• FTC

On the Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women

Updated: Nov 23

By Stevie Cameron FTC rating: 4 out of 5

WARNING: adult language, includes themes of drug use, physical and sexual abuse


Soon after the arrest of Seattle’s serial killer Gary Leon Ridgway, Canadians learned of their own monster, Robert William Pickton who stalked Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside searching for his next victim. Stories of wild parties, biker gangs, human remains, contaminated meat, and police indifference quickly dominated the media. Fascinated by these events, Reporter Stevie Cameron meticulously researches her book in the hope of answering the fundamental question “how could this happen?”. The result is a raw, expert accounting of the case and the lives of the women society often ignores.

Strengths:

-Explores Pickton’s upbringing and family dynamics

-Reveals the seedy underbelly of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

-Stevie Cameron gives the victims a voice through testimonies from their families and friends without shying away from their troubles and addictions

-Explains geographic profiling and how it is a useful tool for law enforcement

-Spotlights the tireless work of individuals (such as Bonnie Fournier, Freda Ens, Elaine Allan, Cathy Campbell, Ruth Wright) and the grassroot organizations helping the forgotten (namely Women’s Information Safe House (WISH), the Native Liaison Society, and First United Church).

-Detailed descriptions of the crime scene(s)/victim identification process

-Includes transcripts from the cell plant conversations and interrogations


Weaknesses:

-Many of Robert Pickton’s victims were Indigenous. Although the author does speak to the women’s various backgrounds, Cameron does not place these crimes within the greater narrative of Canada’s disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. It is a glaring omission and a lost opportunity to bring awareness to problem.

-The book would benefit from the inclusion of more/better quality photographs

-The chapters covering the pre-trail and trial seemed rushed


Final Thoughts:

-I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Stevie Cameron in March of 2012 at Concordia University. Her dedication and meticulousness with regards to the subject inspired me think and write critically of the True Crime content I was previously passively consuming.

-For additional content, please consider the always exceptional Canadian True Crime podcast by Kristi Lee, episodes 15-18 (see previous FTC review/recommendation)

-The poem written by Sarah de Vries and reproduced on page 199 is an honest reminder of society’s complacency which allowed Robert Pickton to claim the lives of so many women:

Woman’s body found beaten beyond recognition

You sip your coffee

Taking a drag of your smoke

Turning the page

Taking a bite of your toast

Just another day

Just another death

Just one more thing you so easily forget

You and your soft, sheltered life

Just go on and on

For nobody special from your world is gone

Just another day

Just another death

Just another Hastings Street whore

Sentenced to death


Picture source: Vintage Canada


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