Thursday, September 09, 2010

Community Inquiry Committee Demands - Laying the Groundwork for an Inquiry

Community Inquiry Committee Demands - Laying the Groundwork for an Inquiry

September 7, 2010

Premier Gordon Campbell
BC Legislative Building
Victoria, B. C.

Dear Premier Campbell:

With the recent BC Supreme Court decision which upheld the conviction of Robert Pickton in the Missing Women’s case, our community coalition of organizations along with some family members of the Murdered and Missing Women and other concerned parties are asking the BC government to call a Public Inquiry to help deal with outstanding questions that remain in the community related to the Missing and Murdered Women’s case. Our view is that the recently released Vancouver Police Department’s report, authored by Deputy Chief Doug Le Pard still leaves many questions unanswered.

Hard questions need to be asked about the entire investigative process including current efforts to investigate the Women who are still missing. It is essential that any errors in process and possible jurisdictional problems be probed so that we can learn from this horrendously tragic experience.

The public inquiry should be given the mandate to make policy recommendations, and set a process for their implementation. We also expect that the public inquiry be truly that, and that its structure, be one which ensures that those most affected by these tragedies – family members of the Murdered and Missing Women, and sex workers - voices are heard.

Wide scope should be given to the many areas of public policy and how it contributes to increasing the dangers of sex work and making survival sex workers more vulnerable. The criminal justice system, policing, provincial and federal laws, to civic bylaws and various levels of institutional discrimination all have contributed to the increase risk. Institutional barriers to accessing justice need to be probed as they relate to this case, and others like it, especially as a means to prevent further tragedies.

A Public Inquiry would be one responsible step in understanding how the case of the Missing Women was handled, and allow for some closure for the family, friends and loved ones of the Murdered and Missing Women. It would be a vitally important opportunity to learn from the past, and take a hard look at the public policy framework.

We have had many discussions related to such a public inquiry, particularly in regards to its composition, and access, possible terms of reference, follow-up and implementation. It is our perspective that the following recommendations should be implemented.

Composition and Access

- safety and immunity be guaranteed for Inquiry participants
- the chair of the inquiry should be a woman, ideally an Aboriginal woman

- the committee highly recommends Mary Ellen Turpel-LaFond to chair the inquiry

- there should be strong representation from the community at every stage of the inquiry, including resources to reduce barriers for those individuals, who are most affected
- mechanisms be put in place to collect material from those who do not feel comfortable in the public inquiry venue, or the more formal, exposed setting, and ensure that important information from these processes, can be fed into the inquiry
- a community process to obtain input on the terms of reference for the inquiry be initiated, and that the Chair of the Inquiry be given latitude to expand its areas and scope if necessary

- community organizations should have the opportunity to have intervenor status at the Inquiry

Terms of reference to Include

- a review of policies related to sex workers and their impact on the safety of women and sex trade workers, dating from 1983-84 in Vancouver’s westend and onward

- a review of aspects of policing culture and the broader culture, which allowed so many sex workers to go missing without a full investigation, not only of Robert Pickton, but of other serial predators who continue to perpetrate violence against sex workers
- a review of how Aboriginal people are systemically marginalized within the policing and legal system

- a review of the role that gender and race played in delaying the investigation

- a review of the priorities that were established in the allocation of police resources that led to these tragedies. What took priority over human life, in the allocation of policing resources?

- a review of the discretionary decision-making of Crown, and the role of the legal process, in perpetuating discrimination against marginalized Women, especially sex workers, or marginalizing witnesses who live unstable lives
- a review of jurisdictional tensions between city police forces and the RCMP, and their impact in the investigation of predators of sex workers
- the role of child welfare policies and the intrusion of the state in the family lives of sex workers

- ensure that important information from these processes, can be fed into the Inquiry

Follow-up and Implementation

- ensure that mechanisms are in place for the implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations in a timely manner
- community organizations and family members of the Missing and Murdered Women, and sex workers, should have representation on a follow-up committee, which works to implement recommendations

- an independent officer such as the Ombudsperson, or another appointed officer of the legislature be tasked with evaluation and review of the implementation of recommendations of the Inquiry

- community organizations should have the opportunity to have intervenor status at the Inquiry

We are also supportive of resources being made available for community-based groups with ties to these matters, to be able to hold consultative processes, which could relay information to the official Public Inquiry.

The Community Inquiry Committee is made up of representatives of women and sex workers service groups, family members of the Missing and Murdered Women, sex workers, and individuals working in the area of human right and anti-discrimination

We look forward to your reply to our correspondence. And further, to your announcement regarding this matter.


Sadie Kuehn and Jamie Lee Hamilton

on behalf of

Community Inquiry Committee