Ernie Crey was a guest speaker in the ADSS Social Justice 12 class on Monday. Crey spoke to students about his sister Dawn

Ernie Crey was a guest speaker in the ADSS Social Justice 12 class on Monday. Crey spoke to students about his sister Dawn

Alberni students get lesson from Pickton victim’s brother

A, Alberni Social Justice 12 class got a real life lesson about Canada’s most prolific serial killer from the brother of one of his victims

A Social Justice 12 class at Alberni District Secondary School got a real life lesson about Canada’s most prolific serial killer from the brother of one of his victims.

Ernie Crey addressed a hushed class of 30 students on Monday, telling them about his sister Dawn, a victim of Robert William Pickton.

Pickton is the Port Coquitlam pig farmer who is serving a life sentence for six counts of second-degree murder. He has been accused of murdering 26 more women, including Dawn Crey, whose DNA, but not her body, was found on the Pickton farm.

Bringing personal experience with a national tragedy to a class in Port Alberni is invaluable, teacher Ann Ostwald said.  “I think it is very important to expose my kids to people with different ideas and life experiences,” Ostwald said. “Ernie is someone who took a long and painful process in life and was matter-of-fact.”

Dawn Crey disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2000, Crey told the class. “She’d stopped ordering medications from her doctor and stopped collecting her social assistance cheques,” he said. “She’d also stopped having regular visits with another of my sisters and that’s when it started.”

Four years later, and RCMP officer visited Crey to deliver the news he anticipated but hoped would never come—that Dawn’s DNA had been found on the Pickton farm.

Dawn Crey’s life may have ended on the pig farm but the seeds to such a tragic ending were sown long before, Ernie said.

Dawn, and for that matter other Pickton victims, were “very much like you and came from communities very much like Port Alberni,” he said.

What separated many of the victims from other people was severe mental illness, which in his sister’s case included auditory and visual hallucinations, Crey said.

As a teen, Dawn suffered from severe anxiety and depression issues that she didn’t understand. “It was far different from being upset at your mom or dad. It was a more profound psychosis,” he said. “You may know someone struggling with this today.”

Dawn resorted to self-medicating with street drugs and alcohol in an effort to control her condition, he said. The self-medicating led to an addiction.

Later, she met a man who was charismatic and had movie star looks. “But he was addicted as well, and they lived on the streets.”

Time slipped away and Dawn was no longer a pretty 16-year-old girl. Older, and being edged out by younger street workers, Dawn moved to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Her mental illness deepened and she was abused and exploited to no end,” Crey said.

Dawn was finally committed to Colony Farms Hospital, a psychiatric facility where she was treated for her condition. She was released though, and found her self back on the Downtown Eastside.

Ernie spent weeks trying to have her committed again but it was only after she committed a crime that she was sent back to Colony Farm.

“She’d say she saw snakes and heard voices telling her to do things. That’s what she was self-medicating to try and control,” he said.

Crey said that the thing that irks him most is people who ask him where the victims’ personal responsibilities are for where they ended up in life.

“It’s not as though they chose to go, chose to be abused and exploited,” he said. “Thirty years ago I probably would have punched them in the face for even making the suggestion.”

One student asked why it took so long for police to catch Pickton. After reflecting for several moments Crey replied that “their hearts weren’t into the investigation.” Vancouver City Police later apologized for not catching Pickton sooner, he said.

Another student asked if it was because the victims were from the Downtown Eastside. “If the ladies were from West Vancouver or Kerrisdale then it’s safe to say that he would have been caught much sooner.”

Crey asked that if students take one thing away from his talk with them it should be that the issue of mental illness as well as drug and alcohol addiction underpinned the tragedy of the Pickton murder victims.

“You may become doctors, lawyers, nurses or social workers,” he said. “Remember to take this (story) further into your professional lives.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

 

 

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

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

Most Read