The six women Robert Pickton was convicted of killing: Brenda Wolfe

More groups abandon Missing Women Inquiry

Criticism of funding intensifies on eve of hearings

Two more groups have pulled out of the Missing Women Inquiry, citing the provincial government’s refusal to pay for lawyers.

Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) said they will not participate when hearings begin in Vancouver Oct. 11.

Several other public interest groups representing women or aboriginals that had been granted standing before the inquiry previously refused to participate.

Critics say lawyers must be provided for groups representing vulnerable women if they are to put tough questions to police and government officials on why it took so long to catch serial killer Robert Pickton.

Otherwise, they say, the inquiry is stacked in favour of the authorities, who will be well-defended by publicly funded lawyers when called to testify.

“This Commission of Inquiry is grappling with critical concerns about access to justice and human rights protection for some of the most marginalized communities in the province,” Amnesty International Canada representative Alex Neve said.

“But it is going forward in a manner that only adds to that longstanding sense of exclusion and discrimination.”

Neve said the organization could not stay on board and send the signal it supports the process.

“We are going to dedicate our efforts to processes where calls for respect and voices of concern can be heard,” added Robert Holmes, lawyer with the BCCLA.

Commissioner Wally Oppal had fought for increased funding from Victoria but was unsuccessful.

The inquiry ended up reshuffling its budget to hire four lawyers to represent various interests, a move opponents call inadequate.

The government has “lavished all its resources on one side – that of the police and bureaucrats,” Holmes said.

Some of the families and friends of Pickton’s victims are worried the inquiry will be hampered in its search for answers.