Missing women inquiry is proving a sham

Wally Oppal’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is underway in Vancouver this week — a failure from the opening gavel, an epic national embarrassment.

Wally Oppal’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is underway in Vancouver this week — a failure from the opening gavel, an epic national embarrassment.

And I have had to do some serious rethinking on this sad affair.

Back in July, I wrote in this space: “If Oppal’s inquiry is to have any lasting benefit it will be its ability to identify protocols that can be implemented to ensure that our various law enforcement agencies are on the same page when such a terrible crisis is unfolding.”

That was true enough. But I also suggested the debate around the government’s refusal to fund legal representation for special interest groups amounted to needless pandering. I was wrong.

At the time, I failed to fully appreciate that the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP and their platoons of $250-an-hour lawyers would ultimately have carte blanche to dodge and weave around the very thing this exercise should be about — accountability.

As I am writing this column, mere moments before Oppal is scheduled to get down to business, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International have officially opted out.

Their exit represents the tail end of the boycott avalanche. By my count, 20 of the 21 groups granted standing before the commission have pulled out because of the government’s refusal to budget $1.5 million for legal representation. There have even been calls for intervention by the United Nations.

Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve says: “We could not allow our presence to be seen as supporting a process that has gone so far off-track. It’s not a level playing field; we’re not even on the same field.”

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs President Stewart Phillip expressed bitter disappointment. “After 20 years of candlelight vigils, demands for an inquiry into why hundreds of aboriginal women were going missing, after crying endless tears, First Nations and women’s groups get nothing.”

B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Michael Vonn has estimated the inquiry will generate a million pages of testimony. In the cops’ corner there will be at least 14 lawyers, and in the public interest corner there will be just four or five with at least two of them helping pro bono.

The police have already established a combative tone. They are seeking to ban the names of sex offenders in documents to be made public at the inquiry. Jason Gratl, representing Downtown Eastside sex trade workers, is fighting the ban.

Sean Hern, a lawyer representing Vancouver police, says investigative documents, including police notes, contain the identities and sensitive personal information of a large number of people.

“It is our view that unless that information is already public information or is for some reason necessary to publicize as part of the commission’s work, it should remain private and be redacted from exhibits that are made publicly available,” Hern says.

At the same time, Gratl says police are opposing his application to have sex trade workers give evidence anonymously by affidavit.

Anyone who thinks the police are in this to help shed light on an awful chapter of our criminal history is sadly mistaken. The police are in this to cover their asses. And, they are doing it with taxpayer-funded legal help.

The odds are well stacked against the interests of full disclosure and accountability. The process is a sham. M

Just Posted

REVIEW: Anna doesn’t quite know what it wants to be

Monday film reviewer Robert Moyes not impressed with the latest Russian femme fatale flick

Life ain’t a drag for RuPaul stars

Victoria to play host to two of Drag Race reality show’s biggest personalities

BEHIND BARS: Learning about the versatility and nuanced flavours of sake

Discover new flavours with sake sommelier Anton Ihl at E:Né Raw Food and Sake Bar

Speaking out: Pride in the Word a major part of Pride Week

Billeh Nickerson returns to host an all-new group of writers for popular literary event

TESS ON TOUR: Festivals and attractions make it Vibrant Vancouver

Monday columnist Tess Van Straaten crosses the water to check out what’s hot in the big city

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Many food options at the Gorge Canada Day Picnic

A multitude of food trucks on hand, but pancake breakfast among the most popular choices

Feed your hunger for Canucks hockey in Victoria this September

NHL team to host camp at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, exhibition vs. Calgary set for Sept. 16

Taylor Swift’s new music video features Ellen, Ryan Reynolds, RuPaul and more

Cast of Queer Eye and Katy Perry make appearances too on “You Need to Calm Down” video

COLUMN: Revisiting a decade ago as Victoria celebrates 20 years of Ska

4 million tourists visit Greater Victoria each year and there’s a reason we remain despite them

Rick Mercer-led comedy team in for second Just for Laughs show at UVic

Comedy company will stage two shows Nov. 16 at Farquhar Auditorium

Most Read