By James Keller - Monday, December 17, 2012 - 0 Comments
Police made years of mistakes, inquiry into missing women finds
VANCOUVER – Bias against the poor, drug-addicted sex workers in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside led to a series of failures that allowed serial killer Robert Pickton to spend years hunting his victims unimpeded by police, a public inquiry has found.
Commissioner Wally Oppal’s 1,448-page final report, released Monday, chronicles years of mistakes that allowed Pickton to lure dozens of women to his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., with little interference from police and even less concern from the public.
He noted that even referring to Pickton’s victims as missing women is a misnomer. Continue…
By James Keller - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM - 0 Comments
What happened, who’s to blame and what must be done
VANCOUVER – Families who lost daughters, mothers and sisters to serial killer Robert Pickton have long known police failed them as the former pig farmer hunted for victims in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and lured them back to his property.
But a lengthy public inquiry report to be released today will attempt to answer the more difficult question of why two police forces were unable — or unwilling — to connect the dots that led from missing sex workers in Vancouver to a farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal is scheduled to release his final report on how Vancouver police and the RCMP responded to reports of missing women and why it took them so long to finally stop Pickton, who was arrested in February 2002 — several years after investigators first received tips implicating him. Continue…
By James Keller, The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 7:51 AM - 0 Comments
After eight months and 80 witnesses, 1,448-page report aims to answer that question
VANCOUVER – The closest thing Marilyn Renter has ever had to a trial for her step-daughter’s death is the public inquiry into the failures that allowed a serial killer to target sex workers from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Robert Pickton was charged with murdering Cindy Feliks, who vanished in 1997 and whose DNA was found five years later on the former pig farmer’s sprawling property in nearby Port Coquitlam, B.C.
But once Pickton was convicted of killing six sex workers and sentenced to life in prison, prosecutors had little appetite for putting him back on trial for 20 additional murder charges involving Feliks and other women whose remains or DNA were found on the farm.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, April 13, 2012 at 12:06 PM - 0 Comments
Ottawa has spent nearly $200 million on seven inquiries. So, are we getting our money’s worth?
The train wreck of the Missing Women inquiry in Vancouver once again raises the question of whether this process—in the words of former Supreme Court justice Willard Estey—has been “abused beyond usefulness.” Estey spoke those words in the mid-1990s, after the federal government shut down the inquiry into actions of Canadian soldiers in Somalia.
Yet the appetite for this unique blend of justice and theatre lives on. Democracy Watch, the Ottawa-based government accountability group, maintains on its website a list of 18 “questionable situations” in federal affairs, whose only remedy, they say, are public inquiries.
One hates to differ with organizations dedicated to accountability. They’re so rare. But a quick calculation reveals that Ottawa has spent nearly $200 million on seven inquiries of national import, dating back to the early 1990s:
• Somalia, $25 million
• Tainted blood, $15 million
• Arar, $27 million
• Air India, $30 million
• Dziekanski, $4.5 million
• Schreiber-Mulroney, $16 million
• Gomery, (take a breath) $80 million
This total does not include compensation for victims. In some cases, it does not include legal costs incurred to the taxpayer such as counsel for impugned public officials.
Nor does it include the cost policy-based royal commissions like the $15-million Romanow Report on health care, or provincial ones like the inquiry into sexual abuse in Cornwall, Ont., whose $53 million price tag forced the Ontario government to rethink its entire inquiry process (Dziekanski was called by provincial authorities, yet involved federal agencies like the RCMP and border services).
So. Are we getting our money’s worth?
In a few cases, like the Krever inquiry into tainted blood and Arar, the cost seems bearable, if not a bargain. Victims and their families get their say. Meaningful change stands in plain view. From time to time, heads roll.
In others, not so much. Anyone who figured the Gomery Inquiry would send a jolt of rectitude through political circles has long since been set straight by the “in-out” scandal, or the Harper government’s G20 spending extravaganza.
Moreover, these days, internal controversy or questions of fairness tend to overshadow an inquiry’s road map to reform. Yes, there’s always a vague hope that the exercise will serve as a warning to the negligent and venal in the future. But as the Missing Women case illustrates, that hope is fragile. From this point on, the inquiry led by Wally Oppal is itself on probation. Its next lapse might well condemn it to irrelevance.
That’s not to throw the whole model overboard. Like democracy, it’s the worst system except for all the others. Still, with public dollars in short supply, it could use fixes—greater reliance on reports rather than testimony; less reliance on lawyers; limits on legal fees.
Governments, meanwhile, would do well to ponder before commissioning their next set of proceedings: under what circumstances do inquiries materially change the behaviour of individuals and institutions? Do those circumstances apply in the case at hand? Is the matter best left to the courts?
Last but not least, do you, as a government, really need a specially commissioned judge to tell you to do the right thing?