Vancouver stillhas 39unsolved cases ofmissing women and sex workers in the Downtown Eastsideare calling for ways to improve their safety.
The Joint Missing Women Task Force in B.C. said the conviction of Robert William Pickton on Sunday — on six counts of second-degree murder — wrapped up an important milestone in its ongoing investigation.
But the task force continues to move forward on the unsolved cases currently under investigation, said spokeswoman Const. Alex Clarke.
"As of today [Sunday] there're 39 unsolved missing women cases that remain open and are being actively investigated," Clarketold the media following the guilty verdict handed down by a B.C. Supreme Court jury in New Westminster.
"Once again, we encourage anybody who knows anything or may have any information about these women to please call the Joint Missing Women Task Force tip line," she said.
The sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside are in an "extremely desperate situation," said Sue Davis, a co-ordinator with the Prostitutes Alternatives Counselling and Education Society, a group of sex workers fighting to decriminalize and regulate the sex trade.
Davis told CBC News that many of the sex trade workers cried when she told them of Pickton's convictions.
"We're still struggling so much for our safety and stability in the Downtown Eastside," she said.
Trisha Baptie, a former prostitute who had been closely following the Pickton trial, said she heard about the Pickton farm in the early 1990s and knew some of the victims.
She began writing for a website, orato.com, set up to remember the victims to give people a different perspective of their lives.
"People knew they were drug-addicted sex trade workers from the Downtown Eastside, but how many people have an ex-hooker as their best friend? So I was hoping to give them a perspective of someone who had been through it and had come out the other side," Baptie told CBC News.
"They're women. They're sisters. They're daughters … They were in dire circumstances that were so unfortunate and they met their end in such a violent way."
Women and poverty
Dalannah Gail Bowen, a First Nations elder living in the Downtown Eastside, said the issues of women and poverty have to be addressed properly.
"There's still women going missing," she said. "We can't forget the women that are harmed or beaten whether [or not] they are prostitutes."
"We need to find tools for change in ways we regard women who're homeless and who have to work in prostitution to pay their bills."
Davis said more should have been done when the women were first reported missing in the late 1990s, but shesaid police have become more responsive to sex trade workers' complaints since Pickton's arrest in 2002.
"I see a total change in the way police are handling the situation. They take reports when sex trade workers are assaulted now," Davis said.
"[But] you have to commit yourselves to work through these things… to see changes in society."