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Wally Oppal appoints two lawyers to represent Aboriginal issues at inquiry

BY KELLY SINOSKI, VANCOUVER SUN  MARCH 21, 2012

VANCOUVER - Commissioner Wally Oppal has appointed lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt as independent co-counsel to represent aboriginal issues at the Missing Women's Inquiry.

The appointments, made to replace Metis lawyer Robyn Gervais who quit earlier this month, come a week-and-a-half before the Inquiry is set to resume on April 2. The hearings had been suspended as a result of Spring Break and to give the new lawyers a chance to get up to speed on the inquiry.

Commission Counsel Art Vertlieb, Q.C., said the two women are "respected, experienced legal professionals," and Oppal is confident the lawyers will ensure that Aboriginal interests are presented at the inquiry.

Narbonne has more than 20 years' experience as a lawyer, while Hunt, a member of the Kwakiutl Nation, is expected to bring the aboriginal perspective to the inquiry.

"This is just following the Commissioner's view which is that this is important," Vertlieb said. "I feel this will meet the needs of the Commission."

Gervais was appointed by the commission last August to represent aboriginal interests after all first nations groups withdrew from the inquiry when the provincial government refused to pay for legal funding. The government only paid for two lawyers to represent the families of the victims of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton.

Gervais then surprised the inquiry when she announced she was withdrawing for a number of reasons, including feeling that not enough aboriginal witnesses had been called.

Oppal said he wants the inquiry to produce a report to protect the lives of vulnerable women and he wants a lawyer representing aboriginal interests at the proceedings.

Narbonne said Wednesday she feels up the challenge. "At this point I'm just going to get myself up to speed," she said. "I don't know what we're going to achieve but I'm going to do my best ... I'm completely confident I'm up to this.

"I'm quite excited about it. I think it's going to be absolutely fascinating work and it's important."

 

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016