CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN FOR OUR MURDERED NATIVE WOMEN
A Commentary on the Port Coquitlam Pig Farm Massacre-Fourteen Years Later
By Robert J. Galbraith/December 25th, 2015.
See huge photo gallery for this article at this link.
Between the years 1983 to 2002, police authorities in British Columbia collectively turned their backs on the wholesale slaughter of at least 49 young women before the 2002 arrest of Canada’s bloodthirsty psycho, Robert William “Willy” Pickton, a pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, (27 km’s east of Vancouver).
More than 15 years have passed since, but has anything really changed? No – nothing has changed except that the perpetrators just get wiser and stories of harassment of native people (or any minority) and the institutionalization of racism continues largely unabated across the country from coast to coast.
The treatment of our native peoples is a national disgrace that is continually swept under the rug or covered up because the government of the period does not want public hysteria and Canadians losing faith in the policing and security of the country. But it is too late. This trust has been lost.
Presently, there is an ongoing investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by 8 members of the Quebec Provincial Police, concerning native women from province’s northern regions. The victims say SQ officers routinely picked up women, who appeared to be in a drunken state, then drove them out of town and left them to walk home during freezing weather. Some victims allege they were physically assaulted or made to perform sexual acts on the officers.
If you can fathom this, the allegations include rape, physical assault, unwanted sexual touching, sexist comments and threats, in hundreds of cases brought about by female officers. There was also the typical gender discrimination, bullying and harassment of female officers. Charges involve RCMP officers in 10 of the countries’ provinces and all of its territories.
According to a November, 2011 Maclean’s magazine article, Catherine Galliford, a former RCMP corporal, says the rampant sexism within the ranks of the RCMP that ruined her health and career may also have contributed to the mismanagement of the Pickton murder investigation, at a cost of many lives.
Galliford said during an internal affairs meeting with RCMP staff this April (2011) that a senior officer “did nothing” with information that could have broken open the Pickton murders more than two years before his arrest, and attributed the flawed investigation to sexist attitudes and misogyny.
Shouldn’t the police be the good guys and not the ones committing the crimes? ‘No’ should mean ‘no’ – even for police officers, but especially for police officers.
However, this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. This form of sexual intimidation and physical degradation by security forces (police) is widespread across the country and continues to happen – even on this Christmas Day.
All one has to do is Goggle ‘sexual, abuse, native, women, canada,’ and a tsunami of sexual abuse cases with some sort of police implication will appear. It is an absolutely massive problem that must be seriously investigated, but hasn’t been.
The murders were and still are a deep, festering wound that will not heal until all those implicated in this slaughter are brought to justice and the spirits of the dead put to rest. A public inquiry showed that there was “systemic bias by the police” against the victims, according to the commissioner of the study; but this was a widely accepted fact, even before this case broke in 2002. So what has really changed?
Not only were these women (many of whom were aboriginal, drug-addicted sex workers) brutally sodomized, killed, skinned, cut up into chunks, then fed into a wood chipper and fed to his pigs. But some of the human remains were then packaged and handed out to the public – pig flesh mixed with human flesh served up to the public!
The pig farm murders were the largest mass murder in Canadian history, but most of us don’t have a clue of what happened or who was responsible for the tragedies. Sure, Pickton murdered the women, but to a large degree it was the Vancouver Police Department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who were responsible for the continuation of the murders.
They have the blood on their hands. Their ineptness, ignorance, arrogance and a racist mindset ingrained in these institutions killed these women. When justice remains undone, it will return to repeat itself.
A publicity ban intended to ensure Pickton’s right to a fair trial and keep the gory details from reaching the families ears, kept the public ignorant and oblivious to the horrible reality of what actually happened. But it also robbed the public of the details involving some members of these police forces and according to some, politicians, both of whom partied at the farm (according to witnesses), with a host of prostitutes, bikers and drugs present. It is as though everybody knew, but nobody knew.
But where was the Canadian media? They just re-wrote the press releases the police and politicians handed them. They were also handcuffed in their reporting by the publicity ban but many media did try to pry open the police clam shell, only to be stymied in their search for the truth. However, the tentacles of racism reach deep into a society where it is allowed to thrive, and that includes the media.
I am a journalist and see it all the time, especially in La Belle Province, but it is present everywhere in Canadian society, no matter how hard we acclaim to be of pure thought or sainthood.
We are all capable of becoming the beast and understanding and accepting this reality is the start to healing the wounded and the bringing about long sought justice for the dead.
So the publicity ban was a convenient way of protecting Pickton’s rights and appeasing the family’s wishes (and God bless them all) while keeping all of Canada in the dark on the reality of what really happened on the “farm of nightmares.”
The ban was the doorway to the cover up, no matter what they tell you. Many in high positions didn’t want Pickton to point fingers or name names so to tarnish further our policing or political institutions.
The non-profit Piggy Palace Good Times Society (an after hour’s club established by the Picktons in 1996) was located in a former pig slaughterhouse on the 11-acre Burns Road property, across the street from the main 14-acre Pickton farm.
They said it was for holding fundraisers for women’s groups and minor hockey leagues. On some weekends, as many as 1,800 people partied and ate roast pork (and perhaps the flesh of the victims) at the club, the attendees being from all segments of society.
Port Coquitlam (locally referred to as PoCo) is a rural community of under 60,000. So the goings-on at Piggy’s Palace were the province’s worst kept secret. As I said above; everybody knew, but nobody knew. Who would want to step forward and admit they were part of the parties or that they may have fed their children human flesh, unknowingly given them by the butcher of PoCo?
It is said that over 50 women were brutally murdered before the guardians of truth and justice got off their asses and showed any concern? This injustice is still the biggest cover-up of a crime in Canadian history. But we will probably never know what really happened because the police authorities, from the highest brass to the lowest constable, have circled the wagons to protect their own.
Now, one might think that after this horrendous blight on Canada’s stigma, that this case would have spelt the end or a great reduction in the abuse of native women across the country, but oh contraire.
The mistreatment of our First Peoples, (especially the women), by our authority figures is nothing short of the real face of modern-day racism and disdain for anything native. In fact, this abuse has been going on ever since the first European ships lapped the shores of this new world, bringing with them smallpox, rats and the wholesale genocide and extinction of native populations across the continent.
It would appear, by the botched handling of this case, that things haven’t changed much since that fateful day when the first Europeans arrived to plunder the New World to spread their mantra of religious conversion, greed and power.
So why did I decide to write this commentary? A few weeks ago, when I first heard about recent sexual assaults on native women in Quebec, I had a flashback to my time spent documenting the Pickton murders and trial with my camera in early 2000 in Port Coquitlam.
It was a part of my past that I had tucked-away into the back of my mind and largely forgotten about; along with my memories of a difficult childhood and more recently, the raping, wounding and killing (by perverts, land mines and cluster bombs) and abandonment of young children, left on their own, in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.
As I dug deeper into my mind and the memory of my days spent documenting this crime site in Canadian history, darkness flooded into my soul and mind. I could not sleep thinking about what I had seen and heard those many years ago. I was haunted, and felt guilty that I knew what I knew – it was overwhelming and still is. It was as though someone or something was attacking my soul. Cold chills ran up and down my spine and goose bumps formed on my neck and arms, something that rarely happens to me.
After a day of contemplation, wrecked by horrible thoughts from the past, I decided I had to write this commentary, even at risk of blow-back by a police force who might want to stymie any voice of dissent. However, this is nothing new for me, be it in a conflict zone overseas, or in my very backyard.
I was covering the story as a photographer and native people’s consultant by the New York Times, along with reporter Cliff Krauss, the then Canadian correspondent for the NYT. I have covered native issues for near 30 years and have visited, with the NYT and other media, aboriginal issues from the Arctic Circle to Oka and everywhere in-between. So my experiences have given me a good overview of the problems facing our First Peoples, though I don’t have all the solutions.
To get to PoCo from Vancouver, it takes about 35 minutes along the Trans-Canada Highway, then a left at highway 7A for 5 minutes to Dominion Ave. The area around the murder scene is dotted with cleanly kept residences and shopping malls filled with box stores and brand new residences lined side to side and squeezed tightly together like army barracks. The whole site looked like a hellish, massive bomb crater.
PoCo sits at the confluence of the Fraser and Pitt Rivers, flanked on the north by the beautiful Pitt Mountain range.
Before Europeans arrived, this location was a gathering site for the First Peoples for numerous millenniums, a place of potlatches and happiness. Now, the descendants of the original First Peoples gather there to grieve the loss of their precious daughters and granddaughters. To them, the site still is and was a graveyard; a place of tears, no matter how you dress it up.
As of November 2003, police ended their 21-month, $70-million search of the farm.
All the buildings were torn down while a total of 370,000 cubic yards (287 million litres) of soil was moved into massive piles and analyzed by forensic scientists and over a 100 forensic anthropology and archaeology students.
Huge for sale signs heralded the condominiums and single-family homes as “Building Your Dreams.” Another large billboard heralds lots for sale by Willy, his brother David and their sister Linda.
Young mothers pushed their strollers and walked their young children along the fresh, clean streets of PoCo that skirted the open wound that was the Pickton pig farm, while a seemingly permanent mist covers the peaks of the nearby mountains.
After the investigation wrapped-up, what remained of the gates to hell was converted into a sweeping, new golf course.
Perhaps some of those golfers, who knew more than they admitted in the Pickton case, now play these 18 holes while restless spirits below their feet scream for justice.
As a journalist, I have seen the worst of the worst. It started with my week-long coverage of the Montreal Massacre, where deranged psycho, Marc Lepine shot and stabbed 14 young women to death, while they attended night classes at the Ecole Polytechnique, a few weeks before the Christmas of December 6, 1989.
“I want the women,” he screamed as he gunned down these 14 young female students. I find it very difficult to look back at my photos of this massacre of the innocents.
Then of course, there was my coverage of the mistreatment of women in conflict zones like Afghanistan or Iraq and then back home here where the death and kidnapping of young girls, sons and mothers, are glanced over in our newspaper and television coverage by a hurried and callous audience.
Do we want to support police forces that intimidate and break our most sacred laws, such as the abuse of women, no matter their origin or skin colour (or the targeting of the media-see below)? How would this have been handled differently if the women being slaughtered were mostly white women; your sister, daughter or mother?
This is the only way to look at this police cover-up. Please remember that what goes around – comes around.
We have all witnessed the transformation of our police forces into paramilitary-like-units that intimidate and challenge our rights to justice and a fair trial. We saw press harassment and targeting of the media at the 2007 North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Quebec, just outside of Ottawa, by the RCMP.
Members of this force targeted the media with pepper spray (I was one of these targeted media and couldn’t use my eyes for 30 minutes after he sprayed my face and cameras) even though my cameras and journalistic accreditation card were in clear view of the grey-haired horseman who seemed to feel that everyone was fair game, including the media.
Is this what we want in Canada? I was but the messenger working as an accredited journalist. Do you want to live in a country where all our rights and protection is subjugated under the boot of a police state mentally, because we are already leaning heavily towards this transformation?
(We all saw the results of this paramilitary’s ugly face during the 2014 shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Missouri. The cops there had become soldier-cops and that’s the way it appears to be going here).
These crimes were going on while a goon squad of Quebec Provincial police officers (dressed like demonstrators wearing bandannas over their faces while clutching rocks), tried to incite the demonstrators to violence and challenge police positions. They would then, according to the police, pick out the perpetrators from the crowd.
This whole Gatineau affair was a disgusting, despicable assault by both these police forces in order to discredit all Canadians, the media and the laws that are supposed to protect us, (except apparently, when it comes to the police of course).
So where do we go from here? Are we all to become voiceless sheep slaughtered by the wolves that are supposed to protect us? Or will the federal government fumigate our national police force to get rid of the rats and other vermin that prey upon the innocents?
The past glory of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), with their musical ride, red tunics and all the vestiges of a once noble force, is well behind us. We are sick of seeing this fable while the reality is a completely different kettle of fish.
Today’s force is a very thin shell of its original self; it is a national embarrassment, an ongoing injustice that reflects poorly upon all those who call themselves Canadian. I truly feel for those honest, new guard officers caught between a rock and a hard place, which are the majority; deciding whether to leave the force or not. Not to paint the entire force as corrupt, I want to be clear that the good apples do outnumber the bad ones.
However, it is up to those brave officers to step forward and cleanse, or re-build this tainted ship and bring back to port, the confidence that has all but been lost in this force by bad management, cover ups and political hot-potato-passing.
New prime minister, Justin Trudeau talks and walks the good game, but the reality is that these crimes and their story are a minefield of lies, corruption, racism, assault and murder. I truly hope, for the sake of Canadian unity, that Mr. Trudeau has the courage to challenge this apparently unshakable institution and give the people what they want, to live in peace and to never be afraid of stopping, calling or asking a police officer for help, without being profiled and having the cuffs slapped on our wrists because we don’t look the same, are of the opposite sex or were born in a different country. However, forgetting the past for a moment, we have to give this fresh-faced PM our complete confidence as he is young, has a young family, is not of the old boys network and I believe, he truly understands what is at stake here. He has no individual to please, but an entire nation.
In balanced society, no one is above the law – and that includes the lawmakers.
‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all.’ Robert J. Galbraith/Christmas Day, 2015.