Metro Vancouver police force a possiblity, official admits
The recommendation in the Robert Pickton inquiry report that Metro Vancouver form a regional police force is "very timely" and "deserves further discussion," B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond says.
Bond made the statement during a news conference Monday when asked about the idea of forming a regional police force, which was one of the key suggestions in the report by inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal.
"I've always been willing to sit down with mayors in the Vancouver area to talk about that," Bond said.
She said that although a 10-year contract with the RCMP was recently signed, it has an opt-out clause that would enable the contract's cancellation.
Oppal was critical of the lack of co-ordination among the RCMP and Vancouver police forces that helped enable Pickton to kill women on his rural Vancouver farm over a period of several years, leading up to his eventual 2002 arrest.
Most of the communities that make up Metro Vancouver are policed by the RCMP, but Vancouver, Port Moody, New Westminster, West Vancouver and Delta have their own municipal police forces.
Bond also said former B.C. lieutenant-governor Steven Point has agreed to "champion" the province's response to the inquiry report.
Point, a First Nations member whose five-year term as lieutenant-governor ended earlier this year, will head an advisory committee that will "ensure community perspectives are kept at the forefront during development of the government's comprehensive response to the recommendations," Bond said.
Bond said one step the government was taking right away is to increase funding to a centre serving women on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"Our government will commit, immediately, $750,000 to allow the Wish Drop-in Centre to expand the hours of service they provide to women," the minister said.
The centre is described on its website as providing services to female sex workers, including meals, showering facilities, "on-site nursing care, referrals to detoxification centres, rehabilitation houses, and shelters for upwards of 120 women per night."
Vancouver police Chief Const. Jim Chu issued a statement Monday afternoon on behalf of his department.
"It is our sincere wish and hope that today’s report will offer the families of the victims of Robert Pickton some measure of consolation and closure," Chu said.
"It may also come as small consolation to those who still grieve that we are committed to learning from our mistakes and have taken and will continue to take steps in the future to ensure that the same type of errors are never made again."
Chu's statement, which did not address the notion of a Metro Vancouver police force, was released before Bond spoke Monday afternoon.
The RCMP's commanding officer in B.C., Craig Callens, also issued a release Monday.
"The deaths of the women at the heart of this Inquiry were a tragedy that caused unimaginable pain for many families across our communities. We deeply regret the disappearance, and ultimately the loss, of so many loved ones," Callens said.
Callens said his remarks had to be limited at this time due to the length of the report and the time that will be required to review it and Oppal's recommendations.
Families of women believed murdered by Pickton welcomed the massive inquiry report, saying wearily they hope it will lead to positive change.
Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara Ellis's remains were found on Pickton's farm, said Monday she was impressed with Commissioner Wally Oppal's thoroughness, but said she also thinks he wasn't able to see the whole picture because of the limitations in his mandate.
"It's a baby step, but at least we're moving in the right direction," she said.
"At some point in time, in order for the families to start healing, we have to trust someone. Do I think it's going to change overnight? No."
Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the murder of six women, while charges involving 20 others were stayed. The remains of a further seven women were found on his farm.
Ernie Crey said he, too, was "deeply impressed" with the report. Crey's sister's DNA was found on the Pickton farm.
He acknowledged the inquiry process had shortcomings and many groups remain angry that they were left out.
But Crey added, "It really boils down to, what do we do about it? I'd rather spend my time doing concrete things today and tomorrow and the day after that than just being critical and not participating in the process.
"We need to work with what we have."
With files from the CBC's Belle Puri and The Canadian Press