Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo speaking at a rally outside the Missing Women Inquiry Tuesday.

Protests mark start of missing women inquiry

AFN latest group to pull out amid demands Oppal resign



Drumming, chanting and calls for justice could be heard eight floors up, where Commissioner Wally Oppal opened the Missing Women Inquiry.

Tuesday’s rally blocked downtown Vancouver traffic, but it did not derail the inquiry, which many critics say is stacked heavily in favour of the police and authorities.

The Assembly of First Nations was the latest group to pull out of the hearings, demanding the provincial government suspend the inquiry until more money can be found to fund lawyers to ensure fair treatment.

“It’s an absolute disgrace, a national disgrace,” AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said to shouts of “shame” from the demonstrators.

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Philip said it’s unacceptable for the families of murdered women to finally get a full public inquiry but one that will not deliver the answers they need.

“We need to send a message upstairs and that message is ‘Oppal resign,'” Philip said.

Almost every group that had been granted standing at the inquiry and recommended for legal funding by Oppal has now withdrawn after the province refused to provide more money.

Other prominent groups that left the process last week included Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Publicly funded lawyers representing police will aggressively cross-examine vulnerable women who try to testify, the groups say. But only a tiny handful of opposing lawyers will press testifying officers for answers and sift through thousands of pages of documents that will be released.

Oppal vowed the inquiry will provide a level playing field.

The inquiry will probe how serial killer Robert Pickton was allowed to prey on drug-addicted women from the Downtown Eastside for so many years and what can be done to prevent anything similar from happening again.

It began with a minute of silence for the murdered women and a statement from Oppal that painted a human portrait of those who were killed.
Each woman was valued, had dreams, hopes and fears, he said.

They were daughters, granddaughters, sisters, nieces, wives, friends, and often mothers, Oppal said.

“Individually the loss of each women is heartbreaking,” he said. “Taken together, the loss of so many women is horrific.”

Oppal called the inquiry a chance to show our society values its most marginal community members.

Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder in 2007, although he claimed to have killed 49 women.

The sisters of one of his victims, Georgina Papin, travelled from southern Alberta to witness the start of the inquiry.

Elana Papin and Cynthia Cardinal said they hope the probe could lead to the arrests of “other predators” or accomplices of Pickton who they believe participated in the killings.

“We’re here for Georgina,” Cardinal said. “She’s with us. We can feel her spirit around us. She had seven beautiful children and we’re here for her children also.”

Ernie Crey, the Chilliwack brother of murdered woman Dawn Crey, said he’s not angry most groups are boycotting the hearings.

“We’re disappointed though,” Crey said, adding he believes the inquiry has the best chance of success if as many groups participate as possible.

Photo: National Chief Shawn Atleo of the AFN addresses rally

Just Posted

Waterworks situation on table at Hope District meeting

Council to make decision on 753 Waterworks transfer tonight

Rail group to bring plan to Abbotsford council

Group is calling for plans to run trains on rail line between Chilliwack and Surrey

Construction project in Hope means bus diversion starting today

Bus riders will have to flag down driver for Route 22

Question Answers with Fraser-Cascade 2019 byelection candidates

Seven candidates have stepped forward for this year’s sudden byelection—learn about them here

Sunshine Valley teens burning with promise

Possibly the youngest in B.C., Sunshine Valley trains 15- and 16-year-old firefighters

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Hazmat incident closes down Lower Mainland street

One person is believed to be dead, police said

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

Pride flags stolen from Lower Mainland church

Went missing sometime Friday night, says Maple Ridge reverend

25 new wheelchair-accessible cabins open at Cultus Lake Provincial Park

Maple Bay Campground is now home to 25 new wheelchair friendly cabins, a first for BC Parks

Most Read