British Columbia

Missing women memorial, 'Living Stones,' excised from sidewalk

A controversial memorial project, to commemorate Vancouver's missing women, that involved installing side walk plaques with their names, has been removed.

Ill-fated project installed street plaques to commemorate missing and murdered women

The city of Vancouver has told CBC News that the effort to memorialize murdered and missing women in B.C. will be completed without the involvement of the original organizer. (CBC)

A controversial memorial project honouring Vancouver's missing women that involved installing sidewalk plaques with victim's names, has been removed.

City of Vancouver officials say some of the families of women wanted no part of the 'Living Stones' project.

The original concept was that 62 plaques would be installed in the last-known locations of the missing and murdered women. In 2013 the project fell apart, after only four stones were laid.

George Papin visited his sister's plaque once or twice a month. He lays tobacco and says a prayer.

He was shocked and saddened when the plaque disappeared about two weeks ago.

"I treasured the memorial as it was a part of me, just like my sister," Papin said. 

"And now they take it away."

Bronze plaques bearing the names of Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey were installed in a sidewalk in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 2012.

The city of Vancouver took over the project after the non-profit society that started it dissolved.

One of the original organizers, Sean Kirkham, became embroiled in controversy after a CBC News Investigation revealed the man behind the commemorative stones project had a criminal history, had left a trail of unpaid bills and at the time was facing fraud and theft charges in B.C. and Quebec.

Kirkham plead guilty to six charges unrelated to the  'Living Stones' project and was sentenced to eight months house arrest in Vancouver.

City staff said they had been working to "resolve issues" around the project. The founders originally indicated it had been endorsed by all the families and the Downtown Eastside community.

"Unfortunately, we later discovered that there was not consensus from the community or from the women's families regarding this project," Jason Watson said in a statement.

"Given the lack of consensus, it was determined in spring 2015 that the few plaques that were installed would be removed and no additional ones would be installed."

City seeks contact information

Watson said the city is working to obtain contact details for the families to see if they want the plaques sent to them, adding the non-profit previously refused to provide that information.

In a written statement Watson urged people to help the city connect with all families affected, adding:

"The City acknowledges the tragedy of the missing and murdered women and the devastating impact this has had on their families, friends and loved ones.  We are deeply sorry for their loss, and have been working to resolve this in a way that acknowledges and respects the wishes of the families."

Papin, who lives in Pemberton, said city officials had not contacted him. The other families could not immediately be reached, but a woman who identified herself as Wolfe's daughter Angel said on Facebook that the city had been in touch and was planning to send families the plaques.

Frey's father Rick was quoted in the Vancouver Sun in 2013 as saying that he didn't want the plaque in the ground with "people walking over it and spitting on" it.

Serial killer Robert Pickton is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murders of six women.

Pickton spent years hunting and killing women in Vancouver. 

Twenty other charges against him were not proceeded with — including in the death of Cara Ellis.

A 'Living Stone' plaque laid in another location in Vancouver's downtown core that honoured Ellis has not yet been removed.

Project founder Sean Faludi (formerly known as Sean Kirkham) strongly denied the city's allegations. He said he provided permission letters from all but one of the families and had never refused to hand over contact details.

Faludi said he only learned on Saturday that the stones had been removed. 

"What astounds me is the callousness of the way these stones have been treated," he said. "It's rather heartbreaking to know that a project that was associated with my name is kind of brushed under the trash can."
 

with files from Eric Rankin