The following is one of a series of occasional comments on my participation in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry and includes my personal opinions, a form of expression protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Every effort is made to ensure factual statements are accurate.


My associate Neil Chantler and I represent the families of 18 missing and murdered women at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.  One other family is represented by counsel, but I haven’t seen their lawyer in attendance since the first morning.  As a result, our task in trying to reveal the whole truth about why it took police nearly five years to arrest the man considered responsible for up to 49 murders is a most daunting, uphill struggle against the most powerful entities in our society, who seem intent on packaging the case neatly for public consumption.

Consider these facts: the RCMP, the Vancouver Police Department and the Criminal Justice Branch have been working on these matters since 1997.  They have access to virtually unlimited public funds and, when it became apparent in 2002 that there would be serious questions about the conduct of the investigations, they put their lawyers to work.  The VPD retained the services of Farris LLP, one of Vancouver’s most respected litigation firms, and the RCMP called upon lawyers from the Canada’s Department of Justice.  These lawyers have been poring over the files for almost a decade.

We were retained to represent families in October, 2010, and we initially acted on a pro bono (without fee) basis.  We immediately applied for participant status and the Commission conferred such status on our clients concurrently with the RCMP, VPD and CJB, in January, 2011 “in advance of the other applicants due to their clear legal interest in the subject matter of the Commission.”

In February, 2011, without notice to us, the Commission reached an agreement with the other three participants about the manner in which their records would be vetted, redacted and disclosed.  We did not get access to any documents at all until June of 2011.  When we finally saw the files for the first time, we could tell that huge numbers of records were being withheld.  We started requesting proper disclosure, and we are currently preparing a compendious application for full disclosure, which we hope will be heard soon.  Department of Justice lawyers say there are over 2 million pages of documents in “the Project Evenhanded database”, but we’ve been given access to perhaps ten percent of that, “only” about 200,000 pages.  (The number changes daily, as documents continue to arrive, sometimes in a trickle, sometimes in a flood, even though the hearings are well under way).

So, let’s look at the playing field:

The RCMP, the VPD and the CJB have each had teams of lawyers carefully reviewing all the files for several years.  Mr. Chantler, myself and a paralegal have had four months to access and digest the material, heavily redacted, over the last four months.

The RCMP, the VPD and the CJB seem to have as much public funds as they need for their legal teams.  While the provincial government has commendably granted the families of the missing and murdered women funding for legal assistance, it is tightly limited.

The Commission itself has a staff of at least fourteen people, including at least eight lawyers, and has reportedly spent $2 million since October 2010 in preparation for this matter.  They have also retained “Independent Commission Counsel”, Jason Gratl and Robyn Gervais, who are obviously working extremely hard, but they have no actual clients to serve.

When I attend the hearing each day, I look around at the desks in the room and see the Commission’s lawyers plus teams of lawyers representing the RCMP, the VPD, the CJB, Vancouver Police Union, a VPD member and a former VPD member.  Any interested observer can gauge how interested all these other lawyers are in ferreting out the truth by attending the hearings or reading the transcripts.

So, a level playing field?  You be the judge.