Missing Women inquiry will hear more voices

New round of less formal hearings announced

Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal.

Attorney General Barry Penner has agreed to widen the mandate of B.C.’s Missing Women inquiry.

The probe into how serial killer Robert Pickton was allowed to prey on vulnerable women will still use formal court-style hearings where those testifying face cross-examination.

But the addition of what’s called a study commission will also allow Commissioner Wally Oppal to hear from more witnesses, including First Nations, in a more informal, less-adversarial setting.

That’s expected to mean more people are heard from northern B.C., along the so-called Highway of Tears where many women have vanished over the years, without having lawyers or legal standing at the inquiry.

“The study commission will provide more information for the commission, while ensuring the police investigations regarding Robert Pickton are fully examined to determine if proper procedures were followed,” Penner said.

The inquiry is expected to report back by Dec. 31 on how to improve any future serial killing or missing women investigations.

The inquiry will tour several yet-to-be-determined northwest B.C. communities in mid-June.

The study commission is to allow a broader discussion of policy issues, although Oppal has indicated he may not stray as far from the central issue of police investigations as some advocates would like.

Ernie Crey, brother of one of the women whose DNA was found on the Pickton farm, wanted the inquiry to look hard at government policies that concentrate vulnerable women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“I’m getting very impatient,” said Crey, who applauded the change but says time is of the essence. “We need to get this rolling.”

The inquiry is to focus on what happened in the five years between 1997 – when a woman escaped from the Port Coquitlam farm after nearly dying in a bloody knife fight with Pickton – and 2002 when he was ultimately charged with murder after several more women were killed.

The earlier investigation of the 1997 assault, the 1998 decision to drop charges in that case and the delay in eventually arresting Pickton again are all part of Oppal’s terms of reference.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Agassiz Return-It Depot slated for modernization

Soon, no more sorting alcohol and non-alcohol containers, Return-It says

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

LETTER: Thank you, OK Tire Agassiz!

Roger Bjaanes of Harrison Hot Springs applauds some great customer service

LETTER: An unforgettable birthday

Grace Storteboom of Agassiz thanks everyone for an amazing birthday

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Fraser Valley loses the Keith Wilson Waver as Ron Hupper passes away

Hupper brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of people traveling Chilliwack’s Keith Wilson Road

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Most Read