UBCIC Continues To Demand Public Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Women

Open Letter
August 19, 2010


Premier Gordon Campbell
Office of the Premier
PO Box 9041
Station Provincial Government
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E1
Via post and facsimile: 250-387-0087

Minister Mike de Jong
Ministry of Public Safety, Solicitor General
PO Box 9053
Station Provincial Government
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2
Via post and facsimile: 250-356-8270

Minister Mike de Jong
Ministry of the Attorney General
PO Box 9044
Station Provincial Government
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2
Via post and facsimile: 250-387-6411

August 19, 2010

Open Letter: UBCIC Continues To Demand Public Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Women In DTES

Dear Sirs:

We are writing again to demand that you immediately call a public inquiry into the missing and murdered women of the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. It is with a deep sense of sorrow, and growing anger that we send this repeated request in light of recent and increasing evidence. We understand that public officials did not act on information they possessed which could have meant catching serial killer Robert Pickton years earlier, and probably prevented the murders of over a dozen women. Police and civic officials responsible for this absolute nightmare must be held accountable, and the justice system must be re-shaped to ensure this can never happen again.

We were shocked to find out this week that public officials continually refused to read a detailed, internal report analyzing how the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) handled the missing women investigation, and that this report will not be released to the public until September 9, 2010. We understand that former-chief of the VPD Jamie Graham offered a briefing and confidential copy to then-solicitor general John Les as far back as 2006, and VPD chief Jim Chu repeated the offer last summer to then-solicitor general Kash Heed. We are completely appalled that civic officials have refused to read this report, which concludes there was sufficient evidence by 1999 pointing to Pickton as the prime suspect, a full two and a half years before his arrest in February 2002. In those two and a half years, over a dozen women went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and some of their DNA was found at Pickton's farm. VPD Chief Constable Doug LePard authored the internal report, and we understand he noted that the VPD identified Pickton as the only suspect, but that the RCMP did not follow up immediately.

Additionally, we understand that the police did not immediately act on key information that surfaced in the 1990s pointing to Pickton as a serial killer of the missing women. In 1998 Bill Hiscox, a former worker at Pickton's P and B Salvage Company in Surrey, told police that there were bags of bloody clothing and women's identification in Pickton's trailer. Hiscox provided this information three and a half years before Pickton's actual arrest in 2002, during which time more than 20 women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside. Also in the late 1990s, police ignored information from then-VPD Detective Inspector Kim Rossmo, a specialist in geographic profiling. Rossmo determined that the missing women were the result of a serial killer, but VPD officials at the time did not believe him or immediately follow-up.

Another recently revealed and severely poor treatment of evidence by police involves Pickton's 1997 arrest and charge of attempted murder of a sex-trade worker. The Crown stayed the charge and the blood-soaked clothing with DNA evidence linking to Pickton was kept in an RCMP storage locker and not turned over to the missing women task force.

We know that Pickton was charged with murdering 27 women based on body parts or DNA found on his farm, and was convicted on six counts on December 9, 2007. On July 30, 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that Robert Pickton's six convictions for second degree murder are affirmed, and dismissed Pickton's appeal for a retrial. Despite overwhelming public pressure and calls for justice, the Crown stayed the remaining 20 outstanding murder charges against Pickton.

The potentially unnecessary deaths of more than a dozen women as a result of the slipshod operations of the VPD and RCMP, and of civic officials refusing to review all available information, are insulting to the honour and respect of the missing women and their families, particularly combined with the recent dismissal of the remaining 20 charges against Pickton. As the full extent of internal errors in the justice system is revealed, we strengthen and echo our earlier calls for a desperately needed public inquiry into the missing and murdered women of the Downtown Eastside. We do so in solidarity with family members of missing women, community groups, and Aboriginal and public leaders.

By Resolution 2008-30, the UBCIC Chief Council called on the Minister of Justice of Canada, the Attorney General of Canada, and the BC Attorney General requesting their cooperation in initiating a full public inquiry into the Missing Women of the Downtown Eastside and the Highway of Tears. We do not believe that the missing women from the Downtown Eastside and the Highway of Tears were treated with the same respect and urgency that the women missing from less impoverished communities would have received. The lack of properly coordinated attention and respect to these missing women reveals the harsh cracks in our justice system, and calls for a much needed review and action to address the underlying and related societal issues of poverty, racism, and oppression.

Sirs, it is imperative that a public inquiry be held, and that the VPD's internal report on police handling of the missing women investigation is made immediately public. Given the urgency of this issue, we look forward to a timely response.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

Chief William Charlie
Vice-President

Chief Robert Chamberlin
Secretary-Treasurer

cc:
UBCIC Chiefs Council
First Nations Summit Task Group
BC Assembly of First Nations
National Assembly of First Nations
Vancouver Police Department
Walk 4 Justice
BC Civil Liberties Association
United Native Nations

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.