There was a woman in black sweeping leaves on the sidewalk in front of her house this morning as I walked home from the gym and pondered today’s post. I slipped by just as the leaves swept up and splashed around her legs, spreading along the path between her home and her neighbour’s.
Suddenly this little girl squealed and popped up from a larger clump of leaves around toward the side, like a sharp and welcome reminder to shut up with thoughts of Russell Williams, shut ’em up and shut ’em out and blink into this morning’s late autumn sunlight–18 degrees expected today, promised the CBC weatherwoman.
Russell Williams, for those of you not living in Canada, is the decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario. Yesterday he was formally convicted on 88 charges, including first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Lloyd and Marie-France Comeau, as well as sexual assault, and breaking and entering.
That’s all I want to say about him, except that the coffee shop where I had an Americano after my workout was smeared with pictures of him posed in military garb and women’s lingerie. I slid into a high-backed Queen Anne armchair but first shoved aside several sections of the daily press. In the cafe, they were playing a disturbing loop of early Beatles. Here comes the Sun, followed by He came in through the bathroom window.
While walking home I recalled a demonstration I attended in Vancouver back in 1986 and a series of photographs I took at this event. It was a demo organized by downtown eastside prostitutes, who led an organization called POWER (Prostitutes and Other Women for Equal Rights.) I was around 26. Freshly graduated from St. Michael’s College, at the University of Toronto, studying the Canterbury Tales. Before that, I was at St. Joseph’s High School cramming for exams. And now here I was taking it to the streets with a few dozen prostitutes.
In my office, I just unearthed contact sheets from that demonstration. “Stop the Killing,” reads one placard gripped by a young woman in sleek black leather, staring straight ahead into my lens. This woman watched her friends disappear from the street but wasn’t getting answers from the police. They didn’t much care it seemed.
I was a journalist and photographer for the feminist journal Kinesis. We covered these disappearances years before the serial killer Robert Picton’s pig farm was discovered in Surrey. Picton was convicted of the second-degree murders of six women. He is also charged in the deaths of 20 other women, most were eastside Vancouver prostitutes.
My heart is heavy today.
Stop the Killing.