May 13, 2012 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, News
The Attorney General/Solicitor General/Minister of Justice has written a letter* rejecting a plea for an extension of time for the deadline imposed on the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Our clients, the families of 25 murdered women, have been pressing the provincial government for an extension of time for the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to complete a proper public inquiry into the missing women investigations and the Crown’s decision to drop serious charges, including attempted murder, against convicted killer Robert William Pickton in 1998. While the Commission has been holding hearings off and on since October, it has refused to hear many material witnesses and is now putting up to four witnesses on the stand simultaneously and limiting lawyers’ cross-examination time. Many of our clients are concerned that the hearings are superficial and unfair.
Lilliane Beaudoin, whose sister Dianne Rock went missing in 2001, is one who has sought an extension of the government’s June 30, 2012 deadline. The inquiry is particularly important for Ms. Beaudoin as she is a representative of one of the twenty families who failed to get the benefit of the criminal justice system after Attorney General Oppal (as he then was) announced** that the Crown would not proceed with the prosecution of Pickton on twenty additional first degree murder charges (including the murder of Dianne Rock, count 4) in the event he lost the appeal of his first six convictions.
Although $200 million of public money was reportedly spent on the investigation and trial of Pickton after RCMP Cst. Nathan Wells accidently stumbled over evidence of the killings in February of 2002, the provincial government is again citing cost as the reason for refusing a time extension. Once again, the families feel that their lost loved ones are not worthy of proper attention from those responsible for the administration of justice in this province.
Hearings continue tomorrow when four members of the Coquitlam RCMP detachment named Moulton, Henley, Yurkiw and Pollock take the stand, together. They are expected to address the issue of why, when Corporal Mike Connor, Det. Cst. Lori Shenher, Det. Ron Lepine and Det. Mark Chernoff were certain in 1999 that Pickton was killing the missing Vancouver sex trade workers, they failed to take any steps to stop him for over two and a half more years.
*The text of Ms. Bond’s email to Ms. Beaudoin’s spouse, Rene:
Dear Rene Beaudoin:
Thank you for your email regarding an extension of the deadline for the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincerest condolences to you and your family for the loss of your sister-in-law, Dianne Rock.
The government identified the need for the inquiry because we are committed to understanding what went wrong in the investigation of missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated. As you are aware, the government amended the Commission’s terms of reference last fall to extend the deadline for the Commissioner’s final report from December 31, 2011 to June 30, 2012. The government provided this extension in order to give the Commission sufficient time to complete the evidentiary hearings, fully consider all of the evidence received, and develop its final report and recommendations. We are confident that the Commission will be able to fulfill its mandate within the specified timelines, and the Commissioner has not made any application since the commission was previously granted an extension to further extend the deadline beyond the end of June.
With respect to funding, to date the government has invested over $4.5 million to support the Commission. Commission funding has already been set aside, so the wage settlement with the RCMP will not impact the inquiry. The RCMP contract describes the funding arrangements for RCMP policing, but the Province was not party to the recent decision to increase wages. RCMP members are federal employees, and they negotiate with the Government of Canada for wage increases. Under the new contract, the RCMP will consult with the provinces regarding proposed wage increases, and our views on those increases will be made known to the federal government before they make any related decisions.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to share your perspective on the Commission of Inquiry. The government looks forward to receiving the Commissioner’s report and recommendations prevent these terrible events from ever being repeated.
Minister of Justice
and Attorney General
**Excerpt from The Globe and Mail, February 27, 2008:
Serial killer Robert Pickton will not face a trial on 20 first-degree murder charges unless he successfully appeals his first six murder convictions, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal confirmed yesterday.
“It would not be in the public interest to proceed further against a person who is already serving six life terms with no eligibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years,” Mr. Oppal told reporters.
He acknowledged he will face criticism from some of the families of the 20 victims who have not had their day in court, but he insisted the cost of the trial was not a factor in the decision.
“We can’t put a price on justice,” he said. “The public interest here involves putting everybody through a second trial given the fact that no further punishment can be achieved by virtue of further convictions. He is now receiving the maximum sentence.”
Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Carrie Ellis is among the 20 outstanding cases, told the Canadian Press she wants the trial to go ahead.
“Six of the 26 were given justice, they were given their day in court,” she said. “The families had an opportunity to speak in public … on how it affected them. That’s something this family will never have.
“We want to know why the government feels that the murders and lives of these girls are not important enough to proceed with a trial.”
Ernie Crey wasn’t expecting to see justice for his sister Dawn. Although traces of her DNA were found on Mr. Pickton’s pig farm, no charges have been laid in her case.
But he said the decision is a terrible one for families.
“If my sister were amongst the 20, I would be camped out in Wally Oppal’s office right now until he reversed that decision,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Mr. Oppal said victim service workers have been working to contact about 200 family members connected with the 20 victims.
“I know the lawyers in the justice branch agonized over this decision,” he told reporters yesterday.