Our clients, the families of twenty missing and murdered women, continue to wait patiently to hear direct testimony from the police officers and Crown lawyers who were actually involved in the investigations of Robert William Pickton’s near-fatal stabbing of “STW328” on March 23, 1997 and the disappearances of dozens of other Vancouver women whose remains and DNA were found on the Pickton brothers’ property nearly five years later.  Since time is said to be limited, the families are concerned by the delay in getting to the crucial police and Crown evidence.

Vancouver Police Department spokesman Deputy Chief Doug LePard is in his eighth day on the witness stand, giving testimony that consists almost entirely of hearsay and conjecture.  LePard, a thirty year veteran of the VPD who admittedly had little to do with the case when the families were clamouring to get his department to pay more attention to their relatives’ disappearances, spent four and a half days giving evidence in chief and is currently in the middle of his second day of cross-examination by Darrell Roberts, Q.C.  Mr. Roberts does not represent any clients, but is one of the  four “independent lawyers” appointed by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, as referenced in the excerpt from Commission’s media release of August 10, 2011 set out below:

August 10, 2011 – Missing Women Commission Appoints Two Independent Lawyers; Two Others to Participate Pro Bono

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry announced today that it has hired two independent lawyers on contract to help ensure that the perspectives of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side community and Aboriginal women are presented at the inquiry, which is scheduled to start on October 11.

The two Vancouver-based lawyers, Mr. Jason Gratl, a past president of the BC Civil Liberties Association, and Ms. Robyn Gervais, who previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council at the Commission, will not represent specific clients. They will work independently of the Commission with a mandate to serve the public interest at the hearings. They are expected to take guidance from unfunded participant groups and affected organizations and individuals.

The Commission also announced that two prominent Vancouver lawyers, Mr. Bryan Baynham Q.C. and Mr. Darrell Roberts Q.C., will participate pro bono in the inquiry in support of Ms. Gervais.

Commission spokesperson, Chris Freimond, said Commissioner Wally Oppal and his staff are confident that the participation of the four lawyers will contribute significantly to the Commission’s ability to conduct a relevant inquiry leading to findings and recommendations that will make a real difference to the people of British Columbia and Canada.

“The Commission has worked hard to prepare for the hearings and believes that when they begin on October 11, it will become clear that the resources and structure are in place to deal thoroughly with the important issues in a way that satisfies British Columbians,” said Mr. Freimond.

He added that the knowledge and understanding of the Downtown East Side community and Aboriginal women’s issues that Mr. Gratl and Ms. Gervais bring to the inquiry will help ensure that the perspectives of these communities are presented at the hearings. They will also be able to test evidence at the inquiry in an adversarial role, if so required, as will Mr. Baynham and Mr. Roberts, two of Vancouver most senior and respected lawyers.

While it is not known at this stage what the cost of hiring Mr. Gratl and Ms. Gervais will be, the Commission has the budget to fund their services because it has reallocated resources and benefitted from cost savings in its investigations, which did not take as much time as previously anticipated.”