VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Deaths prevented if police took 'ownership' of Missing Women reports: Witness
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE JANUARY 18, 2012
An Ontario police chief told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Wednesday that if B.C. police leaders had “taken ownership” of the issue, “many women’s lives may have been saved.”
Peel Regional Police deputy chief Jennifer Evans, concluded in her 2011 report to the inquiry that “the VPD and the RCMP initially failed to recognize the missing women issue. When they did identify the problem they failed to act appropriately and accept ownership.”
Evans was asked by Cameron Ward, lawyer for 25 murdered women’s families, if senior cops didn’t “take ownership” because they didn’t care or were “disengaged” or uninterested due to the victims’ social status.
“Could those deaths have been avoided had there been a recognition of the problem and had senior (police) management taken ownership much earlier?” asked Ward.
Evans agreed that “commitment” by top cops could have prevented deaths.
Ward asked: “In the case of as many as 49 women whom Robert William Pickton is presumed to have killed, they didn’t get the opportunity to change their lives for the better because their lives were snuffed out?”
Evans replied: “I would agree.”
After Pickton was finally arrested in Feb. 2002, a forensic search of his Port Coquitlam farm found the DNA of 33 missing women. Pickton, serving a life sentence for the murder of six women, boasted he had killed 49 women.
By 1999, the Vancouver police and RCMP had multiple informants and many junior officers who belived Pickton was an active serial killer.
But RCMP Project Evenhanded, set up in late 2000, stuck to reviewing files for a lengthy period in which as many as 12 women died at Pickton’s hands.
Ward asked Evans if Vancouver police and RCMP managers didn’t care about the missing sex trade workers because of their perceived low social status.
“I don’t think they understood . . . or appreciated what they had on their hands,” said Evans, which she agreed was puzzling given by 1999 the many media stories, community outcry, women’s marches and grieving families.
Evans said she found “no evidence” that police “didn’t care” about the missing women because they weren’t UBC students or missing nurses.
She did admit that a senior VPD officer dismissed the missing sex trade workers as “just hookers” and that some officers used the term “hooker task force” to describe the VPD-RCMP joint Missing Women Task Force.
Evans also agreed with Ward that of the 56 people she interviewed for her review of the Missing Women investigation, all but two were police officers.
“You didn’t speak to me, or to any of my clients who are the families of 25 murdered women?” asked Ward.
Evans admitted that also didn’t talk to anyone knowledgeable about Vancouver’s sex trade workers or any of their issues.
Evans also admitted she had many frustrations in getting police documents that she needed for her review.
“Did you feel that the VPD, and the RCMP, Canada’s national police force, would have had better files of Canada’s largest serial killer investigation?” Ward demanded.
Evans said she did not, since she once did file management for Peel police.
But she admitted she wrote “RIDICULOUS” in her own notes about RCMP excuses for not providing her in a timely manner with full disclosure.
“That must have been on one of my more frustrating days,” said Evans, who is slated to testify all this week.
Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal has promised to conclude hearings by April and hand in his final report to government by the end of June.
Hearings take place from 9:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. every weekday, in the 8th floor Federal Court at 700 West Georgia.
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Updated: August 21, 2016