From the west coast to the Golden Horseshoe surrounding Toronto, there is evidence to suggest serial killers are hunting and disproportionately, Indigenous women and girls are their prey. And those serial killers likely number far more than the average person imagines.
"There is very good research on west coast and the north west in the U.S and in Canada which helps explain a lot of patterns seen in lower mainland and B.C and in the Highway of Tears region," Michael Arntfield, a Western University criminologist and serial killer expert who studies murder patterns for the Murder Accountability Project in the U.S.
For every 100,000 white people in Canada, there's only one white female serial killer. That's a lot of killers out there who target white women.University of British Columbia criminologist Rob Brezina.
Brezina has been working with the FBI since the mid-1990s, when he was asked by the bureau to examine Canadian cases. But while many of these killings have been solved, the true number of serial murders remains elusive, according to Brezina.
For the past year, I have been on a mission to find out how many of these killers exist. In August, I was asked by an Ottawa-based woman to help her with this very search. She believed that many young women had gone missing in Ottawa over the last 20 years, perhaps even before. This woman asked if I would be willing to talk about what it's like to search for your missing family members and to know you may never find them. I agreed to do so.
I spent the next two weeks doing interviews with more than 50 people involved in law enforcement, missing person investigations, social work, advocacy and other related fields. I interviewed police officers, coroners, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, victims' advocates, victim services and volunteers. I heard many sad stories of parents who had lost their children to violence and death.
When my mother was still alive, we would get together for dinner every Saturday night. During one such meal, I shared some information that I had found out during my research. The man at the next table stopped eating his dinner.
He said, "My son is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison and he did not do anything wrong. My daughter is serving 10 years in a mental institution because she had to be there." The gentleman at the next table then got up, walked over to me, looked me straight in the eye and asked me, "How could you say something like that? You must be from another planet. His son has done nothing wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself for saying something like that!" We all sat quietly for a moment. No one said anything.
Finally, I turned to him and said, "Sir, we are talking about a girl who was shot twice in the head for trying to help someone else. She was beaten to death. His son was thrown in a cell with a group of other murderers. You ask me how can he be considered 'innocent'?" "My wife died in the early 2000's of cancer. Her last request was that I should put a sign on her grave that said, 'Here lies a woman who died peacefully." She would want me to tell everyone, "Her death was peaceful.