A lawyer representing families of Robert Pickton's victims has denounced a public inquiry as a failure, arguing it didn't hear enough evidence to determine why the serial killer was able to murder with impunity.
Cameron Ward, who represents the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, says the inquiry neglected to hear from a number of crucial witnesses and allowed the police to decide which evidence and documents to disclose.
"This commission has failed to uncover the true reasons why this enormous tragedy was allowed to happen and exactly how it was that the criminal justice system utterly failed these women and their families," Cameron Ward, who represents the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, told the inquiry during his final submissions Monday.
"My clients are disappointed, discouraged and, most of all, angry at the way this commission has unfolded. They feel this commission has perpetuated the attitude of indifference and disrespect that they themselves first experienced when they reported their loved ones missing."
Because of that, Ward says the families have no confidence commissioner Wally Oppal will get to the bottom of the police failures that allowed Pickton to murder sex workers for years before he was finally caught.
Ward says Oppal ceded to an unfair deadline imposed by the provincial government, rushing through witnesses and skipping others, including numerous police officers involved in the Pickton investigation.
Alleges police controlled inquiry
He says the police were given too much control over the inquiry process, refusing to disclose hundreds of thousands of documents.
Ward says the evidence the inquiry did hear showed police were negligent in failing to investigate reports of missing women, and that a police culture of disdain towards sex workers was partly to blame.
Ward had an hour to sum up more than half a year of testimony as the inquiry entered its final week, and he used much of that time to list off what he argued were the failures of the process and of commissioner Wally Oppal.
Outside the inquiry, Ward's clients could barely contain their distaste for the inquiry and for Oppal, a former judge and one-time Liberal attorney general.
"I'm so pissed off, this is totally unfair," said Cynthia Cardinal, whose sister Georgina Papin was among the women Pickton was convicted of killing.
"This is an injustice."
The families have not forgotten that it was Oppal who, as attorney general, broke the news in 2008 that Pickton may not stand trial for 20 outstanding murder charges.
By then, Pickton had already been convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and prosecutors were waiting to deal with an additional 20 charges until after his appeals had run out. At the time, Oppal said if the convictions were upheld, a second trial wouldn't be in the public interest.
The inquiry began last October and has heard from dozens of witnesses, including current and former police officers, relatives of the missing women, advocates and service providers in the Downtown Eastside and academics.
Closing submissions from various participants, including the Vancouver police and the RCMP, are scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday.
After that Oppal has until Oct. 31 to produce a report that will include recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
Last week, Oppal received a four-month extension to write his report, which was previously due on June 30.
Pickton was arrested in February 2002 and convicted in December 2007 of the six counts of second-degree murder.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49.