VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
VPD playing blame game, lawyer tells Missing Women Inquiry
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE NOVEMBER 30, 2011
A senior lawyer at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry accused Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Doug LePard of giving “false evidence” on Wednesday, through his report that concluded the only crime committed against Vancouver sex workers was their murder in RCMP jurisdiction.
“I put it to you that you wrote your report on a false premise that the only legal jurisdiction to investigate the missing and murdered women was the RCMP, that the only crime occurred in the jurisdiction of the Coquitlam RCMP,” said lawyer Darrell Roberts.
“That was deliberately done to mislead and to take everyone’s eye off the ball for the failures and mistakes of the Vancouver Police Department.”
LePard protested that he took “great offence” to Roberts’ accusation, saying “I’ve been here [on the witness stand] for the 10th day. I’ve tried to answer all questions truthfully. I’m unaware that a crime was committed in Vancouver.”
Convicted serial killer Robert Pickton trolled the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for decades, picking up sex workers and taking them to his Port Coquitlam farm, where many of them perished.
Pickton, who wasn’t arrested until February 2002, is serving a life sentence for the murders of six women, but the DNA of 33 women was linked to the farm and Pickton boasted in jail that he had killed 49 women.
Pickton told friends and confessed in jail to dumping human body parts in 45-gallon drums at an east Vancouver rendering plant.
The VPD had solid informants as early as 1998 telling them Pickton had bloody women’s clothing and ID on the farm and an eyewitness and other hangers-on at the farm told both the VPD and RCMP that Pickton had hung a woman from a hook and “gutted” her.
LePard, the author of a 400-page report on the missing women investigation, has maintained that it was impossible to establish an “intent to kill” on Pickton’s part, saying that as many as 13 women known to police spent between one and 40 nights at Pickton’s farm without being murdered by him.
LePard, in his report and testimony at the inquiry, has acknowledged the use of offensive language by a few VPD officers, such as calling women “hookers” or “f---ing whores,” and the apparent racism of a VPD missing persons clerk who spoke disparagingly of, and to, First Nations families whose loved ones had gone missing.
But LePard has maintained throughout his lengthy testimony at the Missing Women Inquiry that he is “unaware of any evidence that a crime was committed in Vancouver,”and that there was no systemic bias against sex workers or First Nations in the VPD.
LePard noted that the VPD now has 22 aboriginal officers, up from only eight in 2006, and is trying to be as “diverse as the population we represent”.
“There’s no offence that was committed in Vancouver, there’s no evidence of an offence. In fact, we don’t know the intent of his [Pickton’s] picking up women, whether they were kidnapped by force or by fraud,”insisted LePard.
Roberts, and Jason Gratl, both lawyers advocating for First Nations and “affected individuals” on the Downtown Eastside, have insisted the VPD demonstrated a systemic bias toward mostly aboriginal survival sex-trade workers.
Gratl, whose lengthy cross-examination of LePard was cut off by Commissioner Wally Oppal on the basis of delaying the inquiry’s progress, has suggested the disappearance of the survival sex-trade workers should have been of top priority to the VPD since, like elderly Alzheimer’s patients, the disabled or young children, they were highly vulnerable and ill, since almost all suffered from severe drug addiction.
LePard’s tenth day on the stand also marked the beginning of intense cross-examination by federal lawyer Cheryl Tobias, on behalf of the RCMP. LePard admitted to Tobias that his 400-page report was written after Pickton had been arrested, during the ongoing investigation and trial, and “with the considerable benefit of hindsight.”
At issue may be civil lawsuits likely to be filed by some of the 20 families of missing women, represented at the inquiry by lawyer Cameron Ward, who consider neither the VPD or the RCMP to be without blame.
“It’s disgusting to see how the police forces point the finger at each other,” said Lilliane Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, who was murdered by Pickton in 2001, long after both the VPD and RCMP had informants and eyewitnesses who knew about Pickton’s deadly rampage.
“You have to take responsibility, and Roberts proved to him [LePard] that crimes were committed in Vancouver. How can the VPD say that is not true? If they had listened to the tips they had, and even their own officers, my sister would still be alive.”
The inquiry will continue until Dec. 1 and then adjourn until Dec. 14 to 16.
Hearings next year start early in January but Commissioner Wally Oppal has committed to ending hearings by the end of April and handing in his report by June 2012.
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Updated: August 21, 2016