Public Inquiry


By Lindsay Kines, Victoria Times Colonist November 29, 2009 VICTORIA — For the first time, the Vancouver Police Department is openly backing calls for a public inquiry into the investigation of the missing women case that began more than a decade ago. In an e-mail to the sister of one of the missing women, Deputy Chief Doug LePard says that she has the department’s support in pressing for a full public inquiry. “I am responding on behalf of Chief Const. Jim Chu and myself in stating that the Vancouver Police Department does support a public inquiry into the missing women case,” LePard writes in the letter, which was made available to the Victoria Times Colonist. “We believe a public inquiry is clearly in the public interest, and that this inquiry should be held at the earliest opportunity after the criminal matters regarding Robert Pickton are concluded.” Pickton, a Port Coquitlam, B.C., farmer, was found guilty on Dec. 9, 2007, and sentenced to life in prison for murdering six of the women who vanished from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside from 1978 to 2001. Pickton’s lawyers have appealed his second-degree murder convictions to the Supreme Court of Canada. If a new trial is ordered, he could be tried on an additional 20 counts. Maggie de Vries, who first began calling for an inquiry in 2002, said she was astonished to receive LePard’s note Thursday. Her sister Sarah de Vries disappeared in 1998 at the age of 28, and her DNA was found at Pickton’s farm in 2002. “I find it amazing,” de Vries said. “It’s down there in black and white in a formal e-mail that, obviously, he expects not just me to read.” De Vries said she doesn’t understand why the police are going public now. “But I’m very encouraged by it.” De Vries received LePard’s note after sending a letter to Attorney General Mike de Jong last week, asking him to commit to launching an inquiry as soon as the publication bans related to the Pickton case are lifted. De Vries copied the letter to Premier Gordon Campbell, NDP Leader Carole James and a number of organizations, including Vancouver police, with a covering e-mail asking for their support. LePard confirmed the department’s support for an inquiry in an interview Friday. He said it was adopted “quite some time ago,” but there was no reason to make it public earlier. “We knew that nothing could happen until after the criminal matters were concluded in any case.” However, he said the department has made its position clear in private correspondence over the years with solicitors general John Les and Kash Heed. LePard,...

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Taken from NationTalk.ca OTTAWA – Aboriginal women continue to feel targeted and vulnerable because the Harper government continues to ignore their calls for a judicial investigation into the devastatingly high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, said Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville and Aboriginal Affairs Critic Todd Russell. “I have been doing ongoing consultation with Aboriginal women’s groups ever since we called for a full investigation, and I continue to hear the same thing: the Conservative government’s response to this issue is highly inadequate and, as a result, women still feel unsafe,” said Ms. Neville. A report from the Native Women’s Association of Canada found that a staggering 520 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1970. Of that number, 67 percent were tragically murdered, while a troubling 24 percent remain missing, according to the report. Fourteen percent of the missing girls and young women were under 18 years of age at the time of their disappearance. Liberals asked for a full investigation in the House of Commons back in May. To date, the Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, has not responded. On June 26, Ms. Neville and Mr. Russell received a letter from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson that completely ignores their request. “Aboriginal women don’t need a recap from this government of the programs they are funding nor do they deserve to be brushed off in this manner – what they need is concrete action to get to the bottom of what happened to these women,” said Mr. Russell. Ms. Neville said one of the ways this issue could be addressed is to tackle human trafficking in Canada. Last month, the Harper Conservatives were the only party in the House of Commons to oppose a motion that would have called on the government to create a plan of action to address human trafficking in Canada. “It could be an important tool to preventing further disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls,” she said. > Ms. Neville was meeting with the Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council today to discuss this and other issues affecting Aboriginal women. That followed a larger gathering of the AFN yesterday with Liberal MPs Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Dr. Kirsty Duncan and Ms. Neville and Mr. Russell to discuss the H1N1 flu pandemic that has struck several Aboriginal communities. “Liberals believe it is important to keep the dialogue open with our First Nation friends as we do what we can to assist them in their battles for healthy communities,” said Ms. Neville. “Unlike this Conservative government, we take the issue...

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ROBERT MATAS VANCOUVER — From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2009 03:36AM EDT They set out on a 1,500-kilometre walk to draw attention to women who have gone missing and possibly been murdered along the Northern B.C. highway known as the Highway of Tears. They did not anticipate they could be placing themselves in danger by heading to a campsite washroom near the highway. But they were shaken by a man who burst out of a women’s washroom as they entered. He dashed to a waiting vehicle. Another man was in the driver’s seat. The car sped off. “There was no need for those men to be there,” Michael Harris, a spokesman for Walk4Justice, said yesterday in an interview. What would have happened had one woman gone alone to the washroom was left to speculation. The women did not report the incident to police. But they told Gitxsan chiefs in Hazelton, the next stop on their trek, that their walk to turn a spotlight on those who stalk women had attracted stalkers. “We were followed into the campsite,” said Bernie Williams, one of the co-founders of the walk. The walk was to draw attention to the unsolved cases of female hitchhikers, mostly aboriginal women, who have gone missing or been murdered along Highway 16. The walkers set up their tents in an isolated campground outside Moricetown, a village of less than 1,000 people about 30 kilometres west of Smithers. The walkers were the only campers on the grounds. They felt as if they had been followed by a stalker. The group arrived in Prince Rupert yesterday afternoon, 25 days after leaving Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. Mr. Harris said the trek has been an emotionally charged event. Everyone involved was either related to or a close friend of someone who was murdered or missing. And at every stop, they heard more stories about women who disappeared or were murdered. “The emotions are really raw,” Mr. Harris said in an interview. “They feel that pain a lot of the time.” Ms. Williams said the trek was difficult, especially because women continue to go missing. The group is pressing for a public inquiry into the disappearances and for a more extensive RCMP investigation. They believe authorities have not treated investigations into the disappearances as a priority because many of the women are aboriginal. At a meeting with Gitxsan chiefs in Hazelton last week, several speakers said they felt no one wanted to listen to their stories or pay attention to their issues. Ms. Williams said in an interview that the group also aims to raise awareness among native people...

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