November 30, 2011 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, News, Opinion
Deputy Chief Doug LePard of the Vancouver Police Department embarks on his tenth day of testimony today. A thirty year veteran of the VPD, LePard apparently had next to nothing to do with the investigations that are the subject of this inquiry, but has played the role of VPD spokesman on the matter since last summer.
The families of the victims continue to wait patiently for a chance to question Crown Counsel and police about why Robert William Pickton was not prosecuted for attempted murder and other serious charges in 1998. The incident of March 23, 1997, when Pickton nearly killed a Vancouver woman in his Port Coquitlam trailer, was a crucial and pivotal event. The Crown’s decision to stay the serious charges allowed Pickton remained free to kill dozens of women over the years that followed, including many of our clients’ loved ones, and may have cost taxpayers up to $200 million in later investigative and legal costs.
The families also want to question those who can explain why the VPD and RCMP failed to apprehend Pickton when they apparently had him squarely in their sights as early as August, 1998.
Pickton was eventually charged with 27 murders after a “serendipitous” 2002 search of the Port Coquitlam property he and his brother lived on turned up evidence of the missing women’s remains and possessions. He was later convicted of killing six women, one charge was dismissed for lack of evidence, and the Attorney General decided to stay 20 other murder charges against him. We understand that the provincial government committed to a proper, thorough, and independent public inquiry into this tragedy, not a rehashing of police reviews of the case.
For example, here’s what the Canadian Press reported on September 9, 2010:
“The province’s attorney general announced Thursday that hearings will examine how police handled reports of sex workers disappearing from Vancouver’s poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside, many of whom ended up dead on Pickton’s farm in nearby Port Coquitlam.
Pickton’s arrest and subsequent year-long trial received intense international attention, but Attorney General Mike de Jong said there is much we still don’t know.
‘This is a situation in which upwards of 50 human beings went missing. We believe many, if not all, of those individuals were murdered,’ de Jong told reporters following a provincial cabinet meeting in Victoria.
‘There are still lingering questions about the nature of these investigations, questions about whether more could have been done sooner, are we in a position to learn from the investigations and mistakes that may have been made.’
The inquiry will have the power to compel testimony from witnesses and will make recommendations to prevent the horrific tragedy from repeating itself.
De Jong said he wants to know how dozens of women could disappear for years before authorities determined the disappearances could be the work of a single killer.
‘How did this happen?” said de Jong.
‘How is it that human beings, members of our society, whatever their socioeconomic circumstances, could go missing in the manner that they did without it seeing a full appreciation of the magnitude of what it seems was taking place until some years had passed?’
Pickton was arrested in 2002, setting off a massive search of his sprawling farm where investigators found the remains or DNA of 33 women. He was charged in the deaths of 27 women and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.
His convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in July and prosecutors have said they don’t intend to pursue any further criminal charges, including the 20 further murder charges he had been facing.
Lillian Beaudoin’s sister Diane Rock was among the victims covered in those 20 charges.
‘I just want justice,” Beaudoin said in an interview Thursday. ‘And if justice means digging this far deep into it and finding out why the police made all the mistakes that they made and how this could have been prevented (that’s) one of my main concerns.’”
Dianne Rock, murdered in late 2001
posted by Cameron Ward
November 28, 2011 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, News, Opinion
Our clients, the families of twenty missing and murdered women, continue to wait patiently to hear direct testimony from the police officers and Crown lawyers who were actually involved in the investigations of Robert William Pickton’s near-fatal stabbing of “STW328″ on March 23, 1997 and the disappearances of dozens of other Vancouver women whose remains and DNA were found on the Pickton brothers’ property nearly five years later. Since time is said to be limited, the families are concerned by the delay in getting to the crucial police and Crown evidence.
Vancouver Police Department spokesman Deputy Chief Doug LePard is in his eighth day on the witness stand, giving testimony that consists almost entirely of hearsay and conjecture. LePard, a thirty year veteran of the VPD who admittedly had little to do with the case when the families were clamouring to get his department to pay more attention to their relatives’ disappearances, spent four and a half days giving evidence in chief and is currently in the middle of his second day of cross-examination by Darrell Roberts, Q.C. Mr. Roberts does not represent any clients, but is one of the four “independent lawyers” appointed by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, as referenced in the excerpt from Commission’s media release of August 10, 2011 set out below:
August 10, 2011 – Missing Women Commission Appoints Two Independent Lawyers; Two Others to Participate Pro Bono
The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry announced today that it has hired two independent lawyers on contract to help ensure that the perspectives of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side community and Aboriginal women are presented at the inquiry, which is scheduled to start on October 11.
The two Vancouver-based lawyers, Mr. Jason Gratl, a past president of the BC Civil Liberties Association, and Ms. Robyn Gervais, who previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council at the Commission, will not represent specific clients. They will work independently of the Commission with a mandate to serve the public interest at the hearings. They are expected to take guidance from unfunded participant groups and affected organizations and individuals.
The Commission also announced that two prominent Vancouver lawyers, Mr. Bryan Baynham Q.C. and Mr. Darrell Roberts Q.C., will participate pro bono in the inquiry in support of Ms. Gervais.
Commission spokesperson, Chris Freimond, said Commissioner Wally Oppal and his staff are confident that the participation of the four lawyers will contribute significantly to the Commission’s ability to conduct a relevant inquiry leading to findings and recommendations that will make a real difference to the people of British Columbia and Canada.
“The Commission has worked hard to prepare for the hearings and believes that when they begin on October 11, it will become clear that the resources and structure are in place to deal thoroughly with the important issues in a way that satisfies British Columbians,” said Mr. Freimond.
He added that the knowledge and understanding of the Downtown East Side community and Aboriginal women’s issues that Mr. Gratl and Ms. Gervais bring to the inquiry will help ensure that the perspectives of these communities are presented at the hearings. They will also be able to test evidence at the inquiry in an adversarial role, if so required, as will Mr. Baynham and Mr. Roberts, two of Vancouver most senior and respected lawyers.
While it is not known at this stage what the cost of hiring Mr. Gratl and Ms. Gervais will be, the Commission has the budget to fund their services because it has reallocated resources and benefitted from cost savings in its investigations, which did not take as much time as previously anticipated.”
posted by Cameron Ward
Many people, including this writer, thought the provincial government had its priorities skewed when it decided to spend over a half a billion of our tax dollars putting a new roof on an old underused sports facility, when vulnerable homeless people are living under viaducts just a stone’s throw from the stadium. With news that the roof is leaking cascades of water the day before its showcase event, the Grey Cup, the stupidity of the government’s decision is even more obvious.
I’m sure that dozens of people will be working overtime to try to patch the leaks so Christy Clark’s Liberals are not further embarrassed…and the hurried repairs will be on our dime too.
Never mind helping the homeless and downtrodden among us-they probably deserve their misfortune (satire alert)-but aren’t there any better places to spend this kind of money?
posted by Cameron Ward
Thousands of aboriginal Canadians still live in uninsulated shacks without plumbing or electrical power. According to First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, it may be attributable to them being “out of sight, out of mind.” Whatever the reason we new arrivals treat our first peoples this way, it is unacceptable.
posted by Cameron Ward
Director Robert Redford recently took a few moments out of his busy schedule to chat with me after filming some scenes in my offices. I’m really looking forward to seeing his new movie The Company You Keep, a thriller based on Neil Gordon’s novel, since it features some of my favourite actors. Besides Mr. Redford himself, who is playing Albany lawyer Jim Grant, the star-studded cast includes Anna Kendrick, Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Brit Marling, Brendan Gleeson, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Chris Cooper, Stephen Root, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins and Lochlyn Munro.
It must be hard to live one’s adult life constrained by the trappings of celebrity, as Mr. Redford has done, but in our brief meeting he struck me as a truly pleasant and likeable gentleman. Of course, his impressive professional record as an actor, director and outspoken activist speaks for itself, but it’s nice to get the sense that the man himself may even surpass his sterling reputation. I hope that the film succeeds beyond his and team’s expectations.