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An Incredible Story of Addiction and Triumph

Last month we told you about an incredible VPD officer who recently retired after 41 years working in law enforcement right here in Vancouver. To say that Constable Linda Malcolm consistently went above and beyond for the vulnerable women on the Downtown Eastside is an understatement.

If you have not done so already, please read PART 1 and PART 2  of our feature series on Linda and learn how she touched the lives of thousands of at-risk women in Vancouver.

Recently, a brave woman named Elizabeth reached out to us to share her own story about how Linda helped not only her daughter, but also their entire family. We are so grateful to Elizabeth for sharing such a deeply personal and difficult experience with us and for allowing us to share her story with all of you…


“Hello,

I recently found out that Constable Linda Malcolm has retired from the VPD and I would like to comment on this.

Of course, you realize that she is irreplaceable. Her gentle tenacity, kindness, courage and amazing wisdom affected and changed the lives of many. In this group of many, is my daughter Sheilagh, myself and her two sisters. Sheilagh was an addict, Main and Hastings, during the time of Pickton. She was found by Linda.

We survived because of Constable Linda Malcolm.

Those times were gruesome, and they were times I would not choose to remember.  I would sell my soul if I could make them never happen. My most persistent memory is coming home each evening from working at the Lab. (I was in charge of Cardiology at B.C. BioMedical Labs, Chilliwack) and turning on the T.V. for the local evening news. This was done because Sheilagh was missing……a run-away…….somewhere on the streets, or dead.  I scanned the evening news to see if any unidentified female bodies had been found. This was when so many women were going missing from the DTES and ending up at the Pickton farm. This was my evening routine, day after day, month after month, year after year.

I waited continuously for calls from the RCMP asking me to come in to identify the body of my daughter or request a DNA sample from me for comparison to a sample from an unidentified, mutilated or decomposing corpse.

This was the horror of Sheilagh’s addiction.

One tends to take photographs during happy times. Sheilagh’s sisters, Maria and Bo were traumatized by her addiction, and there were no happy photos taken. The only photo I recall of Sheilagh was a VPD “mug shot” shown to me during one of my trips to Main and Hastings to try to locate Sheilagh. She had become a grotesque and unrecognizable creature; her face filled with oozing sores, and her eyes staring blankly ahead for the mug shot, likely taken during an arrest for trafficking cocaine.

Then, Linda found Sheilagh and she supported and encouraged her unconditionally for many months. Linda became our friend; a person of profoundly gentle authority who my daughters each grew to trust and respect and someone there to answer questions and give the reassurances that I was unable to do.

The nightmare of her addiction is no different than that, which other mothers, sisters and families are forced to endure. Sometimes it turns out well, as in our situation, sometimes not.

Today my daughter Sheilagh, after completing her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria has been working as a registered social worker and is currently completing her Graduate degree in Counselling Psychology, graduating in June 2023.

My middle daughter Maria was anxious to pursue a career in Law Enforcement and received much encouragement from Linda. After weighing her options, she settled on and Graduated from RCMP Depot in 2020.

My youngest daughter, so traumatized by her oldest sister’s addition, was in touch with Linda as well. This daughter moved forward and obtained a degree in Political Science, with a Minor in Women’s Studies, from Concordia University, Montreal.  She completed her Graduate Masters degree in Political Science in 2020 from SFU.

I was able to return to my chosen career of Laboratory Medicine, recreating our lives in a new and happily challenging path.

It is hard to understate profound influence Linda has had on our lives. We would not have survived. So it is with grace, respect and humility I wish to thank Linda Malcolm, and the VPD.

In my own professional and personal life even today I still maintain a connection to the Addiction and Mental Health, and Recovery community here in Courtenay, Vancouver Island, and recognize the fragility of human existence all too well.

Thus, I urge the VPD to continue with the work that Linda was doing. Her liaison with the most vulnerable people of our society cannot be broken.

She cannot be replaced, there is no doubt about that, but her work must continue. Trust is a fragile commodity on Main and Hastings, and without trust, there is no life. Linda held the lamp of trust and the beacon of life in her hands. Please don’t let her retirement extinguish it.

With respect and humility,

Elizabeth Martin (R.C.T)
Courtenay, B.C.


If you would like to support vulnerable women like Sheilagh, or any other VPD officer-led community outreach program, please donate online or call us at 604.717.3700. Gifts of all sizes can make a difference.


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