Missing women inquiry's first public forum delayed

By Lori Culbert, Vancouver SunNovember 23, 2010 6:03 PM
Wally Oppal

Wally Oppal

Photograph by: ., .

The commission of inquiry into missing women in B.C. was to hold its first public forum in Vancouver in less than three weeks, but has now pushed back the date until Jan. 19.

Organizers of the inquiry plan to hold two public forums -- in Vancouver and Prince George -- to provide information and gather input before formal hearings begin next year.

Originally, the Vancouver forum had been scheduled for Dec. 6. It has now been moved to Jan. 19 "so that it does not conflict with National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada," a spokesman for the inquiry said in a statement Tuesday.

(Dec. 6 marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when an anti-feminist gunman roamed the corridors of Montreal's École Polytechnique and killed 14 women.)

The Vancouver forum will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Japanese Language School on Jan. 19. The Prince George Forum will be held Jan. 21 at the Prince George Civic Centre.

It was announced earlier that relatives, friends and other residents touched by cases of missing and murdered women in B.C. can participate in the "community engagement forums" being held by The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

Wally Oppal, who will lead the commission, has said that the idea is to give people the chance to speak about the effect these tragedies have had on their lives.

"It seems to me that understanding the full impact of these events on communities will help the Commission focus its inquiry more clearly on the most important issues," Oppal, a former attorney-general and a former B.C. Court of Appeal justice, said in an earlier interview with The Vancouver Sun.

Oppal added that the forums would be used to provide information about the commission's role, explain its terms of reference and seek input on how it will proceed.

Some relatives and friends of the missing women have expressed frustration that the public forums are being held in only two cities, when loved ones are spread out across B.C. and Canada.

The formal inquiry hearings are expected to begin in Vancouver next year, and Oppal has been hopeful they would start early in the year.

The inquiry's terms of reference include examining how police responded between Jan. 23, 1997 and Feb. 5, 20002 to reports of women going missing from the Downtown Eastside. It will also look at a 1997 savage attack on a sex-trade worker and the decision by Crown counsel to stay a series of charges against Robert (Willie) Pickton, who would five years later be arrested in connection with the disappearances of multiple women from the Downtown Eastside.

In addition, the inquiry will examine other cases of missing and murdered women in B.C., such as the Highway of Tears file.

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Updated: August 21, 2016