Don’t just take my word for it. Here is what renowned author Stevie Cameron wrote about Elaine’s work and advocacy on the Downtown Eastside in her national best-seller On The Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women:
Elaine Allan was the coordinator of WISH [a drop in centre for women working in the sex trade] … from 1998 to 2001 … Allan had started at the centre as a volunteer in 1997 … Right away she loved the work and the people she was helping. It was never easy to find people with the skills and passion for social justice needed to work in such a tough environment; the chair of the WISH board … asked [Elaine] if she would be willing to replace the outgoing coordinator. It would mean a drastic cut in pay but Allan agreed. She had found her place in the world. She knew she could help, she knew she could make a difference …
[Elaine] has always been a champion of the women she looked after at WISH in the Downtown Eastside, and it was her love and respect for these women that inspired us.
I met Elaine in 2007 when I was prosecuting Robert William “Willie” Pickton for murdering more than twenty women he had abducted from the Downtown Eastside; our Crown Counsel team subpoenaed Elaine to testify at the trial and I was tasked with leading her evidence in Court. At the time, Elaine had continued her Downtown Eastside work at the Salvation Army, then she went on to work at the John Howard Society assisting vulnerable people in conflict with the criminal justice system. She would later become the executive director of ShelterNet BC, a provincial agency that helps organizations house homeless people.
Elaine was the main witness telling the jury about the murdered women’s heart-rending lives on the Downtown Eastside. She knew almost all of Pickton’s victims and she knew them well. It was obvious to me, as it was to Stevie Cameron, that Elaine cared deeply for the women she helped through her work at WISH and that she was deeply traumatized by their deaths.
Elaine was an impressive witness who gave calm, careful evidence, especially under tough cross-examination by one of British Columbia’s top defence lawyers. Few witnesses stay so cool and collected under that kind of pressure. Elaine was truly remarkable.
Twenty years after the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP arrested Pickton, things are worse than ever on the Downtown Eastside. Just a couple of weeks ago, the CBC reported this:
Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are warning of escalating levels of violence in the neighbourhood and reporting more frequent, increasingly brutal instances of kidnappings, forced confinements, rapes and robberies, according to front-line workers.
Mebrat Beyene, the executive director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society, said she and others with first-hand knowledge of the neighbourhood are sounding the alarm about “an escalation in violence and predatory behaviour.”
“Sex workers are telling us that it’s worse than they’ve ever seen on the street,” she said …
Despite the mayhem on the Downtown Eastside, last year the Mayor and City Council slashed $5.7 million from the budget of the Vancouver Police Department. How could they have forgotten – so soon – about the unfortunate women murdered by Pickton? Choking off police resources only hurts the most vulnerable in society, like Pickton’s victims and the women who continue to live such difficult lives on the Downtown Eastside. It was an affront to the values, like fair and equitable treatment by government, that Canadians hold dear. Don’t all the citizens of Vancouver deserve the safety that a properly funded police service can deliver? Do we really want to risk another Pickton and the victimization of our most vulnerable citizens by trying to gut the Vancouver Police Department this way?
Fortunately, the Vancouver Police Department fought back against the Mayor and City Council, and the Province ordered the funding restored. But in the meantime, we missed the opportunity to hire and train more than 60 recruits who, by now, could be hard at work fighting the violent crime wave that is currently spreading out across Vancouver.
Much is needed to protect Vancouverites from crimes of violence – and clearly it won’t be delivered by a Mayor and City Council who so recently put us at risk by trying to hamstring the dedicated women and men of the Vancouver Police Department. Elaine and all the other NPA candidates care deeply about public safety in the Downtown Eastside – and throughout Vancouver. They will work hard to restore it once they are in office, after years of neglect and just plain bad administration by the previous Mayor and City Council.
That’s not the end of the story of Elaine Allan and the Pickton trial prosecutor. I met Elaine again in March 2008, a few months after the trial ended.
We went out for lunch in English Bay.
We’ve been happily married for going on 14 years.
Please vote for Elaine Allan and the entire NPA slate, and help make our beloved City of Vancouver all that it can be.
John N. Ahern
Senior Crown Counsel (1994 to 2017) and proud husband of Elaine Allan