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.

Latest Action Post

Susan Davis, an advocate for sex trade workers who herself worked on Vancouver streets between 1990-1993, testified that a client raped her at knifepoint in the early 90’s.  She managed to escape and got the licence plate number of her attacker’s vehicle.  She phoned 911 and was told to wait for a Vancouver Police Department to attend on a specified corner.  Ms. Davis waited for an hour but no police attended.  She tried twice more over the next three weeks to report the crime but again, Vancouver police failed to respond.  Years later, when Robert William Pickton’s photograph in the media appeared, identifying him as a suspect in as many as 49 murders of sex trade workers, Ms. Davis said to herself, “that’s the guy”.

Ms. Davis described the harsh life of street sex trade workers.  She said there is a general sense of distrust of the police on the part of sex trade workers but noted that she has had four regular clients who were members of the VPD and RCMP.  Her testimony continues.

posted by

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Attorney General/Solicitor General Shirley Bond will announce today that the Missing Women Commisssion of Inquiry will have its term extended for another six months, presumably to June 30, 2012.

We have not received any confirmation of this yet and continue to struggle with the uncertainty surrounding the proceedings.  For instance, late yesterday Commission Counsel Art Vertlieb announced that next week’s scheduled witnesses –  RCMP C/Supt. Robert Morrison, Supt. Jim Gresham, C/Supt. Janice Armstrong , Mr. Max Xiao,  VPD  Superintendent Jeff Sim and Police Board representative Elizabeth Watson – would actually not be attending the hearings next week and may be coming at some later date.  That news caught us by complete surprise, as we had been busily preparing to cross-examine them on their evidence.

We’ve been told that the long-awaited report of Peel Deputy Chief Evans (who has been working with the files for a year) will be delivered by Monday.   Next week’s hearing schedule, at  least at this moment, is said to include testimony from Susan Davis and Elaine Allan, to be followed by an application for an order protecting vulnerable witnesses and some sort of hearing to deal with the RCMP and VPD lawyers’ concerns about publication of “sensitive” information.

We look forward to attempting to address these evidentiary issues in the hearings.  At this point, it appears to us that the RCMP and VPD are trying to keep the tightest possible lid on the evidence that might lead the public, and our clients, to the truth.  If this inquiry is to fulfill its mandate, the lid will have to be pried off to expose the entire story, however messy it may be, to the Commission’s scrutiny.

posted by

The third week of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry concluded today with emotional testimony from Ernie Crey, Angel Wolfe and Lillian Beaudoin as they described losing sisters (Dawn Crey and Dianne Rock) and a mother (Brenda Wolfe) in unspeakable circumstances. 

Dianne Rock: murdered, but charge against accused killer stayed in 2010

Both Mr. Crey and Ms. Beaudoin expressed their disappointment and anger about the Ministry of Attorney General’s 2008 decision that Robert Pickton would not be tried for additional murders if his six convictions were upheld on appeal.  They were referring to media reports like the one reproduced below.  The twenty outstanding murder charges were formally stayed by the Crown in a brief court appearance before Mr. Justice James Williams on August 4, 2010, after the Supreme Court of Canada had dismissed Pickton’s final appeal.


Justine Hunter, The Globe and Mail, February 27, 2008:

Serial killer Robert Pickton will not face a trial on 20 first-degree murder charges unless he successfully appeals his first six murder convictions, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal confirmed yesterday.

“It would not be in the public interest to proceed further against a person who is already serving six life terms with no eligibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years,” Mr. Oppal told reporters.

He acknowledged he will face criticism from some of the families of the 20 victims who have not had their day in court, but he insisted the cost of the trial was not a factor in the decision.

“We can’t put a price on justice,” he said. “The public interest here involves putting everybody through a second trial given the fact that no further punishment can be achieved by virtue of further convictions. He is now receiving the maximum sentence.”

Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Carrie Ellis is among the 20 outstanding cases, told the Canadian Press she wants the trial to go ahead.

“Six of the 26 were given justice, they were given their day in court,” she said. “The families had an opportunity to speak in public … on how it affected them. That’s something this family will never have.

“We want to know why the government feels that the murders and lives of these girls are not important enough to proceed with a trial.”

Ernie Crey wasn’t expecting to see justice for his sister Dawn. Although traces of her DNA were found on Mr. Pickton’s pig farm, no charges have been laid in her case.

But he said the decision is a terrible one for families.

“If my sister were amongst the 20, I would be camped out in Wally Oppal’s office right now until he reversed that decision,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Oppal said victim service workers have been working to contact about 200 family members connected with the 20 victims.

“I know the lawyers in the justice branch agonized over this decision,” he told reporters yesterday.

Mr. Pickton, 58, faced 26 first-degree murder charges in all, but the judge at his first trial divided them into two groups and the jury heard evidence on only six.

After an 11-month trial, he was convicted in December on lesser counts of second-degree murder in the killing of six women whose partial remains were found on his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

Peter Ritchie, lawyer for Mr. Pickton, said he wants to see the written reasons before he responds.

“We are not entirely surprised the Crown has said that, but we will not react until we have seen the documents.”

But Mike Farnworth, the New Democratic Party opposition’s justice critic, said he was disappointed with the decision.

“The victims and families deserve justice – all of them do – and the trial should go ahead.”

Mr. Oppal said the second trial could go ahead if Mr. Pickton wins his appeal. The case is back in court next week. If an appeal is granted, the Crown will pursue 26 charges of first-degree murder.

“These are very difficult cases to put together, they take a human toll on everybody involved,” he said.

With a report from The Canadian Press

posted by

Today was the first day of testimony from the families of the missing and murdered women.  Jan Brongers, one of the Department of Justice lawyers representing the interests of the RCMP , opened proceedings by magnanimously stating that RCMP lawyers would not be subjecting the relatives of the missing and murdered women to cross-examination.  Any relief that the families may have felt as a result of that announcement must have dissipated later in the day, when David Crossin and Sean Hern, two different lawyers representing Vancouver police interests, spent most of the afternoon questioning Lynn Frey about the accuracy of her recollection of events occurring some 13 years ago.   Mr. Crossin is one of the lawyers representing the Vancouver Police Union and some of its members, while Mr. Hern is one of the lawyers representing the Vancouver Police Department, the Vancouver Police Board and most of their members or former members.  Both suggested that VPD Detective Lori Shenher would have a different recollection when she testifies.  It is not yet clear when, or even if, Det. Shenher will take the stand.

We expressed a concern about what had unfolded, stating that the interests of these police participants “seem to be indistinguishable” and that we would object if their lawyers’ cross-examinations became repetitive.  This caused a stir in the gallery and Commissioner Oppal encouraged spectators to remain quiet.

The Inquiry continues tomorrow with more testimony from Lori-Ann Ellis, a relative of Cara Ellis.  Ernie Crey, brother of Dawn Crey and a well-known First Nations activist, is expected to testify Wednesday.

posted by

Marnie Frey

Lynn Frey, the stepmother of Marnie Frey, testified today that the search for her missing daughter led her to Willie Pickton’s pig farm in September of 1998, years before Marnie’s remains were eventually found there.  Ms. Frey described how she would travel from Campbell River to Vancouver’s downtown east side after Marnie vanished in 1997 and show Marnie’s photograph to people she encountered there.  These inquiries led to information about “Willie’s pig farm” in Port Coquitlam and she drove out there, only to be turned back by two dogs as she tried to scale a fence.  Ms. Frey immediately reported this information to Det. Shenher of the Vancouver Police Department.  It would be February 5, 2002 before evidence of the missing women would be found at the Pickton farm, while a junior Coquitlam RCMP member was executing a search warrant there on an unrelated firearms complaint.  Pickton was convicted of Marnie’s murder, and the murders of five other women, in 2007.  Twenty more first degree murder charges against him were stayed by the Crown last year.

posted by

web design by rob c - Log in