A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » Missing Women Commision of Inquiry
A. Cameron Ward Tel: (604)688-6881
Fax: (604)688-6871
58 Powell Street
Vancouver BC
V6A 1E7

Our firm is honoured to be representing the families of Dianne Rock, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey, Cynthia Dawn Feliks, Cara Ellis, Mona Wilson, Helen May Hallmark, Dawn Crey, Angela Hazel Williams, Jacqueline Murdock, Brenda Wolfe, Andrea Joesbury, Elsie Sebastian, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Borhaven, Tiffany Drew, Angela Jardine, Stephanie Lane, Tanya Holyk, Olivia William, Debra Jones, Janet Henry, Marie Lorna Laliberte, Sereena Abotsway, and Dianne Melnick at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

The Inquiry will focus on the conduct of the Vancouver Police Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in handling numerous reported cases of missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Inquiry will also investigate the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch on January 27, 1998, to enter a stay of proceedings on charges against Robert William Pickton, who was later convicted of murdering six of the missing women. Finally, the Commissioner has been tasked with recommending changes respecting the conduct of investigations involving missing women and suspected multiple homicides, and the co-ordination of homicide investigations by multiple police organizations. The complete Terms of Reference are available here.

The Inquiry was established by an Order in Council pursuant to the Public Inquiry Act, S.B.C. 2007, c. 9, and has been granted the powers of both a hearing and study commission. The Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C. has been appointed sole Commissioner of the Inquiry.

If you have information that might assist the Inquiry, we encourage you to contact the Commissioner, who has invited members of the public to make written submissions. More information on how to participate is found on the Inquiry’s website. If you are a direct family member of a women reported missing, we encourage you to contact us directly.

From time to time we will post an update on the status of the Inquiry on our website.

Latest Action Post

On March 7, 2012, Commissioner Oppal ordered that a copy of VPD Det. Cst. Lori Shenher’s unpublished book be disclosed to the inquiry participants, subject to vetting by her counsel for “privacy” concerns.  We applied for disclosure on January 31, 2012, after Shenher admitted under cross-examination that she had written a 320 page book on the missing women investigations that was slated for publication by McClelland & Stewart in September 2003.

We have not yet received a copy of the document and continue to await compliance with the Commission’s order.

……

By the way, this is what Suzanne Fournier of The Vancouver Province reported on this subject nearly nine years ago, on April 24, 2003:

“Meanwhile, Vancouver police have denied that one of its officers is writing a book on the case.

Det. Lori Shenher, who promotes herself on the Internet as “a 10- year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department and . . . the lead investigator/file co-ordinator on the missing Downtown Eastside women investigation,” has been reported to have secured a book deal with the aid of Toronto agent Michael Levine.

The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine recently cited a perceived conflict-of-interest on Levine’s part for representing both Toronto journalist Stevie Cameron, who is writing a Pickton book, while obtaining a contract for Shenher. Cameron is, coincidentally, the first cousin of Vancouver police Chief Jamie Graham.

Police spokeswoman Const. Anne Drennan denied yesterday that Shenher was writing a book. “I spoke to [Lori] this morning and she is adamant that she is not writing a book,” said Drennan, adding Shenher is on maternity leave until February.”

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Commission Counsel has advised us that Commissioner Oppal will render his decision respecting our application seeking disclosure of Det. Cst. Lori Shenher’s book manuscript on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. 

We applied for a copy of the manuscript after Shenher, a former journalist, confirmed under cross-examination that she had written a book about her experience with the missing women investigations and submitted it for anticipated publication by McClelland & Stewart in 2003.  The application was opposed by her counsel, David Crossin Q.C., on grounds that the book was irrelevant and/or private.  Commissioner Oppal accepted Mr. Crossin’s invitation to review the book himself to determine whether it should be disclosed to the participants.

According to the Commission’s website, the upcoming schedule is as follows:

Wednesday March 7, 2012
Staff Sg. Don Adam (Retired)

Thursday March 8, 2012
Cst. Dave Dickson
Insp. Gary Greer
Staff Sgt. Doug MacKay Dunn
Insp. Chris Beach

Monday March 12 to Wednesday March 14, 2012
Insp. Fred Biddlecomb
Insp. Dan Dureau
Sgt. Geramy Field
DCC Brian McGuinness

Hearings will not be in session March 19 – 23, 2012*

…..

*We do not know why the Commission is not in session during the week of March 19th.

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The Province newspaper reporter Suzanne Fournier has followed the missing women case for over a decade.  She has written a story for tomorrow’s edition that includes the following excerpts:

” The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was dealt another blow to its credibility Monday with the withdrawal of the last lawyer who speaks for First Nations.

Virtually all key women’s and community groups had already pulled out of the inquiry after they were denied legal funding to analyze 100,000 pages of documents.

Robyn Gervais, appointed last Aug. 12 as “independent counsel for aboriginal interests,” left the inquiry after commissioner Wally Oppal refused to hear her statement.”

…..

“Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he supports Gervais.

“We worked very hard to get this inquiry, but it has become a travesty, a further injustice to the families of murdered women,” said Phillip.”

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Today’s evidentiary hearings started after 11:00 a.m. (following the hearing of a lengthy application by Darrell Roberts, Q.C.) with four Vancouver Police Department witnesses taking the stand at once.  Our objections to the process were summarily dismissed and Messrs. Beach, Greer, Dickson and Mackay-Dunn were led through their evidence by Commission Counsel for the rest of the day.  The appearance of former Inspector Chris Beach as one of the witnesses was a complete surprise, as Commission Counsel had failed to notify us that he would be appearing on the panel.

Independent Commission Counsel Robyn Gervais, originally appointed to represent aboriginal interests, announced her withdrawal from the hearings.  She is reportedly disillusioned with the process.

If so, she is certainly not alone.  The Commission’s main concern seems to be to hurry along to a self-imposed April 30, 2012 completion date.  To this end, it is now calling witnesses in groups.  We are finding that it is impossible to prepare and conduct effective cross-examinations in such circumstances.

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At the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry yesterday, Commissioner Oppal revealed Practice Directive No. 3, a procedural decision taken without seeking any consultation with or submissions from us, the counsel for the families of 25 missing and murdered women.  The directive imposes a fundamentally different process, one that will see witnesses appear in groups, on “panels”.  The radical new approach seems to be driven by the provincial government’s decision to compel the Commission to report to it by June 30, 2012.

When this inquiry was established, our clients hoped that it would finally provide them with the opportunity to seek out the true facts surrounding the Crown’s decision to stay charges against Robert William Pickton arising from his attempt to murder a Vancouver sex trade worker in March of 1997 and the impotent police investigations of him that ensued until he was serendipitously snared by an unrelated investigation on February 5, 2002.  In our opening remarks to the Commission on October 11, 2011, we pledged to assist the Commission in its mandate by helping to pry the lid off the scandal and expose all the evidence to public scrutiny. 

We knew our task would be challenging, but we still underestimated just how difficult it would prove to be.  We certainly didn’t anticipate being the subject of vitriolic personal attacks for trying to represent our clients’ interests by pursuing the truth.

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