Images of six of the women Robert Pickton was convicted of killing; at right: Commissioner Wally Oppal heads the Missing Women Inquiry.

Images of six of the women Robert Pickton was convicted of killing; at right: Commissioner Wally Oppal heads the Missing Women Inquiry.

Pickton probe loses three weeks after lawyer resigns

Deadline remains firm, looms larger at Missing Women Inquiry

A three-week postponement of the Missing Women Inquiry leaves the commission even less time to finish its probe of how police mishandled their investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton.

Commissioner Wally Oppal on Monday announced the hearings will be suspended until April 2 while a new lawyer is found to represent aboriginal interests before the inquiry.

Robyn Gervais, a Metis lawyer, had represented First Nations but resigned last week, citing the dominant influence of the large number of lawyers acting for RCMP and Vancouver Police officers.

Oppal had planned to wrap up hearings by the end of April and must hand down his findings by June 30.

A replacement for Gervais has been identified and should be in place soon, but Oppal said the new lawyer will need time to prepare.

He called Gervais’ departure a surprise but said it’s crucial the inquiry have a representative for aboriginal interests since many of Pickton’s victims were aboriginal, as are many vulnerable residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to this day.

Oppal has repeatedly urged inquiry participants to minimize the time required as a series of delays and lengthy cross-examinations ate up time.

Attorney General Shirley Bond said she expects Oppal to meet the June deadline, which was already extended six months.

“We’ve been at this, it will be a year and a half, and at this point we are in excess of $4 million of taxpayers’ money,” she said. “So while I don’t want to rush the process, I think there is a reasonable expectation that this work should be completed in June.”

Bond said a balance must be found between the need for an appropriate length of time and for fiscal responsibility, given the cost of the inquiry will continue to rise.

“While it is an important opportunity to hear aboriginal voices and the context for aboriginal people, the major reason for this inquiry is to look at what happened with the police in British Columbia.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said it will be virtually impossible for a new lawyer to “parachute into” the inquiry.

He said the deadline threatens to sideline the remaining aboriginal witnesses because many police officers must still testify before time runs out.

Phillip accused the government of irreparably harming the inquiry last summer when it rejected Oppal’s request for broader funding for lawyers to represent First Nations and other vulnerable groups, causing most of them to pull out.

“It’s grossly misguided and misplaced priorities on the part of the premier in my view,” he said.

“Because of the shortsightedness on the part of the provincial government and the premier’s office, the inquiry has completely unravelled and lost all credibility,” Phillip said. “This is not about fiscal prudence, this is about missing and murdered women, the vast majority of whom were aboriginal.”

Next month’s hearings are expected to include panels of witnesses drawn from aboriginal groups and families of missing and murdered women.

Much testimony has explored how both the VPD and RCMP failed to target Pickton more intensively after he nearly killed a woman who escaped from his Port Coquitlam farm in early 1997.

Officers also got repeated tips that Pickton could be killing sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside in 1998.

He was finally arrested in February, 2002 and was eventually convicted on six counts of second-degree murder, although the DNA of 33 victims was found on his farm and Pickton boasted to an undercover cop he killed 49 women.

Just Posted

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

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

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read