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On June 6, 2012, formal hearings at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry concluded, nearly eight months since they commenced on October 11, 2011. In total, the Commission held 92 days of hearings in which 75 witnesses were called to testify.

Our firm represents the families of 26 murdered and missing women, most of whom were victims of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton. Unfortunately, from our clients’ perspectives, the Commission did not complete its important work. Many questions remain about how Robert Pickton was permitted by authorities to continue his crimes for so long. Our clients are disappointed that the Commission appeared unwilling to probe many factual areas in which our clients had long sought answers.

We have summarized these concerns in our closing written submissions, which were delivered to Commissioner Oppal on June 25, 2012. A copy of our submissions is available here.

Commissioner Oppal has until October 31, 2012 to submit his final report to the Attorney General.

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“The LePard and Evans reports tragically seem to have been used as a guide to this Commission. They are suspiciously similar…”  — Vanessa Christie, counsel for Terry Blythe and John Unger, June 6, 2012

……

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry received the report of Vancouver Police Department’s Deputy Chief Doug LePard as its very first exhibit.  Thereafter, the Commission’s Executive Director, a non-lawyer named John Boddie who was once LePard’s supervisor during Boddie’s 16 year tenure with the VPD, apparently worked with LePard and Peel Deputy Chief Constable Evans to assist them with managing the evidence presented to the public inquiry.  The Commission, directed by Boddie, apparently used LePard’s report as a template for the evidence it received.  This document, 408 pages in length, does not contain the phrase “Hells Angels”  at all and mentions the phrase “Piggy’s Palace” but once (at page 117).

Before the Commission hearings began, it was well known, and indeed well-publicized, that David and Willy Pickton hosted wild parties at Piggy’s Palace, 2552 Burns Rd., Port Coquitlam, that were attended by members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and drug-addicted sex trade workers from the downtown eastside of Vancouver.  It was also well known, and well-publicized, that from 1996 onwards the CFSEU and OCABC (Organized Crime Agency of BC and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, respectively) conducted major investigations into the Hells Angels’ activities throughout the Lower Mainland that included the use of wiretaps, surveillance and undercover agents.

During these extensive operations, what did the OCABC and CFSEU investigators learn about the activities that were occurring at Piggy’s Palace and at the two residential properties around the corner, one occupied by the Hells Angels, and the other, across the street at 953 Dominion Ave., occupied by the Pickton brothers?   The OCABC and CFSEU records weren’t produced to the Commission and Peter Ditchfield, the supervisor of one of the major investigative efforts (Project Nova) who in 1999 declined a request to provide resources to investigate Willy Pickton, was not called as a witness.

Has the nexus between the Pickton brothers, organized crime and the police investigations thereof been studiously avoided by the expensive public inquiry struck to “to inquire into and make findings of fact respecting the conduct of the missing women investigations”?

Just asking….

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Cameron Ward of our firm was presented with the Reg Robson Award at the British Columbia Civil Liberties’ 50th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, June 2nd.  The award, named after longtime BCCLA President and civil liberties activist, the late Reg Robson, recognizes “someone who has demonstrated a substantial and long-lasting contribution to the cause of civil liberties in British Columbia and Canada.”

Mr. Ward was honoured to be named, along with Robyn Gervais, as a co-recipient of this year’s award.  According to the BCCLA’s publication for the event:

“Cameron Ward’s career has been defined by a commitment to rights and freedoms for all.  Milestones include: representing students who protested APEC at UBC; at the public inquiry into the policing tactics used at that event; the “riot” at the Hyatt where police…charged into a crowd of demonstrators; and culminating in his own case, Ward v. City of Vancouver, where he established that people can be awarded monetary damages by Courts if their Charter rights are violated.  Cameron’s life work has created a beacon of hope for those treated badly by authorities.  Cameron’s work with families like the family of Rodney Jackson, Jeff Berg, Kyle Tait and so many others helped raise public awareness of the need to end police self-investigation in B.C.  He is currently acting for family members at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.  For his unwavering commitment to justice for Canada’s downtrodden, Cameron will receive his Reg Robson Award.”

The BCCLA also conferred honours on Jamie Haller (Youth Activism), Susan Musgrave (Art), Joseph Arvay, Q.C. (Legal Advocacy) and Dr. John Dixon (Lifetime Achievement).  Its 50th Anniversary Gala was an outstanding success, and included presentations by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, Clayton Ruby, Q.C., and Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank.

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According to Tim Dickson, counsel for the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Police Board, the RCMP’s handling of the investigation into Robert William Pickton after July of 1998, when he was a known murder suspect, was “a chronicle of inaction”. 

While this is hardly in dispute, the real question, the question that should have been answered in these hearings, is why?  Why did the RCMP allow their investigation to languish?

Just one example of the inadequate state of the evidence: on the last day of the Commission hearings, May 24, 2012, former RCMP S/Sgt. Keith Davidson testified about a meeting held on February 14, 2000 involving him and his colleagues Cst. John Cater, Cpl. Marg Kingsbury, Cpl. Nicole St. Mars, Cpl. Scott Filer and Cpl. Dave McCartney.  These members were tasked with various responsibilities; McCartney, for instance, was to obtain an authorization to intercept communications and to get a search warrant for Pickton’s property.  Nothing was apparently done…and 14 more women died between the date of that meeting, February 14, 2000, and February 5, 2002 when Pickton’s property was in fact searched by Cst. Nathan Wells.  Why didn’t Cpl. McCartney get the authorization and the search warrant two years before Cst. Wells did?

The Commission didn’t call Cpl. McCartney to the stand.  Nor did it call the other attendees at the meeting – Cater, Kingsbury, St. Mars or Filer – because of time constraints.

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The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry announced at 4:00 p.m. today that oral submissions will not be taking place next week, as scheduled, but would be postponed to the week of June 4, 2012.  We were not consulted and received no prior notice about the sudden change in scheduling.  We also have a previously planned professional commitment that week.

We had made arrangements for our clients, the families of 25 murdered women, to travel to Vancouver to be in attendance next week but these plans will apparently have to be changed.  It is bitterly ironic that the Commission has been plagued by the same indifferent attitude toward the families that permeated the police response to their loved ones’ disappearances.

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