Robert (Willy) Pickton is a monster who deserves to spend every day of his life in a dark, dank prison cell. His horrendous crimes have no equal in Canadian history and the image of Pickton on video tape casually admitting to forty-nine murders is bone chilling.
While some were relieved when the sordid criminal proceedings finally ended in 2007, to others the conviction of Pickton merely signaled the beginning of the next chapter- a public inquiry which has now begun, led by former Attorney-General and Court of Appeal Justice, Wally Oppal.
But it has not been smooth sailing for Mr. Oppal. Initially his appointment to head the inquiry was challenged by those who believed he was too close to government and as a former crown prosecutor and head of B.C.’s criminal justice branch, there existed a reasonable apprehension of bias.
There is no doubt some of the crown’s decisions in the Pickton case will face intense scrutiny. Why did the crown stay attempted murder charges against Pickton in 1998? The victim, a sex trade worker, was deemed by them to be an unreliable witness. In hindsight this decision was catastrophic because fourteen more women went missing between 1998 and 2002, when Pickton was arrested.
When the crown announced they would not hold a second trial for twenty other women whose DNA was found on Pickton’s farm, the families of these mothers, wives, sisters and aunts, were astounded there was no justice for their loved ones.
The fact that another trial would cost millions of dollars and Pickton was already serving a life sentence made the crown decision a sensible one that was lost on the remaining victims’ families. Their position was understandable but raised other questions- Would a trial have proceeded if Pickton’s victims had been middle-class white women?
The B.C. government’s latest decision not to fund legal assistance for four non-profit groups who were granted the right to participate in the inquiry is wrongheaded, particularly in light of the $5.2 million dollars that was doled out to Air India suspect Ripudaman Singh Malik, who later stiffed the government. The crown then spent thousands of dollars to get a court decision compelling Malik to pay, a case that ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Not to mention the $6 million dollars provided to former government employees Basi and Virk for their defence in the BC Rail case.
I believe the harshest criticism will be levelled against the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP, who have already admitted they made major mistakes, most notably their decision to ignore the warnings from highly skilled VPD officer Kim Rossmo, whose prediction that a serial killer was at work got lost in the internal animosity that enveloped the department.
You can expect the details of the botched police investigation to be sensational.
In the meantime, I hope the aboriginal groups who have now withdrawn from the inquiry will find pro bono counsel to assist them. Their participation is crucial to a full and forthright investigation into what went wrong.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang