from Chilliwack, testified his sister Dawn Crey was like so many other victims – torn from her troubled birth family and sent to foster care and then later virtually penned up in the Downtown Eastside by the web of services there geared to addicts, the poor and the mentally ill.

“We’ve concentrated all these women in the Downtown Eastside as if it were an Indian reserve or something,” Crey told the inquiry. “And we keep them down there and they become easy prey. They become vulnerable to somebody like Willie Pickton.”

Crey said he’s been approached by affluent residents of Vancouver’s tonier neighbourhoods who console him for the loss of his sister but would never support a treatment centre or housing for the homeless near them.

“When my sister Dawn was hungry she went to a soup kitchen,” he said. “It wasn’t in Kitsilano. It wasn’t in Shaughnessy.

“When she needed a methadone prescription filled, she wasn’t headed to Kerrisdale.”

Politicians make the policies, Crey said, but stressed “we are all responsible.”

He testified on the day Dawn, who vanished in 2000, would have turned 53.

Both siblings were devastated by the early death of their father and their mother’s resulting fall into alcoholism.

Ernie turned to petty crime in Hope before being sent to a boys school on Vancouver Island. He found success in multiple branches of the federal government and is now an advisor to aboriginal groups.

Dawn went to foster care and ended up on the Downtown Eastside.

She struggled with mental illness and heroin addiction and was scarred for life when an attacker once burst into her skid-row hotel room and doused her with acid.

Her DNA was found on the Port Coquitlam pig farm but Pickton was never charged with her murder.

Crey believes Dawn could still be alive today if police properly investigated Pickton as a suspect in the missing women cases after he was arrested and charged with attempting to murder a prostitute who escaped from the farm in 1997.

Instead, charges against Pickton were dropped in 1998 and a dozen more women went missing – including Crey’s sister – before Pickton was arrested in early 2002.

“I can’t begin to tell you how angry I am about that,” Crey told Commissioner Wally Oppal.

“I want people to understand how let down we feel by the system and how angry we are to this very day.”

The inquiry also heard testimony about Angela Williams, a Campbell River aboriginal woman found murdered in Surrey on Colebrook Road in 2001.

The murder is still unsolved and isn’t attributed to Pickton but is being examined as another example of a mishandled missing person case.

Margaret Green, the guardian of Williams’ children, testified the daughters were haunted by nightmares and questions about what happened to their birth mom.

She had few answers for them.

Police reports emphasized Williams was a drug addict, a prostitute and native, said Green, who added they seemed to have “tunnel vision” and took little action.

“I really think this is another case of racial stereotyping,” Green said.

The Commission then heard from the daughter of Williams, 21-year-old Ashley Smith.

“It’s been almost 10 years and I don’t know why my mother died,” she told the inquiry.

“I want to know why no one cared enough to treat this case properly from the beginning,” Smith said. “Was it because she was native? Was it because she did drugs?”

The inquiry will hear from more relatives of victims before key Vancouver Police Department and RCMP members begin to testify.

 

Just Posted

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

(Unsplash.com)
Protecting our elders: It’s up to all of us to look out for them

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is June 15

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read