A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » News
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC
Latest Action Post

I ask myself almost every day whether the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is worth the cost.

I’m not speaking about the monetary cost of the inquiry to the taxpayers.  Much has already been said and written by others on this subject and the public will ultimately pass judgment on this question.  For the record, I felt that the social benefits of a thorough, searching and independent inquiry outweighed the economic costs.  After all, some $200 million of public money was spent on police and legal work in the Pickton prosecution.  If the authorities had responded to the women’s disappearances earlier and more effectively, then arguably most of that sum would have been saved.  Even though this Commission has spent some $4 million of taxpayers’ funds so far, the cost of the inquiry will still be a drop in the proverbial bucket.  Maybe the money would be better spent on trying to improve the lives of those in need…again, others can be the judge of that.

What I am speaking of here are the personal and professional costs of being involved in such a complex and difficult matter.  Lawyers often get a bad rap, and some of them may even deserve it.  I think critics overlook the sacrifices lawyers make when they take on such difficult and time-consuming matters on behalf of their clients.  Conscientious lawyers may spend almost every waking hour working on or thinking about the case, harming their personal relationships, their practice and their mental and physical health.  There is always more work to be done because preparing for a hearing is a lot like cramming for a perpetual final exam. 

When the mountain of documentary evidence to be mastered is enormous, when the time allotted for preparation is inadequate, when one never knows what surprises the next day will bring, when professional courtesies are abandoned and personal vitriolic attacks become routine, and when the task of advancing the clients’ interests in seeking the truth appears to be virtually impossible, one really has to wonder….

posted by

The National Post is reporting today that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has been beset by sexism and inappropriate workplace conduct.  Commissioner Oppal has issued a statement saying the Commission has appointed a lawyer to conduct an investigation.

The article cites five former staffers and contains the following:

All of the former employees who spoke to the National Post requested that their names not be published, citing concern for their future employment prospects. “I’ve been made aware that my speaking [out] could end my career,” said one”….

A lawyer contracted to assist the commission says the inquiry “is replicating conditions that allowed women to go missing for so long: Lack of resources, dismissive attitudes, a failure to listen to the community. The commission has become a manifestation of the forces it was intended to study…. It’s like time travel. [There is] sexism, dismissiveness about discrimination. In the context, it’s completely abhorrent.”

Another lawyer who worked for the commission agrees, adding that aboriginal representation at the inquiry amounts to “tokenism. It’s nothing else but that. Everything that Robyn Gervais said was true,” the lawyer added. “I was silenced. It was the most degrading, humiliating, devastating, disgusting thing. It was like being treated like a survival sex-trade worker.”


 This is appalling news.  I hope the persons in question find the courage to step forward in a forum in which they can be immunized them from any possible retaliation.  


posted by

After a three week hiatus, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will resume hearings on Monday, April 2, 2012.  A panel is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, followed by Det. Cst. Lori Shenher, who is expected to retun Wednesday.

The Comission earlier announced that it has appointed Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt “as Independent Co-counsel to present issues related to Aboriginal interests.”

It is obvious that an extension of time will be required to complete the hearings, as only15 hearing days are available in April and the Commission has yet to hear from dozens of its listed witnesses, including many of the police officers who recently retained counsel.

posted by

On Monday morning Commissioner Oppal announced that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry hearings would be adjourned until April 2, 2012 to enable Commission Counsel to find a lawyer to replace Robyn Gervais, who recently quit as “Independent Commission Counsel” for Aboriginal interests.  The announcement took us completely by surprise, as we had been preparing through the weekend to question a panel of four Vancouver Police Department major crime investigators that was scheduled to appear this week.  Despite our protestations, the Commission does not consult with us or notify us in respect of significant procedural developments like this.

In our view, there is now no possibility that the Commission can complete its mandate by its self-imposed deadline of April 30, 2012.  There are simply too many witnesses yet to be heard from.

posted by

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.”

posted by

web design by rob c - Log in