British Columbia

Missing, murdered women inquiry: Don't repeat B.C.'s mistakes, says coalition

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Trudeau government to learn from B.C.'s mistakes when it calls a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Scope too narrow and many recommendations not acted on, say advocacy groups

Lorelai Williams aunt went missing in 1977. Her cousin, missing since 1996, was among the women whose DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm. (CBC)

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Trudeau government to learn from B.C.'s mistakes when it calls a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

The groups, which include family members of missing and murdered women, as well as the First Nations Summit, B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others, said at a press conference Monday that any national inquiry needs consultation with indigenous women, before it begins.

"We can't make the same mistakes as the Oppal inquiry," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, referring to B.C.'s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, led by Wally Oppal after the conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton.

"We are sending a clear message to the Trudeau government that we want to be centrally involved."

Scope too narrow in B.C. inquiry

Throughout the Oppal inquiry, the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls declared the process "fundamentally flawed," in part because its scope was too narrowly focused on the criminal investigation of Pickton.

"We need to get to the root causes of why this is happening, so we can prevent this from happening," said Lorelai Williams, whose aunt went missing in 1977, and whose cousin, missing since 1996, was among the women whose DNA was found on Pickton's farm.

"I don't want this to happen to any other families."

Kendra Milne, director of law reform at West Coast Leaf, said the Oppal inquiry was "never designed to gather information needed to take meaningful steps to end systematic violence against indigenous women and girls."

The coalition wants the Trudeau government to establish a "pre-inquiry consultation process," before it sets the terms of a promised national inquiry.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillips said the inquiry should be led by a woman.

"We need to get this right, and we'll only be able to do that if women take the lead."

Wally Oppal has also urged the Liberal government to depart from B.C.'s example, and involve communities more.

These images are of 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP's investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. The women were either found or last seen near Highway 16 or near Highways 97 and 5. From left to right: (Top row) Aielah Saric Auger, Tamara Chipman, Nicole Hoar, Lana Derrick, Alishia Germaine, Roxanne Thiara; (Middle) Ramona Wilson, Delphine Nikal, Alberta Williams, Shelley-Anne Bascu, Maureen Mosie, Monica Jack; (Bottom row) Monica Ignas, Colleen MacMillen, Pamela Darlington, Gale Weys, Micheline Pare, Gloria Moody. (Individual photos from

B.C. failed to act, says coalition

Despite those concerns, the coalition said Oppal's inquiry did result in more than 60 recommendations that would have brought improvements, but B.C. has failed to act on most of them.

Key among them, was the creation of safe transportation along Highway 16, also known as the Highway of Tears, where at least 18 women and girls have disappeared or been murdered since 1969.

Nearly three years after Oppal's report, that still hasn't happened.

Last month, the privacy commissioner revealed that B.C. Transportation Ministry staff deleted emails detailing concerns from family and communities.

"The coalition is absolutely appalled ... that the B.C. government deleted emails ... instead of responding to the repeated and important recommendations to address this issue," the coalition members said in a release.

"We absolutely reject the arrogant attitude of Premier [Christy] Clark, the Attorney General [Suzanne Anton], and particularly [Transportation] Minister [Todd] Stone, with respect to their notion that this is somehow a closed file," said Phillip.

"It is imperative that the federal government not repeat B.C.'s mistakes, and we also urge B.C. to take urgent actions to correct the mistakes as it can," said Milne.

The B.C. government did not immediately respond to CBC's requests for comments.


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