Over the course of the next week we're going to report on the goings on behind the scenes of the farcical and shameful BC Missing Women Inquiry. We'll start today by reprinting an excellent wrap up column by Vancouver Courier writer Allen Garr:
Author: Allen Garr
Source: Vancouver Courier
For all that you may find worthwhile in the more than 60 recommendations coming from Wally Oppal's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, it was flawed from the outset. In no small measure because of Oppal himself - positions he held, decisions he made and finally inexplicably vengeful comments he made in his final report.
Oppal was Attorney General in Gordon Campbell's Liberal government when demands for a public inquiry into the missing women were being heard throughout the province. Oppal observed at the time there was little to learn from such an inquiry and so he refused to call for one.
He accepted the appointment from Campbell to run the inquiry after losing his seat in a provincial election.
All of this created a perceived conflict of interest as Oppal set out, among other things, to examine the role of the police in the tragic events around the missing women and the arrest of mass murderer Willie Pickton.
Matters only worsened when Oppal gave "standing" to more than a dozen groups - representing aboriginal people and women from the Downtown Eastside - to appear before the commission, only to be told by the province (now with Christy Clark in the premier's office), it would not pay for their lawyers.
So, those folks bailed and a number of public advocacy groups including B.C. Civil Liberties, Pivot Legal Society and Amnesty International pulled out in protest. Meanwhile the police officers who would appear before the commission were lawyered to the hilt - 20 lawyers - all on the taxpayers' dime.
Oppal attempted to recover somewhat by appointing counsel to represent the "interests" of the residents of the Downtown Eastside and aboriginal women in particular. The community found it unconvincing.
That left a number of the families of the missing and murdered women who did receive provincial funding. They were represented by Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, one associate and a researcher.
Anyone who knows Ward and his long career knows he is tenacious in pursuit of his client's interests. In this arena he was not only pitted against the phalanx of police lawyers, but according to Pivot's litigation director Katrina Pacey, Ward and Oppal "were head to head from the get go."
According to B.C. Civil Liberties president lawyer Lindsay Lyster, Ward, intent on making his case of a "whitewash" by the police, made repeated requests to Oppal for particular witnesses to attend the commission hearings. They included Pickton's brother David, Pickton family friend Bev Hyacinthe who worked at the Coquitlam RCMP detachment and Bill Hiscox who worked at the Pickton farm. He also requested particular documents.
After months without a response from Oppal on those issues and weeks before Oppal formally turned Ward down, a senior commission counsel leaked news of Oppal's refusal to the National Post.
In an extraordinary, bizarre and vengeful act, Oppal then chose his own final report to beat up on Ward.
But he didn't just dish out that revenge anywhere. He chose what would be the most read portion, the executive summary. And it wasn't just any place in that summary. It would appear at the very end of Oppal's commentary and before his list of recommendations.
It was, according to Lyster "a place of prominence." While Oppal refused Ward's requests for witnesses and documents he wrote, "Ward was repeatedly pressed to produce evidence of a police cover-up or whitewash, but was unable to do so." No kidding.
And then he added this: "I am sympathetic with the VPD's submissions that Mr. Ward's position is ludicrous, flippant, unsupported by evidence and unprofessional. His comments are reckless."
In a news release the BCCLA cautioned Oppal's comments could "chill public interest lawyers from asking difficult questions during public inquiries."
I'd add this: By choosing to use an $8 million dollar public inquiry - on a serious issue and a report with series of recommendations that could be useful to some of our most vulnerable citizens - as his platform to attack a man who was only doing his job representing his clients, Oppal should be ashamed of himself.
We'd also like to add something to this. We feel at this site that Wally Oppal is an enemy of the people who purposefully and willfully covered up for authorities working with Robert Pickton in committing these horrific crimes and we call for his immediate and indefinite jailing on treason charges.