Proposal to widen missing women’s inquiry backed

Bigger social questions must be examined, says brother of victim

Former Attorney General Wally Oppal (left) heads B.C.'s Missing Women Inquiry. Ernie Crey (right) is the brother of one of the Vancouver missing women whose DNA was found at the Pickton farm.

Former Attorney General Wally Oppal (left) heads B.C.'s Missing Women Inquiry. Ernie Crey (right) is the brother of one of the Vancouver missing women whose DNA was found at the Pickton farm.

Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal wants to expand his inquiry, allowing a broader look at how serial killer Robert Pickton was allowed to prey on vulnerable women.

The commission is currently framed as a hearing commission but Oppal has recommended the provincial government reshape it to also include a study commission.

That would allow it to tour the province and hear from more witnesses, particularly First Nations, in a less-adversarial setting than formal court-style hearings where those testifying face cross-examination.

Oppal said the change would make the inquiry more inclusive and allow its recommendations to be shaped by more public input.

Ernie Crey, brother of one of the missing women, supports the proposed change.

He said it would allow a hard look at government policies and civic zoning that concentrated drug-addicted vulnerable women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a regular hunting ground for Pickton.

His sister Dawn, whose DNA was found at the Pickton farm, frequented the Downtown Eastside rather than Kerrisdale or Kitsilano, Crey said, because that’s where services like soup kitchens, clothing depots and low-rent housing are found.

Crey blames a “web of policies” by federal, provincial and civic governments, along with “NIMBYs do not want social services in some parts of Vancouver that would attract impoverished people, mentally ill people or the drug-dependent.”

Without a study component, Crey predicted the inquiry will largely ignore the social side and turn mainly into a legalistic battle between testifying police representatives and lawyers interrogating them.

Oppal’s appointment last fall to head the inquiry was criticized by some groups as a poor choice.

Crey said the naming of a companion study commission would allow the province to now name an aboriginal woman with a background in law to head it.

“There’s no shortage of qualified aboriginal people, particularly women, who could fill that role,” he said.

The recommendation from Oppal came after he heard demands for a separate inquiry from family members of women who went missing from northern B.C. communities, along what has been dubbed the Highway of Tears.

The province hasn’t given any immediate response.

Attorney General Barry Penner said he will bring the proposal to cabinet, but questioned whether it might lengthen the inquiry and delay its findings.

Oppal is currently supposed to report back by Dec. 31.

The inquiry is to focus on what happened in the five years between 1997 – when a woman escaped from the Port Coquitlam farm after nearly dying in a bloody knife fight with Pickton – and 2002 when he was ultimately charged with murder after several more women were killed.

The earlier investigation of the 1997 assault, the 1998 decision to drop charges in that case and the delay in eventually arresting Pickton again are all part of Oppal’s terms of reference.

Recommendations are to include how police should investigate cases of missing women and suspected serial killings, including the coordination of investigations when multiple police forces are involved.

Pickton was convicted of killing six missing women but had been linked by DNA to dozens more. He claimed to an undercover officer he killed 49 women.

Just Posted

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read