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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local health authority maps are updated each week. The brown maps show the number of confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 for the week of Jan. 15 to 21, with the blue map showing cases over the past year. (Image supplied)
COVID-19 outbreak numbers increase at Acropolis and exposures are up in S.D. 52

Business COVID-19 safety plans are law, public needs to follow health protocols - Northern Health

Asher Hauknes shows his strength with Prince Rupert Gymnastics head coach Erin Hipkiss looking on Nov. 13. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Gymnastics Association benefits from Community Gaming Grant

Prince Rupert sports club to receive just less than $90,000 to build new facility

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue was dispatched to a boat fire on Jan. 21 at Fairview Marina. (Photo: supplied)
Boat fire under investigation

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended boat fire at Fairview Marina

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Most Read