Government spent a hundred million to investigate Pickton

The figures are in and they’re heartbreaking. $103,000,000 to investigate and prosecute serial killer Robert Pickton, a man that preyed on women that lived on $185 per month, or less, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The cost of maintaining people in addiction, mental health delusions, or simple dire poverty in Vancouver and other centres of desperation across the province far exceeds the cost of solutions. The challenge, of course, is finding a politician willing to cover the up-front payment. These solutions are expensive at first, but cheaper by far in the long run: drug detox and treatment on demand, dignified mental health treatment, transition housing and job skill building for post-treatment, social housing for post-transition housing with the supports needed.

To house and support these sex workers who were murdered by Robert Pickton, to make a meaningful effort to help them exit the trade and rebuild their lives, would cost $37,000 per year per person according to researchers at Simon Fraser University. The same study concluded that policing, legal fees, front line services, court fees, and now murder trials and public inquiries, results in a cost of more than $55,000 per year, per person, to leave these women on the street. Clearly the costs have not ended after their degrading deaths.

It’s not just the survival sex workers either. As the Frank Paul inquiry drags on, having to fight tooth and nail for government cooperation, the realization that Frank Paul lived on emergency health care services for his whole life, taking $900 ambulance rides sometimes every day, has not been the focus. There are many Frank Pauls on the streets across B.C., and we know exactly how to keep them alive and healthier, treat them with dignity, and even create the possibility of rehabilitation, through sobering centres and measured alcohol programs, but we choose not to do it.

It’s cheaper. It’s more dignified. It’s a life saver. But the political philosophy that people deserve what they get if they can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps damns our most vulnerable and victimized to a brutal and short life. It seems the only time government is concerned about their bodies is for the purposes of determining whether or not their deaths can be traced directly to negligent or malicious government action, or to support the government’s cases against the psychopaths that easily exploit them.

$103,000,000 would support the 49 victims of Robert Pickton for 60 years, assuming none could recover from their addictions, be rehabilitated, and re-enter society.

The cost of leaving these women on the street? Add $103,000,000 to the daily policing, jail, fire, ambulance, emergency room, shelter bed, drop in centre, food bank, and countless other front line service costs, and you might join me in wondering how we can afford not to how these women ended up in the streets or why they had to stay there. That question is not on the list for the upcoming murdered and missing women public inquiry. Perhaps it should be.

Visit pivotlegal.org for more information about Vancouver's low-income housing crisis.

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