VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Tensions at Missing Women's Inquiry Commissioner boil over
B.C.'s missing women's inquiry hearings saw a pointed argument between the lawyer for families of Robert Pickton's murder victims, and beleaguered commissioner Wally Oppal – leaving several of the families enraged and the inquiry increasingly in question.
Cara Ellis photo sourced from Missing
B.C.'s missing women's inquiry
hearings saw long-time tensions boil over yesterday in a pointed argument
between the lawyer for families of Robert Pickton's murder victims, and
beleaguered commissioner Wally Oppal – leaving several of the families enraged
and the inquiry increasingly in question.
“Frankly, I'm getting really sick of getting re-victimized by this system,” said
Lori-Ann Ellis, whose 26-year old sister-in-law, Cara, was murdered by Pickton,
although charges stemming from her death were among the 20 stayed by the Crown.
Longtime tensions spilling over in court
From day one of the inquiry, some families and friends have held drum circles
blocking the Georgia and Granville intersection, laying down quilts in memory of
the missing women. But concerns are now spilling over into the courtroom.
When the Vancouver
Observer asked Ellis what motivates her, she said she is motivated by a
commitment she made to seek justice for her sister-in-law. Cara Ellis, 26 when
she died, was close to her two brothers and her half-brother, even after years
of absence. She had run away at age 13, Ellis said, but when she returned “she
hugged them with all of herself, it was like the gap never existed.
“I brought a little piece of her bone home, but I think I need to bring her dignity back.”
Interruptions and denials
What was supposed to be
a procedural day escalated into a heated exchange, after Oppal challenged Ward's
request for three new witnesses to testify – all of whom had direct connection
to the police's botched Pickton investigation – because of concern the trial
would go on too long and the witnesses would only repeat existing police
information. In response, Ward said if police's account of themselves were
accepted wholesale, there would be no point in the inquiry at all -- and alleged
that victims' families were increasingly frustrated, a fact Oppal denied
A "cruel, mean, vindictive bully"
woman's family reacted with fury to Oppal's claim that they had been treated
fairly, and accused the commissioner of lying in asserting that the families had
not been cross-examined.
“When I was on the
stand, I was the first family member up there – they weren't supposed to
cross-exam us but they did – they made me feel I was a victim all over again.
Ellis agreed, and accused Oppal and the inquiry of bullying the families -- a particular betrayal since he had assured concerned families early in the inqury it would be a fair and impartial hearing.
“For him to say that is
just a bald-faced lie, or he's just inattentive to what's happening in the
room,” she said. “It was untrue – I was cross-examined by Vancouver Police
Department lawyers, who tried to put words in my mouth I didn't say.
"We already dealt with Pickton, who's a bully – do we have to go through that again when our lawyers can't even get a word in without getting interrupted? The very words he used today show a lack of respect for the families; he, as well as the system, is again victimizing us.”
The heated courtroom
exchange came after Ward put forward a list of new witnesses to testify at the
inquiry in the new year. Three of the list's most prominent names on the list
include Bill Hiscox (a former Pickton employee who offered to help police in
1998, but was turned down), Bill Ritchie (Pickton's lawyer, who pushed the Crown
to stay its 1997 charges against Pickton), and a woman referred to by the alias
“Jane Smith” (a sex worker who claims Pickton confessed his killings to her in
2000 but who said she was ignored by the police).
UN inquiry request shot down
The Oppal-Ward spat
came as the United Nations acknowledged receiving a request from Canadian
Indigenous groups for an inquiry into the country's missing and murdered
Aboriginal women – which the Native Women's Alliance of Canada (NWAC) has listed
at nearly 600 women. However, the federal government said today that no UN
inquiry will take place.
“I want them to get the cops who were there (involved in the investigation at the time) – I don't care where they've gone – get them there. (We want) the truth of what really happened ...I want to be told exactly what happened and why these women weren't found on the farm.”
National news feed from The Canadian Press
Updated: August 21, 2016