A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » Missing Women Commision of Inquiry
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC

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.

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Update:  The government has issued a news release updating its arrangements for the families of the murdered women and facilitating their access to the Commission’s final report.


We have been advised that the final report of the Missing Women Commission Inquiry will be released to the public soon.  The provincial government received the 1,448 page document in November and will apparently give us, the lawyers for the families of 25 of the murdered women, an hour to read the report before it is released to the public and live-streamed on the internet.

This approach is in keeping with the Commission’s general attitude toward the families of the missing and murdered women.  The MWCI paid lip service to our clients’ concerns, but it conducted an “inquiry” that barely scratched the surface of its mandate.  That mandate, as set out in the Terms of Reference, required the Commission:

“(a) to conduct hearings, in or near the City of Vancouver, to inquire into and make findings of fact respecting the conduct of the missing women investigations;

(b) consistent with the British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Davies, 2009 BCCA 337, to inquire into and make findings of fact respecting the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch on January 27, 1998, to enter a stay of proceedings on charges against Robert William Pickton of attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and aggravated assault.”

The Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP knew by March 17, 1997 that Robert William Pickton had taken a survival sex trade worker (by definition, a desperate woman who would turn tricks for as little as two dollars just to survive on Vancouver’s Skid Row) to a suburb some 45 minutes away by car, where he attempted to murder her.  The police also knew that Robert William Pickton and his brother David Francis Pickton operated a notorious hangout known as “Piggy’s Palace” which was reportedly frequented by off duty police officers, members of a criminal gang and sex trade workers.  The brothers also operated an excavation business.  Scores of survival sex trade workers went missing from Vancouver until February 5, 2002, when a rookie Coquitlam RCMP member, Cst. Nathan Wells, “accidentally” discovered evidence of the murders on the Pickton brothers’ ramshackle property.

After a year long trial, Robert William Pickton was convicted of six counts of second degree murder.  The province’s Attorney General stayed twenty counts of first degree murder.  Although Pickton’s jury obviously concluded that he did not act alone, nobody else was ever tried for the murders of as many as fifty women.  The public inquiry was called after Pickton’s final appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Some things to look for in the report:

The government and the Commissioner, former Liberal Attorney General Wally Oppal Q.C., will point to the number of hearing days, witnesses and pages in the report to suggest that the inquiry was thorough and exhaustive.  We submit that the report should be read with the following points in mind:

1)  The real reason why Pickton wasn’t put on trial for attempted murder as a result of his 1997 attack.  The victim was credible, ready and willing to testify and, with standard witness management techniques, could have been put on the witness stand.  Instead, Crown Counsel dropped the case like a hot potato.

2)  The role that sexism and misogyny played in the inadequate police investigations.  The VPD had one detective on the case, who eventually quit in frustration.  She later wrote an unpublished book about her experience, in which she concluded that her male colleagues “wouldn’t have pissed on the [missing women] if they were on fire.”

3) The Coquitlam RCMP’s knowledge of the wild parties at Piggy’s Palace.  The RCMP had a long serving civilian worker within the small Coquitlam detachment who lived near the Pickton brothers and knew them intimately.  She conveyed information to RCMP members, but it wasn’t acted on.

4)  The long association between the Pickton brothers and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.  Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass testified that the RCMP routinely infilitrates and monitors the activities of the HAMC.

5)  The failure to obtain a search warrant sooner.  Cst. Wells swore an information to obtain the search warrant that snared Pickton in 2002, yet the RCMP had the same information in their hands by July of 1999.

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We have learned from media reports that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has requested and received a further extension for the delivery of its final report.  The Minister of Justice’s October 25th media release is set out below:


Missing Women Commission of Inquiry deadline extended

VICTORIA – Government has granted a one-month extension to allow the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry adequate time to complete the final report.

The extension, from Oct. 31, 2012 to Nov. 30, 2012, follows a written request by commissioner Wally Oppal for additional time to finalize his report, which draws on a large amount of material including evidence from 94 days of public hearings, written submissions, evidence from public policy forums, and input from community engagement forums throughout the province.

The work of all public inquiries in B.C., including the steps leading to the release of the report, is guided by the terms of the Public Inquiry Act. The act requires government to review the report to ensure it complies with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The public release date of the report will be determined in consultation with the commission, taking into consideration the information and privacy review and the time needed to print the report.

The commission was established in September 2010, to report on investigations into missing and murdered women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between January 1997 and February 2002.

To date, government has invested $8.6 million to support the work of the commission.

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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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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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