Pickton inquiry report to be released Monday
The final report from the public inquiry that examined the case of serial killer Robert Pickton will be released Monday in Vancouver.
The inquiry was led by Wally Oppal, a former judge and ex-British Columbia attorney general.
Oppal's 1,448-page report is expected to explain why the Mounties and Vancouver police failed to catch Pickton before February of 2002 and what should be done to prevent similar failures in the future.
The inquiry heard that police had evidence linking Pickton with the disappearance of sex trade workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside years before he was arrested.
Oppal was also asked to look into Crown counsel's decision not to prosecute Pickton for attempted murder following a vicious attack on a sex worker in 1997. After that charge was stayed, 19 more women connected to Pickton's farm disappeared.
The inquiry heard that senior officers in Vancouver actively resisted considering the possibility that a serial killer was operating in their city, while RCMP investigators in Port Coquitlam were slow to seriously investigate Pickton.
Oppal said the problems that plagued those investigations must be fixed, because just as Pickton wasn't Canada's first serial killer, he won't be the last.
"Pickton isn't the sole problem — there will be other serial killers," Oppal said in an interview in advance of the report's release.
"Horrible tragedies have taken place here, and we need to learn from those tragedies. We have to come together as a community so that women are better protected."
Bringing the community together, particularly the non-profit groups that work with sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, has perhaps been Oppal's largest challenge.
The provincial government's decision to deny legal funding for advocacy groups that had been granted standing at the inquiry prompted nearly all of them to boycott the process.
Several of those groups held a news conference last month denouncing Oppal's report and the entire inquiry, which they say was too narrowly focused on police and failed to give adequate voice to the vulnerable women it was set up to protect.
Oppal again pleaded for his critics to read his report with an open mind.
"I'm urging those people who have had differences with the inquiry to come forward and co-operate," he said.
"The violence against women and the tragedies that we have experienced in our communities are far more important than the individual differences about the process of the inquiry."
Unlike the advocacy groups, the families of missing and murdered women received government funding to hire lawyers at the inquiry, but they, too, have decried the process as deeply flawed.
One of their lawyers, Neil Chantler, said the inquiry didn't hear enough evidence about systemic problems within the police forces, including allegations of sexism and racism, to determine what really allowed Pickton to remain at large.
"The primary theme we're going to be looking for is some recognition that institutional prejudices were pervasive at the time," said Chantler, who along with lawyer Cameron Ward represented more than two dozen families.
"This commission shied away from those issues during the hearing process and chose to focus on other issues such as technical policing failures rather than the more social, systemic issues that might have been at play."
Vancouver police and the RCMP have each offered apologies, but with disclaimers attached.
Both forces admitted they didn't do enough to catch Pickton, while insisting their officers did the best they could with the information they had. They also spent considerable time blaming each other, with the RCMP accusing Vancouver police of failing to notice a serial killer was at work and the Vancouver police blaming the RCMP in Port Coquitlam for botching the investigation.
Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.