Missing Women inquiry needs time extension to succeed, NDP leader says


VANCOUVER - New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix called on the provincial government Thursday to grant a six-month extension to the "troubled" Missing Women inquiry.

"I'm appealing to this government to make this work now, to grant the extension now," Dix said Thursday morning at a news conference attended by families of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton.

"We can still succeed here if we provide more time and more voices," Dix told reporters. "Why wouldn't we want to do that? As it is, the inquiry is in trouble."

"For the government to say, 'This is good enough, we met the test.' Really? They need to change their position ... to get at the truth in this horrific matter."

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said Thursday no decision has been made to extend the inquiry, noting the commissioner hasn't asked for an extension.

"In fact, I hope that the commission will be able to wrap up its work based on the schedule it's got in front of it," she said.

"I think it's important that British Columbians get the answers to these questions from the commission. And I always think the sooner we can get these answers the better."

The inquiry is probing why Pickton was allowed to continue his killing spree until his arrest in 2002, despite police receiving credible tips about the killer in 1998 and 1999.

The inquiry is expected to wrap up hearings by the end of April but still has 31 witnesses to be heard and only 16 hearing days left.

The victims' families are concerned that Commissioner Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney-general and appeal court judge, is trying to rush through the rest of the evidence to meet his June 30 deadline to submit his final report and recommendations to government.

The inquiry resumes Monday after an unexpected three-week break caused by the resignation of lawyer Robyn Gervais, who represented aboriginal interests at the inquiry.

She quit the inquiry because she was upset that not enough aboriginal witnesses had been heard.

Many of Pickton's victims were aboriginal women who were survival sex workers on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. They were lured by Pickton with offers of money and drugs to the killer's farm in Port Coquitlam.

Dix said the Missing Women inquiry was budgeted at about $4 million and may be slightly over-budget, but pointed out that "tens of millions of dollars" was spent on the Air India inquiry, which was an excellent inquiry.

If the Missing Women inquiry is rushed and does not achieve its goals, then the money already spent will have been wasted, he said.

MLA Jenny Kwan, who attended the news conference, said the Braidwood inquiry, which probed the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in 2007, took two years to examine an incident that took four minutes to unfold.

The same time should be given to the inquiry probing the murders of dozens of women over a 10-year span, she said.

Lilliane Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, one of Pickton's victims, said at the news conference that the families want the inquiry extended for another six months to do a proper job and not rush through the remaining evidence.

"Can you put a price on your loved one?" she asked. "That's not right."

She pointed out that the families spent years calling for the inquiry and now feel they may not get all the answers they have sought about what happened to their loved ones.

"This inquiry needs to go further to get to the truth of things that went wrong," Beaudoin said.

The murdered women were victimized by a failed police investigation, she said. "Let them not be further re-victimized by a failed public inquiry."

Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara Ellis was killed by Pickton, said she has put her life on hold to attend every day of the inquiry and feels more time is needed to do a proper job. She said the inquiry owes that much to the victims.

"We've got to let these girls rest in peace," she told reporters.

Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six murders. After exhausting all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial on another 20 murder counts, including the murders of Beaudoin's sister and Ellis's sister-in-law.




Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016