Some of the women who went missing from the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton was convicted of killing six of them but claimed to undercover police he killed 48.

Some of the women who went missing from the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton was convicted of killing six of them but claimed to undercover police he killed 48.

Muddled inquiry new blow to families of missing women

Doubts hang over probe into serial killer Pickton's slaying spree

Months ago, the National Parole Board promised to notify Ernie Crey if serial killer Robert Pickton is transferred between prisons for any reason.

Now the feds have retracted the offer by way of a letter to Crey, whose sister is thought to have been slaughtered on Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm.

The Sto:lo elder and frequent spokesman for the victims’ families was told he doesn’t automatically qualify for notifications because Dawn Crey wasn’t among the six missing women Pickton was actually convicted of murdering.

“It’s upsetting,” Crey said, calling the error a combination of insensitivity and incompetence.

He’s not sure if the same treatment befell families of the other 20 murdered women, whose charges never went to trial, or if it was limited to the third set of suspected victims like his sister, where charges were never laid despite DNA that placed her on the farm.

“We’ve had missteps like this all along the way,” Crey said.

It comes as multiple critics accuse the provincial government of bungling the Missing Women Inquiry, which is itself supposed to probe the litany of police errors that let Pickton prey on vulnerable women for so long before his 2002 arrest.

Victoria refused to provide an extra $1.5 million so women and First Nations groups can have legal representation and fully participate in the upcoming hearings.

Several groups vowed to boycott the inquiry after they were denied legal funding.

“We have no confidence that it will be able to produce a fair and balanced report,” said Corbiere Lavell, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, which wants a national inquiry.

She said Victoria has created a flawed and one-sided inquiry by limiting legal funding mainly to police and government members who are called to testify.

Critics say counselllors, support workers and others close to the Downtown Eastside’s vulnerable women will be underequipped to put hard questions to well-defended police and government reps who might have had the power to stop Pickton.

Inquiry head and former attorney general Wally Oppal agreed and pressed hard for more money.

Last week, he gave up and the inquiry reshuffled its budget to free up a smaller amount of cash to hire a team of four lawyers to represent the 12 unfunded groups.

Inquiry executive director John Boddie said the commission was concerned “the critics of the actions of the government and the police may be silenced.”

It’s not yet clear if those who walked away from the inquiry will return.

Also initially denied funding was Vancouver Police Department officer and profiling expert Kim Rossmo, whose early warnings to his superiors that a serial killer was at work went unheeded.

Boddie said the province indicated it may pay for a lawyer for Rossmo, who refuses to participate without one.

Lawyers are being provided for the families of the missing women.

The changes don’t yet instill confidence in Crey.

“I think what we’re seeing is the unravelling of the inquiry right before our eyes,” he said.

That would be a bitter blow for both Crey – who campaigned for the inquiry – and for other families and friends who struggled for years to get Vancouver police to take the disappearances of sex-trade workers seriously.

The long quest for justice hasn’t been cheap.

The province spent more than $100 million on the police investigation, Pickton’s prosecution, his high-powered defence and other court costs, while the inquiry was expected to cost up to $5 million.

Premier Christy Clark indicated she didn’t want to see more funding go to lawyers, rather than other aid for the embattled justice system, which is short judges, sheriffs and other staff.

Crey said he sees little evidence money is going to those priorities, but noted Victoria is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects like the new roof for BC Place, which is visible from the Downtown Eastside.

“I’ve gone beyond frustration,” Crey said. “The whole thing has become disgraceful.”

The inquiry will hold forums in nine northern B.C. communities Sept. 12-22 and begin formal hearings in Vancouver on Oct. 11.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Retired Mission teacher and star CFL kicker charged for assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Alan Sweet taught in school district for 10 years, investigators seeking further witnesses

B.C. RCMP Lower Mainland District officer, Asst. Commissioner Stephen Thatcher presents RCMP blankets to (from left) Chief James Hobart, Chief Maureen Chapman, Chief Derek Epp and Chief Mark Point. (RCMP)
Historic agreement between Fraser Valley FN communities, RCMP to expand Indigenous role in policing

Community Safety Agreement builds relationship of ‘trust, communication and prevention,’ says Chief

Robbie Weir’s “Bee Happy In The Garden” is on display during Hope Arts Gallery’s Retrospective 12 show. (Photo/Hope Arts Gallery)
Hope Arts Gallery “Retrospective 12” show is open

Runs until March 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday

Hope Mountain Centre volunteers carry wood along the Dragon’s Back trail. The trail is all but ready for hiking as of the Hope Council’s Feb. 22 meeting, promising a challenge worth the “million dollar view of Hope,” said Kelly Pearce. (Photo/Hope Mountain Centre)
2020 a busy year for trails in ‘Hope’s backyard’: Mountain Centre

Program director Kelly Pearce recapped last year’s activities to council

District Hall, Hope (Photo/Adam Louis)
Council Preview for March 8

Meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Monday via Facebook

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read