Shirley Bond rejects plea to extend Pickton inquiry
Elder Eugene Harry of the Squamish Nation looks at a poster of missing women prior to performing a ceremonial blessing at the start of the missing women inquiry in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
James Keller, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:30PM PDT
The public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case won't receive any additional time to conduct its work, British Columbia's attorney general said Wednesday, pre-empting a plea from several of the victims' families who are calling on the province to grant the commission an extension.
Relatives of Dianne Rock, Cara Ellis and Dawn Crey called a news conference for Thursday morning alongside Opposition NDP Leader Adrian Dix to push the Liberal government to give the inquiry an extension.
But Attorney General Shirley Bond said she's not prepared to give Commissioner Wally Oppal an extension beyond his current deadline of June 30.
"There does need to be a point where we move forward with important recommendations," Bond said in an interview Wednesday evening shortly after the families' news conference was announced.
"The inquiry will have taken up a year and a half, we have provided legal resources to support the families throughout this process, and ... what we want to do is to actually begin to act on the kinds of changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again."
Commissioner Wally Oppal has been holding hearings since last fall into why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton as he was murdering sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Oppal's final report is due June 30, but the process has been dogged by delays, including a three-week hiatus that began earlier this month.
A lawyer appointed to the inquiry to represent the interests of aboriginals quit over complaints about the process, prompting Oppal to put the inquiry on hold until he could find a replacement.
Hearings resume Monday.
Oppal had planned to wrap up formal hearings by the end of April, but now they're expected to stretch into May. He hasn't formally asked for an extension.
The inquiry still must hear from a number of police officers, aboriginal witnesses and Crown prosecutors involved in a decision to stay attempted murder charges against Pickton for an attack on a sex worker in 1997.
The former sex worker who was attacked in the 1997 case is also scheduled to testify.
There is also a long list of interveners -- including police agencies, the criminal justice branch and individual officers who have faced allegations during the hearings -- that will have the opportunity to present closing arguments to Oppal.
Bond said she has no doubt Oppal will have enough time to finish his work with a thorough examination of what happened and what needs to change.
"I'm confident that Commissioner Oppal understands the importance of this inquiry," said Bond.
"He will have invested a year and a half of his life, and I have confidence that he will continue to see the inquiry through to completion."
Oppal had already admitted he was facing a tight deadline, asking the province's attorney general last year to give him until the end of 2012 to report.
Instead, he was given until the end of June.
In January, Oppal expressed concerns about an army of high-profile lawyers representing police interests attending the hearing.
Oppal, a former B.C. Appeal Court judge, said the courts were bogged down by long submissions and arguments, and the inquiry was at risk of doing the same.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on the Pickton pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., although he once told an undercover officer that he killed 49 women.
He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.