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

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

AHL president and CEO Scott Howson believes the new Abbotsford franchise is off to a strong early start. (AHL photo)
AHL president: ‘Tremendous success’ selling season ticket deposits for Abbotsford franchise

President and CEO Scott Howson optimistic about new Vancouver Canucks affiliate in Abbotsford

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated in Abbotsford for construction workers

Among three sites in Lower Mainland holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

A CH-149 Cormorant from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox on a training exercise in Chilliwack on June 16, 2021. (William Snow photo)
VIDEO: Military search and rescue training in Chilliwack Wednesday

CH-149 Cormorant and CC-115 Buffalo from CFB Comox participated in downed aircraft rescue simulation

The committee to name the new Eagle Mountain elementary school will now not reveal the top three school names until September. (File photo)
Committee to name new Abbotsford elementary school needs more time

Top three Eagle Mountain elementary school names will now be narrowed down by September

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read