'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer

Chain The Dogma    November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer 

Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel? - Part 2

by Perry Bulwer

The previous post on this blog concerned corporal punishment of children as an abuse of authority. For four years, from June 2007 to June 2011, I archived news articles at Religion and Child Abuse News  related to another type of abuse of authority, namely religiously motivated child abuse, which sometimes includes corporal punishment. I archived well over 3000 news articles on the subject, which represents only a small fraction of such abuse that occurred around the world during that period. I am certain that if I had focused instead on another kind of abuse of authority that appears in news reports almost daily, a similar archive would contain at least as many articles. I am speaking of police misconduct, and I touched on the subject in a previous post, Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel Part 1.

In that article I used a few examples, one from California and one from Ontario, to support my contention that police misconduct, whether it is outright criminal behaviour or unethical, unprofessional conduct, is often indicative of systemic problems. In other words, the problem is not confined to just a few rogue cops, or 'bad apples', as organizations often describe problem members rather than admit to systemic failures. The larger problem is that the barrel itself is rotten, which inevitably creates more rotten apples.

I realize now that the reference to a rotten barrel in the title of this article and its predecessor is somewhat ambiguous, since it could refer to either all of the apples in the barrel or the barrel itself. In the original article I did attempt to clarify what I meant by that reference, writing:

If he was a bad apple, so were his superiors, which suggests the entire barrel was rotten. There are just too many cases of police misconduct (I'm referring to the U.S. and Canada) for it to be a matter of a few corrupt cops. The problem is rooted in police culture and training.

To be more clear, what I mean is that it is the barrel itself, and the barrel makers that are rotten. Professor Zimbardo's classification of evil activity is instructive here: "... individual (a few bad apples), situational (a bad barrel of apples) or systemic (bad barrel makers)".

And if you think 'evil' is too strong a word to use in relation to police misconduct, consider Zimbardo's definition of evil in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil:

Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."

To abuse one's authority is to abuse the power, or perceived power, one holds over another, which is what misbehaving police do, and such abuse is evil. I think most people reading this blog will not need much convincing that police brutality is evil, but if you do need convincing just look at the photos in this article about a teen girl battered by a police officer in the back of a police car with two or three other police officers watching.

That the victim in that case is an Aboriginal woman in a town and province with a history of racist police misconduct ought not to surprise anyone. But police bigotry is not confined to race, as the current Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the Inquiry)  is hearing from various witnesses. That Inquiry is examining the neglectful role of police forces, particularly the Vancouver Police and the RCMP, that enabled a serial killer  to continue disappearing and killing women, most of whom were street sex trade workers, for years after he was first identified as the prime suspect. I am very familiar with that case because I lived in the neighbourhood where many of the victims were working and disappearing from, and know all too well the disdain many police officers had for street prostitutes and their advocates. In fact, I told a parliamentary committee examining the issue of prostitution  how the police aided residents with the NIMBY attitude who organized to push prostitutes into a dark and dangerous industrial area, but that advocates such as the resident group I was working with were ridiculed and hampered in our efforts to protect women from the more dangerous aspects of street sex work.

While the police were still in denial that a serial killer was preying on vulnerable street workers, at least until he was finally arrested in 2002, those street workers and their advocates had every reason to believe the police were denying the obvious because of who the missing women were. The attitude of police, as well as many residents, towards street prostitutes and advocates trying to protect them from harm was the same attitude now being exposed by an RCMP whistleblower who has made damning allegations of sexual harassment within the RCMP  as well as claiming that police indifference towards the missing women  led to the bungling of the case and more murdered women. As I told that parliamentary committee, for example, at several meetings on this issue held in community policing offices in my neighbourhood I and other advocates were sometimes prevented from speaking and ridiculed by name calling such as "hooker huggers" (like environmentalists who are called "tree huggers"). I personally wore that as a badge of honour since I think trying to save a human is at least as noble as trying to save a tree, but the point is that name calling like that is intended to denigrate the other, to demean them, to dehumanize them, which is evil. And now the Inquiry has heard evidence from "... Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report  critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, [who] admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.""

That misogynistic, sexist attitude of the police regarding the dozens of missing women was not just confined to street sex trade workers. The RCMP whistleblower, Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the missing women investigations, has blown the door wide open on sexism and sexual harassment inside the RCMP. She has filed a formal complaint over 100 pages long with the RCMP, is planning to sue the RCMP, and will testify in 2012 before the Inquiry. Here is what Galliford has said about the sexual harassment she faced:

"Everything that came out of his [a supervisor's] mouth was sexual," Galliford said. "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now."

Galliford says she faced constant sexual advances from several senior officers from the moment she graduated from the RCMP Academy in 1991.

She outlines years of harassment in a 115-page internal complaint that the RCMP has yet to respond to, including allegations a supervisor on the Missing Women's Task Force lied to colleagues when he said they were intimate and that he even exposed himself to her.

"He said, 'I have something to show you' ... and pulled out an appendage. He wanted to show me his mole because he wanted to know if I thought it was cute," she said.

"I said, 'Let's go back to the office. We're late. Put it back in your pants.'"

According to Galliford, a supervisor on the Air India Task Force was even more direct.

"One of my bosses kept trying to be intimate with me throughout my time on Air India and kept on taking me on the road trying to have sex with me," she said.

"We don't have any new information to share with the Air India families right now, so why are we going on this trip? And no one said anything, but it was because he wanted to give the perception that we were a couple."

Galliford says the command and control structure at the RCMP means Mounties are instructed to do as they're told, or risk getting reprimanded.

"If they can't screw you, they are going to screw you over. And that's what it became like and so I started to normalize the harassment because I didn't know what else to do," she said.

"It just got to the point that after I had about 16 years of service, I broke. I completely broke."

In 2007, Galliford joined the ranks of 225 B.C. Mounties who are currently off duty on sick leave.

Obviously, her lengthy complaint contains many more details, but that brief account is enough to reveal a disgusting environment of sexism and abuse of authority. It is that kind of environment I refer to when I write of rotten police culture. Cpl. Galliford has also revealed some details of her planned testimony  before the Inquiry, exposing the indifferent attitude of police officers investigating the missing women case:

Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the Air India and Pickton investigations, said Thursday that police could have obtained a search warrant for convicted serial killer Robert Pickton years before they arrested the B.C. pig farmer.

She said she's read a 1999 Coquitlam RCMP file that nobody seems to be able to locate now.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen responded in a written statement, noting it would be inappropriate to comment on anything related to the inquiry.

"You know what? I'm not an armchair quarterback, I'm not," said Galliford. "Never have and never will be. But the minute I read that file I could have put everything together for another search warrant and nothing was done. It was concluded.

"I have to be very careful about what I say right now," she added. "I'm sure that when I testify on behalf of the missing women inquiry, I'll be able to be more forthcoming."

Galliford said the file she read included information that would have allowed police to obtain a search warrant for Pickton's farm.

She said the file had been "purged" from a 1997 file, noting a purge takes place when a file is too big so the information inside is carried over to another year.

"You had a lot of other potential suspects, but in this certain file, we had enough for another search warrant. He wasn't a potential suspect. He was a suspect and there is a difference in the police world."

Police consider a person a suspect, said Galliford, when they have found evidence and can put the person at the scene of a crime.

"At that time in the investigation, Pickton was the only one," she said. "There were potential suspects, but Pickton was the only suspect."

Cpl. Galliford places the blame for that failure of police to connect the dots, stop the killer sooner and save lives squarely on police indifference, in other words on police culture:

 Galliford says she saw numerous problems inside the investigation, including investigators who were more interested in padding their paycheques and drinking alcohol than catching a serial killer.

"They would break between noon and 2 p.m. PT to just drink and party and go for lunch, but then they would go back to work on Friday and claim double-time," she said Wednesday.

"There was a police indifference and that, I believe, is why it went on for so long [to catch Pickton], and why so many women lost their lives."

The indifference of the police towards the missing women -- denying a serial killer was on the loose; denigrating the missing women as "just hookers"; neglecting to follow up solid leads and making connections that were obvious to citizens and their own spokesperson -- is directly related to the misogynist attitudes directed at and exposed by Cpl. Galliford. If you have any doubt about that, consider these cruel comments that she was subjected to by fellow officers:

At Pickton’s trial, eyewitness Lynn Ellingsen gave key testimony that she saw Pickton hang a woman from a meat hook in his barn and gut her.

Ellingsen and Pickton had picked up the woman, whom Ellingsen believes was Papin, earlier that night in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the spokeswoman for the Missing Women Vancouver police and RCMP Task Force, revealed in an interview Tuesday with the Vancouver Province, and in a 115-page statement, that male officers told her they had a “fantasy.”

“They fantasized about Willie Pickton escaping from prison,” Galliford said in her statement to RCMP Insp. Paul Darbyshire and RCMP Supt. Dave DeBolt.

“He would escape from prison, track me down, strip me naked, hang me from a meat hook and gut me like a pig,” Galliford told the Vancouver Province.

Galliford, who emphasized she knows many police officers who cared deeply about the missing women, said only one other officer in the roomful of men seemed as shocked and horrified as she did.

At the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday, Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.”

What Cpl. Galliford reveals about the sexist attitude within the RCMP as well as the misogynistic indifference of those investigating the missing women case is beyond rotten and disgusting, it is truly evil. RCMP culture is rotten to the core if a room full of male officers can dehumanize a female officer with images of the gruesome slaughter of a serial killer's victim while laughing about it. If that is the attitude RCMP officers and their superiors have towards their own female members, then it is no surprise at all that their indifference and neglect in the missing women case led to the murder of more women. There is a direct link between sexual harassment within the RCMP and their failure to catch a serial killer of women. It turns out that many female RCMP officers have something in common with their sisters working the street. Apparently, some male officers and bosses do not discriminate when it comes to sexual bigotry, degrading women regardless of whether they wear a uniform or work the street.

In Part One of this article I used examples from both Canada and the U.S. to illustrate my contention that the problem with all police forces in those countries is not that there a few bad apples, or even a barrel of bad apples, but that the barrels themselves are rotten. My opinion that police culture is corrupt is informed partly by personal experience, but mostly through media accounts, not through any comprehensive investigation of policing issues. However, I think it is a conclusion easily reached by any casual observer of such matters. Nevertheless, I will give the final word regarding corrupt police culture to an insider who knows a thing or two about policing. Norm Stamper is a former Seattle police chief and outspoken board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He is also author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing and he recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled "Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street." He is an expert in these matters and he confirms my conclusions regarding rotten barrels. In a Democracy Now interview Stamper notes:

"There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, 'bad apples.' What both of them have in common is that they 'occupy,' as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy."

And in his article in The Nation he writes:

I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten.

UPDATE: December 10, 2011 

On December 8, 2011, Bob Paulson was officially sworn in as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner. He announced several 'get tough' measures to deal with sexual harassment allegations within the force. While they are positive steps which will help to prevent or properly punish future incidents, Paulson's quick dismissal of historic abuses and injustices calls into question just how serious he is at getting to the systemic roots of the problem.

He claims that discipline and accountability will be key under his watch, yet he appears to be avoiding any accountability for one particularly egregious case. It involves accusations of assault and sexual harassment by four female colleagues of Sgt. Robert Blundell in the late 1990s. Retired RCMP superintendent Ian Atkins conducted an internal review at the time, investigating how the case was handled. His conclusion then, and today, is that Blundell should have been fired. And a lawyer who was hired by the RCMP to prosecute Blundell in an internal hearing revealed recently that she was shocked when an RCMP superintendent flew in to negotiate a deal with Blundell. In the end, Blundell was only ordered to take counselling and fined one day's pay. He was later promoted.

In a media scrum after his swearing in ceremony, as well as in his first formal TV interview, Paulson said, "I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved," and that he didn't want to debate the decision. But the thing is, the case is not resolved for Blundell's four female colleagues who never received justice for the personal and institutional abuse they suffered, nor is the case resolved for the public or the RCMP because an injustice like this, committed by the very people whose duty it is to uphold justice, brings disrepute to not just the RCMP but the entire legal system.

Further media updates to this story, including coverage of the missing women inquiry and RCMP harrassment cases, will be added to the comments section below.

Related articles on this blog:

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel? Part 1

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

Constitutional expert says beware of coming Canadian police state




  1. B.C. Mountie files harassment suit against force. Court documents allege harassment, workplace of 'fear and control'

    by CBC News December 6, 2011

    Another B.C. Mountie has come forward with damaging allegations against the national police force.

    Cpl. Elisabeth Couture has filed a lawsuit against her superiors, complaining harassment pushed her to take stress leave.

    In court documents filed Dec. 1, Couture alleges the trouble started when she was promoted to the RCMP's Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Service in 2009. The unit consists of a team of corporals stationed throughout B.C. who are responsible for coordinating and training police officers in dealing with drugs and organized crime.

    Couture claims contact between co-workers was discouraged, all conversations between colleagues had to be approved in advance by management and was warned against so-called "rumour-mongering."

    Emails, phone calls monitored
    The documents go on to say "chit chat" was strongly discouraged, and Couture was asked not to extend morning greetings beyond a basic "Hello." Couture also claims she was called "too wordy" and told to communicate with her superiors in one minute or less.

    She claims she was discouraged from leaving the office for lunch unless she went with a superior, discouraged from drinking socially and says her emails and phone calls were monitored.

    At one point, Couture alleges, she was told how other corporals not conforming to the unit's expectations were disciplined —and "understood the conversations as a threat."

    Couture says the atmosphere of "fear and control" pushed her to the breaking point, and she started experiencing "daily symptoms of anxiety and panic upon arriving at work, including heart palpitations, sweating and clammy hands." The documents say she had to breathe deeply in order to calm herself before entering the office.

    The documents say Couture went off duty sick on Sept. 15, 2010, after experiencing "a panic attack and high anxiety while en route to work," and say she remains off duty and is unlikely to return.

    The RCMP has not yet filed a statement of defence.

    Harassment not tolerated
    Last month, several B.C. Mounties came forward with allegations of harassment inside the force.

    Both Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle told CBC News they were subject to sexual harassment at the hands of their superiors.

    Galliford also made several claims about the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton, saying the investigators were indifferent.

    The claims prompted Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to ask for an investigation into harassment allegations at the national police force.

    Paulson warned RCMP supervisors to deal swiftly with allegations of harassment involving female officers.

    Paulson said blatant harassment won't be tolerated, and he wants supervisors to take quick action to deal with allegations of improper treatment of female staff in their detachments.


  2. Mountie in harassment probe 'probably' should have lost job

    CBC News December 8, 2011

    An RCMP officer accused of assaulting and sexually harassing four female colleagues in the late 1990s probably should have been dismissed from the force, a retired superintendent who reviewed the cases says.

    In an exclusive interview with CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate, Ian Atkins, who conducted an internal review of how the cases were handled by the RCMP, said that had he conducted a hearing and believed the accused officer, Sgt. Robert Blundell, was dishonest, "I would seriously consider dismissal."

    Asked by The Fifth Estate's Gillian Findlay if he thought that's what should have happened, Atkins said: "In this case? Probably yes."

    But Atkins's mandate did not allow him to make that kind of judgment. After the women launched a lawsuit in 2003, the RCMP ordered an internal review of how their cases had been handled.

    In his first television interview, new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told The Fifth Estate that he didn't want to debate the decision.

    "I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved."

    But Paulson did say that under his watch, discipline and accountability would be key.

    "I'm committed to that," Paulson said. "We today agreed, the commanding officers — and I've given instructions to them to go forward and make that live, so that's going to be happening."

    The four female officers who complained worked for Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. They all have similar stories of being assaulted.

    Victoria Cliffe, one of the four women, told The Fifth Estate that after an undercover operation at a bar, where they had both been drinking, Blundell said they had to share a room at a hotel because the hotel was booked.

    "I woke up and Rob was all over me. He had his hands in my clothes, under my clothes," said Cliffe.

    "I was in the scenario," said Krista Carle, another complainant, describing her undercover operation with Blundell. "I didn't want to blow the operation. I didn't want to turn around and slap him in the face or turn around and say, 'Get your hands off me!' I just basically froze."

    Carle, who graduated from the RCMP's training academy in 1991, is now off the job and says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The women kept the allegations secret for years. But when they finally did come forward, they say they were shunned by RCMP colleagues and badly served by the force's internal review process.

    During the initial RCMP internal hearing based on the complaints of one of the female officers, Blundell denied that he had assaulted the women in any way. He was acquitted.

    But as a second hearing on two of the other complaints was about to get underway, Blundell admitted to "discreditable conduct" which included "touching private areas" on top of the clothing of one of the women and "grabbing" the breast of another.

    In return for admitting to lesser charges, Blundell was allowed to cut a deal: a reprimand and docked one day's time off.

    "When I walked out of that courtroom, I don't think anything more would have surprised me," Cliffe said.

    "It was dealt with and it was a done deal and nothing was going to change," she said.

    The case was eventually settled in 2007 with all parties agreeing to keep the terms of the settlement secret.

    Blundell was eventually promoted.

    The Fifth Estate asked to speak to Blundell about the allegations against him. He declined the request but sent a statement from his lawyer denying the women's claims.


  3. RCMP commissioner targets 'outrageous conduct'

    CBC News December 8, 2011

    The RCMP's new boss says dealing with sexual harassment allegations within the force involves "changing behaviours."

    Bob Paulson says senior leaders in the force have held a two-day meeting about recent allegations and set up a process to track how complaints are being handled.

    Paulson, officially sworn in Thursday as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner, said there will be "no presumption of innocence" in disciplinary proceedings involving abuse.

    He said commanding officers can suspend officers engaged in "outrageous conduct" immediately, taking their badges and guns away, before a formal disciplinary process is launched.

    He also pledged to promote more female officers to the senior ranks of the RCMP.

    The measures announced by Paulson drew praise from the female officer who raised the allegations of harassment within the RCMP publically in an interview with CBC News last month.

    Catherine Galliford, a former B.C. RCMP spokesperson who is on leave from the force, said she backs Paulson's decision to suspend officers accused of serious misconduct.

    "He is sending a message and trying to be very hardline, saying this is no longer appropriate within the RCMP," Galliford told CBC News Network in an interview Thursday.

    Paulson's promise to get tough on male officers accused of harassment will ensure those men can't just get transferred to another detachment as in the past, Galliford said.

    Galliford also lauded Paulson's vow to ensure more women are promoted to senior positions.

    "Female police officers have so much to offer and they've been kind of minimalized," Galliford said.

    Galliford said she trusts that Paulson knows he has to tackle the Mounties' "old boys' network."

    "Do I think it is going to be very hard for him to make changes? Absolutely, because the RCMP is still very archaic and people within the RCMP are very entrenched in their culture, the way they've been trained, they way they've learned how to do things," Galliford told CBC News Network. "But I think Comissioner Paulson is on the right track."

    A ceremony in Ottawa Thursday morning formally marked the change of command to Paulson from William Elliott, the national police force's first civilian commissioner.

    Elliott retired last summer and has taken a job at Interpol.

    The government selected Paulson from inside the force — he has been with the RCMP since 1986.

    Early career in the military
    He got his start in the military, first as a young army cadet, and served in the Armed Forces for seven years, flying single-engine jets.

    But he had also applied to the RCMP.

    "It was always something that interested me, so I came back to it when I had the opportunity," Paulson told The Canadian Press.

    Beginning in 1986, Paulson served for 19 years throughout British Columbia, working on unsolved murders, aboriginal and community policing, and organized crime probes.

    "When I joined this force, it fit like a glove. And I've been in love with it ever since.

    "I like to consider myself a good investigator. I loved that. Because it was tangible, it was clear. And you could interact with people and get evidence."

    He came to Ottawa headquarters in 2005, climbing the executive ladder through a series of posts, most recently deputy commissioner for federal policing.

    As he takes over, the RCMP faces a number of challenges.

    Paulson wants to assure Canadians that he is conscious of the power the national police force wields.

    "The path to trust and public confidence in police is squarely on that little line. How we do what we do is vitally important. And so I just want people to know that I get that."


  4. Lawyer 'stunned' RCMP brass came in to settle harassment case

    CBC News December 9, 2011

    A B.C. lawyer hired by the RCMP for an internal hearing for a Mountie accused of sexually harassing and assaulting two female colleagues in the late 1990s says she was surprised a senior RCMP official was brought in to resolve the issue.

    "I was stunned, absolutely stunned. And I remember thinking, like what are you doing here? Why are you here? And I was actually, to be honest with you, angry," said Jennifer McCormick.

    The two female officers who complained had worked for Staff Sgt. Robert Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary between 1994 and 1997.

    In 2001, McCormick was brought in by the RCMP to prosecute Blundell after he was acquitted in the first RCMP internal hearing into his conduct. At that hearing, involving one of four female complainants, Blundell denied he had assaulted the woman in any way.

    As a second hearing involving two other complainants was about to get underway, McCormick said the RCMP's then-superintendant Peter German unexpectedly flew in to Calgary to help negotiate a deal.

    German got Blundell to admit to "discreditable conduct," which included "touching private areas" on top of the clothing of one of the women and "grabbing" the breast of another.

    Blundell was ordered to take counselling and docked one day's time-off.

    But the deal was controversial and a review was done by then-superintendent Ian Atkins, who wrote a 114-page report.

    Atkins told The Fifth Estate that German had a lot of credibility and experience. But Atkins said he wasn't happy with how the issue was settled.

    "The two complainants would say 'Absolutely no, it was not helpful to justice.' I believe that the outcome was lighter than it should have been," he said.

    Atkins said had he conducted a hearing and believed the accused officer, Blundell, was dishonest, "I would seriously consider dismissal."

    Two of the complainants have told The Fifth Estate that they were let down by how the RCMP handled the case.

    "That seems to be the way of the RCMP, that's kind of like the toothless tiger. There's never any accountability," said Victoria Cliffe, one of the four complainants.

    Cliffe, who still works for the RCMP on Vancouver Island, said the hearings failed her and the other women. She said the experience struck deep in her fundamental beliefs as a police officer.

    "There's nothing that's changed here that's going to change what happened to me or is going to help change or ... will happen to anybody tomorrow. Everything that failed in our process is still there to fail again. There's nothing to change that."

    But new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has promised big changes to the way the force's members are disciplined.


  5. UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada


    Press Release - For Immediate Release

    Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2011) - UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada

    (Ottawa) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee, composed of 23 independent experts from around the world, is the UN's main authority on women's human rights. The Committee's decision was announced Tuesday by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).
    The inquiry procedure is used to investigate what the Committee believes to be very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to launch an inquiry.
    Canada has signed on to the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of "grave or systematic" violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry. Now that the Committee has formally initiated the inquiry, Canada will be expected to cooperate with the Committee's investigation.
    "FAFIA and NWAC requested this Inquiry because violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy that demands immediate and concerted action," said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.
    "Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about 20 years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate."

    "These murders and disappearances have their roots in systemic discrimination and in the denial of basic economic and social rights" said Sharon McIvor of FAFIA.
    "We believe that the CEDAW Committee can play a vital role not only in securing justice for the women and girls who have died or disappeared, but also in preventing future violations, by identifying the action that Canadian governments must take to address the root causes. Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy violence against Aboriginal women and girls."
    "The Committee carried out an inquiry into similar violations in Mexico five years ago and we expect the process will follow the same lines here in Canada," said McIvor.
    "Mexico invited the Committee's representatives to make an on-site visit and during the visit the representatives interviewed victim's families, government officials at all levels, and NGOs. The Committee's report on the inquiry spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations. Mexican women's groups say that the Committee's intervention helped to spur Government action and we hope to see the same result here in Canada."


  6. Aboriginal ex-Mountie recalls racism, harassment

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    Transformed, triumphant and determined are all words that could be used to describe Marge Hudson, a former RCMP officer who said she faced racism and discrimination in the force.

    Hudson was the first aboriginal female RCMP officer in Manitoba. So she had to break two barriers.

    "I represented the RCMP and served Canada…. I'm proud to do that," she told CBC News in an interview.

    After she joined in 1979, Hudson became the poster girl for in the male-dominated institution.

    But she said during her 30 years on the force, she experienced harassment and watched others get promoted over her.

    The RCMP's commanding officer in Manitoba, Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, said he has only ever heard good things about Hudson.

    "The communities, quite frankly, loved her. They loved her approach, they liked the way she handled herself," he said.

    But it was what Hudson heard that tainted her early experience in the RCMP.

    "I could hear the male members talking about me, you know, like, saying, 'Well, I would do her.' 'Why don't you go ahead and do her?'" she said, tearing up while recalling it.

    Hudson said she started out as a special native constable and eventually moved up to regular constable, but she never moved beyond that position, while fellow non-aboriginal officers climbed the ranks.

    "Am I brown, is that the reason? Am I female, is that the reason? I had two shots against me right there — being aboriginal, being female," she said.

    "We were the ones out there to serve and protect, and faithfully, that's what I did. But where was my protection? The RCMP eat their own."

    Once, she was encouraged to drop a complaint so that she would not be transferred.

    The stress manifested itself in her weight gain, and Hudson said her heaviest weight was 330 pounds by 2003.

    She hit her breaking point in 2009.

    "I had it with this organization, this outfit and the bullying and all this sh-t. I don't need this," she said.

    She says she quit but the RCMP classified her departure as a retirement.

    Robinson, who said he is not aware of racism being a problem in the RCMP, said this is the first time he has ever heard of Hudson's allegations against the force.

    "I would have seen her in a minute" to talk about the issues, he told CBC News.

    But when he was told that Hudson was denied an exit interview when she left the force, Robinson said, "I can't comment on that. I don't know who would've denied her that."

    While racism might be an issue that has not hit the headlines in recent years, the claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct have recently become well documented even being raised in the House of Commons.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years — announcing the arrest of Robert William Pickton and revealing charges laid in the Air India bombing — has filed an internal complaint that makes serious allegations about misconduct inside the RCMP.

    Since Galliford spoke out, more members of the RCMP have come forward with serious allegations of harassment.

    And it's not only female members. Alberta RCMP Sgt. Jerry Hoyland has complained about 26 separate incidents of alleged harassment, but said he got only grief for his trouble.

    As for Hudson, she has tried to move on from her Mountie days. She has burned most of the photos and other remnants of that time.

    "I burnt it because, like, it's not who I am. I got rid of the extra baggage that I was carrying," she said.

    Not only has she relieved herself of both the weight of that career, but also her physical weight, dumping 200 pounds in four years.

    "I love me. I like who I am," she said.


  7. RCMP lawsuit may be joined by dozens of women

    'Broken families' and 'broken careers' tied to harassment on job, lawyer says

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    At least 25 current and former female RCMP officers say they are seeking to join a possible class-action lawsuit against the force for alleged mistreatment on the job.

    Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who is building the case with six other lawyers in Ontario and B.C., said he's heard from Mounties in every province with stories to tell.

    "Constant terrible bullying, a hateful work environment, a tough place to actually show up and do your job, all the way to sexual assaults," Zaitzeff said Tuesday. "That's the gamut."

    Vancouver lawyer David Klein said he is also hearing from potential plaintiffs and said the suit will likely be filed in B.C. early in the new year, and could ultimately seek millions of dollars in damages.

    "Money isn't going to bring back someone's health. Money is not going to bring back a family or a broken career," said Klein. "Money is part of it, but it certainly isn't what the case is all about."

    Klein said the lawsuit will be filed on behalf of one or two current or former officers and then he will ask the judge to certify the suit as a class-action, allowing more people to join as plaintiffs.

    Catherine Galliford credited
    Former Mountie Krista Carle said she saw RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford tell her story on CBC News in November and was immediately inspired to tell her own story and to reach out to fellow officers online by starting a Facebook group.

    "It's almost like a group therapy with other women that experienced harassment and are taking a stand against it," she said.

    Carle said she and many of her colleagues have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, some have been divorced and some can no longer work.

    "I've had days I've been so depressed I just haven't wanted to get out of bed and that's where the Facebook site has been extremely supportive," said Carle.

    Carle told her own story to CBC News the day after Galliford's story broke.
    Former officer Heli Kijanen, of Thunder Bay, Ont., said she went for years without thinking that anyone would believe her accounts of harassment on the job, and also credits Galliford with helping her step forward.

    "It was Catherine Galliford that triggered me to go forward and find someone who was going to listen to me, who knew how important it was for the public to know about the RCMP and what's going on in this organization," Kijanen said.

    Carle said the growing number of women coming forward is a sad commentary on the force.

    "I think people will be really shocked and surprised that people have put up with this kind of nonsense. You don't expect this from the RCMP. You expect better," she said.


  8. Female B.C. Mountie launches harassment lawsuit

    CBC News January 6, 2012

    Another female RCMP officer has come forward with allegations of harassment by her male colleagues and inaction by her superiors after she went to them with complaints.

    Const. Karen Katz, who took medical leave in February 2009 due to post-traumatic stress disorder she says was caused by her oppressive work experience, filed a lawsuit at the B.C. Supreme Court this week.

    Katz is suing fellow officer Baldev Singh Bamra, the federal attorney general, the federal minister of public safety and the B.C. solicitor general.

    She claims Bamra harassed and sexually humiliated her on the job.

    Katz said the harassment started when Bamra launched what she describes as a "campaign of …complaining" about her.

    She describes in court documents a number of alleged incidents in which “Bamra embarked on a pattern of erratic physical conduct,” toward her, “which escalated in nature.”

    She said Bamra slammed his chest into hers while they were wearing bulletproof vests in 2006.

    Then in 2007, Bamra rubbed his crotch against her knee, Katz says in her statement of claim.

    Complaints ignored
    Katz claims she reported the incidents to her supervisors, but they were never investigated.

    She says in the lawsuit that the federal and provincial governments have an obligation to provide a work environment free from harassment and sexual assault, and that Bamra's behaviour caused or contributed to her illness.

    The allegations have not been proved in court and the RCMP has yet to file a statement of defence.

    Katz’s lawsuit follows a litany of similar allegations and lawsuits filed by other female Mounties and former officers initiated by an exclusive CBC News story about Cpl. Catherine Galliford.

    A male officer also said he was harassed because he didn't share the attitudes of the "old boys' network."

    A group of Vancouver and Ontario lawyers said they will apply to the court for certification as a class action lawsuit sometime this month.

    Newly appointed RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has vowed to deal with the harassment allegations and to set about changing the behaviour of officers.


  9. Time is running out for the Pickton inquiry

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post  January 10, 2012 

    More trouble is brewing for Wally Oppal, the former B.C. attorney general who is presiding over the province’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. He has already clashed openly with commission lawyer Cameron Ward, representing families of 25 women who vanished from Vancouver’s crime-riddled Downtown Eastside.

    Dozens more women disappeared before a suspect long known to police was finally arrested at his suburban pig farm in 2002. Robert “Willie” Pickton was eventually charged with 26 murders.


    Problems appeared before hearings began in October, months behind schedule. Critics called the inquiry inadequate and compromised. It has been protested and shunned by aboriginals and First Nations groups. Mr. Oppal’s appointment as commissioner has been criticized. The province’s decision to not directly fund more parties, including families of the victims, has been slammed.

    But its mandate is strong. It’s meant to examine how police conducted investigations into dozens of cases of women who vanished from the Downtown Eastside. Most were sex-trade workers. Just as important, the inquiry is supposed to determine what led B.C.’s criminal justice branch to stay charges of attempted murder, forcible confinement and assault against Pickton in 1998.

    A year earlier, Pickton had nearly stabbed to death a local prostitute, whom he’d plucked from the Vancouver streets. The charges laid against him were stayed, and he walked free. By 2000, Pickton had been placed under loose police surveillance — and street workers continued to vanish.

    A pair of RCMP constables interviewed Pickton; this was unproductive. “It should have been planned better,” one of the constables would later recall. “I look back and I know I flubbed it.” Pickton did give the two Mounties consent to search his property. Incredibly, they did not take up his offer.

    After his arrest in 2002, Pickton claimed responsibility for 49 deaths. He was tried in 2007 and convicted on six murder charges. Twenty more charges were eventually stayed.

    Why was Pickton not prosecuted a decade earlier, after his initial arrest? Why was his property not searched when police had an opportunity? What went wrong with parallel Vancouver Police Department and RCMP investigation into missing women, and who is responsible for their shortcomings?

    We still don’t know. As lawyer Cameron Ward notes, the inquiry still hasn’t heard from police directly involved in the investigations.


    A lawyer representing the VPD at the inquiry apologized to Ms. Bryce for the way police had treated her. VPD deputy chief Doug LePard, in his testimony before Mr. Oppal, also apologized for his police force.

    More police are expected to testify this month. Alberta-based RCMP Superintendent Robert Williams is scheduled to appear at the inquiry Wednesday. He wrote an internal RCMP report in 2002 that defended how its officers in B.C. conducted their missing women investigation.

    He is to be followed by Peel, Ont., deputy police chief Jennifer Evans, who wrote for the inquiry a scathing 800-page examination of both police investigations. Also expected to testify soon is RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford, who acted as spokeswoman for the RCMP during the missing women period. Cpl. Galliford, who claims she was sexually harassed on the job and is now on medical leave, has told reporters her evidence before Mr. Oppal will be “explosive.”

    Mr. Oppal has until June 30 to hand in a final report to the province. The inquiry’s hearing phase is to conclude April 30. Not much time. Before testimony resumes Wednesday, the commissioner is expected to discuss with inquiry lawyers how the whole process might be streamlined.

    read the full article at:


  10. RCMP could have done more in Pickton probe

    CBC News January 11, 2012

    A top Alberta Mountie has told the Missing Women Inquiry in Vancouver police could have done a better job with the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    Supt. Bob Williams testified he would have been more diligent in following up on a tip that Pickton had murdered a prostitute on his farm in Port Coquitlam, as the inquiry resumed its hearings in Vancouver on Wednesday morning.

    The statement was a shift from previous statements made by Williams in a 2002 RCMP internal report.

    In that report, which reviewed the RCMP's handling of the Pickton case, Williams gave a relatively positive assessment of the investigation and praised the the RCMP's investigation, according to Robert Gordon, the director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University.

    The 2002 report said there were difficulties in corroborating allegations that Robert Pickton was involved in killing sex workers at his hog farm in Port Coquitlam, but nevertheless suggested the force did all it could.

    The report also said the RCMP was able to work well with the Vancouver police, in contrast to allegations that a turf war had erupted between the two forces. However, it complained that scarce resources had been spread across a number of high-profile cases.

    But before the hearing, Gordon told CBC News it's commonplace for police forces to present a picture of inclusion and collaboration.

    He compared the 2002 report to a later Vancouver Police Department report that was much more critical of both police forces.

    "The Williams report, of course, was produced for a different purpose," he said. "It was primarily to prepare a response to civil litigation, whereas the VPD report, for example, was, I think, very thorough, very candid and of course very apologetic."

    The Missing Women Inquiry, which is being run by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, is designed to look at the police mishandling of the Pickton investigation and why the women, particularly those working in the sex trade on the streets of Vancouver, weren't better protected.

    Pickton was convicted of six murders in 2007. Investigators have said remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm in Port Coquitlam. The serial killer had bragged to police that he had killed 49.

    After his 2007 conviction, Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

    Earlier reviews pointed to botched police investigations, a reluctance to act because the victims were involved in drugs and the sex trade, and a long list of other failures.


  11. RCMP’s Pickton report a self-serving waste of time

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 11, 2012

    VANCOUVER — “We will be moving much more quickly,” Wally Oppal vowed first thing Wednesday at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, called to examine how police investigated Vancouver’s worst tragedy, and how Robert “Willie” Pickton evaded capture and prosecution until at least six local sex- trade workers were murdered, chopped to pieces and buried on his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

    Mr. Oppal is commissioner, the boss. His inquiry is dragging, and time is running out, so his directive Wednesday to speed up the process was necessary and welcome. What followed was not.

    What followed was testimony from R.J. (Bob) Williams, a RCMP superintendent from Alberta who had nothing to do with the Pickton file when it was active. All he did was prepare an after-the-fact “external review” of the off-again, on-again Pickton investigation that Mounties in B.C. conducted before the killer’s arrest in 2002. The RCMP investigation, it’s now clear, was seriously flawed. But so was the review conducted by Supt. Williams.

    Once Pickton was finally arrested and charged with serial murders, the RCMP needed inoculation. It faced civil lawsuits launched by families of the pig farmer’s victims, people incensed by police failures to apprehend the man before he killed and killed again.

    One RCMP deflection strategy was having Supt. Williams conduct a helpful investigation review. Inside of a month, he delivered a 27-page apologia. Printed in boldface at the bottom of every page was this telling caveat: Prepared for the Purpose of Current and Anticipated Civil Litigation. It was never intended for public consumption, the inquiry heard.

    Senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb put Supt. Williams through his paces on the witness stand Wednesday. Any credibility his RCMP report might have had was shredded. Mr. Vertlieb made it look easy; he had only to point to the report’s most egregious clangers.

    “There is little doubt that the RCMP attempted to exhaust all investigative avenues relative to the suspect Robert William Pickton,” Supt. Williams had written. “Throughout this review, it was apparent that the RCMP allocated adequate resources to the missing women investigation(s)… We should not be critical of the strides that the investigators took to determine if in fact Robert William Pickton was a viable suspect.”

    Bold declarations contradicted by the facts. While conducting his post-mortem, Supt. Williams learned that RCMP investigators had dismissed potential evidence from a key Pickton associate, a drug addict named Lynn Ellingsen. In 1999, Ms. Ellingsen told others how she and Pickton had once picked up a sex-trade worker from the city’s Downtown Eastside. They took her back to Pickton’s suburban farm, Ms. Ellingsen claimed. There, she saw Pickton dismember the prostitute. Or so she had said, apparently.

    RCMP investigators decided to interview Ms. Ellingsen. She denied having made such statements. She refused to submit to a polygraph test. Investigators shrugged and let her walk out the door.

    Was this proper? Should the Mounties have pressed Ms. Ellingsen further, to see if she would talk? Eventually, years later, she did.

    “I would have done more work, yeah, absolutely,” Supt. Williams told the inquiry Wednesday. “I would have taken other steps… I would have pressed on… [That] was one of the things that bothered us…. We would have liked to have seen more effort.”

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    Later in 1999, RCMP investigators contacted Pickton and requested an interview with him. Pickton demurred, saying he was too busy with farm work. Remarkably, the officers accepted that. These events were noted in passing in the 2002 Williams report.

    On Wednesday, Supt. Williams conceded that the officers should not have simply given up. “I would have sent them right back [to Pickton],” he said. An interview was finally conducted in early 2000. Supt. Williams made little of it in his 2002 report. Inexplicably, the Mounties allowed another Pickton associate, a woman named Gina Houston, to sit in.

    “Was that a mistake?” asked Mr. Vertlieb.

    “I would say so,” conceded Mr. Williams. “Personally, I wouldn’t have allowed her to be in that [interview] room.”

    He then agreed that RCMP in B.C. had not assigned adequate “human resources” to its missing women investigation.

    “We’re in complete agreement that not enough people were on this file?” asked Mr. Vertlieb.

    “Yes,” replied Supt. Williams. Another contradiction.

    His report was left exposed as a self-serving obfuscation. Parsing it seemed a waste of precious inquiry time. Will we be moving much more quickly? Perhaps not. Supt. Williams is scheduled to appear again on Thursday.


  13. Mountie on 'social visit' told Pickton informants on his trail


    VANCOUVER — An RCMP officer who paid a "social visit" alone to Robert Pickton in 2001 tipped the pig farmer that two informants had accused Pickton of "killing people and doing all sorts of horrible things."

    But RCMP Supt. Bob Williams refused to say on the stand at the Missing Women Inquiry Thursday if naming those informants put their lives at risk or undermined what was still an active serial-murder investigation.

    Williams interviewed the officer, Cpl. Frank Henley, for his 2002 report on whether the Mounties could be liable for civil lawsuit compensation to the families of women murdered by Pickton.

    "Snitches are not welcome in the criminal underworld, in fact they are probably often killed?" demanded lawyer Jason Gratl, a lawyer acting for Downtown Eastside aboriginal and women's groups.

    Pressed by Gratl to say if revealing sources was a "breach of discipline . . . or a firing offence," Williams, the first senior Mountie to take the stand, protested, "that's going pretty far."

    Williams testified that one of Henley's reasons for his "visit" to Pickton may have been that the Mountie might have been curious, "trying to get a handle on what makes him (Pickton) tick, that sort of thing."

    Williams noted Henley also visited Pickton "on his mistaken belief that the police investigation (into Pickton as a serial killer) had shut down."

    Aside from curiosity, Williams was at a loss to account for Henley, protesting "it would be better if he explained his reasons" to the inquiry.

    Henley gave Pickton the names of informants Ross Caldwell and Lynn Ellingsen, whose eyewitness evidence later helped convict Pickton.

    Pickton was at the time of Henley's visit a key focus of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police Missing Women Task Force.

    Asked if Henley's perceptions were "odd," Williams shot back: "There's lots of oddities in this investigation."

    Williams, a 44-year veteran Mountie, said he would not have condoned the visit by Henley.

    Several lawyers at the inquiry, as well as victims' families, are pushing for the inquiry to call front-line investigators, instead of "armchair experts" or top officers like Williams and Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Doug LePard.

    Next Monday, however, the inquiry will hear from another "review" witness, Peel, Ont., Region Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who last year conducted an exhaustive review of the Pickton investigation for the inquiry.

    Hearings at the inquiry will continue until the end of April, with Commissioner Wally Oppal pledging to hand in his final report by June.


  14. Bernardo case similar to Pickton's, inquiry hears

    The Canadian Press January 16, 2012

    The same systemic problems that allowed notorious sex killer Paul Bernardo to rape and murder women in Ontario in the late 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the failure of the Vancouver police and RCMP to catch serial killer Robert Pickton, a public inquiry heard Monday.

    Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, of Ontario's Peel Regional police, was asked to review the Pickton file for the inquiry, writing a critical report that concluded investigations by both the Vancouver police and the RCMP were plagued by poor communication and a lack of leadership.

    Those issues were amplified, Evans testified Monday, by the fact that two jurisdictions were working on separate investigations.

    Her testimony was peppered with references to the Paul Bernardo case and a report authored by an Ontario judge in 1996. Evans assisted Justice Archie Campbell during his review of the Bernardo case.

    As with Bernardo, the fact that Pickton committed his crimes in different jurisdictions — picking up sex workers in Vancouver and then killing them in nearby Port Coquitlam — played a key role in the failure of police to catch him, said Evans.

    "Systemically, there were similarities," Evans said when asked to compare the Bernardo and Pickton investigations.

    "Bernardo was a multi-jurisdictional offender who travelled across multiple jurisdictions committing his crimes. That led to issues that Justice Campbell identified with regard to a breakdown in communication between the police forces."

    Evans also said in both cases, there was no way to easily track tips that came into investigators in different jurisdictions.

    Supervisors weren't using major case-management techniques, and senior management failed to take ownership over their respective investigations.

    In the Bernardo case, when rapes stopped in a city, the local police department gave the case a lower priority, even though Bernardo was still assaulting women in other communities.

    With Pickton, RCMP investigators in Port Coquitlam were treating their investigation as historical because they believed women had stopped disappearing when, in fact, sex workers were still vanishing in Vancouver.

    Campbell's final report said Bernardo sexually assaulted at least 18 women in Scarborough, Peel, and St. Catharines.

    Bernardo was convicted of killing Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French in St. Catharines and for manslaughter in the death of his then-sister-in-law, Tammy Homolka. He is serving an indefinite sentence. His former wife Karla Homolka received a 12-year sentence and has since been released.

    In the Vancouver area, there were several separate but related investigations into missing sex workers and Pickton.

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    Vancouver police were investigating reports that sex workers were disappearing from the Downtown Eastside, while the RCMP was investigating whether Pickton was involved.

    The RCMP had investigated Pickton for an attack on a sex worker in 1997, but Crown prosecutors declined to prosecute a charge of attempted murder.

    Eventually, the Vancouver police and the RCMP formed a joint operation to investigate cases of missing women, known as Project Evenhanded.

    Evans said for the most part, investigators on the ground in both agencies were talking with each other, but their superiors were not. In fact, some of those superiors appeared to be unaware of the most basic details of the missing women case.

    For example, then Vancouver Police Chief Bruce Chambers appeared "shocked" in February 1999 when one of his officers told a community meeting in the Downtown Eastside that women who disappeared from the neighbourhood had likely met foul play.

    Evans said the revelation should have prompted Chambers to take steps to ensure enough resources were devoted to the file and to contact senior management within the RCMP's Coquitlam detachment, but that didn't happen.

    Even when officers were talking, they often failed to act with the urgency the case demanded, said Evans.

    In particular, Evans pointed out that Project Evenhanded was a review of historic missing women cases and was premised on the theory — incorrect, as it turned out — that sex workers were no longer disappearing.

    When an officer from Vancouver told the lead RCMP investigator with Evenhanded, Staff Sgt. Don Adam, in the fall of 2001 that women were still disappearing, Adam refused to shift focus.

    He insisted redeploying his team to look into ongoing disappearances would have a "crippling effect" on his investigation, which was not considering the possibility that an active serial killer was still snatching women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    Pickton was caught several months later, but not by anyone who was investigating Vancouver's missing women or Pickton's potential involvement.

    Instead, a junior RCMP officer who had received a tip about illegal firearms obtained a search warrant for Pickton's farm. He brought along members of Project Evenhanded.

    Officers found the belongings and remains of dozens of missing women, setting off a massive search that eventually uncovered the remains or DNA of 33 women.

    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. He claimed to have killed 49.


  16. Police foresaw Pickton inquiry, noted bungled investigation, almost two years before serial killer’s arrest

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 20, 2012

    VANCOUVER • It was April 2000, the height of Robert “Willie” Pickton’s killing spree. Dozens of women were already missing, and 23 more would vanish. The Port Coquitlam pig farmer was trolling for skid row prostitutes, driving them to his farm, murdering them, disposing of their bodies and going back for more. He would continue this horrible pattern for at least another year, and right under the noses of police.

    Pickton was by then a prime police suspect. Documents disclosed recently at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver offer stunning details of what police knew — or thought they knew — and what some officers didn’t seem to want to know.

    Major crimes investigators were already aware, for example, that Pickton had a predilection for prostitutes. They knew of his episodic, sadistic violence. They had sources who claimed he was murdering women and chopping them to pieces. And yet investigations launched by both RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department seemed low priorities, the inquiry has heard. Little effort was made to co-ordinate efforts. Promising leads were discounted or dismissed altogether.

    Perhaps most telling, on April 25, 2000, RCMP officers were already discussing the possibility that bungled police efforts would lead to a public inquiry.

    On that date, a staff sergeant named Brad Zalys had a conversation with a superior officer, RCMP Inspector Earl Moulton. Staff Sgt. Zalys made the following observation in his notebook: “Also discussed Pickton again–>if he turns out to be responsible–>inquiry!–>Deal with that if the time comes!”

    What led Staff Sgt. Zalys, Inspector Moulton, and others to such a state? What did they know? Why hadn’t Pickton been stopped by then? And why did B.C.’s criminal justice branch decide, in 1998, to stay proceedings against the loathsome pig farmer, after he’d been charged with attempting to murder a prostitute on his pig farm?

    The present inquiry, led by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, has a mandate to find out all of that, and to recommend changes to the way police homicide investigations are conducted.

    Proceedings have moved at a snail’s pace since hearings began in downtown Vancouver last fall, frustrating everyone involved, including Mr. Oppal. None of the officers who actually investigated Pickton have testified. That’s about to change. Next week, the inquiry will start hearing from as many as 33 police officers involved in the Pickton investigations.

    One of them is Coquitlam RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Connor, who likely knew more than any other officer about Pickton from 1997 to 2002, the crucial five years under review.

    Staff Sgt. Connor, then a corporal, was assigned to investigate Pickton’s near-fatal stabbing of a Vancouver prostitute at his farm in March, 1997. Pickton was barely known to police at that point. While women were going missing from Lower Mainland streets, there was still no inkling they might have been murdered, let alone by a serial killer.

    The stabbing was an ugly but straightforward case that Staff Sgt. Connor conducted quickly. Both Pickton and the prostitute whom he had repeatedly stabbed were interviewed, and conclusions were easily drawn.

    The woman’s story became eerily familiar: She was “working” in Vancouver’s crime-infested Downtown Eastside when Pickton approached and offered her $100 for sexual favours. She climbed into his pickup truck, and Pickton drove her to his Port Coquitlam farm. He escorted her inside his filthy mobile home, where they had sex. Afterwards, Pickton refused payment. “Suddenly from behind Pickton put a handcuff on her,” reads a report made by Staff Sgt. Connor, released to the public last week.

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    A violent struggle ensued. The prostitute, who cannot be named by court order, grabbed a filleting knife with an eight-inch blade and swung at Pickton, slashing his throat “almost from ear to ear.”

    Pickton took the knife from her and retaliated, stabbing her, “to the hilt of the knife, in the chest,” reads Staff Sgt. Connor’s report. They stumbled outside the trailer and the fight continued, until Pickton fell to the ground. The woman, bleeding profusely, ran away and flagged down a car.

    According to Staff Sgt. Connor’s report, the woman “died” in a local hospital emergency room but was revived. Pickton was also treated in hospital. He admitted to having stabbed the woman, but claimed not to have provoked the attack. He was charged with attempted murder, and released on bail.

    Four days after the attack, Staff Sgt. Connor prepared an incident summary, distributed to police across B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

    “It has been determined that [the stabbing victim] is an East Hastings area hooker and Pickton is known to frequent that area weekly,” it read. “Given the violence shown by Pickton toward prostitutes and women in general, this information is being forwarded to your attention should you have similar offences.”

    The attempted murder charge was dropped, according to notes prepared by Staff Sgt. Connor, because the victim was a heroin addict and presented herself late to interviews with Crown counsel.

    Regardless, Pickton became stuck on Staff Sgt. Connor’s radar. Over the next two years until his promotion from corporal, the Mountie would build his Pickton file.

    Staff Sgt. Connor would heard from other women who had encountered the “creepy” pig farmer, women who had lived to talk about it. He would also hear stories about women who hadn’t survived. Those stories, incredible as they first seemed, added to a body of evidence that he could not simply sweep aside.

    Between April 1997 and April 1998, eight more women from the Downtown Eastside were reported missing. Their names were added to a list of cases that would keep growing.

    In July, 1998, police received a valuable tip. A man called a Crime Stoppers hotline and described someone called “Willie.” He used prostitutes and kept a collection of their clothing and personal items inside his trailer, the tipster said. Willie had recently been in a knife fight with a prostitute. Willie had boasted to others that he could easily dispose of human bodies if he wished, by putting them through a meat grinder.

    A week later, the same tipster called Crime Stoppers again, and said Willie might be responsible for the “missing prostitutes.” Willie, he added, lived on a farm in Port Coquitlam.

    Vancouver police detective Lori Shenher tracked down the tipster, whose name is Bill Hiscox. She introduced him to Staff Sgt. Connor. It became clear to both officers that Mr. Hiscox was passing along information he had gleaned from a close Pickton associate, a woman named Lisa Yelds.

    “Even at this stage of the investigation,” Staff Sgt. Connor wrote with hindsight, in records filed at the inquiry, “given what I knew of Pickton, I felt this person certainly could have been responsible for attacks on other prostitutes. I was not absolutely convinced on the homicides, as like most investigators of the time period, we all asked where are the bodies. Even though I was sure Pickton was capable.”

    Staff Sgt. Connor was informed that Pickton was killing prostitutes as “pay back” for the 1997 knifing incident on his farm.

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    More sources came forward, and potential witnesses were identified and approached. By mid-1999, Staff Sgt. Connor wanted to launch an undercover operation on another known Pickton associate, Lynn Ellingsen. She had told police sources that she’d once picked up a prostitute with Pickton, that she’d later seen him skinning the woman’s body inside his barn. Ms. Ellingsen would eventually became a key Crown witness at Pickton’s serial murder trial. Thanks in part to Ms. Ellingsen’s testimony, a jury convicted Pickton of six counts of second degree murder. Another 20 murder charges laid against him were later stayed.

    But in 1999, she wanted nothing to do with authorities. She denied everything to police. “There was no doubt in my mind that Pickton and Ellingsen were involved in the murders of prostitutes,” Staff Sgt. Connor recalled, in documents tabled at the inquiry. “It was suggested by some members [that an undercover operation on Ellingsen] would be a waste of time and money. That she was ‘crazy,’ cocaine addicted and hallucinated and what she saw was actually a pig hanging in the barn and not a human…There was a difference of opinion as to whether the information [was] reliable enough for the investigation to continue.”

    Staff Sgt. Connor looked for other investigative routes. He recommended that surveillance be conducted on Pickton. Some attempts were made, then abandoned. Pickton had been alerted to the surveillance, Staff Sgt. Connor discovered.

    In late August, 1999, Staff Sgt. Connor was promoted from corporal and pulled from the case. He requested secondment back to the investigation. His request was denied. New RCMP investigators were assigned; they made a series of unfortunate mistakes, the inquiry has heard. And Pickton kept on killing, until his arrest in February, 2002.

    The inquiry resumes Tuesday, with testimony from former VPD criminal profiler Kim Rossmo. Staff Sgt. Zalys, Insp. Moulton and Det. Const. Shenher are among the other officers expected to testify before hearings conclude April 30.


  19. Pickton inquiry hears serial killer concerns dismissed

    CBC News January 24, 2012

    A renowned criminologist says his warnings a serial killer might be behind the disappearance of sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were dismissed as inaccurate and inflammatory.

    Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler who was a member of the Vancouver Police Department at the time, told the Pickton inquiry Tuesday that he tried to set up a working group to investigate the disappearances in 1998 but the group was shut down a month later.

    Rossmo, who is credited as being among the first officers to warn about the possibility of a serial killer, testified his concerns were dismissed by Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was the head of the major crimes unit at the time.

    He said there were several people in the department interested in investigating further, but there was little support at the top.

    "No police agency wants to have a serial murder case," Rossmo testified.

    "It creates a lot of problems. It creates political pressure, it generates media interest, it might raise levels of community fear, it requires them to respond with a suitable level of resources."

    Rossmo said he and another officer were preparing to issue a news release warning the public a serial killer could be at work in the Downtown Eastside. It would have marked the first time Vancouver police had publicly acknowledged the possibility of a serial killer.

    But just two weeks before the news release was scheduled to be issued, it was scrapped by Biddlecombe.

    Rossmo said the issue came to a head in September 1998 when Biddlecombe threw a temper tantrum during a meeting and dismissed his concerns as inaccurate and inflammatory.

    Rossmo also told the inquiry sex workers are particularly vulnerable.

    "A street prostitute is the perfect victim that way," he said. "The social response, the police response, the media response is going to be much lower than if you were targeting, say, children or middle class individuals."

    Rossmo is expected to continue his testimony for several days.

    Systemic failures

    In a brief address prior to the opening of the inquiry Tuesday, commissioner Wally Oppal compared the Pickton investigation to other serial killer cases including Clifford Olson, Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, known as Green River Killer.

    Even though the cases spawned their own investigations and inquiries, Oppal said the same problems keep cropping up — issues of leadership, morale and resources within the policing community.

    Oppal said he has to ask himself what he can do differently if previous reports failed to affect change.

    Oppal said his final report will examine the systemic failures in the policing environment, including the relationship between police and the victims, and the failures in the organization itself.

    Report due in June
    Pickton wasn't arrested until February 2002, five years after his name first surfaced as a suspect in the disappearance of sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, when officers showed up at his Port Coquitlam farm with a search warrant related to illegal firearms and stumbled upon the belongings and remains of missing women.

    Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder, but the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He claimed to have killed a total of 49 women. He is currently serving a life sentence.

    Rossmo, now a professor at Texas State University, invented a technique of tracking crimes that is used around the world. He was the first Canadian police officer to get a PhD in criminology.

    The missing women inquiry, headed by Oppal, is examining why Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and why prosecutors declined to pursue an attempted murder charge against him after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

    A final report is due by June 30, 2012.


  20. Tense exchange at Pickton inquiry over officer's actions

    The Canadian Press  January 26, 2012

    A former Vancouver police inspector who has faced intense criticism at the Robert Pickton inquiry is disputing some of the allegations against him, rejecting claims he ruled out the possibility of a serial killer and suggesting one of his fiercest critics is biased.
    Several witnesses have singled out Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of the force's major crime section during the late 1990s as the force received reports of sex workers disappearing from the city's Downtown Eastside.

    Biddlecombe has been accused of being a hot-headed, arrogant manager quick to dismiss evidence that a serial killer could be at work and instead clinging to the belief that the women weren't actually missing.

    Those criticisms have been amplified this week with the testimony of former detective Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler who was among the first to warn that a serial killer was responsible.

    Rossmo has testified Biddlecombe was immediately confrontational when a working group suggested the serial killer angle, having a "temper tantrum" at a September 1998 meeting and effectively disbanding the team.

    Biddlecombe's lawyer, David Neave, questioned Rossmo during a tense cross-examination Thursday.

    Neave pointed to a newspaper article in September 1998 in which Biddlecombe was quoted as saying he hadn't ruled out the possibility of a serial killer. In the article, Biddlecombe also repeated the force's position at the time that there was nonetheless no evidence police were dealing with a serial killer case.

    "Insp. Biddlecombe was not ruling out the possibility of a serial killer -- fair?" Neave asked Rossmo.

    "Based on his actions and what he said in the meeting on the 22nd of September [1998], I felt that he had effectively ruled it out," replied Rossmo.

    "If the statement is correct [in the newspaper article], Insp. Biddlecombe was not ruling out the possibility of a serial killer," Neave repeated.

    "This is a newspaper story," replied Rossmo. "You're acting like police departments are always truthful with the media."

    That prompted laughter from the public gallery.

    Rossmo and his working group were preparing to issue a news release later that month telling the public about their work, specifically that they were looking into whether "a serial murderer is preying upon people in the Downtown Eastside."

    Rossmo has said he hoped the news release would also serve as a public warning.

    But Biddlecombe nixed the release, complaining to a colleague that it was "inaccurate and quite inflammatory," the inquiry has heard.

    In the meantime, Biddlecombe was ordering the force's chief spokeswoman, Const. Anne Drennan, to tell reporters there was no evidence of a serial killer, according to an internal Vancouver police report. Drennan didn't publicly acknowledge the possibility of a serial murderer until November 1999.

    Neave also pointed out that in May of 1999, Biddlecombe assigned more than half a dozen investigators to what's become known as the missing women review team, or Project Amelia.

    The way Rossmo tells it, he and Biddlecombe had a caustic working relationship. After the meeting in September 1998, which some lawyers at the inquiry have started to refer to as the "temper tantrum meeting," Rossmo said Biddlecombe refused to interact with him.

    Neave suggested Rossmo's beef with the force extended beyond Biddlecombe.

    Rossmo left the force in December 2000, after the department declined to extend his contract as a geographic profiler.

    Rather than accept a lesser-paying position of constable, Rossmo sued the force for wrongful dismissal. Rossmo lost at trial, and again on appeal. [...]


  21. Missing women concerns dismissed by 'old guard'

    The Canadian Press January 30, 2012

    A Vancouver police officer who raised red flags about women disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside says her concerns were dismissed by the "old guard" within the department. And Det. Const. Lori Shenher on Monday told the inquiry into the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton that a group formed to look into the missing women was merely window dressing.

    "There were a lot of things that were going on at that time under chief (Bruce) Chambers that were on paper and I felt this was very much a paper squad," she testified. "It was a bit of a shell game. I don't think it was really going to turn into actual investigators actually doing this work."

    Shenher, who was working the missing persons unit at the time, testified she communicated to her superiors that these women weren't seeing their families, weren't picking up their cheques and there was a problem. "So that was hard because somehow that message just wasn't getting (through to the) old guard, if you want to call it that. That was definitely a problem," Shenher told the inquiry. "It seemed as though the more experienced people there were around the table, the less appreciation there was that we were dealing with a serial killer."

    The theory was brushed off as if those raising the possibility had read too many detective novels or seen too many movies, she said. Shenher said then-Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo was a good example of how senior officers dismissed an opinion if that person bypassed the chain of command. Rossmo told the inquiry last week that his serial killer theory was dismissed by an "arrogant" and "egotistical" Vancouver Police Insp. Fred Biddlecombe.

    Shenher said she involved Rossmo in some of the theories of the missing women case knowing that she would get a hard time from some of the other investigators. "But I felt like those were the kinds of stones we need to not leave unturned, we need to try and use the resources that we have. "I took that risk knowingly and thought that if anything good were to come from his information, then it was worth the risk."

    One of Shenher's first jobs was working in the Downtown Eastside, trying to make contact with the prostitutes in the area while also conducting undercover operations to arrest men trying to buy sex. Shenher got to know many of the women, and made a special connection with Sereena Abotsway and Angela Jardine, two of the women who would later appear on the missing women's list. It was their disappearance that really cemented her suspicions, she said. "These were people who were very much of a fabric of the Downtown Eastside. They drew all their support and sustenance from the community and I couldn't conceive of either one of them voluntarily leaving that community."

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    A tip in July 1998 led Shenher right to Pickton's door.

    She began investigating the Port Coquitlam, B.C. pig farmer and found that a charge of attempted murder had been stayed against him.

    A sex-trade worker told police she was picked up in the Downtown Eastside and offered $100 for sex back at Pickton's farm. The woman was attacked and stabbed, but made it out to the road where a couple passing in a vehicle helped her.

    "Honestly, my thought was this is the kind of guy we were looking for," she said. "The idea that he had a large property and that he had what seemed quite clear to me was the ability to dispose of bodies."

    Shenher said she was very mindful that they weren't finding any bodies up to that point, so they were looking for someone who could get rid of the evidence. Her tipster told her Pickton had a "grinder" to get rid of the bodies.

    "I thought 'bingo,' this is the kind of guy we're looking for."

    Shenher later interviewed the woman who was allegedly attacked by Pickton and was even more convinced that he should be moved to the top of the suspect list.

    The woman — whose name is protected by a publication ban — told Shenher that Pickton clapped a handcuff on her wrist while they were in his trailer and she began fighting for her life. The woman slashed Pickton and then he stabbed her before she ran to the road for help.

    "It was exactly the kind of scenario I had envisioned. It was frustrating as well."

    The woman told Shenher she was told the charges were stayed because the woman was a drug addict.

    But Shenher said she never came to know the true reasons for why the charges were stayed against Pickton in connection to that attack.

    "I'm sure this commission will find that out."

    She recalled discussing the case with the investigating RCMP officer and learned that the woman had almost died on the operating room table a few times during surgery.

    "As morbid a thought as it is, had she died, we probably would have had a slam-dunk murder conviction without her testimony."


  23. Officer tipped to ‘creepy guy’ almost four years before Robert Pickton’s arrest

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 30, 2012

    Lori Shenher seemed just the cop to help solve missing women cases in Vancouver’s crime-infested Downtown Eastside. She knew the sex trade and she knew the neighbourhood, having posed there as a prostitute during undercover stings, a handgun concealed inside her coat. She knew some of the missing women and she cared about them.

    In July 1998, Det.-Const. Shenher — then a junior constable — was transferred to the Vancouver Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit. Prostitutes were vanishing from the Downtown Eastside. Discovering their fate became her purpose.

    Some officers were already of the notion that the sex workers were being murdered, Det. Shenher recalled Monday, in testimony at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

    “This could very possibly become a serial killer investigation,” one VPD officer told her. Yet there was no co-ordinated police investigation, no strategic direction, no sense of urgency at all. Missing prostitutes were a low priority. Sex trade workers vanished all the time without a trace, so went prevailing wisdom. No corpses had been discovered; murder was merely hypothetical.

    Det.-Const. Shenher was herself far from convinced. “I was willing to concede this [serial killer notion was] a very real possibility,” she told the inquiry, “but I wasn’t ready to make that leap.”

    Only days after her move to the Missing Persons Unit, a tipster called a VPD hotline. He talked about a pig farmer, with property in suburban Port Coquitlam. A “creepy guy,” with a taste for “low track” survival sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside. The name was Robert “Willie” Pickton.

    Det.-Const. Shenher grabbed the information and ran a background check. She discovered that a year prior, Pickton had been in a violent altercation with a Downtown Eastside prostitute. He’d taken the woman to his farm, where they had had sex. He had then attempted to handcuff her. The woman had grabbed a knife and had sliced at Pickton’s throat. Pickton had stabbed her in the chest before falling to the ground. The woman had barely survived. Pickton was interviewed by police after the event and admitted that he’d stabbed the woman.

    He was charged with her attempted murder and with unlawful confinement. The charges were stayed in early 1998, because, the inquiry has heard, officials with B.C.’s criminal justice branch were concerned the woman’s drug habit would make her seem untrustworthy to a judge or jury.

    Det.-Const. Shenher met with the stabbing victim, and found her perfectly credible. She met with the hotline tipster, and decided he was honest and motivated by real concern. Their information made her return to the serial killer theory, and to Pickton as possible perpetrator. “It was clear to me that he had the ability to dispose of bodies [on his farm],” Det. Const. Shenher told the inquiry on Monday. “I thought, ‘Bingo, this is the kind of guy we’re looking for.’”

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    He was their guy, of course. But Pickton wasn’t arrested and charged with serial murders for another four years. In the meantime, he continued to lure women to his pig farm, where he killed them and disposed of their bodies.

    It’s up to the Missing Women Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal to determine how the VPD and the RCMP conducted their investigations. Pickton was stuck on the police radars, yet he slipped though their fingers. What went wrong?

    The inquiry has heard explanations from a number of police witnesses. Mr. Oppal now knows that senior VPD and RCMP brass were loathe to consider the serial killer theory, even with members such as Det.-Const. Shenher and her counterpart in Coquitlam, RCMP Corporal Mike Connor, increasingly alive to the possibility, and with a compelling suspect top of mind.

    Then again, Det.-Const. Shenher acknowledged her own unwillingness to push aggressively. “I was very deferential [to senior VPD officers],” she told the inquiry on Monday. “The last thing I wanted was to come across as a know-it-all.”

    Attempting to force the serial-killer angle on skeptical superiors would not have helped her career, she conceded. “I don’t think I would have been taken all that seriously,” she told the inquiry, adding she would have likely been accused of “reading too many detective novels, watching too many movies.” And going over the heads of her immediate bosses simply was not on. That, she said, would have been “career suicide.”

    She had seemed just the cop to help, but she wouldn’t rock the boat. She plugged away, collected information, collaborated with the RCMP’s Connor, and got almost nowhere until “burning out” in 2000, according to documents filed at the inquiry. After taking four months leave, Det.-Const. Shenher moved to another VPD unit. And Pickton won more time. He claimed more victims.

    Det.-Const. Shenher continues her testimony at the inquiry Tuesday.


  25. Officer weeps while testifying at Pickton inquiry

    The Canadian Press January 31, 2012

    The lone police officer assigned to investigate missing persons while women were disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside broke down in tears at the inquiry into the Robert Pickton case Tuesday.

    Det. Const. Lori Shenher has told the inquiry she was almost alone in investigating the disappearances, that her superiors discounted her growing suspicion a serial killer was responsible and ignored her suggestions it might be Pickton. Shenher wept as she described the impact of the case on her life. She said she left the missing person's review team burned out and disillusioned with police work.

    "I just want to be clear that whatever impact that this has had on me is very minor compared," she paused as her voice broke, "in comparison to what the families and friends of the missing or murdered women have gone through."

    Shenher said when she learned officers were scouring the Pickton's suburban pig farm, she wanted it to be anyone but him. "If it had been someone really tricky or skilled, I could have handled that, but ... it was this person that was so in my sights the whole time." It left her stunned, she added.

    As the outcome from the search became clear, Shenher testified she was left grief-stricken. "Every time someone's DNA was found on that farm, I was right back there. I was counting, I was counting women, how many women went missing from August, September '99, from that time when I really felt we were really closing in on him."

    She told the inquiry that when officers finally came around to believing the disappearances were the work of a serial killer, the complaints of women gone missing stopped. She said officers theorized the serial killer had stopped, perhaps because he was in jail, had died, or had changed his tactics. But the disappearances hadn't ended.

    Shenher later learned that 13 women had disappeared between 1999 and when Pickton was arrested in 2002. The DNA from 11 of those women was found on the farm. "We mistakenly relied on that information because reports either weren't taken or misplaced. I'm really not sure what happened."

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    The inquiry has heard from victims' families that a civilian clerk at the force rebuffed their attempts to file missing persons complaints. Shenher said she and other investigators were surprised to learn that Pickton had been ruled out as a suspect without explanation.

    "I think frustration hung in the air over everything we did that whole fall. We thought we had reached a crescendo, we were going forward we had momentum and then ... it felt like it died," she said of the police investigation in late 1999.

    She testified that all the information surrounding Pickton was by far the most compelling of any other person of interest. Pickton was arrested in 2002 and charged with killing 26 women, but was later convicted of killing six. Months after he was ruled out as a suspect, Vancouver police moved to wrap up the investigation.

    Shenher said her first thought was: "Why? Didn't we find everybody?" "I didn't understand how we could be winding down." She felt at the time that much more could have been done to investigate Pickton, to at least rule him in as a suspect or rule him out as the killer, she said.

    Shenher told the inquiry she was quite secure that she did a "damn good job" with what she had to work with, but until Deputy Chief Doug LePard conducted a review of the investigation, that was never acknowledged by the department. She suggested to Commissioner Wally Oppal that part of his inquiry may want to look at the police culture and why it's very hard to be an "out-of-the-box thinker" inside the department.

    Officers either assimilate or leave the culture, she said. Oppal thanked her for her input. "You've given us an indication of how much of an impact, on a personal level, this horrific tragedy has had on you. I think it helps understand what happened."


  27. RCMP boss details action on harassment claims

    By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News January 31, 2012

    A new discipline regime is on its way to the RCMP as part of its strategy to deal with harassment claims, the force's commissioner told MPs on Tuesday.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson outlined for the public safety committee some of the actions he has taken to deal with harassment claims within the force that were reported by CBC News last fall.

    Paulson told MPs that part of his strategy has been to centralize all the harassment complaints under one roof in Ottawa and that has helped ensure that timelines to deal with complaints are being met and that complainants are better informed about progress on their cases.

    Paulson also said he has taken action to address the "core behaviours" that give rise to complaints in the first place, including holding meetings with senior RCMP officials where "pointed conversations" were had on leadership and accountability. He also convened a meeting of all commanding officers from across the country and had a "frank discussion" with them about his expectations, he told the committee.

    "We recognized that there was opportunities to improve upon how we manage discipline and conduct in the organization so we've taken some steps towards moving to improve that process," Paulson said.

    The RCMP is looking at a "revamped conduct regime," Paulson explained, that will place more emphasis on discipline being corrective.

    "We're going to be pushing down informal discipline, redefining our discipline scheme and describing it as a conduct regime," he said.

    The current disciplinary process and the protocol for investigating harassment complaints are "cumbersome" and in "dire need" of an overhaul, the commissioner said.

    Paulson said he also met with Status of Women staff and said the RCMP is conducting a gender-audit of the department.

    The target to recruit more women into senior roles has also been raised from 30 per cent of the workforce to 35 per cent, he said.

    Paulson's appearance at the committee comes a day after the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP called for public submissions for its investigation into the harassment claims.

    The commission is conducting a public interest probe into the conduct of RCMP members in handling allegations of harassment within the workplace. It is looking at whether policies were followed, if they are adequate to deal with the allegations and whether investigations were done impartially.

    Submissions are being accepted until March 30. The investigation was initiated at Paulson's request.

    Paulson told the committee that there are about 90 harassment-related cases that are under review.

    Unlike his predecessor William Elliott, a civilian, Paulson has a long history with the RCMP. He joined the force about 25 years ago and spent most of his career in British Columbia before moving to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa in 2005.

    read the full article at:


  28. Missing women investigator feared becoming scapegoat

    CBC News February 1, 2012

    A Vancouver police officer has told the missing women inquiry she wrote an unpublished book about the botched police investigation into Robert Pickton in an effort to get the record straight and protect herself.

    Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the inquiry looking into the investigation of the serial killer that she wrote the manuscript while on maternity leave.

    Shenher says she wanted to write her story the way she remembered it and with her view on what she thought were the police failings, including her own.

    "When the search began of Pickton's property, I was frankly terrified that I was going to be made a scapegoat with whatever information was going to come out with respect to Mr. Pickton," she told the inquiry.

    When some of the family members of Pickton's victims learned of the book in 2003, they complained of being betrayed, but the book was never published.

    Under questioning from lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents several families of Pickton's victims, Shenher admitted she told the officer looking into the Pickton investigation that, at the time, the Vancouver Police Department didn't know what it was doing.

    She explained there was a lack of leadership within the department and as Pickton's property was being searched and as accusations mounted that Vancouver police had botched the investigation, police brass didn't support their officers by contradicting the claim.

    Shenher has told the inquiry Pickton was her prime suspect almost four years before his eventual arrest, and she was furious her bosses didn't devote enough resources to the case.

    Shenher has said her theory that a serial killer was at work and Pickton was a prime suspect were dismissed by her superiors.


  29. Clashing egos hampered Pickton probe, missing women inquiry hears


    VANCOUVER — The stories seem to come straight from a seedy TV cop drama.

    "Cowboy" drug cops out for glory. Investigators with tunnel vision hiding information from colleagues. Investigations hindered by cops who can't stand one another.

    If true, the stories heard Thursday at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry may explain the lack of direction and professionalism in the VPD's investigation into Robert Pickton and other suspects.

    The inquiry has heard already of an allegedly disruptive pair of investigators who were "super racist."

    On Thursday it heard the two allegedly hid important information about Robert Pickton while focusing on their own favourite suspect, according to the testimony of Det. Const. Lori Shenher.

    Shenher testified that Const. Doug Fell and Const. Mark Wolthers had been added to her team of investigators in 1999 after they approached then-Deputy Chief Const. Brian McGuinness with a suspect.

    Shenher said McGuinness was "excited" but her immediate superiors were not happy that he endorsed Fell and Wolthers and pushed them onto the team. Shenher testified she knew their reputation as two tall and brash Downtown Eastside cops who followed their own agenda, allegedly had low regard for sex workers, and didn't make many arrests despite going off the radar on solo missions without answering dispatch calls.

    Shenher said she has learned the two officers canvassed the Downtown Eastside with photos of Pickton that were identified by three women in early 2000, suggesting the prime suspect was active under the VPD's nose, but allegedly the two didn't report that back to her. They had focused on their personal suspect, who was now in Alberta, she said.

    Shenher said there were up to 31 missing women on file, but the two officers were not interested in Pickton, so they would only refer to 22 women. That was the number that fit with their timeline for the Alberta suspect, she said.

    Shenher said the two made "grave" investigative errors and interfered with the team's focus. She said two valued investigators left her unit partly because they could not stand working with the two new cops.

    As an example of the poisonous atmosphere in the small investigative unit, Shenher noted her "stunned" reaction to a story allegedly put forward by Fell and Wolthers.

    The two spoke about a drug arrest of a Vietnamese man, Shenher said. She testified they said they went into his closet and took a bag of white flour and dumped it on the man's head, saying, "now you're white, what do you think about that?"

    Shenher testified there was a meeting with the RCMP in early 2000 about sharing suspect information on the missing women, which was attended by the current RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson. She said Walthers embarrassed the VPD when he forcefully insisted his Lethbridge, Alta. suspect made the "hair on the back of my neck stand up" — although he could not tell Paulson any evidence to back up his suspicions.

    At the time Paulson was a sergeant from Prince Rupert, B.C. with knowledge of the "Highway of Tears" cases, Shenher said.

    A lawyer for Fell and Wolthers challenged Shenher's perceptions of their "cowboy" reputation and work on the file. Shenher allowed that they were hardworking and energetic.

    The two are expected to testify.


  30. Pickton case has all the familiar hallmarks of a police cover-up: lawyer

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 3, 2012

    Cameron Ward once had faith in B.C.’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, called to examine how police investigated the disappearance of dozens of sex trade workers from Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. From 1997 to 2002, the period under review, prostitutes were murdered by pig farmer Robert “Willie” Pickton, all along a prime police suspect.

    Mr. Ward is a lawyer who represents the families of 23 missing and murdered women at the inquiry. Five months into public hearings, his faith in the process has crumbled.

    Certain police documents — including notes from their investigations — have not been disclosed. Pages from reports have mysteriously vanished. Police witnesses have offered conflicting accounts of key events. “This case has all the familiar hallmarks of a police cover-up,” says Mr. Ward, choosing his words carefully. “And I’m afraid the inquiry may be enabling it.”

    Why, despite their strong suspicions, their corroborating information from tipsters, and their knowledge of Pickton’s violent history with prostitutes, did police wait years to stop the serial killer? Who knew what, and when did they know it? Mr. Ward doubts the inquiry will answer those questions, because they involve high-ranking police officers and others with too much to lose.

    Pieces of the story emerged at Pickton’s marathon murder trial in 2007. He was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder. But another 20 murder charges were stayed after the killer was sentenced to life in prison. Pickton suggested himself that he had murdered 49 women.

    The inquiry may be the last chance to air everything, Mr. Ward says. “I vowed in my opening [statement] to assist the commission in prying the lid off this case and exposing the truth,” he says. “I’ll keep trying, but it seems to be an uphill battle.”

    He is plainly at odds with other inquiry lawyers, most of whom represent police officers, and with inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney general. Time and again at the inquiry, Mr. Ward and commissioner Oppal have clashed.

    It’s not Mr. Oppal’s job to retry Willie Pickton. His mandate is to examine the botched police investigations, and to determine why, in 1998, a decision was made by B.C.’s criminal justice branch to stay charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement against Pickton, after his near-fatal stabbing of a Vancouver prostitute at his farm. Mr. Oppal is also to recommend how police can improve future investigations.

    With an eye on the clock, Mr. Oppal has imposed an April 30 deadline on the inquiry’s hearings phase, and he aims to produce a report, with his recommendations, to the province by the end of June.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Ward raises his ire by attempting to explore every conceivable angle. This week, he was chastised for asking Vancouver police officer Lori Shenher questions about a 320-page manuscript she had written about the Pickton case, soon after the killer’s 2002 arrest, and about her role as scriptwriter and technical advisor on the CBC television series Da Vinci’s Inquest, which often dramatized Vancouver’s missing women cases.

    Detective-Constable Shenher was the Vancouver Police Department’s lead investigator on the missing women files until she “burned out” in late 2000. She took some leave and considered quitting the VPD. “I just thought I couldn’t commit to a place that didn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground,” she told the inquiry this week.

    Her own records from the investigation — such as detailed logbooks — have not been made available to the inquiry; apparently, the RCMP has possession of them and won’t let go. Her lengthy Pickton manuscript could prove a useful substitute, Mr. Ward said. He has requested the manuscript be disclosed.

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    He has also asked that 20 names be added to the inquiry’s confidential witness list. Key police informants should be called to testify, he says. After all, they directed police to Pickton and his farm years before he was finally apprehended and charged with serial murders. As well, Mr. Ward wants to hear from the RCMP corporal who obtained a warrant to search Pickton’s farm in 2002, and from RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson; he was a local sergeant “extensively involved in the missing women investigations” during the period under review, Mr. Ward says. He also wants the inquiry to hear from Pickton’s brother David, who lived on the farm when the murders were being committed, when bodies were being ground to pieces and then buried on the property.

    Mr. Oppal has yet to rule on his requests. An inquiry source says they will all be denied.

    Mr. Ward has made an issue of police disclosure, or lack of it. He has demanded from police witnesses their “notes and records made of meetings of senior government officials during the late 1990s, when Pickton was the prime suspect in the women’s disappearances.” Production of such documents at public inquiries is routine. Not at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Contemporaneous police notes and records of key events and pivotal meetings have disappeared, without explanation.

    Mr. Ward has identified two important, back-to-back meetings that police attended early in 1999. Pickton was by then squarely in their sights, but little was being done to investigate him thoroughly. Public pressure was mounting; local politicians were feeling heat from reporters and relatives of missing women. One presentation, in April, was conducted for Ujjal Dosanjh, then B.C.’s attorney general and solicitor general. At least two other sitting Cabinet ministers and their aides attended the meeting, the inquiry has heard. The gathering was meant to bring the politicians up to speed on the missing women investigations, and to discuss the possibility of making cash rewards available for information useful to police.

    No notes from that meeting have been produced for the inquiry. Apparently, none exist. Mr. Ward finds that remarkable. So does Vancouver Police Department officer Lori Shenher; she was, at the time, the VPD’s lead missing women investigator. She attended the meeting. In fact, she briefed Mr. Dosanjh and the other Cabinet ministers. Testifying at the inquiry this week, she agreed that records of such an important event would likely have been made.

    Mr. Ward asked her if Pickton was mentioned.

    “I honestly don’t recall,” Det.-Const. Shenher replied.

    “But you told [a police officer last year] that three suspects were discussed?”

    “Yes,” agreed Det.-Const. Shenher. “But later I realized that was wrong…. I had the impression that Mr. Pickton was discussed. I’m really not able to say for certain.”

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    A month later, in May 1999, missing women investigators held a police-only “brainstorming session” inside a VPD boardroom. In attendance were 18 RCMP members and Vancouver officers, including Det.-Const. Shenher and Doug LePard, then an up-and-coming sergeant, and now the VPD’s deputy chief. Once again, it seems that no one took notes. None have been found.

    In November, Mr. Ward quizzed Deputy-Chief LePard about the May meeting. Was Pickton discussed as a suspect?

    “I’m actually quite confident that [he] wasn’t brought up because that would have piqued my interest and many others,” he testified, “and in fact, I think it would have changed the focus of the meeting to [be] talking about that information.”

    But Pickton was discussed at the meeting, and “at length,” Det.-Const. Shenher told the inquiry this week. An RCMP “continuation report” from April 1999 does more than just confirm it; the report indicates that police actually decided to stop their investigation.

    “Pickton [the name is underlined] was discussed at this meeting,” reads the report, which Mr. Ward has entered as an inquiry exhibit. “At this time no active work will be conducted on Pickton [underlined again]…. At this time this file will be concluded and re-opened if necessary.”

    Who made this decision, and why? With time running out, the inquiry hasn’t heard.


  33. Pickton under surveillance 3 years before arrest

    The Canadian Press February 6, 2012

    A police request form for surveillance of Robert Pickton more than three years before he was arrested for multiple murders turned out to be eerily accurate, the missing women inquiry has heard. The first RCMP officer to investigate Pickton told the inquiry Monday he filled out the form, asking that officers watch Pickton in September 1998. Mike Connor, who's now retired, but was then a corporal at the Coquitlam, B.C. detachment, testified that he wrote the request but that his claims were of "unknown reliability."

    "You said Pickton was believed to be picking up prostitutes and apparently taking them to his home where he killed them," commission counsel Art Vertlieb asked Connor. "There's a statement that the subject intimated that he disposes of bodies in a food grinder and feeds the remains ...," Vertlieb said, leaving his sentence unfinished."Correct," Connor replied. Connor agreed.

    The document also said Pickton had numerous female purses and identification on the farm that he apparently used as trophies. Connor said he received the information from a source who had heard second hand about the horror taking place on the farm. "It needed to be considered and acted upon," Connor said of the information. Evidence revealed much later at Pickton's trial proved the source was incredibly accurate, but the 30 days of police surveillance turned up no proof that Pickon was trolling Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for his victims, most of them sex-trade workers.

    The inquiry — which is examining the police actions around the Pickton investigation — has already heard police missed several opportunities to stop Pickton but failed. Pickton was convicted of killing six women, but the DNA of 33 women was found on his farm. Connor's source was Bill Hiscox, who told police he had learned the information from Lisa Yelds, who was a good friend of Pickton. Connor said Yelds was a "cop hater" and a Nazi sympathizer, and they didn't think they would get the information from her unless they conducted an undercover operation. Hiscox had volunteered in late 1998 to help with the undercover operation by introducing Yelds to an officer. But weeks later Hiscox disappeared and nothing was done to get more information from Yelds. "He had fallen off the map," Connor told the inquiry.

    More than a dozen women disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside between the end of 1998 and when Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. The DNA of 11 of those women was found on the farm. Pickton was already on Connor's radar because he had been arrested in the 1997 attack on a Downtown Eastside sex-trade worker on his Port Coquitlam, B.C., farm. Charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement were later dropped against Pickton.

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    Connor testified that he was told by the Crown that the case wouldn't go ahead because the victim was a severe heroin addict and without her testimony the likelihood of conviction wasn't there. He admitted during his testimony that he regrets not pushing parts of the investigation. "That's the second time you've mentioned 'thinking back.' Have you done that many times over the last number of years since Pickton was arrested," Vertlieb asked. "I think about this file daily," Connor replied.

    His testimony comes on the same day that a lawyer for several family members of missing women claimed the commission was enabling a police coverup of the Pickton investigation. Cameron Ward complained many key documents had not been disclosed at the inquiry and no one mentioned that the lead Vancouver police investigator in the case has written a book. Ward has applied to see the manuscript for the unpublished book. "I need to assist you Mr. Commissioner in taking all steps necessary to ensure that this coverup is not perpetuated further," Ward told Commissioner Wally Oppal. "I do believe that unless this commission exercises its powers and duty under the inquiry act, it will enable the police to cover up their involvement in these important matters."

    Oppal, a former B.C. Appeal Court judge and former attorney general of B.C., bristled at the claim. "That any such suggestion may have been made is disturbing," Oppal said. "There is absolutely no evidence that the commission may be 'enabling a coverup."'

    Vancouver Police lawyer Tim Dickson said the department is at the inquiry in openness and good faith, wants all the facts to come out, and there's nothing resembling a coverup.


  35. Pickton traumatized by prostitute’s attack in 1997

    by TAMSYN BURGMANN The Canadian Press February 07, 2012

    Robert Pickton shook, shuddered and said he was traumatized while describing his claim that a prostitute pulled a knife on him five years before he was arrested for the serial killing of dozens of sex trade workers.

    Video of a January 2000 police interview with the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer was shown Tuesday at the public inquiry looking into the police investigation of Mr. Pickton involving the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    “She attacked me,” says a baseball cap-clad Mr. Pickton, suggesting she was after $3,500 he was carrying. “She should have been charged.”In the footage, RCMP Constables Ruth Yurkiw and John Carter question Mr. Pickton about what happened during the attack on the night of March 23, 1997, when both he and the woman were sent to hospital.

    Mr. Pickton relays his version of the events, saying he picked the woman up in his truck after she stumbled and fell into the road.

    He brings her back to his home, where he says she injected drugs in the bathroom at least twice.

    Then she goes into his kitchen, finds a six-inch knife on the table and pulls it on him, he claimed.

    He runs his fingers across his neck and chest to demonstrate where he was slashed.

    “I never want to think of that day again,” he says, shaking his head and rocking in his chair.

    Constable Carter prompts him for more details.

    “We're asking because clearly it was a traumatic event for you, and usually those things tend to stick out in your mind,” he says.

    “It was a terrifying event for me. I was down for almost two months in hospital,” Mr. Pickton responds, exhaling deeply. “I couldn't work, I couldn't do anything. My back still bothers me.”

    He goes on to say he went to the police station to report the incident first. He insists he never brought another prostitute into his trailer again.

    Thirteen women disappeared between the time those charges were dropped against Mr. Pickton and when the DNA of 11 of them was uncovered on his farm.

    During Mr. Pickton's trial, the jury never viewed the interview footage. They also did not hear anything about the previous attempted murder and unlawful confinement charges laid against Mr. Pickton in relation to that night's attack. They were never told those charges were eventually dropped.

    The woman's side of the story, which police believed, was not revealed until after Mr. Pickton's trial, as it was under a court-ordered ban.

    The inquiry has heard she was handcuffed on one hand and fought off Mr. Pickton, running naked to the road and flagging down a car. She died while under care but was revived.

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    The nearly 12-minute excerpt was shown to retired RCMP officer Mike Connor while he was under cross-examination by the lawyer representing the families of Mr. Pickton's victims.

    Mr. Connor was the RCMP's lead investigator into Mr. Pickton in the late 1990s, when an informant had provided second-hand information that a woman had been butchered in the man's barn.

    He also took the reins with his partner the night the call came in about the nearly-fatal attack on the prostitute, who has been only known as Witness 97 or Anderson, which is not her real name.

    Mr. Connor had previously testified he was told by the Crown the case wouldn't go ahead because the victim was a severe heroin addict, and without her testimony the likelihood of conviction wasn't there.

    Considering all Mr. Connor knew about Mr. Pickton, including various eerie details laid out by sources in his investigations “and the obvious lies coming out of Willie Pickton himself, why didn't you and the RCMP deal with this man and stop him?” lawyer Cameron Ward asked.

    Mr. Connor noted it was no longer his file after he was promoted in August 1999.

    “There were assigned investigators and there were supervisors in place,” he said. “I can't speak to their decisions as to why or why not they did or didn't do something. I wasn't there.”

    In earlier testimony, Mr. Connor told the inquiry he had fingered Mr. Pickton as “the bad guy” for several years prior to the man's February 2002 arrest and even made his own copies of the investigation file which he stored in a safe.

    He took the precautions over concerns the file might go missing when he handed it over to the joint RCMP-Vancouver Police investigation into the missing women.

    Mr. Connor is now retired but continues to do some contract work for the RCMP.

    The inquiry has previously heard that files kept by Lori Shenher, the Vancouver Police Department's lead investigator into the missing women's case, were not returned to her in their entirety.

    Mr. Ward told the inquiry he has learned that the Crown has not retained the file on the charges relating to the sex trade worker who survived an attack at the Pickton farm, despite a file-retention policy of 75 years for all criminal files involving serious personal injury.

    Nearly five years after the 1997 attack, officers searched Mr Pickton’s farm acting on a search warrant looking for illegal firearms.

    The warrant led to one of the biggest police investigations in Canadian history and uncovered the remains or DNA of 33 women. Mr. Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.


  37. RCMP hearings need independent oversight, says lawyer

    by CBC News February 8, 2012

    The lawyer for a female British Columbia Mountie who accused her boss of sexual assault says RCMP disciplinary hearings should be subject to independent oversight.

    Walter Kosteckyj says he is unhappy with the easy ride he believes the police force is giving Const. Susan Gastaldo's superior, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson.

    Pearson admitted to using his patrol car and police Blackberry smartphone to carry on an extramarital affair with Gastaldo in 2009, while he was her superior.

    Last month, RCMP adjudicators rejected Gastaldo's allegations the affair amounted to rape because Pearson used his position of authority to coerce her. It found the sex was consensual.

    But during a break at Pearson's disciplinary hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday, Kosteckyj accused the adjudication panel of bias.

    "There should be an independent tribunal that takes a look at these things, which is really made up of people outside the RCMP," he said.

    Kosteckyj is also upset the RCMP has allowed Pearson's own psychologist to testify on his behalf when it already had a report from an independent expert, whose evidence he believes was disregarded.

    The adjudicators have found both officers guilty of disgraceful conduct for having sex in a police car and misusing RCMP equipment to send romantic text messages.

    While Pearson is facing sanctions ranging from suspension to a demotion, Gastaldo could lose her job.

    With files from the CBC's Mike Clarke


  38. Pickton investigators needed break that never came

    The Canadian Press February 9, 2012

    The first RCMP officer to launch an investigation focusing on Robert Pickton says he just couldn't gather enough firm evidence required to launch a full-scale investigation of the suspected killer. Mike Conner, now retired, told the Missing Women Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday that all the clues pointing to a Port Coquitlam pig farmer as the killer of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were adding up. But then the RCMP "terminated" the operation scrutinizing Pickton in the late 1990s because the province's major crimes unit thought it had "no validity" and a ranking officer determined it was getting too expensive, stated one account written three days after Pickton's arrest.

    Conner agreed with remarks in the note that work on the file had petered out to his "great reluctance," but he also agreed with the suggestion of a lawyer for the victims' families that lack of resources was not an issue.

    "Willie Pickton, in your mind, was the man responsible for the deaths of the sex trade workers who were going missing from Downtown Vancouver," said lawyer Cameron Ward. "You sir, as the investigator here, you did put two and two together, and it made four for you."

    Connor agreed, concurring that hypothesis only got stronger in his mind between August 1998 and July 1999. In the days after the serial killer's arrest in February 2002, RCMP scrambled to explain why they weren't more aggressive in zeroing in on Pickton, notes presented by Ward at the inquiry showed. By that time, he had received apparently credible — though second-hand — information from several informants. Connor had already attempted once to take Pickton down on the 1997 attempted murder of a sex trade worker. The charge was dropped. Police interviewed Pickton again in 2000 about the attempted murder, in a profanity-laced interview publicly released Wednesday.

    Connor testified he was so sure Pickton merited aggressive investigation that he got all his ducks in a row. Connor went out on his own to conduct surveillance on Pickton's farm after midnight for upwards of 30 occasions hoping to catch the man committing a crime, the inquiry heard. He also prepared a draft affidavit in summer 1999 to immediately trigger a search warrant, but the opportunity still failed to present itself.

    Ward asked Connor why, with all the pieces stacking up, the RCMP "failed to stop" Pickton's killing spree from August 1998 until his eventual apprehension. "It's certainly a difficult question to answer. I don't know that failed would be the correct word to use," Connor replied, adding many people tried "very hard" to gather the necessary evidence. "We couldn't get that break, to have that definitive evidence that we could launch an investigation the size of what Evenhanded had done a couple of years later. As I mentioned, we just couldn't get that break."

    Project Evenhanded was a joint RCMP-Vancouver Police that later investigated the missing women. Connor, who continues to do contract work for the RCMP, left the case in another officer's hands when he was promoted in August 1999. Considering the huge manpower that was plowed into searching Pickton's farm when police finally gained grounds related to an illegal firearms allegation, a lack of resources could not have been the reason the case went on the back burner, Ward suggested to Connor.

    "Absolutely," Connor said. "If I needed more resources to do things when I was doing investigation, I would have got them." The same would have been true for the officer who took over, he said. "If they had a break to move that investigation forward, if she needed more resources, she could have got them." [...]


  39. Lawyer links serial killer Pickton, Hells Angels at inquiry


    VANCOUVER — Just as he was warming up to theories regarding Pickton's associations with drug dealing bikers, lawyer Jason Gratl was shut down by Commissioner Wally Oppal, who was clearly perturbed.

    Gratl was cross-examining RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, the force's lead investigator on Pickton.

    Connor admitted that he received a tip that a Hells Angel associate who worked in a "booze can" after-hours drinking club across the street from Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C., property "was chopped up in a meat grinder on the farm and fed to the pigs."

    Connor said police knew Hells Angels went to Pickton's farm and attended "Piggy's Palace" — the nearby illicit nightclub run by Pickton and his brother Dave.

    However, Connor said he did not investigate the credibility of the allegation a male Hells Angel associate was disposed of on Pickton's farm.

    During Pickton's trial, lab staff testified that about 80 unidentified DNA profiles — roughly half male and half female — have shown up on evidence.

    The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has heard unanswered questions from lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents the victims' families, as to whether police were reluctant to investigate Pickton because of his connections and other ongoing investigations.

    On Thursday Gratl tried to ask Connor if sex workers were reluctant to talk to police about Pickton because they feared Hells Angels and their activities in the Downtown Eastside, including alleged torture of sex workers and drug dealing.

    However Oppal cut in, telling Gratl he did not see the relevance of the Hells Angels questioning, and asked a government lawyer if she would like to rise to object.

    The lawyer, who represents the RCMP, said she would object if he spoke about investigations that should not be revealed to the hearing.

    Gratl stopped the line of questioning. Outside the hearing he said that Downtown Eastside residents believe a key systemic issue that hindered the investigation is that sex workers would never open up to police because Hells Angels controlled the neighbourhood.

    Meanwhile, the source that helped police target Robert Pickton told the Vancouver Province Thursday that police "had Pickton in 1997 and just let him go."

    Bill Hiscox told police in August 1998 that he had learned from Lisa Yelds, a good friend of Pickton who was a "cop hating . . . biker . . . Nazi," that sex workers were being killed and chopped up and disposed of on Pickton's farm and he was keeping "trophies."

    Hiscox said Vancouver Police Department Det. Const. Lori Shenher and RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, who worked with Hiscox in 1998, did their best but "both of them kind of had their hands tied."

    "I think it had a lot to do with higher-ups," Hiscox said.


  40. Pickton inquiry gives cold shoulder to key witness

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 13, 2012

    Despite all that he knew, despite his efforts to assist police during their tragically flawed investigation of serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton, despite his willingness to answer any question put to him now, in the long-overdue search for the truth, Bill Hiscox will not be heard at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

    He’s not on the inquiry’s private list of potential witnesses. He’s been cast aside again, and he can’t understand why.

    Lately, Mr. Hiscox has sat in the inquiry room gallery, where he watches. He listens to contradictory accounts from police, and he shakes his head in frustration.

    Mr. Hiscox knew Pickton. He performed manual labour for the creepy pig farmer and spent time on his messy acreage in Port Coquitlam. “I would get this really eerie feeling there,” Mr. Hiscox told the National Post, in an interview conducted outside the inquiry room. “It’s hard to explain. I picked up some bad vibes. Mark it up to intuition.”

    That, and an offer he says Pickton once made to him. If he ever needed to dispose of a body, Pickton told him, just use the wood chipper.

    By summer 1998, Mr. Hiscox had come to some grotesque – and correct, it turned out – conclusions: Pickton was responsible for Vancouver’s missing sex trade workers. He was luring women to his farm, murdering them, cutting up their bodies and disposing of the pieces.

    He did the right thing. Mr. Hiscox went to police, who took him very seriously. Indeed, he became their main man, their most compelling source of information. Yes, he was a drug user. But he was reliable and he never asked for any favours. “He had a moral compass,” recalled Vancouver police officer Lori Shenher, during her testimony last month. “I think his only motivation was to do the right thing.”

    Mr. Hiscox had even agreed to participate in an undercover operation designed to pry additional, first-hand information from one of Pickton’s closest associates, a cop-hating biker named Lisa Yelds. Mr. Hiscox knew the woman well; she was his step-sister. They both had deep, informed suspicions about Pickton, and they shared them with each other.

    Ms. Yelds once related how she’d seen bloody clothing inside Pickton’s trailer, and pieces of identification for as many as 10 women. Mr. Hiscox passed the information to police, who found it compelling. They just needed to hear it directly from Ms. Yelds, hence the proposed undercover operation. It could lead to a search warrant, and maybe an arrest.

    But nothing happened. The police stopped calling Mr. Hiscox. He called them. Still nothing. By mid-1999, the investigation had gone off the rails, for reasons that Missing Women Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal must try to determine.

    Pickton, we know, continued killing. He was not arrested until 2002. Five years later, he was convicted on six counts of second degree murder. Another 20 murder charges were stayed.

    Why did police drop the ball with Mr. Hiscox, and fail to pursue Ms. Yelds for her first-hand accounts of the Pickton farm? It’s a crucial question. Police give conflicting answers.

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    Last month, the inquiry heard how Mr. Hiscox had repeatedly contacted his VPD “handler,” Detective Constable Shenher, to the point of “harassment.”

    Not so, Det. Const. Shenher testified. In fact, she said, contact was broken off, for two reasons. “He had shown himself to be someone who would contact me if he had something new,” she told associate commission counsel Karey Brooks, in direct examination. “Secondly, I didn’t want to push him on [the undercover operation] because he was in recovery himself and he had indicated to me at varying times that he was trying to stay away from that, that world.”

    In other words, police wasted an opportunity to collect information that could have led them to arrest Pickton before 2002. Women’s lives might have been saved.

    “The upshot of all of this,” inquiry lawyer Cameron Ward put to the officer, “is that unique, compelling, credible evidence from Hiscox never got used, right?”

    “I suppose not,” conceded Det. Const. Shenher.

    Her RCMP counterpart at the time was Mike Connor, a veteran homicide investigator based in Coquitlam. Like Det. Const. Shenher, he considered Mr. Hiscox to be a reliable source of credible information. But he has a rather different impression of why investigators quit using their best source, and why their proposed undercover operation – a “good idea,” in his own words – never happened.

    “I couldn’t do any more work with Mr. Hiscox without the assistance of the VPD and Mr Hiscox himself,” Mr. Connor told the inquiry last week. “The only information I was getting [from the VPD] was that ‘Hiscox can’t be found.’ “

    Mr. Connor was also told, at various times in late 1998 and early in 1999, that Mr. Hiscox “was unavailable,” that he “had some problems,” that “he couldn’t help us,” that “he had fallen off the map,” and that Det. Const. Shenher “didn’t know where he was.”

    Nonsense, Mr. Hiscox told the National Post.

    “I was going through drug rehab, trying to get my life back in order,” he said. “But falling off their radar? I find that difficult to believe. I had a criminal record. I was on probation at the time. The police could have found me any time they wanted. I was always available for them. And I would have done whatever it took to help them arrest this man. Without hesitation, I would have put myself at risk to do that.”

    He says he’s still available, should the inquiry ever wish to hear from him. It was two months ago that lawyer Cameron Ward requested that Mr. Hiscox be added to the witness list, along with Pickton’s brother David, who lived on the family farm while murders were being committed there. While Mr. Oppal has not ruled on the requests, a senior inquiry source says they will be rejected. The commissioner is not obliged to explain his decisions to the public, for whom the inquiry was called.


  42. Pickton was not sole suspect in women's deaths

    The Canadian Press February 16, 2012

    Robert Pickton was just one of a growing list of "hideous" people who were considered prime suspects in the disappearance of Vancouver sex workers in the year before his arrest, says an RCMP officer who led one of several investigations into the case.

    And while in hindsight, Pickton appears to have been the best and only suspect worth looking into, retired Staff Sgt. Don Adam said police needed to investigate every suspect to determine whether they were linked to the disappearances.

    Adam made the statements at the Missing Women Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday. The inquiry is looking at the police mishandling of the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    Adam led a joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force known as Project Evenhanded, which was formed in January 2001. Within a few months, the list of viable suspects had ballooned into the hundreds, he said.

    "This file was full of hideous human beings, and they needed to be looked at," Adam testified Wednesday at the public inquiry into the Pickton case.

    "If you think of Mr. Pickton as a bright red ball, you can move that ball anywhere in this room and none of us will miss where it is," he said. "But if you brought in 30 red balls, suddenly it's not so easy. By February, there are 60 of them. When Evenhanded had fully assessed everyone, there are 374 of those balls."

    Adam outlined a number of challenges faced by Project Evenhanded investigators between January 2001 and Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including the massive list of suspects, the team's mistaken belief that women were no longer disappearing, and the lack of a centralized DNA databank for missing people.

    Project Evenhanded was among three separate but related investigations involving Vancouver police and the RCMP.

    Vancouver police were investigating the disappearance of sex workers from the city's Downtown Eastside while the RCMP detachment in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton lived, was looking at Pickton as a suspect.

    Project Evenhanded was created to compile cases of missing sex workers, identify potential suspects and search for links using DNA and other evidence.

    A long list of suspects who had previously sexually assaulted, abused or murdered sex workers quickly emerged, Adam said. Tips implicating Pickton surfaced as early as 1998, but Adam said investigators couldn't focus on a single suspect because they were working on the theory that there were several serial killers. That theory turned out to be correct, Adam pointed out, as some women on their list were connected to killers other than Pickton.

    Adam also rejected the suggestion that Project Evenhanded was merely a historical review, rather than an active investigation.

    "That's just not true," he said.

    "Because of the nature of what I needed to do, there definitely needed to be file reviews [of Vancouver police missing persons cases]. I immediately realized that initiative needed to co-exist with another initiative, and that is investigation."

    Still, Adam conceded his team didn't realize women were still disappearing from the Downtown Eastside for many months after they started their work.

    Adam said investigators realized their mistake in August, when a member of the team realized that Patricia Johnson vanished in the spring of that year. Johnson was reported missing in May 2001, but for reasons that Adam couldn't explain, the documents that Project Evenhanded initially relied on incorrectly stated she hadn't been seen since 1994.

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    Adam said August marked a "watershed moment" that prompted his team to change their focus, but a previous witness suggested it took even longer for Project Evenhanded investigators to realize women were still disappearing.

    Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans of the Peel Regional Police, who conducted an external review for the inquiry, noted log entries from investigators as late as mid-October indicated Project Evenhanded had yet to realize women were still disappearing, and she wrote that it wasn't clear when that changed.

    Another factor Adam pointed to was the lack of a national DNA databank for missing people, which meant there was no central database to house DNA profiles of the missing women. That left no way to quickly compare DNA profiles if remains were found.

    At the time, the only national databases were for convicted offenders and DNA samples collected at crime scenes, so there was no searchable missing persons database.

    Adam noted that more than a decade later, nothing has changed.

    "I know [the federal government] has been talking about a missing persons DNA databank since 2000," he said. "It's not for me to get bitter, they simply don't have the legislation.

    "I just pray that you can fix that," he added, speaking directly to commissioner Wally Oppal.

    In the end, none of the formal investigations into Pickton and the missing women cracked the case.

    Pickton was caught essentially by accident in February 2002, when a Port Coquitlam RCMP officer who wasn't on any of those investigations obtained a search warrant on a tip about illegal firearms.

    Project Evenhanded investigators tagged along and immediately stumbled upon the remains and belongings of missing sex workers.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm, although he was only convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. He claimed to have killed a total of 49 women.


  44. Pickton sightings chill Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 17, 2012

    VANCOUVER — By all accounts, David Pickton was the dominant brother. He was not blind to everything that went on at the family pig farm, where he lived with his younger sibling, Willie.

    David was boss. He would tell Willie when to go to bed, a police investigator was once told. It was David, police alleged, who said that he knew where bodies had been buried. “I know it’s over for Willie,” one officer recalled him saying, when the Port Coquitlam farm was finally searched in 2002. The remains of dozens of women were found scattered about the property. Willie was held responsible, no one else.

    David was never charged in connection with his brother’s long killing spree, nor was he called to testify at Willie’s ensuing serial murder trial. To the chagrin of the victims’ families, he is not scheduled to appear at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, underway in Vancouver. He hasn’t set foot in the hearing room. But according to reports, Mr. Pickton has been spotted of late in the Downtown Eastside, the same downtrodden neighbourhood where his brother’s murder victims worked in the sex trade.

    Since November, notices warning of David Pickton’s presence have been posted in local shelters and drop-in centres. More notices appeared in the neighbourhood this week.

    “He’s been in the area and he’s been talking to women,” said the director of a large social housing agency that operates in the Downtown Eastside.

    “We’re not aware that he’s caused any trouble, but our staff is supporting women who want to speak to police about him. The women are scared,” added the director, who spoke to the National Post on the condition her name not be published.

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    Asked if local officers were aware of the concerns about David Pickton, Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Jana McGuinness emailed this response: “Last fall posters and information were being disseminated by people in the Downtown Eastside about a specific individual. Our investigation at the time did not support the issuing of a public warning.” Constable McGuinness added that she has not been made aware of any recent Pickton sightings.

    In 1992, Mr. Pickton was convicted of sexual assault, fined $1,000, given 30 days probation, and ordered to have no contact with the assault victim. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

    In 2009, with Willie behind bars, Mr. Pickton and his sister, Linda Wright, sued the RCMP for damages allegedly caused by police investigations conducted on family-owned properties. “The RCMP disturbed, disrupted, killed and destroyed various plants, trees, groundcovers and other vegetation and the fish in the pond,” reads the lawsuit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court. The matter has not been resolved.

    Mr. Pickton is frequently discussed at the Missing Women inquiry. Police witnesses have described how he ran a notorious after-hours drinking establishment near the farm, called Piggy’s Palace. It was frequented by motorcycle gang members and their associates, and was occasionally rented out for private events, the inquiry has heard.

    Cameron Ward, lawyer for the families of 25 missing and murdered women, has asked inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal to add Mr. Pickton to his witness list. “A proper inquiry must include testimony from this central character,” noted Mr. Ward.

    The commission has a mandate to examine how police forces conducted their investigations into cases of women reported missing from the Downtown Eastside, and to determine why B.C.’s criminal justice branch decided to stay charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement against Willie Pickton in 1998.

    David “was well known to police, and was considered a person of interest during the missing women investigations,” Mr. Ward noted in his submission. “He co-owned the Picktons’ properties [including the farm] …which were known by the police to be hives of illegal activity, including cockfighting, illicit alcohol and drug use, prostitution and petty theft… Women’s remains were found on land that David Pickton occupied with his brother …. Did off-duty police officers, politicians or other high-profile members of the community attend events at the infamous Piggy’s Palace?”

    Mr. Oppal has yet to rule on the request; however, a senior commission counsel has told the National Post it will be denied.


  46. Pickton probe limited by tight Vancouver budget

    Ex-chief says he was rebuked by mayor for spending on Pickton investigation

    CBC News February 20, 2012

    A former Vancouver police chief has told the Pickton inquiry that budget constraints hampered the investigation into the disappearance of sex trade workers in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

    Terry Blythe said that when he took over as chief in June 1999, he inherited a big financial problem, with 80 per cent of the department's annual budget already spent.

    When city hall refused extra funding for a joint operation with Coquitlam RCMP to investigate pig farmer Robert Pickton, Blythe said he went ahead and spent some money without approval.

    That earned him a rebuke from then-mayor Phillip Owen, Blythe said.

    “’We should not be outside of Vancouver doing anything,’” he quoted Owen as saying. “He was pretty upset about that."

    Pickton, arrested in 2002, was convicted in 2007 of the murders of six women, although the DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his property.

    The inquiry is trying to determine why it took as long as it did for the RCMP and the Vancouver police to catch up to Pickton.

    High-profile legal representation
    Blythe has brought in well-known criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan of Toronto to represent him at the inquiry.

    On Monday, Greenspan walked his client through some questioning meant to counter some of the allegations of police disinterest that the inquiry has heard so far.

    "There have been suggestions that the police department didn't make the effort it should have investigating the missing women, because many of the women were from the Downtown Eastside and were sex trade workers and were aboriginal,” Greenspan put it to Blythe.

    “I totally disagree with it,” Blyth said.

    Author Stevie Cameron, who wrote the book On The Farm about the Pickton case, said the presence of Greenspan demonstrates the lengths to which the Vancouver police are willing to go to protect the force’s reputation.

    "It makes me think the police department here must be frantic about their former chief and the other people who will be coming up because they've hired one of the most expensive criminal defence lawyers in the country," Cameron said.

    Greenspan has charged up to $1,200 an hour in fees on some of the cases he’s worked on, Cameron said.


  47. Pickton inquiry shifts to controversial format

    The Canadian Press February 22, 2012

    After 52 days of hearing from police officers and experts who've attempted to shed light on why Robert Pickton was able to kill for so long, the head of the missing women inquiry now wants input from groups of witnesses.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal announced Tuesday that the inquiry will be moving to a panel-style format next week instead of the adversarial single-witness setup that's currently being used.

    "We have spent much time and learned a lot about what went wrong and it is now time to focus more actively on any investigative failures and how they can be prevented in the future," Oppal said.

    He said the inquiry wants to hear from people in the Downtown Eastside from where Pickton took women to be murdered at his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

    Pickton was convicted of killing six women but admitted to an undercover police officer that he murdered 49 women. The DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his property.

    Some family members of the missing women are worried the changes may mean Oppal won't hear from those police officers directly involved in the missing women case.

    Lilliane Beaudoin, whose sister Dianne Rock vanished in 2001, said she wants to hear about what went wrong.

    Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara was one of Pickton's victims, added that the only way the police give up any information is if they're pushed.

    "I think if we go with something like this, based on the small amount of knowledge that us family members have been given, that may not be the case and that's a concern to us."

    Oppal said he also wants to hear more from victims' family members, First Nations groups, the Vancouver Police Board and other officials.

    He told the inquiry he wants to focus on how the relationship between the Downtown Eastside community and police can be improved.

    Oppal said his commitment has always been on the safety and security of women, especially those who are marginalized by poverty, working in the sex trade or because they are aboriginal.

    "I am determined to ensure that these women did not die in vain and that positive change resulting in the saving of lives will be the lasting memorial for the missing and murdered women."

    Oppal has pledged to hand in his report by June.

    Victims' families have complained that they haven't been represented properly at the inquiry because the government didn't give them funding for lawyers.

    There are dozens of lawyers at the inquiry, but most of them represent Vancouver police or RCMP officers.

    The announcement of the format change comes on the same day that the inquiry released four reports meant to spark debate about how to protect and police the province's most vulnerable women.

    The reports make dozens of recommendations to improve safety for the women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and for those who still insist on hitchhiking along northern B.C.'s so-called Highway of Tears.

    There's been a series of unsolved murders along Highway 16, which runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert, and dozens of women disappeared while Pickton stalked the Downtown Eastside.

    The reports recommend police patrolling the highway no longer drive past hitchhikers fitting a certain profile, that a type of Amber Alert be implemented for missing sex trade workers and that more female officers patrol the Downtown Eastside.

    Vertlieb said the goal of such recommendations is to ensure that a potential serial killer is stopped as soon as possible.

    The reports also suggest that a restorative justice plan be created to improve the relationship between police and the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, which is home to vulnerable people including sex trade workers and drug addicts.


  48. Female Mountie in B.C. suspended seven days for sex in a police car with boss

    By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun February 24, 2012

    VANCOUVER -- A female Mountie will be docked seven days pay and should receive a medical discharge as punishment for having sex in a police car with her boss, a discipline board ruled Thursday.

    The three-officer RCMP misconduct panel decided not to terminate RCMP Const. Susan Gastaldo after finding her guilty last December of disgraceful conduct.

    But board chair Supt. John Reid was critical of Gastaldo's misconduct, noting she repeatedly lied about having an affair with her boss, including lying to her husband.

    "Her lies are a reflection of her inability to tell the truth," Reid said the cumulative lies and deceit reveal a fundamental character flaw.

    The chair said Gastaldo has lost all credibility and should receive a medical discharge from the force by the commanding officer.

    A medical discharge would allow Gastaldo, a 14-year veteran of the force, to leave the RCMP with pension and other benefits.

    The panel also decided that Gastaldo must continue psychological counselling.

    Gastaldo's lawyer, Larry McGonigal, said outside court that his client will appeal the decision to the national head of the RCMP, Commissioner Bob Paulson.

    He said the discipline board made errors of fact and law by excluding expert medical evidence and ruling this week that there was no reasonable apprehension of bias against Gastaldo, 41.

    A day earlier, McGonigal argued that it would be unfair to terminate his client, who would lose roughly $4 million in future salary and benefits at this point in her career.

    Her boss, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson, who initiated the sexual relationship, received a penalty earlier this month of being docked 10 days pay, McGonigal pointed out.

    "Okay, we'll give him a $4,000 fine and she can have a $4-million fine," the lawyer said. "Those would be very inconsistent results."

    He also said termination would discourage people within the RCMP from coming forward with sexual harassment complaints, which is the opposite of what new RCMP Commissioner Paulson wants to happen.

    McGonigal said Gastaldo was in an awkward position and initially refused her boss's advances three times, but finally gave in.

    When the relationship began in May 2009, Gastaldo was suffering from emotional health problems and had been on leave from work.

    Pearson was asked to try to get Gastaldo back to work, but instead began a sexual relationship with her as she returned to work part-time.

    The misconduct hearing began last September and heard allegations from Gastaldo that she was coerced into having an affair with Pearson, who was in charge of Special O, which conducts covert surveillance on targets of criminal investigations.

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    The board rejected Gastaldo's claims, which included an allegation of rape, and found the affair was consensual.

    The cases of Pearson and Gastaldo were severed last December after Pearson admitted his wrongdoing.

    Pearson was accused of misusing police equipment — a police vehicle and a BlackBerry — to facilitate the on-the-job affair.

    When Pearson was confronted about the affair by his commanding officer, he lied and said he and Gastaldo were just friends.

    The board chair said earlier that the adjudicators would have demoted Pearson to corporal if the more serious allegation of lying to a superior had been brought before the panel.

    The affair was discovered in August 2009 by Gastaldo's husband, Chris Williams, a former Mountie. He found "sexting" messages on his wife's RCMP BlackBerry.

    The board determined the affair was consensual because of evidence that included 120 phone calls and 160 emails between the two officers from May until August 2009.

    Gastaldo, now on stress leave, has filed a civil lawsuit, alleging that the RCMP offered to drop the discipline proceeding if she dropped her lawsuit.

    The lawsuit is being handled by Walter Kosteckyj, a former RCMP officer and Vancouver lawyer who handled the civil lawsuit filed by the mother of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being repeatedly Tasered and restrained by four Mounties at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

    The federal Department of Justice, representing the RCMP, reached an out-of-court settlement with Dziekanski's mother.

    The commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C., Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens, issued a statement Thursday, saying he was reviewing the board’s decision.

    “Today the Board sanctioned Const. Gastaldo to a forfeiture of seven days pay, a reprimand and recommended continued counselling. They also recommended that I consider a medical discharge for Const. Gastaldo as defined by the RCMP Act and Regulations,” he said.

    “My responsibility as commanding officer is to review the board’s written decision, and to consider what additional steps may be appropriate in this case.”


  50. Police humiliated prostitute, says victim's sister

    The Canadian Press February 27, 2012

    Police missed a "precious moment" to gain the trust of a half-naked and badly beaten sex-trade worker who walked into their Vancouver-area office, choosing instead to ridicule the woman whose remains were later found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, the woman's sister told an inquiry Monday.

    Sarah de Vries was turned back out on to the street to hitchhike to her Downtown Eastside home after the attack that prompted her to seek help from the police, her sister, author Maggie de Vries, told the inquiry into police handling of the Pickton case.

    De Vries said the undated incident was recorded in Sarah's journal sometime before she vanished in 1998 and became one of the 20 women on the list of charges dropped against Pickton.

    'They humiliated her, they sent her back out to experience more violence.'
    —Maggie de Vries, sister of a woman Robert Pickton was charged with murdering
    Maggie de Vries has read her younger sister's journals and wrote a book about her sister, but she kept Sarah's traumatic encounter — first with a "bad date" and then with police — to herself until now.

    De Vries did not specify what police did to ridicule her sister.

    She told the inquiry Sarah described being picked up by a customer in the Downtown Eastside, being taken to a remote location east of Vancouver in Port Moody and then being badly beaten.

    Sarah made it to a police station, de Vries said, but officers there turned her out without even offering the half-naked woman a blanket.

    "It was that moment when she was in dire distress, [it] was the one opportunity perhaps in her whole life that police had to respond in a helpful manner to her," she told Commissioner Wally Oppal.

    Further victimized
    Maggie said police could have demonstrated to her they were there to help, but she was further victimized.

    "Instead, they humiliated her, they sent her back out to experience more violence and they sent a very clear message to her that this wasn't a good idea."

    She said the officers badly misused the precious moment, cementing the distrust those in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside had against police.

    "You were better off to go straight to the highway and stick out your thumb," Maggie said of her sister's journal entry.

    The inquiry has heard other sex-trade workers in the area where women were disappearing had information about Pickton, but didn't share it with police.

    "I think that had the police taken advantage of all of those moments and built that trust in those relationships, that information might have been more forthcoming," Maggie said.

    "That could have led to Robert Pickton being arrested earlier and that could mean that there'd be women still living and breathing in the world today who are now dead."

    Maggie's testimony comes on the same day RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say they caught a suspected serial sex offender working the Downtown Eastside. Police went out of their way to indicate they were not letting history repeat itself by not taking attacks on sex-trade workers in the area seriously.

    Twelve charges involving four women have been laid against the man.

    First panel presentation

    Maggie's information was part of a panel presentation to the commission, along with sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton and Sarah's friend Wayne Leng, who later started a web page about the missing women from the area.

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    Hamilton, a transsexual who started out in Vancouver's sex trade in the 1970s, said the work became much more dangerous when police pressured the women to move to the industrial areas of the city.

    Sex-trade workers were being fined $2,000 just for standing on the street when the City of Vancouver passed a street-activity bylaw, she said.

    Hamilton, who was issued the fine, said that was a lot of money to make up when oral sex was running about $60 and "full service" ranged up to $150.

    By the late 1980s and early 1990s pimps were starting to victimize women, hard drugs were prevalent and police were pushing women to work in the back alleys of the Downtown Eastside.

    "I remember saying [to police]: 'You're not going to be satisfied until we're pushed into the water,"' Hamilton said, who by that time had been working as an advocate for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

    Hamilton said the actions by police put sex-trade workers at a much greater risk to be picked up by a serial killer.

    She contradicted testimony given last week by former Vancouver police chief Terry Blythe, who said the department supported Hamilton's safe house.

    Instead she said the police targeted the place she called Grandma's House, a place for sex workers where they could get food, clothing and support.

    "If they were [supportive] they wouldn't have shut us down in the midst of a serial killer roaming the streets of the Downtown Eastside."

    Vancouver Police charged Hamilton with keeping a common bawdy house after a raid in August 2000. The charges were stayed three years later.

    "If the consequence was to put us at further risk of a serial killer, well the mission was accomplished," she told the inquiry.

    The inquiry is looking into why it took so long for police to stop the serial killer before his arrest in 2002.

    Pickton was eventually convicted of killing six women, but confessed to an undercover officer that he murdered 49 women.

    The DNA of 33 women was found on Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.


  52. Pickton caught as soon as possible, Mountie says

    The Canadian Press March 1, 2012

    Serial killer Robert Pickton was caught at the earliest chance a police task force had to nab him, said a lead investigator on the missing women case, who says hindsight is prompting critics to overlook the facts at the time.

    Retired Staff Sgt. Don Adam, who headed the Project Evenhanded task force starting in January 2001, told the Missing Women's Commission of Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday that his joint RCMP-Vancouver Police unit did "capitalize" on the first opportunity that came up.

    In February 2002, his officers accompanied a Mountie who was executing an unrelated search warrant on Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C. farm. "Now, somehow, that's become a bad thing in everyone's minds," he testified. "There was no earlier breaks, I don't believe, that we missed."

    The inquiry is examining why the serial killer was not caught sooner. Pickton was among a lengthy list of suspects drawn up by the task force, which was formed to find patterns between hundreds of potential cases of missing sex workers from the city's Downtown Eastside and examine who might be responsible.

    At the time, two other investigations had already narrowed in on the likelihood Pickton was killing women. The Vancouver Police Department led one, while another was run by the Coquitlam RCMP detachment that policed the suburban area where the man lived.

    Adam said he knew Pickton was a prime suspect for Vancouver Police, but his superiors had specifically directed him to conduct a "holistic review" that couldn't pick favourites for fear of overlooking other vital evidence. Eventually, his officers realized they had an active killer on their hands. But he cautioned the inquiry against taking a "Pickton-centric" view in looking at how the events leading to the man's arrest had unfolded.

    "I followed [my] mandate, along with Mr. Pickton — putting him in jail for life. I followed that mandate right through to the end on everyone. Which is exactly the mandate that the police forces and the government financed, and wanted me to do. "We don't get to change history here, I hope."

    The task force did know that police had checked out Pickton in both 1997 and 1999 after a sex worker was nearly stabbed to death and then when a tipster said Pickton had been seen butchering a woman's body. It also knew that DNA evidence had eliminated him in a series of serial murders in the Fraser Valley. Pickton had not, however, been recently spotted in the city's Downtown Eastside, he said.

    Asked by an inquiry lawyer whether he had been informed of the full extent of the missing women file, Adam's testimony opposed the tone of previous witnesses who felt information was not shared adequately. "It wasn't lack of communication," he said, noting that separate police probes were not the problem and that members of his team were in touch with the others. "I didn't have a proper appreciation ... as to how many ways that missing person unit was being pushed and pulled."

    And he said he underestimated the manpower it would take for such a massive investigation. The task force was both streamlining thousands of missing women cases, to determine which applied, and examining the possibility of hundreds of suspects. "Unfortunately that's all part of experience and living through it." In hindsight, the 40-year veteran said he would have managed his task force better, watching over all the different people involved more closely. "Evenhanded's lessons have not been lost. They're being used," he said. [...]


  53. Pickton inquiry lawyer quits in frustration

    The Canadian Press March 5, 2012

    An independent lawyer appointed to represent the interests of aboriginals at the inquiry into the Robert Pickton case announced her resignation Monday, condemning the hearings for failing to listen to a marginalized people who overwhelmingly made up the serial killer's victims.

    Robyn Gervais issued a brief statement announcing her withdrawal from the hearings, and said she would explain her reasons in more detail in front of commissioner Wally Oppal on Tuesday morning. Her statement cited delays in calling aboriginal witnesses, an apparent lack of panels on aboriginal issues and the focus on police witnesses. She also said she hadn't received support from the aboriginal community.

    "This inquiry is fundamentally about missing and murdered women, a disproportionate number of whom were aboriginal," said Gervais, who is Metis and previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. "As I leave, I regret that I could not find a way to bring the voices of the missing and murdered aboriginal women before the commissioner."

    Gervais attempted to address the commission earlier in the day Monday, without hinting at what she would say, but Oppal told her there wasn't time. That prompted her to walk out of the Federal Court room where the inquiry is being held. Gervais was among two independent lawyers appointed by commissioner Oppal last year in an attempt to quell controversy over funding for non-profit groups.

    Oppal had granted status to a range of advocacy groups representing sex workers, drug users, aboriginals and residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and he recommended they receive government funding to hire lawyers. The provincial government rejected the funding request, prompting nearly all of those groups to pull out. In the face of mounting public criticism last year, Oppal attempted to fashion a compromise, appointing Gervais to represent the broad interests of aboriginals and another lawyer, Jason Gratl, to advance the interests of Downtown Eastside residents. They weren't assigned to specific clients, but both lawyers were told to solicit input from the community groups that were denied funding.

    While Gratl has said he's been working with some of those groups, Gervais has told the inquiry she had received little support or input from aboriginal groups. Gervais' statement said there have not been any aboriginal witnesses. However, there have been several witnesses who are aboriginal, though they have been vastly outnumbered by police witnesses. They include relatives of some of Pickton's victims and sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton. Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit gave a presentation on the second day of hearings last October.

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    Lawyers for the commission declined to comment on Gervais' resignation Monday afternoon, saying they had yet to see her statement or her hear reasons for leaving. Gervais' status at the inquiry allowed her to make arguments to the commissioner and cross-examine witnesses, which she has done numerous times since hearings began last October. She would have also been entitled to make closing arguments at the end of the hearings, which are currently scheduled to wrap up in April. It's not clear how her resignation will affect the hearings, or whether she'll be replaced.

    Gratl declined to comment Monday about whether Gervais' departure will change his role. "Ms. Gervais' announcement has certainly given me a lot to think about," Gratl said. "I'll be considering very carefully whether I can satisfy my mandate."

    The majority of Pickton's victims were aboriginal, and the inquiry has heard that aboriginals are disproportionately overrepresented in the Downtown Eastside, where poverty and drug addiction have become the daily reality for many of its residents. The inquiry has heard evidence about how lives of abuse, including the intergenerational scars left from Canada's notorious Indian residential schools, left Pickton's victims to self-medicate using drugs, and then turn to sex work to support their habits.

    The hearings opened with several weeks of academic experts discussing life in the Downtown Eastside, but have primarily focused on evidence from police.

    The hearings are examining why police failed to catch Pickton as he murdered sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Oppal is expected to issue a report by June 30 that will detail exactly what went wrong and make recommendations for the future. Pickton was arrested in 2002, and the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm in Port Coquitlam. He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, but once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  55. Oppal defends Pickton probe after inquiry lawyer quits

    CBC News March 6, 2012

    The commissioner overseeing the inquiry into the Robert Pickton serial killer case is defending the hearings against allegations they are ignoring the voices of First Nations.

    Lawyer Robyn Gervais, who was appointed to represent the interests of aboriginals at the hearings, has resigned after complaining the focus has almost entirely been on police and not the First Nations women Pickton targeted.

    "Given that these hearings are largely about missing and murdered aboriginal, I didn't think I'd have to fight to have their voices heard," she said.

    "I think I should have been provided those four days without any question."

    Gervais says she has faced resistance in calling First Nations witnesses, making it impossible to investigate whether systemic bias played a part in the failure of police to catch Pickton.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal says he's disappointed Gervais has decided to resign, and that the only way to have a voice at the inquiry is to be there.

    "You always had my support, I just want you to know, and you still have my support," he said.

    "I want the aboriginal community to come here and I'll say it one more time — it doesn't do anyone any good, particularly aboriginal interests, to walk away from an inquiry."

    Oppal acknowledges that he, too, is concerned about two dozen lawyers representing police departments and individual officers, but says people and agencies that have been criticized deserve a chance to defend themselves.

    Outside the hearing, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Stewart Philip told reporters the hearing has become a travesty where police officers reminisce about the good old days.

    Gervais was among two lawyers appointed last year to represent the interests of First Nations and Downtown Eastside residents, after the provincial government refused to fund lawyers for various non-profit advocacy groups.


  56. Rushed inquiry, biased toward police, set to fail Pickton victims

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post March 11, 2012

    When did the fight leave Wally Oppal? The question dogs his Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, called to examine why police and B.C.’s criminal justice branch failed to stop serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton before he claimed more victims.

    Having run a gauntlet of accusation and abuse since accepting the challenge in 2010, when the inquiry was announced, the commissioner seems ready to pack things up. It’s a shame, because this is the only opportunity for a complete, exhaustive exhumation of the Pickton files, and plenty of digging is still required. Mr. Oppal continues to insist he’ll end hearings by April 30 and meet a reporting deadline imposed on him by the B.C. government for the end of June.

    The inquiry’s hearing process has thus been compromised, fast-tracked. Witnesses are appearing in clusters. Their recollections are rushed, made incomplete. On Monday, a panel of four former Vancouver Police Department officers appears before Mr. Oppal; these are crucial witnesses, men and women who made decisions about the VPD’s botched missing women investigation. Mr. Oppal has been hearing about them since hearings began in October. If last week’s panel performance by VPD officers is an indication, the witnesses will spend precious time comparing their backgrounds and their expertise, and a few more on their involvement in an investigation that went sideways.

    One of this week’s panel witnesses, VPD Inspector Fred Biddlecombe was responsible for solving major crimes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside when Pickton was plucking sex trade workers from the same neighbourhood, taking them to his property in suburban Port Coquitlam, and killing them. The inquiry has heard from previous witnesses that Mr. Biddlecombe became aggressively hostile at the theory a serial killer was at work. In 1998, he kiboshed a suggestion to warn the public that a serial killer might be responsible for Vancouver’s missing women and he also failed to throw adequate resources at the VPD investigation, Mr. Oppal has heard.

    His inquiry is repeating past mistakes, by failing to use all the tools at its disposal and failing to proceed with diligence, and rushing towards a conclusion instead.

    The process was originally conceived to allow lawyers the opportunity to examine and cross-examine all witnesses, one by one. That’s how it went, until government-appointed commission counsel determined to make the hearings “less adversarial” and to hurry things along with witnesses bunched into groups. Mr. Oppal authorized the sudden process shift. Under the new panel arrangement, says Cameron Ward, lawyer for the families of 25 missing and murdered women, police witnesses are less likely to criticize the performance of fellow officers. And lawyers can’t interrogate them properly.

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    RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford claims to have witnessed insensitive, sexually-charged behaviour among colleagues working the Pickton case. Could she testify with confidence, sitting between two or three other officers? Cpl. Galliford was expected to testify in January; there’s now some doubt whether she’ll be called at all.

    Mr. Ward has alleged the inquiry may be enabling a police coverup. Another inquiry lawyer declared that proceedings have “gone off the rails.” And last week, the lawyer representing aboriginal interests at the inquiry withdrew. Robyn Gervais had accomplished very little, for a number of reasons: Her own reluctance to enter the fray; lack of support from First Nations groups; a mandate from the province to focus the inquiry on police and government decisions, miscues and failure.

    To his credit, Mr. Oppal made efforts to keep aboriginal and women’s groups engaged in the process. He went to bat for them last summer, asking the province to provide funding groups and individuals with formal standing. Without money to hire lawyers, the groups could not fully participate; everyone outside of government seemed to acknowledge that.

    In July, Mr. Oppal left a voice message with the province’s then-Attorney General, Barry Penner, reminding him that police groups and individuals with standing at the inquiry all had funding, either from the public purse directly, or from their departments and unions.

    “So anyway, I just wanted you to know that, it’s how important this all is,” Mr. Oppal said in his recorded message, which he later released to the public. “And the government is now being seen as funding the people who [have] allegedly done everything wrong and ignored the women, ignored the victims … [it] will not go and fund the victims, and not fund the women, the poor aboriginal women. That’s what the government is seen as. I just want you to know that.”

    The government ignored him; Mr. Oppal lost that battle but carried on. Now he requires more time, more witnesses, all of the facts, not some. The public needs Mr. Oppal to tell the province to back off, or face another fight. He could do that. He has made it clear he won’t.


  58. 2 lawyers to represent First Nations at missing women inquiry

    The Canadian Press March 21, 2012

    Two lawyers have now been hired to replace the one who quit the missing women inquiry in frustration two weeks ago.

    Lawyers Suzette Narbonne and Elizabeth Hunt will represent First Nations interests at the inquiry looking into how serial killer Robert Pickton was allowed to hunt women for so long in Vancouver.

    Robyn Gervais quit in protest saying the inquiry was focused too much on police and not enough on aboriginal women, who made up the majority of Pickton's victims.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal put the inquiry on hold for three weeks while a replacement for Gervais was sought, saying the voices of aboriginals needed to be heard during the inquiry.

    Hunt, who's a member of the Kwakiutl First Nation on northern Vancouver Island, has experience with treaty negotiations, residential school claims and corporate and commercial law.

    Narbonne started her career with Legal Aid Manitoba in the Pas, and now practises criminal law and human rights issues in Gibsons, B.C.


  59. RCMP face sexual harassment class-action suit

    CBC News March 27, 2012

    A class-action lawsuit for sexual harassment will be filed against the RCMP on Tuesday, according to lawyers representing a former female officer living in British Columbia.

    The statement of claim names only one officer from B.C., but CBC News has learned the legal team expects the lawsuit will eventually include women from across Canada.

    The constable to be named in the lawsuit alleges she endured years of sexual advances and comments from male supervisors, including finding sex toys that had been put in her desk and being told to keep her legs closed after she announced her first pregnancy.

    Her lawyers say they have more than 150 women ready to join the suit with their own stories of harassment and gender-based discrimination in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But first the legal team, based in Vancouver and Thunder Bay, Ont., say they have to get a judge to certify it as a class action, a process that can take up to two years.

    The lawyers say they started getting calls from female RCMP officers after CBC News published allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the force.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford was the first to come forward with complaints of continual sexual harassment during her career in the RCMP, but she is not part of the lawsuit.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has promised to investigate the allegations.


  60. RCMP face sexual harassment class-action suit

    CBC News March 27, 2012

    Lawyers representing a former Nanaimo, B.C., RCMP officer have filed a class-action lawsuit for alleged sexual harassment against the RCMP.

    In the statement of claim filed on Tuesday morning, Janet Merlo alleges she endured 20 years of sexual harassment, sexual pranks, lewd comments and double standards from male supervisors.

    Among the allegations are that sex toys were placed in her desk and she was yelled at to keep her legs closed after she announced her first pregnancy.

    "I have heard some horror stories from women who have been pushed almost to the brink of suicide, yet had nowhere to turn," Merlo told CBC News.

    "Where do they turn? To the police, and the police investigate themselves and they come back and they say, 'No, never happened. Sorry, you have no witnesses.'"

    "It's too late for me," Merlo added in a statement issued by her lawyer on Tuesday. "But I hope that this lawsuit will bring about some positive change for women who are still with the RCMP and women who join in the future."

    The lawsuit names only Merlo as the plaintiff, but the legal team which put together the lawsuit has told CBC News up to 150 women are ready to join the suit with their own stories of harassment and gender-based discrimination in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    The lawsuit was filed by the law firms of Klein Lyons of Vancouver and Watkins Law of Thunder Bay, Ont., which will now try to get a judge to certify it as a class action, a process that can take up to two years.

    The lawyers say they started getting calls from female RCMP officers after CBC News published allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the force.

    "For many of these women the consequences of the bullying, harassment and discrimination have been devastating, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, attempted suicides, depression, broken relationships, failed marriages," said counsel Sandy Zaitzeff of Watkins Law.

    "This is caused by the systemic paramilitary culture of the RCMP and resultant abuse of authority literally across Canada from detachment to detachment."

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford was the first to come forward with complaints of continual sexual harassment during her career in the RCMP, but she is not part of the lawsuit.

    The RCMP issued a statement on Tuesday saying they were aware of the claim and would be reviewing it.

    "As with any large organization, conflict situations can arise, including harassment. The RCMP is committed in providing to all its employees a work environment free from harassment, discrimination and any resulting conflict, where all employees are treated with respect and dignity," said the statement issued by Sgt. Greg Cox.

    Last year RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson promised to investigate the allegations.

    read the Statement of Claim in this lawsuit at:


  61. Pickton inquiry will not get more time

    The Canadian Press March 29, 2012

    The public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case won't receive any additional time to conduct its work, says B.C.’s attorney general, 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.

    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.


  62. Pickton Inquiry critics urged to help most vulnerable

    The Canadian Press April 2, 2012

    The former judge overseeing the public inquiry into the investigation of Robert Pickton made an impassioned plea Monday for his critics to help him craft his eventual recommendations, arguing politics must be set aside to find ways to save vulnerable sex workers from the same fate as the serial killer's victims.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal's inquiry has been overshadowed by criticism from aboriginal organizations and other advocacy groups, which were denied funding to participate and have complained the inquiry has been too focused on police. The latest objections came from one of the commission's own lawyers, whose resignation last month prompted Oppal to put the hearings on hold for three weeks.

    As the inquiry resumed from its hiatus Monday, with more than two dozen witnesses still to testify and less than two months left to hear them, Oppal called on his critics to come forward with their own suggestions to reform a system that failed the women who died on Pickton's farm.

    "Every person that has spoken up and spoken out comes here with the same goal: to make a positive change," Oppal said.

    "We cannot let the Willie Picktons of the world triumph because we get caught up on how things should be and aren't. We can't let politics, bureaucracy, anger or frustration with the process or any other issues be our driving force."

    Oppal appointed lawyer Robyn Gervais to represent aboriginal interests after the provincial government denied legal funding to a number of participant groups. Gervais quit last month, though another lawyer who was appointed to advance the views of sex workers and residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside still remains at the hearings.

    As she resigned, Gervais told Oppal the inquiry was concentrating too heavily on the police and not the poor, drug-addicted aboriginal women who made up many of Pickton's victims.

    But she was far from the first to raise concerns about the hearings. Most advocacy groups withdrew from the process when they were denied legal funding, and the aboriginal community has largely boycotted the process.

    Families of Pickton's victims and other critics have complained the inquiry's terms of reference are too narrow, ignoring the impact of poverty, racism and prostitution laws. They've also objected to the decision to appoint Oppal, who was attorney general during Pickton's trial, in the first place.

    Oppal said he understands why some feel the inquiry's scope should extend beyond the police, but he said that's no reason to sit out of a process that nevertheless has an opportunity to make change.

    "The door is always open to any group or person that would like to reconsider their decisions."

    "I am asking you to contribute to this process in whatever way you feel is of value. If that is as a critic, we welcome your feedback. If it is to attend the hearings or the public forums, tell us your story. If it is to send an email to tell me what you believe needs to be done to help our most vulnerable people, that is very much needed."

    Oppal's terms of reference include a period between 1997, when Pickton was accused of attempting to kill a sex worker from Vancouver, and his arrest in February 2002. He is examining why the Vancouver police and the RCMP in nearby Port Coquitlam, where Pickton's farm was located, failed to catch him, and why Crown counsel declined to prosecute Pickton for the 1997 attack.

    continued in next comment...

  63. continued from previous comment:

    Oppal has insisted those terms preclude him from examining larger social issues such as the impact of colonization on aboriginal people, who disproportionately accounted for Pickton's victims.

    The inquiry was initially scheduled to wrap up formal hearings at the end of April, but they have now been extended into May. Oppal's final report is due June 30.

    The remaining witnesses include police officers, Crown prosecutors involved in staying charges of attempted murder in the 1990s, and the victim in the 1997 case.

    On Monday, victim services workers and two officers from the Vancouver Police Department's native liaison unit testified about the challenges they faced, particularly when it came to reporting the disappearances of sex workers.

    They repeated earlier concerns that a civilian worker in the missing person's unit named Sandy Cameron was reluctant to take missing person reports, instead telling family members and others that the women were transient and weren't actually missing.

    Freda Ens, a victim services worker who was the director of the Vancouver police department's Native Liaison Society, recalled what happened when she attempted to report Mary Lidguerre missing in the mid-1990s.

    Lidguerre disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in 1995 and her remains were found two years later in North Vancouver. Lidguerre wasn't connected to the Pickton farm, but police have said she may have been the victim of yet another serial killer who targeted sex workers.

    But when Ens attempted to report Lidguerre missing, Cameron refused to take the report, she recalled.

    "I was told, 'She'll show up at the Sunrise [Hotel] behind a pint of beer, they always do,"' Ens testified.

    "And Jack [Lidguerre's brother] was told the same thing."

    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found in his farm. He once boasted to an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49 women.


  64. Police reluctant to probe native disappearances

    The Canadian Press April 3, 2012

    The Vancouver police department was reluctant to investigate missing-person cases involving drug-addicted aboriginal women in the 1990s when serial killer Robert Pickton's victims were disappearing, a victim support worker told a public inquiry Tuesday.

    Morris Bates worked for the Vancouver Police and Native Liaison Society, an organization that was connected to the force and had an office in the department's detachment in the city's Downtown Eastside.

    Bates and his boss, society director Freda Ens, told the inquiry about the challenges they faced when they attempted to help families file missing-person reports for drug-addicted women, many aboriginal, from the blighted community.

    Bates recalled one case in particular involving Elsie Sebastian, who was last seen in 1992. Sebastian's family attempted to report her missing in 1993, 1994 and 1999, but were unable to actually file a formal report until they tried yet again in 2001.

    Her daughter, Donalee Sebastian, testified last fall that the family faced resistance from police officials, who were quick to conclude she wasn't actually missing. She recalled a conversation with Bates in 1999 in which Bates told her she wouldn't have much luck convincing the Vancouver police to launch a full investigation into her mother's disappearance.

    "Do you recall suggesting to her that her mother's race, being aboriginal, would affect the VPD's willingness to look for her?" asked Neil Chantler, a lawyer representing the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, including Sebastian.

    "I probably would have said that," replied Bates.

    "And you believed that to be true at the time?" asked Chantler.

    "Yes," said Bates.

    "And what about the fact that she was drug-addicted and that would affect the VPD's willingness to look for her? Is that something you recall saying to Donalee Sebastian?" asked Chantler.

    "Yes," replied Bates.

    Sebastian was never connected to the Pickton farm, but she was included in the Vancouver Police Department's investigation into missing sex workers. Her disappearance remains unsolved.

    The inquiry has heard the Sebastian family's first contact with police was in 1993, when her mother filed a missing person report. The file was closed later that year.

    Sebastian's brother tried again in 1994. When a civilian clerk at the missing person unit refused to take the report, he and Ann Livingston, an advocate for Downtown Eastside drug users, ended up at the Vancouver Police and Native Liaison Society. He was later told that Sebastian had been seen at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside, and the file was closed.

    Sebastian's daughter, Donalee, attempted to contact the Vancouver police again in 1999 when she had a child and wanted to track down her mother to tell her the news. That's when she spoke with Bates.

    continued in next comment...

  65. continued from previous comment:

    The inquiry has heard accusations that the Vancouver Police Department was indifferent to reports of missing women from the Downtown Eastside because they involved drug-addicted sex workers, including many aboriginals.

    Many of those accusations involve a civilian clerk in the missing persons unit named Sandy Cameron, who families have accused of ignoring their attempts to report the women missing and of being racist and belligerent.

    The Vancouver police has admitted it failed to do enough to investigate reports of missing sex workers and evidence that Pickton was responsible, but the force has denied racism or bias towards sex workers played any part in its failures. It has suggested Cameron's attitude towards the missing women did not reflect the force as a whole.

    The Vancouver Police and Native Liaison Society's primarily role was to perform outreach with the aboriginal community and refer them to the police force or social service agencies, but they would also encounter members of the public attempting to report crimes directly.

    In some instances, those reports would be handled by two police constables that worked out of the native liaison office, while in others they would be referred directly to other units within the department.

    Bates said he would often help people look for missing family members, particularly in cases where the missing-person unit refused to take a report, but he said that was seen as a "last resort," because no one in the native liaison office had any experience or training in missing-person investigations.

    "You would agree with me that your office and the services of your officer weren't in any way meant to replace the missing-person unit," Chantler said.

    "No way," replied Bates. "I could find anybody you want, but it wasn't my job."

    The inquiry is examining why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to stop Pickton as he murdered sex workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Vancouver police were investigating reports of missing sex workers, while the RCMP was looking at Pickton in nearby Port Coquitlam.

    Pickton was finally arrested in 2002, when RCMP officers executed an unrelated warrant for illegal firearms.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were later found on his farm, though he was only convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    He once told an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49 women.


  66. Missing women inquiry beset by sexism: Ex-staff

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post April 3, 2012

    VANCOUVER — Employees of a high-profile public inquiry examining how police investigated cases of missing and murdered sex-trade workers say they encountered a “highly sexualized” workplace environment where male staff members made offensive comments about women and their bodies.

    Five former commission staff members described to the National Post episodes of harassment, intimidation and conflict occurring behind closed doors at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which was called by the B.C. government in 2010.

    According to one former inquiry employee, a senior commission staff member made reference to a local sex-trade worker as “the fat hooker.” The same female prostitute had offered to assist the inquiry with its mandate, it is alleged. Similar remarks were made about the woman on other occasions, the source said.

    A former employee alleges that another male staff member made degrading remarks about a female colleague’s body. “He said, ‘You should spend less time working behind your desk, and a lot more time working on your ass,’” the former employee recalled.

    The workplace allegations may be the most serious trouble yet for a commission already beset with controversy.

    The missing women inquiry has been criticized by aboriginal groups and individuals who say they have been excluded from the process. Robyn Gervais, a lawyer contracted by the commission to represent aboriginal interests, resigned in early March, citing numerous obstacles put in front of her.

    “The delay in calling aboriginal witnesses, the failure to provide adequate hearing time, the ongoing lack of support from the aboriginal community, and the disproportionate focus on police evidence have led me to conclude that aboriginal interests have not and will not be adequately represented in these proceedings,” she told the commission. “As I leave this inquiry, I regret that I could not find a way to bring the voices of the missing and murdered aboriginal women into this room.”

    Two media relations specialists hired by the commission terminated their contracts days after Ms. Gervais resigned; they did not discuss in public their reasons for leaving. Other contracted employees have quit or have not had their contracts renewed.

    Lawyers representing local community interests and the families of missing women have also raised concerns about the inquiry process. Cameron Ward, a lawyer for the families, has alleged that police have withheld relevant documents from the inquiry, and that the commission itself may be “enabling” a police cover-up.

    But concerns about its workplace environment are new. In an interview with the National Post, senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb said no one on his staff has ever raised with him issues about inappropriate behaviour in their office. Nor has any former or present staff member made a formal complaint, as far as he is aware.

    “I’m astounded to hear that,” said Mr. Vertlieb, responding to the allegations of harassment and sexist language. “I have zero tolerance for that. And anybody who knows me would know that. We’ve got a staff primarily of women, not sort of by design, but it seemed the way things go.”

    Some of the comments attributed to members of the commission staff are serious enough to warrant dismissal, were they indeed made, he said. None of the allegations regarding the inquiry workplace environment and inappropriate conduct has been proven.

    Mr. Vertlieb is a veteran Vancouver trial lawyer and vice-president of the Law Society of British Columbia; he will serve as president next year. He is the most senior inquiry staff member working under commissioner Wally Oppal, a former provincial Cabinet minister and appeal court judge, whom the provincial government appointed to lead the inquiry.

    continued in next comment...

  67. continued from previous comment:

    Mr. Oppal is responsible for choosing commission staff members, all of whom are paid by the province. Commission staff have included lawyers, articling students and administrative workers. On Mr. Vertlieb’s recommendation, Mr. Oppal hired John Boddie, a former Vancouver Police Department sergeant, to serve as the commission’s executive director of operations and planning.

    One person who left the commission said the workplace felt “like an old boy’s club. If a person doesn’t toe the line, they are told they’ll be given the crap work. They have to toe the line. This has nothing to do with Wally [Oppal]. He’s a fantastic person.”

    Mr. Vertlieb was perplexed by the comment about an “old boy’s club.” The comment “makes no sense,” he said, “because there’s not that many old boys… There’s me, I’m old. Wally’s old. John Boddie is [about] 60. There’s the three of us and that’s it.”

    All of the former employees who spoke to the National Post requested that their names not be published, citing concern for their future employment prospects. “I’ve been made aware that my speaking [out] could end my career,” said one.

    The allegations are especially troubling given the inquiry’s mandate, which is limited to events in a five-year period beginning in 1997. The B.C. government formed the inquiry in response to widespread concerns that the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP failed to take dozens of missing women cases seriously, and were lackadaisical in their investigation of Robert Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer charged in 2002 with murdering 26 women missing from Vancouver.

    Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. The remaining 20 murder charges were later stayed. A preponderance of Pickton’s victims were involved in the sex trade and had worked in Vancouver’s drug-infested Downtown Eastside. Many of them were aboriginal.

    A lawyer contracted to assist the commission says the inquiry “is replicating conditions that allowed women to go missing for so long: Lack of resources, dismissive attitudes, a failure to listen to the community. The commission has become a manifestation of the forces it was intended to study…. It’s like time travel. [There is] sexism, dismissiveness about discrimination. In the context, it’s completely abhorrent.”

    Another lawyer who worked for the commission agrees, adding that aboriginal representation at the inquiry amounts to “tokenism. It’s nothing else but that. Everything that Robyn Gervais said was true,” the lawyer added. “I was silenced. It was the most degrading, humiliating, devastating, disgusting thing. It was like being treated like a survival sex-trade worker.”

    Mr. Vertlieb acknowledged that commission employees have faced difficult challenges. “Our staff are tired,” he said. “They’ve worked incredibly hard. Some of us have been on [the inquiry] a year and a half, and we’re really, really tired. But I don’t think anybody’s been dismissive.” Mr. Oppal, he added, “will be floored when he hears this… You could knock me over with a feather.”

    Public hearings began in October and are scheduled to end this month.


  68. Sexual harassment alleged at Missing Women Inquiry workplace

    CBC News April 4, 2012

    The head of B.C.'s Missing Women Inquiry says he is appalled by allegations that male staff have created a highly sexualized work environment at the commission workplace.

    "I will be making a statement this morning at 9:15. I am appalled," Commissioner Wally Oppal said in a message sent to CBC News.

    According to unconfirmed reports published in the National Post on Wednesday morning, five former commission staff are alleging they encountered harassment, intimidation and conflict in the commission workplace.

    The report also says the ex-employees allege that a senior commission staffer repeatedly used derogatory language to describe a sex trade worker participating in the inquiry.

    The newspaper does not name any of the former or current employees alleged to be involved in the incidents.

    The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was set up by the B.C. government to investigate the police mishandling of the Robert Pickton investigation.


    [see Wally Oppal's statement in next comment]

  69. Response from Commissioner Wally Oppal To Allegations In The National Post - April 4, 2012

    I am outraged by these anonymous allegations and I take them very seriously. I was first informed about these allegations last Friday morning by Senior Counsel Art Vertlieb, after he was interviewed by Brian Hutchinson of the National Post. Mr. Vertlieb was shocked by these accusations and came to me right after the interview was over. I immediately took the steps to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations.

    The behaviour described in the allegations in the article goes against everything I stand for as a human being and as the Commissioner of this Inquiry. Anyone who knows me understands that I am someone who bases my personal and professional relationships on respect. Neither I, nor senior counsel had any knowledge of this kind of behaviour at the Commission. It would not be tolerated.

    There have been no formal complaints made and no former employees have come forward with allegations. Had anyone come to me or to senior counsel, we would have immediately launched an investigation and the person responsible would have been dealt with accordingly. Upon learning of these allegations, we engaged the services of an experienced independent investigator (Delayne Sartison, Q.C.) to look into the allegations.

    There is no tolerance for the kind of behaviour that is described in the article. No one should ever be made to feel disrespected, demeaned, or harassed in the workplace or in their personal lives. That is unacceptable behaviour.

    The Commission staff is made up of professionals who are motivated to make positive change in the world. They work tirelessly and with great commitment to the Commission’s mandate. I spend a great deal of time in the Commission office. In fact, I am in there almost daily. It has always been my personal style to walk around the office and speak one-on-one with people. I do that on a regular basis and no one – not one person – has ever brought up any of the issues outlined in this article to me. There has never been any indication of issues of this nature.

    I have always recognized the stressful nature of this work. Since we began, we have made what we believe are strong efforts to provide support to our staff, including offering unrestricted and confidential access to the services of a psychologist in case they have issues they wanted to discuss.

    I have every respect for the people that work with this Commission – those that are on staff, those that have worked with us in the past and for everyone who participates in this challenging process on a daily basis. That is what makes these allegations so devastating. These allegations do not reflect who I believe we are as a Commission or as people.

    Like every office, we have had budget issues, we have had personality conflicts, we have had contracts that expired or were not renewed. I have felt that throughout all of the hard work, the challenges, the public criticism and the pressures that we always have had respect for one another. Not once has anyone come to me with a complaint about the kind of behaviour that is outlined in this article. I am truly saddened by this.

    We will not let these allegations shift our focus over the coming days and weeks from what we are here to achieve – to gather relevant information so that a valuable report can be produced that will have effective recommendations. We all need to remember our objective here – we are here to save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

    I realize that you will have many questions about this article. I am not able to answer those questions until we have the report from the independent investigation that has been started.

    Thank you.


  70. Pickton Inquiry executive director placed on paid leave after sexism allegations

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post April 5, 2012

    VANCOUVER — Stunned by allegations of workplace harassment and concerns about its handling of expert witnesses, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has placed on paid leave its executive director of operations and planning, and has retained a second outside lawyer to help it sort out internal “staff-related issues.”

    The commission announced Thursday that it has hired Vancouver lawyer Peter Gall, an administrative law and labour relations specialist, to advise on how it should proceed with an investigation into claims of harassment, intimidation and conflict within the inquiry office itself.

    Mr. Gall confirmed in an interview that inquiry executive director John Boddie, a former Vancouver Police Department sergeant, was placed on paid leave earlier this week. “It was decided that it was probably better, under the circumstances, that he wasn’t physically at work,” said Mr. Gall. “He’s got to have a chance to consider it all.”

    Mr. Gall said he was retained Wednesday to “help the inquiry on this matter — the [harassment] allegations and any other issues that may come up with staff and the workings of the commission.” That includes work performed for the commission by Mr. Boddie.

    The National Post reported Thursday that Mr. Boddie’s role exceeds common administrative duties. In fact, the former VPD officer has interviewed police witnesses prior to their testimonies at the inquiry, and he assisted a key expert witness — Peel Regional Police deputy chief Jennifer Evans — complete an “independent” report about police for the commission.

    The inquiry was called to examine how VPD and RCMP conducted investigations into cases of missing women and serial killer Robert Pickton. Deputy Chief Evans’ report was expected to give the commission an objective, arm’s-length view of the police investigations.

    The National Post reported that on two occasions in November, Mr. Boddie flew to Ontario and assisted Deputy Chief Evans while she finished her report. The revelation raised concerns with inquiry lawyers and with legal experts. UBC professor Emma Cunliffe said Mr. Boddie’s dealings with key police witnesses creates the appearance of “an apprehension of bias of independence,” and could undermine the missing women inquiry, which is already beset with controversy.

    Allegations of a “highly sexualized” commission workplace environment were described Wednesday in the National Post. Five former inquiry employees described various problems behind the commission office’s closed doors. It is alleged that male employees have used offensive language and have been dismissive of women.

    ... [details previously reported above]

    On two occasions Wednesday, Mr. Oppal went outside his hearing room to tell reporters that he was “appalled” to learn of the allegations reported in the National Post. “I’m offended by any of the conduct that’s alleged to have taken place,” he said. He said no one had ever come to him with such concerns or complaints.

    He also announced he had hired Delayne Sartison, a Vancouver lawyer, to conduct “an inquiry, an investigation” into the allegations. Ms. Sartison, whose practice covers management-side employment, labour and human rights law, could not be reached for comment. All media inquiries Thursday were directed to Mr. Gall.

    Mr. Gall said he was retained by the commission later on Wednesday. He is not conducting the harassment investigation assigned to Ms. Sartison, but is “liaising” with her. Independent, outside counsel is necessary to handle the commission’s workplace issues, he said. A measure of “separation” is required.


  71. Pickton inquiry official on leave after harassment claim

    The Canadian Press April 5, 2012

    The executive director of the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case has gone on leave as allegations of sexual harassment hang over hearings into why police failed to catch a serial killer.

    John Boddie left the inquiry this week and his name has been taken off the commission's website.

    Wally Oppal has named lawyer Delayne Sartison to look into anonymous allegations contained in a National Post story that some staff in the commission's office made derogatory comments about other staff and sex workers.

    Oppal announced the appointment of yet another lawyer, Peter Gall, on Thursday. Gall will liaise with Sartison and advise the commission on how the investigation should proceed.

    The commission referred questions about Boddie's status to Gall, who confirmed Boddie is on leave but declined to explain why.

    "He is on leave right now, and I don't think I should say anything more," Gall said in an interview.

    Boddie was a member of the Vancouver Police Department for 16 years until he left the force as a sergeant in 1988. His most recent work was as a consultant for the security industry.

    He could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

    The National Post published a story on Wednesday that quoted several anonymous sources, who told the newspaper they witnessed sexually derogatory comments at the commission's office.

    The newspaper published another story Thursday, again based on anonymous sources, complaining that Boddie has been too involved in the hearing process.

    Oppal released a statement Thursday saying it was difficult to respond to anonymous and vague accusations.

    "I find it challenging that such serious allegations outlined in two articles are all based on anonymous sources," Oppal said in the written statement.

    "I have often said that we welcome criticism and feedback and that we strive to learn from what has been done. I believe we should be held to the highest standard. I am disappointed that the people that felt strongly enough to go to the media with their concerns are not willing to identify themselves.

    "Responding to criticisms from anonymous sources is challenging because specifics are not provided and there is little to no context surrounding the limited information put forward in these serious allegations."

    A day earlier, Oppal said he was appalled by allegations of harassment and said Sartison will have a "free hand" to investigate them.

    On Thursday, Oppal said Gall, an expert in administrative law, would be advising the commission on Sartison's investigation.

    Gall said he is not part of the investigation itself, but will be the bridge between her and the commission.

    "There have been various allegations reported in the press about staff-related issues, and the commission thought it was advisable to get some assistance in the handling of those issues," said Gall.

    "The existing commission staff has a full-time job in conducting the inquiry, and secondly just to give some separation and independence to the review of these issues."

    The inquiry is examining why Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Pickton was arrested in 2002, when RCMP officers executing an unrelated warrant for illegal firearms stumbled upon the belongings and remains of missing women.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm, though he once bragged to an undercover police officer that he murdered 49 women.


  72. Vancouver's Victorian Murders

    By John MacLachlan Gray, 9 April 2012, TheTyee.ca

    In 2000, about the same time the Vancouver police were at long last beginning to cotton on to Willie Pickton and his dirty work, I was doing research for a thriller called The Fiend In Human, set in Victorian London.

    My novel concerned a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes. A Jack the Ripper knockoff really, but with unexpected twists. For me, the use of a traditional thriller template served as a kind of rock drill into the underworld of London around 1860, and what it was like to live there.

    I didn't know where the thing was going. I didn't even know why I was so interested in the period. Certainly I wasn't conscious of a resemblance between the tale I was telling and the mysterious horror of Vancouver's missing women.

    Then at some point the penny dropped, and I came to the alarming realization that in a whole lot of ways, I was a Victorian. That so much of my inner life -- my assumptions, my habits, the way I was brought up -- was pure Victoriana.

    It started with small discoveries. For example, take the room we call the "living room": Do you know where that name came from? From the Victorian parlour. Whose nickname, in common conversation, was "dead room" -- because that's where you kept the dead person, laid out for "visitation."

    Remember, in 1860 people died all the time, of all sorts of things. If you got tonsillitis or appendicitis, you died. If you cut yourself and got a serious infection, you died. A bad cold could turn to pneumonia, and you died. In childbirth, either the child, or you, or the both of you probably died.

    Death could come at any time and without warning; your 40 year-old uncle could go to bed singing and be dead of apoplexy the next morning. Consequently, the parlour was kept immaculate and ready for visitors, with an expanse of space in the centre for the coffin and, to minimize odors, at a cooler temperature the rest of the house.

    Enter the mortician industry.

    A group of enterprising funeral directors erected a purpose-built building for keeping the dead person -- called a "funeral parlour," and billed as a place to park the body until burial. Which, according to advertisements of the day, would turn your "dead room" into a "living room."

    But you know what? Where I grew up in Nova Scotia, that front room was still the dead room -- a formal arrangement of furniture with an empty carpet in the middle. Children were banned from the living room because they would mess it up. The room was kept colder than the rest of the house. In some homes, the sofa was covered with plastic.

    We're talking six generations after immigrating from Scotland. Six generations!

    Or take the ubiquitous front lawn -- an attempt by Victorian middle-class home-owners to imitate dukes and earls, who surrounded their castles with lawns so that an approaching enemy would be in the open and easily shot. Not what people are thinking when they mow their lawn, but there it is.

    Family values? Pure Victoriana. Childhood innocence? Likewise. The "penitentiary"? Ditto. On and on and on. A few months of this and I came to the conclusion that, six generations later, much of Canada is more Victorian today than the Victorians ever were.

    It can be kind of endearing -- except when it's not.

    You see, in my Victorian thriller, the serial killer who preyed on prostitutes (who may have been a copycat) was able to elude capture because the murders, and the commonalities between them, failed to be taken seriously by the police.

    Because the victims were "fallen women".

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    Sex workers in Victorian London

    Forgive me, I know it's kind of lame to quote from one's own book, but here's a passage in which an older policeman (sometimes called Peelers back then) explains to his younger counterpart why it would, in the callously vicious logic of the Victorian, be best to take the body of a murdered prostitute and throw her into the Thames, rather than conduct an investigation:

    "And where do you propose we begin? Shall we ferret out the 20 or so gentlemen our judy may have serviced this once around the clock -- the nameless clerks, sailors, drapers, not to mention our fellow Peelers getting a bit for free? Or perhaps we should begin with her toff, whoever he may be, who may have become tired of her, for that is all it takes with that sort. And while we comb the district from Haymarket to Soho, and Soho to Leicester Square, let us send a team of inspectors to her home village, wherever that may be, to interrogate the families she has disgraced by her own ruin. Shall we mobilize the force over the slashing of a whore? You decide, Mr. Dick, and be quick about it -- for you'll see another just like that one within a fortnight, and another after that. With this class of woman, it isn't whether, but when."

    Sex workers in Victorian London were far more prevalent than in Vancouver, primarily because of the wage structure -- under which the wages of single women were kept low so as not to support a child out of wedlock and thereby encourage immorality. A bit like the Conservative objection to harm-reduction: that, without the threat of a medical death sentence, youth will be encouraged to take up drugs.

    In Victorian London, this meant that well over a third of single women participated in some form of prostitution at some point in their lives. A servant who refused the advances of a man in the house, and was dismissed without a reference, chose between prostitution and starvation. A woman with medical bills and no way to pay them chose between prostitution and the poorhouse. Some jobs for women -- sewing dresses for example -- paid so poorly that if the worker didn't sell sex on the side she would starve to death.

    Today we call such women "survival sex workers."

    The police in my tale were the Metropolitan Police -- as I say, known as "Peelers" -- a paramilitary institution modelled after the British Army, with an organizational structure and a system of oversight that would be totally familiar to any member of the Vancouver police or the RCMP. With, in all three cases, an unspoken understanding over what cases to pursue and what cases not to pursue.

    Elaine Allan, who ran the WISH drop-in centre for street sex workers from 1998 to 2001, recalled Tuesday that Tiffany Drew disappeared in the fall of 1999 and Drew's friend Ashwan was frantic the day after Tiffany vanished.

    "She was completely hysterical," Allan recalled. "She was adamant that something was wrong."

    She pointed out that Drew and Ashwan, another sex trade worker, used a "buddy system" to check in with each other after so many women had disappeared at an alarming rate.

    "It was sort of this dark force out there, it's like there was this monster out there," Allan recalled of the missing women -- she knew 20 of them, including five of the six that serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of killing.

    The Vancouver Police Department has admitted it failed to do enough to investigate reports of missing sex workers and evidence that Pickton was responsible, but the force has denied racism or bias towards sex workers played any part in its failures.

    I wonder how the police would have reacted if Tiffany were from Kerrisdale.

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    Which brings us to another problem identified with transplanted immigrant cultures: they tend not to follow the progress achieved by the mother country in their absence; they remain frozen in time.

    A friend of Danish ancestry told me how a large influx of Danish emigrated to Canada in the 1950s, leaving behind a land of Lutheran order and racial harmony. Ten later, how shocking for them to return and to see what Copenhagen had become while they were away. To them, Denmark just wasn't Denmark anymore!

    In the same way, Great Britain is a vastly different society today than it was a 150 years ago. But here in Canada, in the minds and mores of their descendents? Not so much. The Missing Women Inquiry demonstrates this, day after day.

    Reform comes to London, but Vancouver?

    With this in mind, compare the progress of the Oppal inquiry to the MacPherson Report in 1999 London, over the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, after a cold-case investigation uncovered systematic racism in the London police that permitted the murderers to walk.

    Following the report, the London police changed its approach to race relations, top to bottom. Every policeman now takes a course in race relations. Peer reviews occur whenever murder investigations involve what appear to be hate crimes. Police are trained to recognize racial biases in their colleagues and themselves.

    And as a reminder to the society at large, the Stephen Lawrence Centre was created in South London, together with a charitable trust for improving the lives of young black citizens.

    And by extension, much of London changed. "Respectable" British citizens, who habitually feel embattled by all sorts of alien trends, began to turn up their noses at overt racism. It had become indecent. It wasn't something one did.

    Will anything like that happen as a result of the Missing Women Inquiry? Will there be a centre built in the name of those murdered women? Will the Vancouver Police and the RCMP delve into and recognize age-old folkways that translate into institutional racism, sexism and contempt for poor people?

    Former Vancouver police chief Terry Blythe took the stand, and made it clear he wasn't having any of it. It was circle-the-wagons time for Mr. Blythe, who hired Edward Greenspan, one of the most expensive lawyers in the country, to hold his hand and defend his interests.

    Greenspan asked Blythe about suggestions of racism, that, as the VPD publicly admitted, "somehow police didn't try enough to find the women who began disappearing from the Downtown Eastside as early as 1991."

    Blythe replied: "I do find it offensive, given all the good work we did and the commitment we made to this troubled neighbourhood." 
This troubled neighbourhood: How Victorian. How compartmentalized. The problem is not with us -- it's them.

    Now I note that Mr. Oppal has found it necessary to call an inquiry into institutionalized sexism within his own staff -- giving us an inquiry into the inquiry. Next, I suppose we'll get an inquiry into the inquiry into the inquiry, like a malevolent version of Alice in Wonderland -- another Victorian artifact.

    Perhaps it's time Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stopped complaining about the evils of the Niqab and sharia law, and focused on the cultural inheritance of born Canadians. He might be shocked by what's out there.

    John MacLachlan Gray is a writer/composer who lives in Vancouver. Among his wide ranging works are the renowned play Billy Bishop Goes to War, co-written with Eric Peterson, and mystery novels including Not Quite Dead and The Fiend in Human.


  75. Pickton inquiry to examine dropped charges

    The Canadian Press April 9, 2012

    The Crown prosecutor who decided to stay an earlier set of charges against Robert Pickton will testify about her decision on Tuesday at the Missing Women Inquiry in Vancouver.

    Prosecutor Randi Conner stayed proceedings against Pickton in 1998 after the Port Coquitlam farmer was charged with the attempted murder of a sex worker.

    Critics believe if the Crown had relied on the testimony of the sex worker, Pickton could have been stopped long before his arrest in 2002, and the disappearances of at least 19 women.

    The prostitute, known only as Ms. Anderson, was originally expected to testify on Tuesday, but her appearance was postponed, possibly until later this week.

    Anderson survived the March 1997 knife attack, but prosecutors decided in January of the following year to stay charges against Pickton, including attempted murder and forcible confinement.

    It is extremely rare for Crown prosecutors to publicly explain their decisions, but Lori Ann Ellis, the sister of one of Pickton's victims, Cara Ellis, says it is important in this case.

    "We want to know why. It's important to the families to understand why he was allowed to get off on those charges," she said.

    Ellis says she hopes Crown prosecutor Randi Connor fully explains her decision:

    "What made you think this wasn't a solid enough case? Police officers spend their whole career doing this, felt it was. How come you felt you had the power to do that?" she said.

    The incident began late one night in March 1997, when the sex worker from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside took a customer up on what appeared to be a lucrative offer: ride to his farm in the nearby suburb of Port Coquitlam and have sex for $100.

    Several hours later, the woman arrived in hospital with life-threatening stab wounds and carrying a knife covered in the blood of Robert Pickton.

    That attack has become a symbol of everything that could have been done differently as women vanished from the Downtown Eastside in the 1990s and early 2000s, raising the devastating question of how many lives could have been saved, but weren't.

    Two dozen women later connected to Pickton's farm disappeared between March 1997 and Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including 19 who vanished after the Crown's decision to stay the charges in January 1998.

    After Pickton's arrest in 2002, forensic investigators found the DNA of three missing women on evidence seized after the 1997 attack, including clothing and a condom package.

    Anderson testified at Pickton's preliminary hearing, but her story was never told to the jury at Pickton's trial. The details were banned from publication until August 2010, when Pickton lost his final appeal on six convictions of second-degree murder.

    She testified that Pickton picked her up in Vancouver and drove her to his farm in Port Coquitlam.

    After they had sex, Pickton slipped a handcuff onto one of her wrists, she testified. She grabbed a knife and slashed him across the neck and arm. Pickton managed to stab her before she ran outside and down the road.

    A couple driving past noticed Anderson, picked her up and brought her to hospital, where she was treated for injuries so severe that her heart stopped twice on the operating table. She was still holding the knife when she was picked up, and the handcuff was still on her wrist.

    Pickton arrived later at the same hospital and a key was found in his clothes. It matched the woman's handcuff.

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    The RCMP in Port Coquitlam recommended Pickton be charged with several offences including attempted murder, and those charges were quickly approved by Crown prosecutors.

    But in January of the following year, Crown counsel stayed the charges over concerns that Anderson, who was addicted to drugs and had missed several meetings with prosecutors, would be an unreliable witness.

    The ongoing public inquiry has heard from several police officers who believed Anderson was credible and would have been a compelling witness if only the police and Crown had worked harder to ensure she participated.

    "It (Anderson's story) was certainly consistent with the crime scene, and, of course, she was found with a handcuff around one wrist, so the statement that she provided certainly was consistent and believable," Mike Connor, a retired staff sergeant with the RCMP, told the hearings earlier this year.

    Det. Const. Lori Shenher, who was one of the first officers with the Vancouver police to investigate reports of missing sex workers, interviewed Anderson in August of 1998 as Pickton's name rose to the top of her list of suspects.

    "There was nothing in my interactions with her that would have made me question her credibility at all," Shenher testified in January.

    "As morbid a thought as it is, had she died, we probably would have had a slam-dunk murder conviction without her testimony."

    DNA of 3 women in evidence

    The inquiry has already heard that evidence seized from Pickton after the 1997 attack sat for years in an evidence locker without being examined for DNA.

    When it was finally tested after Pickton's arrest in 2002, investigators found the DNA of three missing women.

    Jacqueline Murdock's DNA was found on the outside of condom packages, Andrea Borhaven's DNA was found on Pickton's boots and Cara Ellis's DNA was found in his jacket.

    The inquiry heard from the civilian RCMP lab worker who testified that even if the evidence was tested sooner, investigators wouldn't have known who the DNA belonged to because they didn't have profiles of the missing women.

    Pickton's arrest in 2002 set off a massive search of his farm in Port Coquitlam, where the remains or DNA of 33 women were found.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though he once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49.


  77. Alleged Pickton attack survivor won't testify

    The Canadian Press April 10, 2012

    A former sex worker who allegedly survived an attack on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm five years before his arrest, only to see charges against him dropped, has decided against testifying at the public inquiry into the case.

    The woman, who is being referred to by the pseudonym Ms. Anderson, was scheduled to testify this week, but commission lawyer Art Vertlieb told the hearings Tuesday that the woman no longer wants to appear.

    "Ms. Anderson has for many, many months consistently been concerned about her privacy, the privacy of her husband, the privacy of her three children, her parents and her family," Vertlieb told the inquiry.

    "We have interviewed Ms. Anderson more than once, and it's clear that she's turned her life around admirably. ... She very much wants to keep it that way. She has suffered a horrific event and I would suggest that no one in this courtroom would truly imagine or understand the enormity or the gravity of the event that she went through."

    Vertlieb said he respected the woman's decision and didn't plan on compelling her to appear. He said he believed the inquiry can conduct its work without her testimony.

    "Should Ms. Anderson change her mind, we would welcome her coming here," Vertlieb said.

    Anderson reported to police that she was attacked in March 1997 after going with Pickton to his farm in Port Coquitlam. She was sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries, and Pickton was later charged with charges that included attempted murder.

    In January 1998, prosecutors stayed the charges, citing concerns about Anderson's reliability.

    That decision is under scrutiny at the public inquiry, and the Crown counsel who entered the stay of proceedings, Randi Connor, was scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon.

    Two dozen women later connected to Pickton's farm disappeared between March 1997 and Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including 19 women who vanished after the Crown's decision to stay the charges in January 1998.

    After Pickton's arrest in 2002, forensic investigators found the DNA of three missing women on evidence seized after the 1997 attack, including clothing and a condom package.

    Anderson testified at the preliminary hearing before Pickton's trial, but she never told her story to the jury. The details were under a publication ban until August 2010, when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Pickton's final appeal of his six second-degree murder convictions.

    She told the preliminary hearing that Pickton picked her up in Vancouver and drove her to his farm in Port Coquitlam.

    After they had sex, Pickton slipped a handcuff onto one of her wrists, she testified. She grabbed a knife and slashed him across the neck and arm. Pickton managed to stab her before she ran outside and down the road.

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    A couple driving past noticed Anderson, picked her up and brought her to hospital, where she was treated for injuries so severe that her heart stopped twice on the operating table. She was still holding the knife when she was picked up, and the handcuff was still on her wrist.

    Pickton arrived later at the same hospital and a key was found in his clothes. It matched the woman's handcuff.

    Pickton was charged with several charges including attempted murder and forcible confinement.

    But in January of the following year, Crown counsel stayed the charges over concerns that Anderson, who was addicted to drugs and had missed several meetings with prosecutors, would be an unreliable witness.

    The inquiry has already heard that evidence seized from Pickton after the 1997 attack sat for years in an evidence locker without being examined for DNA.

    When it was finally tested after Pickton's arrest in 2002, investigators found the DNA of three missing women.

    Jacqueline Murdock's DNA was found on the outside of condom packages, Andrea Borhaven's DNA was found on Pickton's boots and Cara Ellis's DNA was found in his jacket.

    The inquiry heard from the civilian RCMP lab worker who testified that even if the evidence was tested sooner, investigators wouldn't have known who the DNA belonged to because they didn't have profiles of the missing women.

    Pickton's arrest in 2002 set off a massive search of his farm in Port Coquitlam, where the remains or DNA of 33 women were found.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though he once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  79. Crown counsel who dropped Pickton charges testifies

    The Canadian Press April 11, 2012

    The Crown prosecutor who decided not to put Robert Pickton on trial for attempted murder in 1998 says it was up to the police, not her, to ensure the victim in the case was ready to testify.

    Randi Connor has told a public inquiry that she stayed the charges against Pickton because the sex worker he was accused of attacking a year earlier was drug-addicted and incoherent when she was interviewed a week before the trial.

    Connor acknowledges she didn't warn the woman, the woman's mother or the police she was considering dropping the case or attempt to get the woman help so she'd be a more reliable witness.

    She says the police would have been aware that charges that are stayed can be revived within a year, and she says it would have been up to them to keep in touch with the victim and report back if she was in better shape.

    The inquiry also heard the Crown file from the assault was destroyed in 2000, even though Crown policy dictates files for charges as serious as attempted murder must be archived for 75 years.

    On Tuesday, it was announced the former sex worker he was accused of attacking, who is being referred to by the pseudonym Ms. Anderson, would not be taking the stand at the inquiry because of concerns about her privacy and the privacy of her family.

    Two dozen women later connected to Pickton's farm disappeared between March 1997 and Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including 19 women who vanished after the Crown's decision to stay the charges in January 1998.

    After Pickton's arrest in 2002, forensic investigators found the DNA of three missing women on evidence seized after the 1997 attack, including clothing and a condom package.

    Pickton's arrest set off a massive search of his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, where the remains or DNA of 33 women were found.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though he once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  80. Early Pickton prosecution fouled by witness's drug habit

    The Canadian Press April 12, 2012

    A sex worker's heroin addiction that prompted prosecutors to drop an attempted murder case against Robert Pickton in the late 1990s didn't prevent the woman from testifying five years later as the serial killer faced multiple murder charges, a public inquiry has been told.

    Crown counsel Randi Connor has already testified she stayed the charges in January 1998 because she felt the victim was too strung out and incoherent to be a reliable witness — a conclusion she reached after a single meeting with the woman less than two weeks before trial. The woman was attacked in March of the previous year.

    But prosecutors preparing for Pickton's multiple murder trial, who were again confronted with a woman they felt was too impaired to put on the stand, successfully worked with the police to clean her up and prepare her for the serial killer's preliminary hearing, the inquiry heard.

    The woman testified in April 2003, providing a vivid account of the night she nearly died of stab wounds at Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.

    In 2003, the victim was "in a similar condition when Crown counsel first interviewed her, namely impaired by drug usage," Cameron Ward, a lawyer for more than two dozen missing and murdered women, told the inquiry Thursday.

    "Crown counsel takes some measures in order to procure her testimony under oath. We have the transcript of her evidence [at the preliminary hearing], which speaks to her eloquence, her ability to articulate her evidence about the same incident while she was on the stand."

    Ward was cross-examining Connor, who has acknowledged she didn't take any steps to help the victim with her addiction before she entered the stay of proceedings.

    Connor wasn't involved in Pickton's multiple murder trial, which followed the massive search of his farm in 2002, but she recalled speaking about the case with prosecutor Geoff Baragar.

    Baragar said the victim was again in rough shape when he met with her before Pickton's preliminary hearing and he was concerned about her ability to testify, recalled Connor.

    Baragar told her two police officers brought the victim to a hotel for a night of rest so she'd be in better condition, recalled Connor.

    Several lawyers who have been critical of the Crown's decision to stay the charges against Pickton have pointed to the victim's ability to testify in 2003 to suggest Crown prosecutors were too quick to dismiss the woman and that Pickton could have been put on trial for attempted murder in 1998.

    After the charges were stayed, 19 women later connected to Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam disappeared.

    Connor said she believed the woman's drug problem was long-standing and severe, pointing to a drug conviction that dated back to 1985 and numerous minor theft convictions that she assumed were linked to a drug habit.

    She said it appeared the victim's drug problem had improved by 2003.

    "Mr. Baragar was telling me that her drug use was much less when he dealt with her, and he still had problems," said Connor.

    Ward has requested Baragar be called to testify about how he was able to prepare the victim for testimony, though it wasn't clear whether that will happen.

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    The woman's story was never told to the jury at Pickton's trial, after which he was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The woman told his preliminary hearing that she went with Pickton to his farm and had sex with him. She said Pickton then placed a handcuff on one of her wrists, prompting her to grab a knife and slash him across the neck.

    At some point, she testified Pickton grabbed the knife and stabbed her. She arrived in hospital with a handcuff on her wrist, and Pickton later arrived in the same hospital carrying the key to those handcuffs in his pocket.

    The woman was expected to testify at the public inquiry this week, but her appearance was cancelled after she told commission lawyers she was still too traumatized from the attack and worried how testifying would affect her and her family.

    The inquiry is looking at how police and prosecutors handled the various investigations into the serial killer, and the hearings have now shifted to the decision by Crown counsel to effectively drop the attempted murder case against Pickton.

    That work has been made difficult because the original Crown file from the case, which would have contained records related to how prosecutors handled the case, was destroyed several years later, despite a policy that dictates serious files such as attempted murder cases must be archived for 75 years.

    Andrew MacDonald, an acting regional Crown who looked into file's destruction for the province's criminal justice branch, told the inquiry the file was destroyed because of an administrative error. The inquiry heard conflicting information about whether the file was destroyed in 2000 or 2001.

    MacDonald said the file was mistakenly marked for destruction along with a batch of 121 boxes of documents. The list of files to be destroyed was then reviewed twice, first by someone in the administrative Crown's office and then by an official in Victoria, but neither noticed the mistake.

    "It was an error made repeatedly," said MacDonald, who noted there were other files in the same batch that also should have been archived .

    Pickton's arrest in 2002 set off a massive search of his farm in Port Coquitlam, where the remains or DNA of 33 women were found.

    He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  82. 100 B.C. RCMP officers to investigate sexual harassment

    The Canadian Press April 16, 2012

    British Columbia's top RCMP officer is appointing 100 Mounties to investigate sexual harassment complaints in an effort to improve a culture condemned by some as intolerably sexist.

    RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens says he's talked to hundreds of women who work for the force in British Columbia and they've told him the work environment has to change.

    CBC News first broke the story of widespread alleged sexual harassment inside the force when Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former media relations officer, spoke out about enduring sexual harassment and abuse from senior officers.

    Her account touched off a series of lawsuits including a class-action that could involve more than 100 women.

    Callens said the allegations became public only weeks after he took command in British Columbia and he set about finding out what was going on.

    The investigators will form the crux of a broader plan being hammered out under the direction of Cullens in response to the internal workplace assessment he initiated earlier this year.

    He said he convened focus groups that involved about 400 female RCMP members across the province over two months aimed at uncovering the extent of gender-based harassment.

    "I acknowledge, without reservation, that we have some issues that we need to deal with," he said Sunday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

    "I'm committed to ensuring that we take the type of action that our employees deserve."

    With his own 21-year-old daughter applying to become an RCMP member, Callens agreed that the environment that has been allowed to persist is not one in which he'd want her to work.

    "I have responsibilities to the members and employees of the RCMP ... and that is to ensure there is a healthy and respectful workplace for them to come to every day," he said.

    "As a responsible parent, there are additional interests for me to ensure that the changes that we need to make get made."

    Lawyer David Klein filed a suit in late March and said he expects more than 100 current and former female RCMP members will join. The suit is on behalf of Janet Merlo, a 19-year officer from Nanaimo, B.C.

    Merlo alleges she endured sexist comments, pranks, derogatory remarks and double standards, including getting yelled at when she told her supervisor she was pregnant.

    "I'm sure that any steps the RCMP takes to reduce the amount of gender-based harassment and discrimination within the force would be positively received by my clients," Klein said Sunday.

    The internal assessment ordered by Callens was conducted by the RCMP diversity co-ordinator, who was tasked with establishing the depth and scope of harassment and asked to compile recommendations towards bringing it to an end.

    It found there is "broad-based discomfort" and a "lack of confidence" in the current reporting system, that the process takes far too long and that victims lack communication after making a complaint, Callens said.

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    The focus groups also felt the force had failed historically to clearly define the difference between workplace conflict, harassment and other issues that arise when supervisors talk about aspects of a members' performance, he added.

    But he added that it would be an "exaggeration" to say harassment is rampant in every aspect of the force.

    Among recommendations Callens will now consider include the creation of a reporting system outside victims' chain of command, the establishment of a confidential means for victims to seek information and advice, and that the force does more harassment awareness and prevention work.

    By the end of May, 100 current RCMP officers in the 6,500-member B.C. force will be trained to investigate harassment complaints by an external professional from Alberta in addition to their regular duties. The investigators are both women and men and hold a series of different ranks.

    A further recommendation suggests hiring designated harassment and conflict resolution investigators on a full-time basis.

    Currently, the force has only two dedicated harassment officers, as well as professional standards investigators who typically examine matters of conduct related to the RCMP Act but who assist the harassment officers if required.

    "Having 100 of these (new) individuals out there to not only conduct the investigations but to bring some focus to bear on what we need to do to resolve the conflict is critical in addressing whatever it is that is occurring on a much more timely basis," Callens said.

    That could include initiating code of conduct investigations, he said.

    Callens said there's a possibility the force will see a spike in complaints when the new system is implemented because victims may more willing to come forward.

    He said he expects to have more details of the plan to address sexual harassment hammered out over the coming weeks.

    He wasn't immediately able to provide the exact cost of the new training.

    "It would be irresponsible for me to suggest that I can make those changes overnight," he said. "It's going to require a long-term commitment and I'm certainly committed to that."

    Callens said he has shared the assessment findings with national RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, who vowed to address complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace when he was appointed.

    "I think that as we develop new systems and approaches in this province, they will be considered for their application in other parts of the country," Callens said.


  84. RCMP whistleblower says anti-sexism plan inadequate

    CBC News April 17, 2012

    The RCMP officer who inspired other current and former women officers to speak out about sexual harassment on the job says the latest plan to deal with sexism concerns in the force is flawed.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford spoke to CBC News late Monday following the release of a report that the RCMP was training 100 investigators in B.C. to deal with the onslaught of harassment complaints made since she spoke publicly in November about her own experience.

    Galliford said the plan is a step in the right direction, but she still believes it's necessary for an independent body to look into allegations.

    “I think if we are looking at Mounties investigating Mounties, there is automatically a perception of a conflict of interest,” she said.

    Recent focus groups involving about 400 female RCMP employees in B.C. revealed that women felt their complaints weren't treated seriously.

    Galliford said that without an independent view, women on the force will still struggle to speak out.

    “My history in the RCMP has so many incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault that I would be very hesitant in coming forward, just because I now have a distrust of the RCMP, and how it works and how the culture works,” she said.

    Galliford said the force must react to the systemic problems in a way that will bring about real change.

    “Now that senior management is aware of how pervasive the harassment in the workplace has become, [there need to be]changes that are going to make it so much easier for the new generation of female police officers to not only feel safe and well trained to work on the streets, but to feel safe in their own work environments," said Galliford.

    A lawsuit filed against the RCMP by 19-year veteran officer Janet Merlo in March, alleging long-term harassment, could be joined as a class action by at least 100 current and former female officers.


  85. Pickton inquiry told police were looking other way

    The Canadian Press April 16, 2012

    The aunt of one of Robert Pickton's victims has told a public inquiry it took nearly three months to convince the Vancouver police to investigate the disappearance of her niece.

    Lila Purcell says even when the Vancouver police determined that Tanya Holyk was missing in January 1997, investigators appeared to do very little to attempt to find her.

    "I feel that had it been done properly, perhaps this man would have been found sooner and perhaps a few more lives would have been saved," Purcell testified Monday.

    "I hope that, although we weren't able to save her from the life that she fell into, perhaps the consideration for these women would be deeper and such a waste of time wouldn't be spent looking the other way while more women go missing, just because they aren't really considered a part of society."

    Purcell is the latest relative to tell the inquiry how her family faced resistance from a civilian member of the Vancouver police force's missing person department.

    Holyk's mother, who is now dead, first attempted to report the young woman missing in late October or early November 1996, but Purcell says a civilian clerk named Sandy Cameron told the mother police probably wouldn't investigate because Holyk was addicted to cocaine.

    Cameron closed the file by the end of November after hearing second-hand information that Holyk may have been at a party, and the file remained closed until another unit within the police took a missing person report in late January.

    At the time, Holyk was constantly in touch and actively involved in the life of her young son, said Purcell. When she hadn't been seen for a few days, Purcell said the family started asking the woman's friends and began searching the Downtown Eastside, but they couldn't find her.

    A new file was opened in late January 1997 after Dorothy Purcell reached an officer with the Vancouver police department's Native Liaison Society, but even then, the inquiry heard very little was done with the case until the spring of 1998.

    That's when the case made its way back to the missing person's unit, where an officer named Al Howlett started checking welfare records, looking for ex-boyfriends and finally interviewed Holyk's mother, the inquiry heard.

    Purcell said she was never interviewed, despite being intimately involved in Holyk's upbringing, and neither were Holyk's other aunts and uncles.

    "I feel that there could have been more done," said Purcell.

    "It's frustrating because I always wondered why nobody else in my family was ever interviewed, because I was very close to my sister at the time and Tanya was brought up like a daughter alongside my daughter. Nobody ever interviewed me."

    Pickton was arrested in 2002 and eventually charged with the murder of 26 women, including Tanya Holyk.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. The remaining 20 cases, including Holyk's, were stayed by the Crown in 2010.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.

    He told a undercover officer that he killed 49.


  86. Missing women deemed just hookers, B.C. inquiry told

    The Canadian Press April 23, 2012

    A former 911 operator alleges uniformed superiors repeatedly brushed off reports of sex trade workers disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s, while a civilian clerk agrees there was prejudice across the police department but has denied being dismissive herself.

    Rae-Lynn Dicks, testifying Monday at the inquiry into the Robert Pickton police investigations, said she was repeatedly told by her sergeants they weren't going to spend "valuable time and money" looking for prostitutes when she worked for the Vancouver Police Department's call centre. She described an atmosphere of rampant bias that considered the women to be "just hookers," which was corroborated by Sandy Cameron, who worked for the missing women's unit for 22 years.

    Dicks said if callers had no fixed address for the person they were reporting missing, the file could get blown off. Cameron added there was an unwritten policy of no body, no homicide. 911 operators were often the first line of contact for the public, later being routed to Cameron.

    "They didn't care. It was systemic. It didn't matter. They were marginalized women, most of them were aboriginal," Dicks said. "As far as I was getting from the department, I was told to 'stop being a bleeding heart,' and to 'grow up, these people are scum of the Earth."'

    Both women took calls from family members of women who were vanishing at the same time Robert Pickton was hunting sex workers in the impoverished neighbourhood. The inquiry is examining why the serial killer wasn't caught sooner. Dicks said officers would mock aboriginal prostitutes as "drunk" around the office, and Cameron agreed she heard statements like "a hooker can't report getting raped," suggesting instead the rape report was made because the woman was refused pay for sex.

    "To name a name to it, I couldn't do it, but it was heard regularly by staff throughout the building," Cameron said. But Cameron denied making similarly callous remarks herself when speaking to family members of missing women, although several family members have told the inquiry that was their experience with her. Among them, the mother of missing woman Tanya Holyk complained in 1997 that Cameron had called her daughter a "coke head" who had abandoned her child, and then threatened to call social services to take the baby away.

    Cameron, who is now retired, teared up several times speaking about work she said she loved because she sometimes helped people reunite. "I was in there for 22.5 years. Not everyone that I spoke to was polite to me and quite possibly I wasn't polite to them. But I would never make derogatory statements of any nature," Cameron said.

    She expressed great frustration that the force appeared to regard the unit as a low priority. It was often staffed by only one detective, who frequently changed every six months because it was a "backdoor" to the more prestigious homicide unit, she said. "You have to have someone in there who has a real passion and wants to do that work," she said when asked by the inquiry's lawyer for recommendations for improvement.

    She broke down on the stand when asked by her own lawyer if she had anything else to add. "For myself, this is something I will probably get over. It's never going to go away for the families," she said through tears. She noted her reputation has been dragged through the mud and the Vancouver Police department has made unfounded accusations against her that have been repeated in the media. ...


  87. RCMP chief admits force failed to defend female officers

    CBC News April 23, 2012

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson admitted to a House of Commons committee Monday that female officers have lost faith in his force.

    The RCMP is stuck in the past, Paulson said, and the behaviour of its employees towards women needs much work.

    Paulson acknowledged that supervisors failed to act in the case of Cpl. Catherine Galliford, and many others.

    Galliford was the first to tell CBC News about years of sexual harassment in the force.

    And as the CBC’s Natalie Clancy reports, another former female officer has now come forward for the first time to talk about about her treatment in the RCMP.

    see video at:


  88. Mounties disciplined for bad behaviour

    Cases of impaired driving, watching porn and sex with prostitutes described in report

    By Kathleen Harris, CBC News April 24, 2012

    RCMP officers have been reprimanded for impaired driving, careless use of firearms, using the force's computers to access pornographic websites and cavorting with prostitutes, according to the Mounties' most recent disciplinary report.

    In the last reporting period for 2010-2011, 65 regular and civilian members faced formal discipline hearings; 13 of them resigned from the RCMP and one was dismissed. Other code of conduct violations included using excessive force, having sex in an unmarked RCMP vehicle and filing false overtime claims.

    RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said an officer or civilian member can be subject to criminal proceedings as well as formal discipline for code of conduct breaches.

    “Depending on the circumstances, criminal and internal proceedings can take place concurrently, or the disciplinary process may take place after the criminal proceedings are completed,” she told CBC News.

    There were also 156 cases of informal disciplinary incidents that warranted corrective or remedial actions such as counselling, special training or increased supervision. Those include incidents such as publicly criticizing the force, uttering threats, uniform or dress violations, disobeying orders or oaths, or disgraceful conduct.

    The RCMP has been under intense criticism after widespread complaints from female officers about sexual harassment in the forces began to emerge last November. Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed that tackling the problem would be his top priority when he was appointed just weeks later.

    Appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Status of Women Monday, Paulson blamed the culture of an institution that hasn’t kept pace with advancing equality rights in society at large.

    Gagnon said the RCMP is also working to update the broader complaint and disciplinary system.

    “The RCMP, in partnership with Treasury Board and Public Safety, is currently examining options to modernize discipline, grievance and human resource management processes,” she said.

    The annual report, which was released in February, is the third published after a government directive in 2008 designed to make the disciplinary process more transparent and accountable.

    The directive to overhaul the process by then-public safety minister Stockwell Day also called for national standardization of policies and protocols and more thorough monitoring and coordination of files.

    It also required the RCMP to give the government notice of any major disciplinary cases.

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    In the last year reporting year, 57 members were suspended – including 52 with pay and five without pay.

    Stoppage of pay and allowances are invoked only in “extreme circumstances” when it would be inappropriate to pay a member his or her salary, such as if the person is in jail awaiting trial, or has been absent without authority for seven days, according to the report.

    The disciplinary process was criticized recently by British Columbia RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, who called it "absolute madness" that it is so difficult to dismiss or suspend a member without pay. He called for more local management control over who is hired and fired.

    The disciplinary report shows there have been anywhere from 61 to 106 new formal disciplinary cases recorded in the last 11 years.

    “Canadians have rightfully high expectations of their national police service and it is the RCMPs responsibility to live up to those expectations,” it reads. “Public trust is critical to our organization and it is essential that we maintain the high standard of conduct that has been demonstrated throughout the RCMP’s long history.”

    Some of the disciplinary cases summarized in the report:

    A constable received a reprimand and forfeiture of five days’ pay for allowing a prostitute actively soliciting sexual activity to enter personal vehicle for sexual activity.

    A constable received a reprimand and forfeiture of 10 days’ pay for impaired driving.

    A constable was dismissed for sexual assault and inappropriate comments of a sexual nature; reporting for duty while under the influence of alcohol.

    A staff sergeant received a reprimand and forfeiture of 10 days’ pay for making a false statement to a Canada Border Services Agency official.

    A civilian member received two reprimands and two forfeitures of seven days’ pay for use of controlled substances and theft.

    A constable received a reprimand and forfeiture of five days’ pay for operating a motor vehicle at excessive speeds without legitimate operational purpose causing damage of vehicle beyond repair.

    A constable received reprimand and forfeiture of one day’s pay for excessive force.

    A constable received reprimand and forfeiture of five days’ pay for improper use of government credit card.


  90. Public warning unnecessary, officers testify at Pickton inquiry

    The Canadian Press April 25, 2012

    It was unnecessary to put out a public warning that women were vanishing from the Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s, three Vancouver police officers have told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

    Vancouver Police were first tipped in summer 1998 that Robert Pickton might be picking up sex workers from Vancouver and killing them at his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

    A civilian who was the only permanent, long-term staff member of the missing person's unit had also raised red flags several times between the early and mid-1990s that prostitutes were disappearing from the city's streets in high numbers and there weren't enough resources to handle the files.

    But no action was taken because police had "nothing specific" to warn the community about, the sergeant in charge of the unit at the time said Tuesday in testifying at the inquiry looking into why the killer wasn't apprehended sooner.

    "Any male that they get into a car with is a potential danger," former Sgt. Geramy Field, whose surname is now Powell, said of the sex trade workers.

    "Because we didn't have anything specific like a description or anything else to go on, my general feeling at the time was that it wouldn't have been too productive."

    Field's senior officers, former Insp. Fred Biddlecombe and acting Insp. Dan Dureau, both agreed that despite a lack of official warnings, the community was fully aware women were going missing.

    "I think the community was completely alive to the fact there were issues," Dureau said. "I don't know that any other warnings or more warnings would have been beneficial."

    The trio were testifying as part of a law enforcement panel put together to help the inquiry understand the decisions made by Vancouver Police in relation to Pickton's crimes.

    The panel was quizzed by an inquiry lawyer about a news release drafted by former Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo in fall 1998, but never released.

    Rossmo was a geographic profiler who wanted to inform the public that police were investigating reports of dozens of missing women who might be victims of an active serial killer.

    Commission lawyer Art Vertlieb asked what harm could have come from its release.

    "I don't see anything wrong with that," said Field.

    Biddlecombe agreed that he wouldn't object to it. But he noted some of the information in it didn't appear to be accurate.

    For example, he said the murders of eight of 10 sex trade workers in previous years had been solved, but the release left it hanging as to how many were unsolved.

    "I didn't know if that would leave things dangling that all these women were being murdered when we didn't even know that at that time," he said.

    But Biddlecomb said he was just making a fresh assessment, explaining he actually has no recollection of many events from 1998.

    His lawyer has submitted a doctor's letter to the inquiry stating he was diagnosed a year later with job-related stress, causing his absence from the office for long periods in the late 1990s.

    He said a psychiatrist has more recently diagnosed him as having suffered major depressive and anxiety disorders and he said he is still taking medication.

    The inquiry has previously heard that Biddlecombe nixed the release, complaining to a colleague that it was "inaccurate and quite inflammatory."

    The force's media spokeswoman didn't publicly acknowledge the possibility of a serial murderer until November 1999.

    About 19 women vanished in connection with Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C. from the late 1990s until he was arrested in 2002.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on the premises. Pickton was ultimately convicted of six murders.


  91. B.C. Mountie sues force for harassment

    CBC News May 9, 2012

    CBC News has learned the high-profile Mountie who first spoke out against sexual harassment in the national police force is suing her employer, alleging years of "persistent and ongoing" sexual harassment and bullying.

    In a notice of claim obtained by CBC News Wednesday, Cpl. Catherine Galliford alleges she was sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied during her 16 years on the force.

    The notice names Canada's attorney general, B.C.'s justice minister, four Mounties, an RCMP doctor and a Vancouver police officer.

    Galliford was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years, revealing charges had been laid in the Air India bombing and announcing the arrest of serial killer Robert William Pickton.

    According to the 26-page statement, the abuse began before Galliford was sworn in as an RCMP member. She alleges then RCMP Insp. Mike Bergerman groped and tried to kiss her in 1991 when she was at the RCMP's training academy.

    "[Bergerman's] misconduct was wilful, and he acted with the intent of sexual gratification which shocked and sexually humiliated [Galliford] and demeaned her value as an RCMP officer and a human being," the document reads.

    Galliford did not officially report the misconduct.

    "I never complained officially about the sexual assaults and sexual harassment because I knew that if I did it would come back on me in a negative way," she told CBC News Wednesday.

    'Culture of sexual harassment'

    The document goes on to detail years of alleged harassment, including repeated sexual advances by Staff Sgt. Doug Henderson — and an alleged attack in a hotel room while they were on a business trip.

    "Henderson aggressively sexually attacked [Galliford] ... removing some of his clothes and exposing [himself] to her," the statement reads.

    Galliford also alleges repeated sexual harassment at the hands of Phil Little, a Vancouver police officer she worked with on the Missing Women Task Force.

    According to the document, Little made several sexually suggestive comments, including, "I don't know what I like better, your eyes or your mouth."

    Galliford also alleges Little exposed himself to her in his car while investigating Pickton, saying "I want to show you my mole. Don't you think it's cute?"

    According to the statement, Galliford once again did not formally complain for fear of negative repercussions.

    "The culture of sexual harassment within the RCMP is so pervasive that [Galliford] was helpless to personally stop it," the document reads.

    "[Galliford] had to accept a certain level of tolerance of [sexual harassment] as complaining about it would only make matters worse."

    'Very sick'

    Galliford's lawyer Barry Carter says his client developed a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the harassment and the statement lays out a litany of symptoms, including agoraphobia, nightmares, alcohol dependency and significant weight loss.

    Galliford has been off duty on sick leave since 2007.

    "She's very sick," he said. "I would think her career with the RCMP is pretty much done."

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    Galliford is also suing RCMP doctor Ian MacDonald, alleging he failed to properly diagnose and treat her psychological problems and made things worse by disclosing confidential information to her estranged husband.

    "It would appear from reviewing the material that we have that there was an insistence on treating her dependency problems, her alcohol dependency, and ignoring the underlying problems that led to the alcohol dependency, which was her PTSD," Carter said.

    "As I understand, if PTSD goes untreated it gets worse and so this went on for years."

    Culture of fear
    The force insisted she follow a relapse prevention agreement (RPA) related to her alcohol dependency, Carter said, but refused to treat her PTSD.

    "As a result of ... their perceived failure of the RPA's, they started to see her as being difficult and manipulative and being deceptive and lying and being somehow a risk to the RCMP if she returned to operational duties."

    The allegations have not been proven in court. None of the defendants have had the opportunity to respond as the case was filed recently. If served in Canada, the defendants have 21 days to file a response.

    RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, the top Mountie in B.C., issued a statement to CBC News Wednesday night, saying that Galliford's allegations remain unproven and officers had been assigned to investigate them.

    Callens said two investigations were undertaken. One probe related to allegations that Callens said were linked to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry into the police investigations of Pickton, currently underway in Vancouver.

    Callens said the other set of allegations by Galliford did not pertain to the inquiry and were being investigated separately.

    "The allegations relating to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry have been fully investigated and I can tell you that we have not been able to substantiate nor corroborate any related to the alleged sexual harassment by RCMP members," Callens said. "The remaining allegations continue to be investigated."

    Galliford is seeking unspecified damages for loss of past and future income in addition to punitive and aggravated damages.

    Her high-profile case is the latest in a growing list of legal actions against the Mounties alleging a culture of harassment inside the force.

    "I don't know if my journey is going to change anything for other members who are in the force now or those who are coming after me because there is still a culture of fear," Galliford said Wednesday.


  93. Pickton not ignored due to 'tunnel vision,' officers say

    The Canadian Press May 9, 2012

    A pair of Vancouver police officers who've been sharply criticized at the Robert Pickton inquiry denied accusations Wednesday that "tunnel vision" caused them to ignore the serial killer, and instead insisted they were kept in the dark about Pickton.

    Det. Const. Mark Wolthers, who is now retired, and Det. Const. Doug Fell, who is still on the force, worked on the missing women investigation from the summer of 1999 until they were transferred the following year.

    The inquiry has heard allegations the officers were difficult to work with, used derogatory language when talking about sex workers, followed their own suspect while ignoring work related to Pickton, and withheld information from their colleagues.

    Many of those criticisms were contained in an internal Vancouver police report authored by Deputy Chief Doug LePard, who testified last year. LePard accused Fell and Wolthers of "tunnel vision" that kept them focused on their suspect, and wrote in his report that the officers' "destructive conduct compromised the investigation and demoralized the other investigators."

    "In my opinion, those findings are disgusting," an emotional Wolthers told the inquiry.

    Wolthers and Fell requested to join the Vancouver Police Department's missing women investigation in 1999.

    When they arrived, they believed they were looking for a serial killer and they already had their own suspect in mind: Barry Niedermeyer, a man in Alberta with a history of allegations involving sex workers who was later arrested and charged with assaulting Vancouver women.

    The pair acknowledged they focused their energy on pursuing Niedermeyer and weren't involved in investigating Pickton in any significant way

    But they said they were never asked to look at Pickton, who had been assigned to two other officers. They said their colleagues never told them about several tips implicating Pickton in the murder of sex workers, nor were they invited to meetings discussing strategies for the Pickton file.

    "From what I've seen and learned at the inquiry to date, the information [pointing to Pickton] was unbelievably good at that time," said Wolthers. "We were not aware of it."

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    At one point, the pair set out into the Downtown Eastside with a package of suspect photos to show sex workers. Fell said they asked their colleagues for photos of the 20 best suspects, but they were only given seven, and Pickton was not one of them.

    They returned a week later with photos of 10 additional suspects, including Pickton, who was identified by several sex workers.

    Other officers have accused Wolthers and Fell of withholding the fact that Pickton was identified, though neither could recall whether they told anyone. They said if they didn't, it wasn't intentional.

    In fact, they said if they knew more about Pickton — such as a tipster's claim that Pickton brought a female friend with him to encourage sex workers to come to his farm in Port Coquitlam — they would have passed that information along to sex workers and warned them not to get into a car with him. They had warned women they spoke with to avoid other suspects in their package of photos.

    Two of the women they talked to — Tiffany Drew and Jennifer Furminger — later disappeared and their remains were found on Pickton's farm.

    As for accusations that they repeatedly referred to sex workers as "whores," Wolthers responded: "This is an outright lie."

    In May 2000, Wolthers and Fell learned they would be transferred out of the missing women investigation. They also learned the investigation itself was "winding down."

    They still believed their suspect was responsible for the deaths of Downtown Eastside sex workers. They wrote the force's chief, Terry Blythe, complaining about their transfers and the state of the missing women investigation.

    "We were kind of shocked that we hadn't found anybody here and we were under the impression that it was being shut down," said Wolthers.

    Fell and Wolthers said the chief refused their request for a meeting, and they were told their careers would suffer because of the letter.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002 and later convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women eventually found on his farm. He once told an undercover officer that he killed 49.


  95. RCMP probing whistleblower's harassment claims

    CBC News May 10, 2012

    The RCMP says it is investigating claims in a lawsuit launched Wednesday in which Cpl. Catherine Galliford alleges sexual assault and sexual harassment within the force, but investigators have not yet been able to substantiate any of her claims.

    Galliford, currently on sick leave, filed a detailed claim, saying she was suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder due to years of sexual harassment and a number of physical assaults by other RCMP supervisors and colleagues.

    Galliford first revealed her allegations to CBC News in November, prompting several more current and former female officers to come forward with similar complaints.

    If proven true, some of the incidents Galliford alleges would breach the force's code of conduct, while others would be criminal offences.

    The RCMP issued a statement late Wednesday, saying major crime investigators, as well as its Professional Standards Unit, are looking into the allegations but nothing has been substantiated so far.

    There were opposition calls in the House of Commons Thursday for quicker action on the RCMP's problems.

    Action is being taken, said Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety.

    “We are very pleased the new commissioner is taking this very seriously, taking a tough stance on this,” Hoeppner said. “He's investigating and we're waiting for reports and recommendations.”

    Galliford's lawyer, Barry Carter, said many RCMP members have stayed silent on the issue of harassment because once people complain, their careers can be over.

    “As Catherine has alleged in her statement of claim, [if] you complain, you get transferred to another posting and this reputation for complaining follows you,” said Carter.

    Former Merritt, B.C., RCMP constable Nancy Sulz, speaking out for the first time, told CBC News Thursday that most of her harassment complaints were also deemed unfounded by her superiors on the force.

    “However, many female members are coming out now and complaining about it,” Sulz said. “They can't all be lying about the same thing.”

    A judge awarded Sulz nearly $1 million in 2006 after she filed a lawsuit in which she claimed that she'd been harassed off the job and left with a major depressive disorder.

    But Sulz said that the police brotherhood, combined with fear of reprisals, keeps much harassing misconduct under wraps.

    “Even members that do know for a fact that it did happen will likely not say anything about it and keep the code of silence and protect the member that is within their ranks, and help to crush the person that's speaking out.”

    The RCMP's recently appointed commissioner, Bob Paulson, has said changing the culture around harassment is his top priority and he's making changes.

    But the RCMP's culture evolves slowly, according to psychiatrist Greg Passey.

    “It's probably going to take a generation. There are a lot of old dinosaurs in the RCMP. It's an Old Boys network. Until some of these individuals actually leave the force through retirement or whatever, some aspects of the force will not change.”

    Passey said there's a strong link between harassment and post-traumatic stress disorder inside police forces, and many are afraid to speak up because they don't want to be perceived as being weak.

    “There are high-level RCMP officers who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and they're afraid to come forward and become a champion,” he said.


  96. RCMP didn't see Pickton as serial killer

    The Canadian Press May 14, 2012

    RCMP officers who were investigating Robert Pickton allowed the case to lie dormant for months at a time and didn't know they were dealing with a possible serial killer, several officers with the force told a public inquiry Monday.

    The inquiry has heard allegations the RCMP in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton's farm was located, failed to realize they were investigating a multiple murderer and allowed their case to sit inactive for weeks and months at a time when officers in Vancouver considered Pickton their top suspect in the disappearance of Downtown Eastside sex workers.

    Retired officer Ruth Chapman, then a constable, took over the RCMP's Pickton investigation in late August of 1999. The force was looking into a tip received by Vancouver police that Pickton had murdered a sex worker on his farm.

    Chapman's predecessor, Cpl. Mike Connor, has already testified that by late summer of 1999 he saw Pickton as a potential serial killer who may have been actively picking up sex workers to murder.

    But Chapman said she was never given a detailed briefing about the investigation when she joined the case, and neither she nor her boss, Sgt. Darryl Pollock, had any idea they had a potential serial killer on their hands.

    "Did you know that you were investigating a possible serial killer?" asked commissioner lawyer Art Vertlieb.

    "No, not at that time," Chapman, whose surname was Yurkiw at the time, told the inquiry.

    "No," added Pollock, "I wasn't investigating a serial killer at that time."

    Chapman came onto the case when the force was investigating a tip from an informant, who relayed a story from one of Pickton's friends, Lynn Ellingsen. Ellingsen recalled walking in as Pickton was skinning a prostitute in his barn, the informant said.

    When the RCMP contacted Ellingsen, she denied ever telling the story and refused to take a polygraph test. She later told the story at Pickton's murder trial.

    Chapman then attempted to interview Pickton, but he asked to put off the interview until the rainy season was over. Chapman agreed to that request, and nothing happened with RCMP's investigation until the end of December.

    Two months passed in which nothing was done on the file, said Chapman. She had other homicides to deal with and felt she had run out of leads in the Pickton case, she said.

    "When homicide files and other high-priority major crime files came in, they were acted upon on a priority basis," said Chapman.

    "The Pickton file was always a priority, but it didn't have continuing action, because there wasn't incoming tips to further the investigation."

    The Vancouver Police Department was investigating the disappearance of Downtown Eastside sex workers, but officers have testified they left Pickton to the RCMP because he was in their jurisdiction.

    Vancouver police and the RCMP appeared to be in regular contact when Connor was running the Mounties' Pickton investigation, but that communication appeared to dry up when he left. For example, no one from the RCMP ever told the Vancouver police that the Pickton investigation was effectively on hold.

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    The communications chasm between the two forces has emerged as a key factor in the failure to catch Pickton sooner, as officers in two nearby communities conducted investigations that were almost entirely separate from one another.

    Former inspector Earl Moulton, who was in charge of major crime in the RCMP's Coquitlam detachment, said the Mounties didn't provide Vancouver police officers with updates because they never asked.

    "They never asked, and in my term of service, I've never encountered a situation where you would [share such information]," said Moulton.

    "There would be no reason to do so, and there's no practice of doing so."

    Chapman eventually resumed work on the Pickton file, notably when she interviewed Pickton in January 2000.

    The interview was conducted by Chapman and another officer, neither of whom had interrogation experience, and has been widely criticized as sloppy and poorly planned. One of Pickton's friends was allowed to sit in on the interview, and when Pickton invited the officers to search his property, they never took him up on the offer.

    Chapman said she didn't have access to specially trained homicide interrogators.

    "There was some discussion that we wanted someone with more experience to conduct the interview, but I don't believe it met the criteria for the [RCMP's interrogation] team to assist us," said Chapman.

    Neither Chapman nor Moulton could recall just what those criteria were.

    As for the search, Chapman and Moulton said they didn't believe Pickton would provide the formal consent required before such a search, and they noted he wasn't the only owner of the property.

    Pickton co-owned the property with his brother, David Pickton.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002, when RCMP officers armed with an unrelated warrant searched his property.

    He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49.


  98. RCMP employee saw missing woman at Pickton's party in 1999

    CBC News May 16, 2012

    A civilian RCMP worker saw Robert Pickton at a New Years Eve party on his farm with a woman she later recognized as one of the missing sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the public inquiry into the case heard Tuesday.

    But it's not known whether Beverly (Puff) Hyacinthe, who worked in the radio room at the Coquitlam RCMP detachment, ever told investigators what she saw or anything else she knew about Pickton before his arrest in 2002.

    Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. Police found the remains or DNA of 33 women on his Coquitlam farm, but he once told an undercover police officer he killed 49.

    Hyacinthe isn't scheduled to testify at the Missing Womens Inquiry underway in Vancouver that is looking into the police handing of the investigation.

    But the inquiry has already heard how she lived near Pickton in Port Coquitlam and had known him and his brother David for years. Her husband attended grade school with the Picktons and her son had worked for them.

    Cameron Ward, a lawyer representing the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, revealed what Hyacinthe told police investigators several days after Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including details of her trips to an illegal drinking establishment known as Piggy's Palace.

    "On Dec. 31, 1999, Willie brought a date to one of the parties at Piggy's Palace, who [Hyacinthe], when she saw the front page of the Vancouver Province several weeks later, immediately recognized as one of the missing women from the Downtown Eastside," Cameron Ward told the inquiry as he summarized the police interview.

    "She could produce photos of that evening upon request."

    Ward said the woman at the party was likely either Mona Wilson or Dawn Crey. Wilson was one of the six women Pickton was convicted of killing, and Crey's DNA was found on the Pickton property.

    By the end of 1999, the RCMP were investigating a tip that Pickton killed a sex worker on his property and were considering the possibility he was responsible for more murders.

    Hyacinthe was aware of that investigation and had spoken to officers involved in the case. For example, she told Cpl. Mike Connor, who in 1998 and 1999 was the lead investigator on the file, that Pickton was aware police were monitoring his activities.

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    Connor told the inquiry earlier this year that he didn't seek more information from Hyacinthe about Pickton.

    A group of four officers who testified Tuesday, including Ruth Chapman, who took over from Connor, and Earl Moulton, who was an inspector in charge of major crime in Coquitlam, said Ward's cross-examination was the first time they had heard detailed information about what Hyacinthe knew about the Picktons.

    "All I can say is that if this is the state of Puff's knowledge, I sure wish she'd made it known to us," Moulton told the inquiry.

    "I put it to you she did — she told you," said Ward.

    "She did not," replied Moulton.

    Other information Hyacinthe told the police during her February 2002 interview, after Pickton was arrested:

    Pickton staged cockfights and pit bill fights on his farm.

    Piggy's Palace was frequented by "a strange group of people" and Pickton would always bring "dates" to his parties.

    Years earlier, her husband helped the Picktons bury stolen cars on their property.

    Her son told her there were often women on Pickton's farm, who he believed were sex workers.

    Her son once saw bloody clothing in Pickton's truck.

    The RCMP have maintained they did not have enough information to legally search Pickton's property, but Ward has argued police were well aware of illegal activities Pickton was involved in – any number of which could have been used to secure a warrant.

    Ward noted a tipster told police Pickton was running weekly cockfights on his farm, and the RCMP knew for years about Piggy's Palace, which was frequented by members of the Hells Angels.

    He said the Mounties also had information about illegal guns. Ross Caldwell, who told police in 1999 that Pickton may have killed a sex worker at his farm, recalled seeing guns on the property.

    Almost three years later, a junior officer named Nathan Wells used another tip about illegal firearms to obtain a search warrant for Pickton's farm, which ultimately led to his arrest on Feb. 5, 2002.

    "You could have got on the property in '99," said Ward.

    Moulton insisted Caldwell's tip wasn't enough. He said he even asked a Crown prosecutor in 1999 whether police had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant, and he was told they did not.

    "The information from Mr. Caldwell had been assessed by myself and many others, and the information did not support the issuance (of a warrant)," said Moulton.


  100. Pickton admitted killings, former sex worker testifies

    The Canadian Press May 17, 2012

    A former sex worker says that almost two years before Robert Pickton's arrest, she found herself sitting in a vehicle next to the serial killer, who admitted to her he had killed women on his farm — but when she reported the encounter to police, she was dismissed.

    The sex worker was testifying Thursday at a public inquiry into the Pickton investigation, where the Vancouver Police Department immediately attempted to cast doubt on much of what she said, including her claim that Pickton confessed to killing sex workers and burying them on his property in Port Coquitlam.

    A lawyer for the force said there were no records of the call the woman said she made to police and argued it never happened.

    The woman, who testified anonymously and sat in the witness box wearing large dark sunglasses, told the inquiry she turned to street prostitution for about six months in 2000 to support her addiction to crack cocaine and heroin.

    She said sometime in the fall of 2000, she was working the street in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, several kilometres south of the notorious Downtown Eastside.

    A grey cube van approached her and she got inside, where she encountered a man who propositioned her to come to a biker party at his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., the woman testified.

    She told the inquiry she declined the offer because she had heard a warning at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre not to get into a vehicle with a man offering to bring women to Port Coquitlam.

    "So when I had the conversation with Mr. Pickton, he had said, 'Do you want to go out to the biker party,' and I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Why not?' and I said, 'Because I know what you're doing out there -- these women are missing,"' the woman told the inquiry.

    "And he said, 'Yes, all of them are on my property, I killed them."'

    The woman said she demanded to get out of the van and threatened to go to associates in the "criminal side of life" if he didn't let her go. She said she jumped out of the moving vehicle, which then sped away.

    She later phoned the police, she told the inquiry.

    "I reported it," she said.

    "I said, 'I've just gotten out of a man's car who's admitted to me to killing the women.' ... And they said, 'Basically, we don't believe your story, and we're doing the best we can on keeping an eye on him."'

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    Sean Hern, a lawyer for the Vancouver police, attempted to cast doubt on the woman's story, telling the inquiry his department could not locate any records connected to such a call.

    "I can tell you that [the woman's] name has been searched in order to identify any incident," said Hern.

    "I can only assume that if that call occurred — and I'll argue and suggest it didn't — it must not have generated an incident report."

    Hern noted the woman referred to contacting "the task force," but he said the RCMP-led joint missing women investigation known as Project Evenhanded wasn't launched until the following year.

    However, the woman never said she talked to the RCMP and acknowledged she didn't know which police department she reached after dialling 911. Hern neglected to mention the Vancouver police department's own missing women review team was still up and running in the fall of 2000.

    The woman, who is 38, said she entered rehab in December 2000 and has been clean ever since. She later went to school and is now employed, she said.

    The inquiry is examining why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton as he was murdering sex workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    The inquiry has heard Pickton was well-known among women working the streets of Vancouver, and the former sex worker who testified Thursday said she heard rumours about a pig farmer during her half-year in prostitution.

    "Through a group of women in the women's centre, they sat me down and told me what was happening with these women and where they had gone," she said.

    "They said, 'No matter what, don't go out there,' and I remembered that."

    Bonnie Fournier, a street nurse who worked in a mobile van in the Downtown Eastside in the 1990s, said she, too, was familiar with Pickton.

    "I dealt with people who were injured by Willie Pickton, but they wouldn't go to the police," said Fournier. "Why? Because they didn't trust them."

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002.

    He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49.


  102. Police refute allegations of sexism at Pickton inquiry

    The Canadian Press May 19, 2012

    Allegations that sexism and bias against sex workers are rampant within the Vancouver police and played a role in the force's failure to catch serial killer Robert Pickton are false, a senior officer from the force told a public inquiry Friday.

    Deputy Chief Doug LePard, who testified at length last fall about the department's missing women investigation in the late 1990s and early 2000s, returned to the inquiry to rebut a handful of the allegations made against the force in recent months.

    Many of those allegations centred on how the force treated sex workers, with former officers, civilian police employees, sex workers and families of Pickton's victims recounting episodes in which officers treated prostitutes poorly or dismissed family members and friends attempting to report them missing.

    LePard denied there is a culture of sexism that neglects sex workers, then or now.

    "Your view about whether the [Vancouver Police Department] tolerates under-enforcement or under-investigation of violence against women in the sex trade is that it's simply not correct?" asked Sean Hern, a lawyer for the force.

    "No, and there are many examples now and during that time where serious crimes were committed against sex workers that vigorous investigations ensued," replied LePard.

    Rae-Lynn Dicks, a 911 operator who testified last month, described a culture in which officers believed sex workers didn't deserve the protection of the police.

    Dicks described a case, which wasn't related to the missing women investigation, involving a teenaged prostitute who had been raped at a gas station. Dicks alleged an officer who responded to the call sent her a note on the force's internal messaging system that said: "It's just a hooker. Hookers don't get raped."

    LePard said he examined all of the sexual assault calls Dicks had ever taken, and he identified the case she appeared to be referring to. He listened to an audio recording of the 911 call and reviewed records of all communication related to the case.

    LePard said there was no record of any messages sent to Dicks, let alone the one she described.

    And LePard said the story Dicks told the inquiry contained numerous factual errors about the call, what the victim told her, and how the case was handled.

    "This example was held up by Ms. Dicks as something she would never forget, as an example of the bias that Vancouver police members held against sex workers," said Hern. "In your review of the file, what is this file indicative of?"

    "When you Google Ms. Dicks," replied LePard, "what you come up with is multiple articles that said missing women were considered scum of the earth, and it was just entirely inconsistent with what was actually going on. In fact, what it was an example of is the type of police officers that we had in the 1990s doing that work, that dealt with the case very professionally, did everything that could be expected."

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    The case resulted in a conviction against the woman's attacker, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, LePard said.

    LePard also denied allegations from Marion Bryce, mother of Patricia Johnson, whose remains were found on Pickton's farm.

    Bryce claimed she was treated poorly by a 911 operator when she attempted to report her daughter missing.

    LePard said he located the recording of the 911 call that generated the first missing person report in Johnson's case. The call actually involved another of Bryce's daughters, said LePard, though it appeared Bryce was next to the phone.

    He said the operator taking the call was professional and courteous.

    "It was a very pleasant conversation, [Bryce's daughter] finishes off by saying,' Thank you very much for all your help, it was wonderful,"' said LePard.

    The testimony on Friday was limited to a small handful of allegations, mostly dealing with attitudes towards women and sex workers.

    LePard authored a report, released in August 2010, that was highly critical of the force's investigation and identified a number of failings. But the report also concluded sexism and anti-sex-worker bias weren't factors.

    LePard has apologized a number of times for not catching Pickton sooner, and the department's lawyers have repeated that apology numerous times during the inquiry.

    However, the force has spent the inquiry arguing those failings are only apparent with the benefit of hindsight. Officers did the best they could with the information they had, the department insists, and shouldn't be blamed now.

    Pickton was arrested in 2002 and eventually convicted of six counts of second degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property in Port Coquitlam.

    He once told an undercover officer that he killed 49.


  104. Attorney general seeks to halt Mountie's human rights hearing

    By Jason Proctor, CBC News May 22, 2012

    Canada's attorney general is trying to stop the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal from hearing a long-serving aboriginal B.C. Mountie's complaints of discrimination within the RCMP.

    Attorney General Rob Nicholson has applied to Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision to refer Cpl. Greg Morrison Blain's complaint to the tribunal. Blain left the RCMP in January after nearly two decades on the force.

    "I have suffered grave harm to my dignity and self-respect as a result of the RCMP's callous treatment of me since I became a member," he writes in the complaint.

    "I am proud of my aboriginal identity and I feel that the RCMP has devalued this identity. The RCMP's demeaning conduct is particularly hurtful to me as I have grown up with the burden of hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination by Canadian police forces."

    Blain currently serves as chief of the Ashcroft Indian Band in B.C.'s Interior. He approached the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2008, and an investigator was assigned to determine if the complaint merited a tribunal.

    The commissioner wrote to the RCMP at the end of March to say the evidence indicates the force may have discriminated against Blain.

    The attorney general, however, now claims that decision was made in error.

    Both the complaint and the RCMP's response are contained in Federal Court documents.

    Blain alleges supervisors discriminated against him both on the basis of his ancestry and a psychological condition he developed after a posting with the Canadian Civilian Policing Contingent in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    His first job was in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, in 1992. He says he was asked to take a full-time aboriginal officer posting even though he wasn't interested in the position and couldn't speak Coast Salish, the local native language.

    But a superior ultimately ordered him into the position, saying "staffing at Depot had informed him that they had 'found him an Indian.'"

    Blain claims supervisors in Nanaimo and his next posting in Bella Bella treated him differently because of what he felt were "underlying racist attitudes." He was posted to New Aiyansh, in northern B.C., in 1999.

    "New Aiyansh is a remote community and the RCMP provided housing for the five members stationed there. However, myself and the other aboriginal member were told we had to live in cramped 800-square-foot trailers on the reserve, though we each had families of four," he writes.

    "The non-aboriginal members lived in [two-storey] houses off the reserve."

    A large portion of Blain's complaint and the commission's investigation concerns the Afghanistan posting and his subsequent return to Canada. Blain was a member of one of two groups of four police officers in Kandahar.

    One consisted of three white RCMP officers and a Métis member of the Medicine Hat, Alta., police force. The "second group" included Blain, a Métis, an Inuit and a black officer.

    Blain says the "second group" members were given inferior living quarters, heavier weapons and menial tasks.

    "The complainant states that the 'second group' did the vast majority of the training of Afghan police cadets. Training took place in temperatures of up to 50 C in a tent with no air-conditioning," the investigator writes.

    "During the training, the complainant states that to his knowledge, the 'first group' members were working in air-conditioned offices or out on missions. However if camera crews or dignitaries were attending training on a particular day, the 'first group' would announce that they were conducting training that day."

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    On his return to Canada after the posting in 2007, Blain went on sick leave. He claims his doctor and clinical psychologist said he was not fit for duty, but supervisors ordered him to attend a medical assessment regardless. He refused and claims the RCMP then brought a barrage of Code of Conduct charges against him concerning the dispute over his medical condition and his role as the chief of the Ashcroft band, to which he says supervisors had given prior approval.

    The commission's investigator recommends a tribunal limit itself only to the complaints that begin with Blain's posting to Afghanistan, because the prior complaints of racism involved different people and don't span all the parts of his career.

    But the investigator's report concludes evidence exists to suggest the RCMP may have discriminated against Blain and the other members of the "second group" of officers. The investigator also suggests the tribunal try to "determine whether the respondent's apparent frustration with the complainant's being on sick leave was a factor in its decision to pursue any or all Code of Conduct allegations against him."

    The RCMP responded to the commission's investigation by saying Blain failed to make use of internal grievance mechanisms. The force says his "troubles in Afghanistan resulted primarily from interpersonal conflicts and his resistance to operational requirements, not his aboriginal ancestry."

    The RCMP also says the commission isn't equipped to evaluate its internal disciplinary mechanisms. The force takes issue with the report's findings that Blain may have been treated differently from other employees.

    "No evidence is provided on which this conclusion is based, nor are the 'employees' referred to identified. It is not adequate to compare the complainant to an undefined and large group of employees," counsel for the RCMP writes. "The complainant must specify the comparator group against whom he is evaluating his treatment."

    Blain is also pursuing a separate civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court that covers many of the same allegations.

    His lawyer, Marjorie Brown, says the human rights tribunal is the proper place to hear his allegations of discrimination, especially in light of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's recent decision to request an investigation into allegations of systemic sexual harassment.

    "Allegations of sexual harassment and allegations of racial harassment both tend to demonstrate that the business as usual, the manner of operating within the RCMP — at least for these members that have made the allegations — just isn't adequate to protect against that kind of behaviour," Brown says.

    "A full hearing into Cpl. Blain's allegations would provide exactly the sort of mechanism for accountability that we understand the RCMP is claiming it is seeking to institute. So, the RCMP says that it now wishes to hold those accountable that have committed harassment or discrimination. This is how you do that."

    The RCMP would not comment on the Federal Court case.


  106. Senior Mountie's slap on the wrist sparks anger

    RCMP staff sergeant has sex with subordinates and hosted drinking parties

    CBC News May 23, 2012

    The RCMP is under fire for its handling of a senior Edmonton officer who had sex with subordinates and hosted drinking parties in police offices.

    Former Staff Sgt. Don Ray was demoted to sergeant, docked 10 days pay and transferred to British Columbia after a pattern of inappropriate behaviour over several years.

    An internal review found that over a three year period, Ray had sex with subordinates, drank with them at work and sexually harassed them.

    Ray also used his position to favour potential female employees.

    "He should be encouraged to retire or forcibly removed," said Krista Carle, a former B.C. constable who is involved in a class action lawsuit against the RCMP as a victim of sexual harassment.

    "To give simply another transfer to another province is shameful," she said. "They have — right now — a public relations nightmare."

    "They can say that they're going to treat harassment seriously, but the proof is in the pudding that they have not acted appropriately."

    The RCMP Adjudication Board delivered its decision in January.

    The board said it considered dismissal, but relied heavily on a joint submission to reach its decision.

    Ray's punishment sends the wrong message, said Arthur Schafer, an ethics professor at the University of Manitoba.

    "The victims lose their careers, suffer sometimes terrible psychological harm," he said. "The perpetrators suffer either not at all or in a minor way. The punishment was little more than a slap on the wrist."

    Ray's disciplinary hearing came amid widespread complaints from female RCMP officers who say they experienced sexual harassment in the force.

    The handling of Ray's case will not help in improving relations between senior RCMP staff and employees, said Mike Webster, a police psychologist on Vancouver Island.

    "Female members within the RCMP are not going to feel safe working in that environment as a result of this decision," he said. "The organization is riddled with a toxic environment, high levels of employee stress and a culture of fear."

    Webster believes Mounties need a union to help turn around their troubled environment.

    Ray was the head of the polygraph unit at the RCMP's Edmonton headquarters from 2006 to 2009 when the complaints took place.


  107. Police knew in 2000 Pickton was hunting women

    The Canadian Press May 25, 2012

    Almost two years to the day before police searched Robert Pickton's now-notorious pig farm, police knew the man was "hunting" for women while in disguise, the Missing Women's Inquiry has heard.

    A retired RCMP profiler told the inquiry Thursday that he met with several other officers to discuss Pickton as a key suspect in the case at the Coquitlam, B.C., RCMP detachment, not far from Pickton's muddy farm.

    During the Feb. 4, 2000, meeting, then-sergeant Keith Davidson said investigators discussed getting a search warrant for the farm and asking for a wiretap of Pickton's phone lines.

    But police didn't get the warrant.

    It would be another two years before police searched the farm, and in between that time, 14 women disappeared, said Cameron Ward, lawyer for more than two dozen family members of the murdered and missing women.

    "Can you explain to me and my clients ... why the RCMP failed to either prove he was a suspect or rule him out in that two-year period?" Ward asked Davidson.

    "I can't," he replied.

    A rookie officer from the Coquitlam detachment eventually obtained a search warrant to look for weapons on the farm in February 2002. Instead, police found evidence of horrible crimes and eventually the remains or DNA of 33 women.

    Davidson said he learned at the February meeting that police knew Pickton was a night person, that he picked up pigs every Saturday at auction and that he was ritualistic and sloppy.

    He used wigs when he picked up girls, Davidson said.

    "He went out hunting for girls in disguise, right?" Ward asked as he read over Davidson's notes of the meeting.

    "Hunting would probably have been my word. Obviously if he wears wigs," he said, pausing. "I was being told he went out to pick out girls wearing wigs."

    Thursday was the last day for oral testimony at the commission.

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    Final arguments from various lawyers representing police officers, their departments, governments, family members and aboriginal interests, among others, have been put off until June 4.

    The week-long delay of final legal arguments angered Lori-Ann Ellis, the sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, whose DNA was found on Pickton's farm.

    "Family members have made travel plans," she said. "They're going to the memorial."

    A memorial event at a park on the edge of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside where many of the women lived is set for June 1.

    It was planned as a way for the women's families to mark the end of the public inquiry.

    Outside the inquiry, Ward said a great deal about what went wrong around the police investigations into the women's disappearances has come out since the inquiry started last October.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal must complete his report by June 30.

    "It's my hope ... that we learn enough from this process to ensure that a tragedy of this nature does not happen again," Ward said.

    He said the process has been especially horrific for the murdered or missing women's families who have waited more than a decade to learn why Pickton wasn't caught sooner.

    One stark factor that's emerged from the inquiry has been the attitude of indifference by some people involved in the investigation towards the women who disappeared, Ward said.

    He said he would like to see recommendations on improving police communications, more resources for such investigations and how police in the province could better co-operate to solve such cases sooner.

    The inquiry started off on a sour note when the provincial government denied legal funding to several groups who had already been granted participant status at the inquiry. Many of those groups or individuals pulled out of the process.

    Pickton was charged with killing 26 women, but convicted of six murders. Many of his victims were sex workers from Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside.


  109. Deadly Dysfunction: Scathing undisclosed details from inside the Pickton investigation

    Brian Hutchinson May 25, 2012

    Lori Shenher thought her career as a police officer was over. The reasons: Pickton trauma. Burn-out. Guilt, the result of failure. Anger. For more than two years, from 1998 to 2000, Ms. Shenher had led a Vancouver Police Department unit tasked with finding missing women. And in that time, more women went missing and were murdered by Robert Pickton. The Port Coquitlam pig farmer had been in police sights — her sights — a long time.

    Pickton was her prime suspect. He was placed under police surveillance, yet he continued to kill and dispose of bodies at his farm. When he was finally arrested in 2002, Ms. Shenher didn’t celebrate. She despaired, knowing a serial killer had slipped through her fingers. While on leave, suffering from post-traumatic stress and thinking she would never return to police work, she decided to spill her guts. Ms. Shenher sat in front of her computer and began to write.

    The result was a 289-page manuscript that Toronto-based publisher McClelland & Stewart planned to have in bookstores by September 2003. But circumstances changed. The manuscript was never published. It was buried and stayed that way until this year, when lawyers representing the families of Pickton’s victims at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver forced its disclosure and requested that it be made public.

    During hearings in April, several passages from the Shenher manuscript were read into the inquiry record. Some lawyers argued the entire document should be entered as evidence. Commissioner Wally Oppal rejected their arguments last week. The National Post has obtained a copy of the manuscript and is publishing previously undisclosed details for the first time.

    "It is only now that I recognize all of the signs and signals of burnout and post traumatic stress disorder brought on by doing a horrible job for an unsupportive and incompetent organization,” Ms. Shenher wrote, a year after Pickton’s arrest. “I was no longer able to bear the weight of our ineptitude and rationalization…. It had always been Pickton.”

    Her book is the rawest, most immediate and revealing account of the botched missing women and Pickton investigations. It describes a major Canadian police department plagued by indifference, in-fighting, sexism, racism. And it reveals much about Ms. Shenher herself.

    She was a fish out of water, a young lesbian trying to work her way up in an alpha male world. The VPD was not an exceptionally tolerant or progressive workplace in 1991, the year Ms. Shenher joined. Hostilities were common inside headquarters and on the street. She recalls how officers sometimes played it old school, kicking down doors and roughing up suspects.

    After working on various assignments — patrol, surveillance, a prostitution task force in Vancouver’s crime-infested Downtown Eastside — Ms. Shenher joined the VPD’s Missing Persons Unit in July 1998. Despite her lack of seniority, she was made the unit’s lead investigator and file co-ordinator. It seemed the VPD brass had finally accepted that prostitutes from the Downtown Eastside were vanishing without a trace. Those cases became her focus.

    Early in her assignment, she wrote, then-VPD inspector Peter Ditchfield suggested it “would very likely turn into a serial killer investigation.” She felt she had arrived. But her enthusiasm for the job waned when she discovered how thinly resourced the missing persons unit really was. It was moribund, perhaps by design, Ms. Shenher suggests in her account.

    “There was no real plan to find these women,” she wrote, in one of the few passages that were read into the inquiry record last month. “I see now that I was merely a figurehead, a sacrificial lamb thrown into an investigation the VPD management was convinced would never amount to anything and would never grow into the tragedy it has become. An investigation they could care less about.”

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    Ms. Shenher is extremely critical of her colleagues; few are spared from her bitter attacks. She began at the top.

    “At the time, beleaguered former chief constable Bruce Chambers was running the VPD,” she wrote. “Between trying to manage a highly dysfunctional organization and sniffing out snakes in his own senior management team, he was busy and not particularly interested in a bunch of missing hookers and drug addicts.”

    The passage was read back to Ms. Shenher last month, when she returned to the inquiry for cross-examination by Cameron Ward, a lawyer for the families of the murdered and missing women. “I stand by that,” she testified.

    The unit operated from a tiny, “airless and windowless” room inside department headquarters on Main Street. Missing person complaints were handled by a civilian clerk named Sandra Cameron, whom Ms. Shenher alleged in her book was prone to “diatribes and rants.”

    On one occasion, “I listened to [Ms. Cameron] speaking to someone on the phone, obviously growing more and more impatient and agitated. Finally, she shouted into the receiver, ‘SPEAK ENGLISH, THIS IS CA-NA-DA.’ This was not the first time I had witnessed [such] behaviour on her part and I had had enough.”

    In another passage read aloud into the inquiry proceedings by lawyer Ward, Ms. Shenher recalls asking Ms. Cameron “who she had ‘blown’ to manage to retain her job all of these years. She just laughed, perhaps thinking I was kidding. I wasn’t.”

    Ms. Shenher received compelling information that summer, tips that identified Robert “Willie” Pickton, a creepy loner living on a messy pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam. According to police sources who came forward in 1998, Pickton bragged that he could dispose of bodies on his farm using a meat grinder. Sources claimed that women’s purses and identification were inside Pickton’s trailer. Shenher met one of the sources and thought him to be honest.

    She learned that a year earlier, Pickton was charged with the attempted murder of a Downtown Eastside prostitute, whom he had lured to his farm. An RCMP officer who had investigated the stabbing and had recommended the attempted murder charge to Crown prosecutors believed the case was a slam dunk, an easy conviction. But the Crown stayed the charge, on the belief — not shared by the RCMP or Ms. Shenher — that Pickton’s alleged victim was too drug-dependent to make a reliable witness.

    “I became more convinced that Pickton was our man,” Ms. Shenher wrote in her book.

    She had a potential ally inside the VPD: Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler with a doctorate in criminology. He believed one or more serial killers were preying on Downtown Eastside prostitutes and he shared his perspective with Ms. Shenher.

    Mr. Rossmo was not well-liked by certain colleagues, who thought him an inexperienced flake and unworthy of the unique title he had been given, detective inspector. Ms. Shenher had similar opinions. “His own arrogance and insecurity are his greatest faults,” Ms. Shenher wrote. “Rossmo told me he felt the offender or offenders had the ability to dispose of bodies in privacy, was likely Caucasian and probably used a vehicle, all things I had surmised on my own without the use of any computer program.”

    Of course, the description fit Robert Pickton. If Ms. Shenher had already drawn similar conclusions, and was convinced he was the perpetrator, then why was Pickton not apprehended in 1998? How could Ms. Shenher have failed, knowing all that she did? In her manuscript, she blames the old boys, the apathetic men in charge.

    “[The missing women] were dead, we had a strong suspect and, still, VPD management put their collective hands over their ears, loudly sang la-la-la and pretended we didn’t have a responsibility to find these women,” she wrote, in another passage read aloud at the inquiry by Mr. Ward, the lawyer.

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    She could have pressed harder, she admits. “I, too, should have complained long and loud about the lack of resources to properly investigate these files and I really didn’t.”

    By 1999, she had decided it came down to this: Rock the boat and watch her career go up in flames or go with the flow and keep climbing the VPD ladder. She chose the latter course. “The best I could hope to do was try my best for these women and cover my own ass,” she wrote.

    Mr. Rossmo’s VPD contract expired in 2000. He filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit that ended up before the courts. This “became an embarrassing display of VPD upper management accusing each other of lying on the [witness] stand, like a bunch of school boys in a playing field arguing over a goal,” wrote Ms. Shenher.

    She portrayed her immediate boss, a VPD sergeant named Geramy Field, as a well-intentioned yet powerless, even befuddled, cop. Ms. Shenher wrote that at one point, it seemed as if “we had changed roles and I was now the supervisor, guiding and advising her as to the right thing to do. She appeared lost and pleaded with me to tell her what she should do.”

    In May 1999, with more women disappearing from the Downtown Eastside, a formal missing person review team (MPRT) was established and additional resources and VPD officers were put to work. Initially, Ms. Shenher was thrilled. Then she compared her resources to the Home Invasion Task Force which was set up next door. “New detectives dreamed of being asked to join the Home Invasion Task Force,” she wrote, “while those same people avoided the MPRT like the plague, uninterested in searching for a bunch of missing ‘whores’…. Apparently, victimized homeowners warranted the big guns; missing, drug-addicted hookers did not.”

    Her assessment of two VPD officers assigned to her team is scathing. Detective Constables Doug Fell and Mark Wolthers are depicted as renegades whom nobody liked. “Not only did they have even less experience dealing with major files than I had, they brought with them a dubious reputation, both on the street and among their fellow officers,” she wrote.

    The pair annoyed Ms. Shenher from the start. She was especially upset by the close attention they paid to a previously convicted sex offender and drifter named Barry Niedermeyer, whom she did not believe had any connection to Vancouver’s missing women. But arrangements were made with RCMP in Alberta to put Niedermeyer under surveillance. Ms. Shenher was miffed.

    “Fell and Wolthers strutted and preened as the surveillance was going on, basking in the glow of their perceived new importance as the detectives overseeing this large undercover operation that was the collection of [Niedermeyer’s] DNA,” she wrote sarcastically. “[Another VPD officer] and I were so annoyed, we took to snorting like pigs in the office — our way of staying sane in such a manic environment and of saying they were pursuing the wrong man and that we believed Pickton was a far more worthy suspect.”

    Niedermeyer was eventually charged with more sex offences and was convicted and imprisoned, thanks to the work of Messrs.. Fell and Wolthers. Yet Ms. Shenher slams them in her book, giving them no credit at all.

    In testimony this month at the inquiry, Messrs. Fell and Wolthers claimed that information about Pickton was kept from them while they worked under Ms. Shenher. Other officers have denied the allegation. Mr. Wolthers also said the pair was unfairly criticized in the VPD’s official missing women investigation review, written by Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard and entered as evidence early on in the inquiry. Mr. Wolthers called the deputy chief’s findings “disgusting.”

    Both officers were removed from the review team in 2000. Mr. Wolthers, now retired, does not believe the VPD ever completed its job, even after Pickton was arrested. “I believe strongly that there’s two to three serial killers,” he told the inquiry. “I don’t believe that Robert Pickton is responsible for all of ‘em.’”

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    Ms. Shenher turned to clairvoyants and psychics to help her crack the missing women cases. She “didn’t exactly broadcast it around the office,” she wrote. One psychic seemed to have a gift, but nothing useful materialized.

    By the summer of 2000, the number of names on the VPD’s missing women list had surpassed 30. Ms. Shenher and other officers were told the review team was winding down, that the RCMP was going to review the entire investigation and basically assume the missing women files. The Mounties took review team documents to their offices in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb; some have not been seen since, according to frustrated inquiry lawyers.

    The RCMP had already been conducting an on-again, off-again investigation into Robert Pickton and had shared the same graphic tip information with the VPD. The farm that Pickton shared with his younger brother David was in the RCMP’s jurisdiction; it was just a few kilometres from the RCMP’s Port Coquitlam detachment, in fact.

    The Mounties were also aware of Piggy’s Palace, a booze can the brothers owned and operated; it sat across the street from their farm. It was widely understood to be frequented by Hells Angels members and associates. The RCMP had great interest in such characters and had various biker investigations underway.

    Then there was Bev “Puff” Hyacinthe, a civilian who worked inside the RCMP’s Port Coquitlam detachment. She was a Pickton family friend and neighbour, the inquiry has heard. She allegedly attended a New Year’s Eve party at Piggy’s Palace in 1999 and saw Robert Pickton cavorting with a woman later identified as missing. Remarkably, Ms. Hyacinthe was also aware that Robert Pickton had learned he was under RCMP surveillance, the inquiry has heard. (Inquiry lawyers wanted Ms. Hyacinthe to testify; David Pickton, too. Commissioner Oppal refused their requests, without offering any explanation.)

    Like others, Ms. Shenher thought the Mounties’ on-again, off-again interest in Pickton was odd. Why, she wondered, had they suddenly offered to review Vancouver’s missing women investigations? “It became obvious the VPD was looking for an opportunity to dump this case,” she wrote. Perhaps the RCMP felt they needed to show “acceptance for some of the responsibility for the file.” The truth may be far more complicated.

    Pickton kept on killing. Lori Shenher became fed up with the review team, and left in November 2000. This was “sooner than planned,” she wrote, explaining that “a murder took place in my own family and the only place I felt I should be was with my partner.” She and her same-sex partner had a baby boy early the next year. Ms. Shenher took maternity leave. When she returned to work, she joined the VPD’s Diversity Relations Unit.

    But the missing women investigation gnawed at her conscience. The following summer, Ms. Shenher met with a Vancouver Sun reporter, Lindsay Kines, and she unloaded. “I told him of the set-up of the MPRT, of the shell game that was the VPD’s response to these women’s disappearances, of the incompetent people we were forced to work with,” she wrote in her manuscript. “I placed him in an awful position, knowing he wouldn’t be able to use any of it, but feeling someone needed to know this — the public needed to know this.”

    She also discussed details with television producer Chris Haddock, the creator of the CBC drama da Vinci’s Inquest, which was shot in Vancouver. Ms. Shenher had been a journalist before joining the VPD and she often worked as an advisor for Mr. Haddock on his hit series. She couldn’t resist sharing with him her “frustration with the lack of progress on the Pickton file.”

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    The RCMP had all kinds of information on Pickton: The 1997 knife attack on a Downtown Eastside prostitute. Reports from various sources in 1998 and 1999, about women’s clothing and firearms on his farm. About Pickton talking about his ability to dispose of corpses. A witness account, about Pickton purportedly skinning a female corpse in his barn. Bev Hyacinthe’s alleged knowledge of Pickton. And yet senior RCMP officers claim they lacked information to obtain a warrant to search the Pickton farm.

    But in February 2002, a young RCMP corporal applied to the courts for permission to enter the property. His search warrant application was based on the suspicion that Pickton possessed an illegal handgun. Once on the farm, more macabre discoveries were made: Items that had belonged to missing women. The farm became a massive crime scene investigation and Pickton was soon arrested.

    Ms. Shenher was invited to witness RCMP investigators interview Pickton at their Surrey detachment. She was told that Pickton “had masturbated almost immediately upon entering the cell the previous night and, to the horror of his poor cellmate, would do so several times throughout the night.” Pickton would give the RCMP a confession, of sorts, hinting that he might have killed as many as 49 women. By then, his fate was practically sealed. He was eventually charged with 26 counts of first degree murder and was convicted by a jury on six counts of second degree murder. But his trial was not held until 2007.

    Ms. Shenher felt no satisfaction after his arrest. The RCMP had taken most of the credit for nabbing Pickton. VPD investigators were cast as failures. Truth was they had failed. Ms. Shenher wrote that she had come “to a startling and sobering realization — nothing in policing appealed to me.” She was done. Or so she thought.

    She went on medical leave in mid-2002 and began working on her manuscript. It was a cathartic exercise, she told the inquiry and, clearly, she felt she had some scores to settle. She and her partner had another baby. Ms. Shenher went on a long maternity leave in February 2003. She hired a literary agent, signed a book deal with McClelland & Stewart, and began delivering chapters. She wrote 289 pages.

    Inevitably, reporters caught wind of her book project. Families of Pickton’s victims were outraged. The VPD claimed Ms. Shenher was not writing a book. But she was, and was still collecting a VPD paycheque. She had been part of the Pickton investigation, and she had filled her manuscript with details about evidence. Yet Pickton hadn’t even been tried. There was confusion.

    So the book disappeared.

    It “just died a death,” Ms. Shenher testified last month, when inquiry lawyers quizzed her on it. “The VPD really had no knowledge that I had written it…. They had nothing to do with the decisions around it at all.” The VPD had not ordered her to kill it. “I wasn’t in any way pressured by them.”

    On the other hand, she told lawyer Cameron Ward, “I stand by most of what I wrote, for the most part. There are a couple of things that I have come to, you know, in the fullness of time, have come to understand a little bit differently, or I have had more information provided to me, which has changed my view. But I think the overall tenor of the book I would stand by.”

    Ms. Shenher returned to the VPD in 2004. She is now a Detective Constable with the Emergency and Operations Planning Section. Reached at her work late this week, she declined to discuss her book. “I still have to work here,” she said. “I do intend to rewrite it as a memoir one day.”


  114. RCMP commissioner pledges to rid force of bad apples

    CBC News May 28, 2012

    The RCMP's disciplinary process is so bureaucratic and out of date that "bad apples" end up staying on the force long after they should be thrown out, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said in a remarkably frank open letter to Canadians on Monday.

    Paulson, who has held the top job at the force for six months, pledged to work on modernizing the disciplinary process, which can now take years to resolve a case.

    "I am trying to run a modern police force with a discipline system that was current 25 years ago," he writes. "Right now, this framework limits my ability to ensure our members' conduct is properly managed and corrected or, when necessary, to see to it that the bad apples are sent packing." The RCMP's current disciplinary process is enshrined in the RCMP Act.

    Paulson's comments come as public confidence in the force has been badly shaken by damaging reports of disgraceful conduct by some officers — conduct that often went unpunished.

    Six months ago, a CBC News investigation revealed allegations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment that allowed unacceptable behaviour to continue within the RCMP. Several current and former female officers in the force have since made similar allegations .

    Last week, it was revealed that an RCMP Sgt. Don Ray in Edmonton was demoted and will be transferred to B.C. after he admitted to having sex with subordinates, drinking with them at work and sexually harassing them over a three-year period. Some wondered why the officer wasn't fired.

    Paulson noted that "sometimes, [unacceptable] behaviour is met with punishment that just does not cut it."

    In his open letter, Paulson says Canadians can expect to hear about more cases of unacceptable behaviour. "They are the inheritance of past behaviours and attitudes," he says.

    Paulson also decried what he called the "administratively burdensome and bureaucratic decision-making process" that can see discipline cases tied up for years.

    "It's unsatisfactory that we have to continue spending your tax dollars to pay individuals that don't deserve to be in the RCMP."

    Paulson says he's started working on changing attitudes and behaviour at the force. "Since my appointment, I've clarified my expectations to my senior managers and all RCMP employees, and I have taken steps to address situations where I had the authority to do so."

    But he acknowledges that "legislation alone is not enough to keep your trust," saying reforms must be guided by a commitment at each level of the RCMP to foster a respectful workplace.

    "The challenges facing the RCMP are significant, but we will create a modern and even stronger organization that continues to make you proud," he pledges.

    "The men and women of the RCMP are up to this challenge, and those you encounter deserve your respect and support."

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    Paulson also wrote to Mounties directly, specifically mentioning the disgraced Mountie Ray and calling his behaviour "outrageous."

    An internal disciplinary board found Ray guilty of serial misconduct involving sexual harassment and drinking on the job. His punishment included losing a rank and 10 days pay and a transfer from Alberta to British Columbia.

    “It is a sad stain on our reputation, and I understand the province of British Columbia’s concerns about his transfer,” Paulson wrote.

    The commissioner says all future disciplinary transfers will be reviewed.

    Paulson also warns Mounties that “if you, as a member, cannot conduct yourself professionally — as the professional police officer who has been entrusted with special powers over your fellow citizens — then I need you to leave this organization. I feel as though the organization is under threat right now, and my primary duty is to protect Canadians and to protect the RCMP.”

    In his letter, Paulson notes: “The media are seeking and have obtained several records of decision in a number of recent and historical cases, as is their right. I expect salacious and troubling details of member misconduct to surface and be the source of much criticism of the force. Hang in there and try not to let these stories interfere with the tremendous work you do every day on behalf of Canadians.

    “Some of these stories are historical, some are recent, and sadly some are not yet widely known.”


  116. Alta. police asked to review Vancouver police shooting video

    CBC News May 29, 2012

    Police investigators from Alberta will conduct an independent review of a cellphone video of the fatal shooting by Vancouver police of a mentally ill man in 2007, which was released by CBC News on Monday.

    The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has been requested to review the new video and witness information as in independent body by the B.C. Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, according to a statement released by the Vancouver Police Department on Tuesday morning.

    Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond said the review was ordered to ensure that British Columbians have confidence in their police.

    "This is a very sensitive case, which is why we have asked the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an experienced, independent investigative agency, to consider the case in light of new information. I know that the Vancouver Police Department agrees that this matter be investigated externally and will fully co-operate with the ASIRT investigation."

    Video shows man crawling
    The video shows the last moments of Paul Boyd, a 39-year-old mentally ill animator, who died after an altercation with Vancouver police in August 2007.

    Boyd can be seen on his hands and knees on Granville Street, moving toward Const. Lee Chipperfield, who is pointing a gun. The view is briefly obscured when Boyd crawls in front of a car, and Chipperfield fires the last of nine shots at him. The fatal bullet struck Boyd in the head.

    The disturbing video is the only one known to be recorded of the incident. It was captured by Andreas Bergen, a tourist from Winnipeg, who was visiting Vancouver with friends. At the time, Bergen didn't think his shaky, dimly lit video was valuable because there were dozens of witnesses closer to the scene than he was.

    But in March of this year, B.C.'s police complaint commissioner issued a report, concluding there wasn't "clear, convincing and cogent evidence … that Chipperfield used unnecessary force or excessive force during his incident."

    Bergen said he read an account of the decision and became concerned and contacted CBC News to release the video. The video didn't capture the entire event in which Boyd — who was suffering from bipolar disorder and paranoia — fought with police, striking two officers with a bicycle chain and lock.

    The video also doesn't show Boyd absorbing punches from police, blows from their batons and even several bullets fired to his midsection, yet not giving up.


  117. Was the killing of Paul Boyd an appropriate use of deadly force? Hardly

    By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun May 29, 2012

    Frank Paul, Robert Dziekanski and now Paul Boyd — once again a dramatic, heart-wrenching video has surfaced belying the official B.C. police version of how a civilian died at their hands.

    The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent body that investigates officers in that province, on Tuesday began reviewing the bystander’s footage of the fatal August 2007 confrontation between Boyd and the Vancouver police department.

    Attorney-General Shirley Bond made the damage-control announcement of the arm’s-length assessment shortly before the provincial coroner’s service issued a release saying it too would review the case.

    The newly discovered recording belies the official criminal justice branch account of Boyd’s death that was based on the police investigation. And it reinforces the belief among his family and civil rights advocates that Boyd’s killing was an improper use of deadly force.

    The video further tarnishes the much-discredited system the province depends on to oversee police.

    “How is it that the VPD investigators did not canvass these witnesses for what they saw?” complained Robert Holmes, B.C. Civil Liberties Association president.

    “The video shows the photographer was in proximity to the shooting. The failure of the VPD to control the scene and canvass witnesses for evidence is very troubling.”

    Andreas Bergen, a Winnipeg man visiting Vancouver at the time of the tragedy, gave the pictures to CBC.

    Once again a B.C. police investigation into one of their own looks shoddy, once again the branch looks complicit in a coverup and once again the complaints commissioner looks like a crony.

    As late as Monday, deputy police complaints commissioner Rollie Woods was insisting there was no reason to reopen the case.

    What unmitigated gall.

    In 2009, former judge William Davies condemned the justice system’s response to Paul’s needless death.

    The 47-year-old Mi’kmaq was dragged unconscious by two VPD officers from a cell in December 1998 and dumped in an alley where overnight he froze to death.

    A year later, in June 2010, retired appeal court judge Thomas Braidwood released a damning report from the inquiry into Polish immigrant Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver International Airport, where he was Tasered by Mounties.

    He said the RCMP officers were guilty of “shameful conduct” and they are awaiting trial on perjury charges.

    In both case, the videos exposed the misconduct by making blatant the attempts to hide or minimize fatal police errors.

    It is staggering that the VPD, the branch and the complaints commissioner mishandled this case while those inquiries were dominating the media.

    A talented and well-loved animator who suffered from bipolar disorder, the 39-year-old Boyd was shot dead by Vancouver Police constable Lee Chipperfield.

    First, no independent third-party investigation occurred — the VPD did it.

    Second, the branch took two years to decide it wasn’t going to lay a charge.

    It stated in a 2009 release: “While Mr. Boyd was struck and knocked down or partly knocked down by seven shots, he continued to get up and advance or attempt to get up and advance on the officer after each shot.”

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    The video captures a disarmed and wounded Boyd crawling haltingly across Granville Street.

    Twenty-three seconds after the fusillade, one more rang out.

    “According to the officer Mr. Boyd was on his feet and practically vertical when the last shot was fired,” the criminal justice branch declared.

    He wasn’t according to some witnesses, the pathologist and I think the grainy, shaky video supports that view.

    Regardless, the inquest didn’t begin until the fall of 2010.

    Afterwards, calls for a review of Boyd’s death were rejected despite contradictions between the police account, civilian witnesses and forensic evidence.

    The police union defended Chipperfield as making a hard, tough decision in the face of a threatening man who was terrorizing the public.

    But that’s why he shot Boyd seven times.

    The question is why 23 seconds later, the delusional man was shot again — the final round, a bullet to his head.

    Chipperfield, who joined the force in 2003, testified that he opened fire to stop Boyd from advancing toward several officers, failing to obey commands to drop his weapon and get down on the ground.

    He said he shot Boyd in the head because he kept getting up, advancing toward police and he thought he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

    His testimony was contradicted by other officers and the pathologist who said Boyd was most likely on his knees when hit by the final bullet.

    The CJB release suggested Chipperfield could reasonably have feared for his safety.

    Really? After he put seven slugs into Boyd’s torso?

    Watch the video. (http://bit.ly/JTg0Zx)

    It is impossible to believe Chipperfield was still afraid after he unleashed that first barrage. Boyd had been disarmed and pumped full of lead; he was on his hands and knees hemorrhaging.

    Chipperfield had 23 seconds to assess the threat.

    Count to 23.

    It is a long time: The 1971 Boston Bruins scored three goals in 20 seconds.

    Watch the video, and ask yourself if the final shot was an appropriate use of deadly force or an execution?


  119. Mistakes made in fatal shooting, former B.C. top cop says

    CBC News May 30, 2012

    A former B.C. solicitor general says amateur video released this week shows that Vancouver police failed to follow procedure in the shooting death of a mentally ill man.

    On Wednesday, Liberal MLA Kash Heed screened the video taken by a tourist as police confronted Paul Boyd, who had become violent and threatening on a Vancouver street on the night of Aug. 13, 2007.

    The incident ended after police fired a ninth shot, which hit Boyd in the head and killed him.

    Heed, also a former Vancouver police superintendent and a former West Vancouver police chief, had supported the officers’ actions based on five previous investigations that laid no blame against them.

    "After reviewing the incident I have a different opinion,” Heed said Wednesday. “I'm glad that we are now focusing on an outside agency to come in and review this incident. The minister of justice made the correct call here," Heed said.

    The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been called in by Attorney General Shirley Bond to examine the video and interview the man who recorded it. The BC Coroners service also said Tuesday it was reviewing the results of its inquest into Boyd’s death in light of the new information.

    The cellphone video was shot by Andreas Bergen, of Winnipeg, who brought it to the attention of CBC News after becoming concerned when he read reports about the outcome of the investigations into the incident.

    Boyd can be seen in the video, crawling slowly on all fours toward Const. Lee Chipperfield, who fired the fatal round.

    Heed said a well-trained officer would not have fired that shot under the circumstances.

    "Because if the threat is no longer the threat that was posed originally, when you applied your force, of course, you must go to a different level to control the individual.”

    Forensic psychologist Michael Elterman, who also screened the video Wednesday, agreed with Heed.

    Elterman also dismissed a finding quoted that Chipperfield was under such great stress he was made “inattentionally blind” to the apparently reduced level of danger actually posed by Boyd.

    “It’s difficult to understand how this theory of perceptual blindness, or inattentive blindness, could have been operating in this situation,” said Elterman. “Another theory is the police officer panicked."

    It’s not known when the results of the Alberta police investigation will be made public.


  120. Vancouver police chief apologizes for 2007 shooting

    CBC News May 31, 2012

    Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu has apologized to the family of a man shot dead by an officer in 2007 and says the department will fully cooperate with the new investigation into the death.

    Paul Boyd was killed by an officer on Granville Street in August 2007 after he attacked officers with a bicycle chain. It was later learned he was suffering from a psychotic incident at the time

    Several investigations cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, but after CBC News uncovered a cell phone recording showing Boyd crawling on his hands and feet moments before he was shot, a new investigation by a special team of police from Alberta was ordered by the province.

    Chu pointed out there has already been four reviews of Boyd's death. But he said the new video justified another investigation and the VPD would cooperate fully.

    "I'm very sorry the events unfolded the way they did that day," said Chu. "I was very disturbed by the video. It was very troubling to see that."

    He said the department has created a new web page to link together publically available documents related to the shooting.

    Const. Lee Chipperfield, the officer who shot and killed Boyd has also been pulled from frontline duty and has undergone new training and consultation with psychology experts, said Chu.

    He has since been assigned to the forensic identification unit, said Chu.


  121. Pickton inquiry gets 4-month extension

    The Canadian Press May 31, 2012

    The former judge overseeing the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case has received an extra four months to write his final report, but the extension will likely do little to allay critics who have demanded commissioner Wally Oppal spend more time hearing from witnesses about why police failed to catch the serial killer.

    Oppal has been hearing evidence since last October about why police didn't catch Pickton in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the inquiry has been sluggish as dozens of lawyers lined up to cross-examine witnesses, some of whom spent days and weeks at a time in the witness box.

    The slow pace combined with a series of delays have made it increasingly unlikely Oppal would be able to finish his work before the previous deadline of June 30.

    Oppal, who is scheduled to hear closing arguments next week, asked to have until Oct 31 to write his final report. The province's attorney general announced Thursday she had agreed to that request.

    However, Oppal did not ask for time to hear additional evidence.

    "We've heard a lot of evidence and we have a lot of exhibits and reports that have been given to us, so we feel that we can move forward," Oppal said in an interview Thursday.

    "All commissions of inquiry have timelines, and we need to work towards those deadlines. We have more than enough evidence from which to make findings and recommendations."

    Last year, Oppal asked to be given until the end of 2012 to complete his work, but the province instead set his deadline for the end of June.

    A number of families of Pickton's victims, their lawyers and the Opposition NDP have demanded Bond give Oppal more time, saying there are several witnesses that have yet to be heard that are important to understanding why police failed to catch Pickton as he murdered sex workers from Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside.

    But Attorney General Shirley Bond has repeatedly rejected those demands.

    "I am very concerned about ensuring that this report comes to a conclusion so that we can use the recommendations that will be provided to ensure that this kind of tragic circumstance doesn't happen again," Bond said on Thursday.

    "The commissioner has assured me he has had the time required to understand the policing aspects that need to be changed."

    Lawyers representing families of Pickton's victims have argued there are a number of witnesses that still need to be heard and he asked Oppal to add more than a dozen to the hearings schedule.

    The list included Ross Caldwell, a police informant who implicated Pickton years before his arrest; Lynn Ellingsen, who told Pickton's trial about seeing him murder a woman on his property; Bruce Chambers, a former Vancouver police chief; Beverly Hyacinthe, a civilian RCMP worker who knew the Pickton family; and police spokeswomen Anne Drennan and Catherine Galliford.

    The families also asked that Oppal hear from Pickton and his brother David.

    Oppal rejected those witnesses and will write his report without their testimony.

    Neil Chantler, one of the lawyers representing the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, said he was disappointed Oppal didn't ask for more time to hear evidence.

    "We remain of the view that this commission was unable to complete its work du to the strict time limits placed on it by the province," said Chantler.

    The inquiry has been beset by delays and controversies since its inception. ...

    read the rest at:

  122. B.C. RCMP hit with another harassment lawsuit

    By NEAL HALL, Vancouver Sun June 4, 2012

    METRO VANCOUVER -- Another woman has filed a claim of harassment against the RCMP, but this time it’s a civilian clerk who worked for the Mounties.

    Sherri Merritt claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court that she suffered harassment at the hands of her RCMP superiors while she was off work undergoing cancer treatment.

    Merritt, 45, is also pregnant and is expecting her first baby in August.

    Her lawyer, Tom Beasley, said Friday that he represents about a dozen RCMP employees who have filed lawsuits against the force.

    “Most of the complaints involve bullying and harassment in the workplace,” he said.

    “It exists and it’s substantive. It seems to be part of the para-military culture,” Beasley said.

    Merritt began working for the City of Coquitlam in 1994 and five years later became a civilian employee of the Coquitlam RCMP, classified as an insurance/disclosure clerk.

    She claims in her legal action that she pointed out to the RCMP and the city “blatant mistakes” in disclosure, mistakes that could have led to the RCMP being found liable for violations of the Privacy Act, putting public safety at risk and possible child endangerment.

    After pointing out the mistakes, Merritt claims, she was harassed by RCMP officers in the analyst reviewer section, who felt threatened by Merritt.

    She claims the city and the RCMP didn’t take her concerns about improper disclosure seriously.

    In September 2011, her lawsuit says, she consulted with RCMP Cpl. Dean Allchin, a recognized privacy policy adviser, to prepare a letter to Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Claude Wilcott — the officer in charge of the detachment — which identified the inherent risks in the Coquitlam RCMP’s disclosure policies and a business plan with ways to correct those risks.

    She submitted the letter and business plan on Sept. 19, 2011, after her doctor advised she take a six-week medical leave to undergo cancer treatment.

    She says she went to the detachment that evening to finish up her work before going on leave, submitted invoices and deleted letter templates and files but saved them on a USB drive for her replacement to use while she was gone.

    Merritt claims she had checked with Allchin before deleting the files and his opinion was it wouldn’t be problematic.

    “No information was lost or destroyed,” her lawsuit says, but she was later accused by her superiors of destroying files.

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    She learned a month into her medical leave, just before she was scheduled to return to work in October 2011, that a criminal investigation was being conducted into the matter.

    Merritt says she phoned Wilcott, who said Merritt was under investigation for something she had done to her computer, her security clearance was cancelled and she could not return to work.

    The fact she was under criminal investigation was “broadcasted” to Merritt’s co-workers through emails and by word of mouth, which the lawsuit claims defamed Merritt’s character and “poisoned” her workplace.

    While these events were going on, Merritt had a successful in-vitro fertilization procedure in December 2011, having wanted to have a child for many years. Her due date is Aug. 25 of this year.

    Her lawsuit claims RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Hyland went to Crown counsel and asked that Merritt be charged with “mischief to data” but the Crown did not proceed with criminal charges.

    Instead, Merritt’s lawsuit claims, Crown counsel Susan McCallum sent two “warning letters” to Merritt, suggesting the plaintiff intended to “disrupt or control” her office while she was on sick leave “for the purpose of drawing attention to work [she] felt was important.”

    Beasley said he found it “bizarre” that the Crown sent a warning letter to Merritt. “I’ve never heard of a Crown sending a warning letter,” he said.

    The city has refused to reinstate Merritt and told her on March 1 to apply for Employment Insurance.

    Merritt is seeking an injunction to have her security clearance reinstated and is seeking damages for defamation, lost wages, mental distress and loss of future income.

    She is also seeking aggravated and punitive damages.

    Named as defendants the Attorney-General of Canada, the Minister of Justice for B.C., the City of Coquitlam, Wilcott, McCallum and Hyland.

    The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.


  124. Pickton Inquiry has failed, lawyer argues

    The Canadian Press June 4, 2012

    A lawyer representing families of Robert Pickton's victims has denounced a public inquiry as a failure, arguing it didn't hear enough evidence to determine why the serial killer was able to murder with impunity.

    Cameron Ward, who represents the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, says the inquiry neglected to hear from a number of crucial witnesses and allowed the police to decide which evidence and documents to disclose.

    "This commission has failed to uncover the true reasons why this enormous tragedy was allowed to happen and exactly how it was that the criminal justice system utterly failed these women and their families," Cameron Ward, who represents the families of more than two dozen missing and murdered women, told the inquiry during his final submissions Monday.

    "My clients are disappointed, discouraged and, most of all, angry at the way this commission has unfolded. They feel this commission has perpetuated the attitude of indifference and disrespect that they themselves first experienced when they reported their loved ones missing."

    Because of that, Ward says the families have no confidence commissioner Wally Oppal will get to the bottom of the police failures that allowed Pickton to murder sex workers for years before he was finally caught.

    Ward says Oppal ceded to an unfair deadline imposed by the provincial government, rushing through witnesses and skipping others, including numerous police officers involved in the Pickton investigation.

    He says the police were given too much control over the inquiry process, refusing to disclose hundreds of thousands of documents.

    Ward says the evidence the inquiry did hear showed police were negligent in failing to investigate reports of missing women, and that a police culture of disdain towards sex workers was partly to blame.

    Ward had an hour to sum up more than half a year of testimony as the inquiry entered its final week, and he used much of that time to list off what he argued were the failures of the process and of commissioner Wally Oppal.

    Outside the inquiry, Ward's clients could barely contain their distaste for the inquiry and for Oppal, a former judge and one-time Liberal attorney general.

    "I'm so pissed off, this is totally unfair," said Cynthia Cardinal, whose sister Georgina Papin was among the women Pickton was convicted of killing.

    "This is an injustice."

    The families have not forgotten that it was Oppal who, as attorney general, broke the news in 2008 that Pickton may not stand trial for 20 outstanding murder charges.

    By then, Pickton had already been convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and prosecutors were waiting to deal with an additional 20 charges until after his appeals had run out. At the time, Oppal said if the convictions were upheld, a second trial wouldn't be in the public interest.

    The inquiry began last October and has heard from dozens of witnesses, including current and former police officers, relatives of the missing women, advocates and service providers in the Downtown Eastside and academics.

    Closing submissions from various participants, including the Vancouver police and the RCMP, are scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday.

    After that Oppal has until Oct. 31 to produce a report that will include recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

    Last week, Oppal received a four-month extension to write his report, which was previously due on June 30.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002 and convicted in December 2007 of the six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49.


  125. RCMP, Vancouver police blame each other at Pickton inquiry

    The Canadian Press June 5, 2012

    The two police forces that together failed to stop serial killer Robert Pickton have ended a public inquiry pointing their fingers at each other, leaving it to the inquiry's commissioner to sort out who to believe and who, if anyone, to blame.

    The Vancouver police and the RCMP have both faced allegations that missteps by individual officers and apathy among senior management led to badly flawed investigations that were unable to stop Pickton, even as it became more likely that he was behind the disappearances of sex workers from the Downtown Eastside.

    Both have offered apologies for not doing more, but neither will accept blame. The Vancouver police insist that the fault lies at the feet of the RCMP, while the Mounties argue the opposite.

    The two forces were conducting separate but related investigations in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Vancouver into the disappearances of sex workers, and the RCMP into Pickton as a potential suspect.

    Eventually, the police combined forces to form a joint investigation, dubbed Project Evenhanded, which was formed to look for links between missing sex workers.

    Vancouver police lawyer Tim Dickson told the inquiry that while police in the city investigated missing person cases involving sex workers, the Mounties took responsibility for the investigation of Pickton because he lived in their jurisdiction.

    The RCMP appeared to take the investigation seriously at first, said Dickson, vigorously investigating tips implicating Pickton in 1998 and 1999.

    But by late 1999, the investigation appeared to grow stale. The lead RCMP investigator was transferred off the case and months at a time passed during which nothing was done on the file, said Dickson.

    "The real failure of the Pickton investigation is that chronicle of inaction," said Dickson.

    "The great shame of this is that this was the police force's best chance to stop the killings by catching the killer. Coquitlam RCMP's failure to pursue the Pickton investigation with the vigour and the resources it required is really the heart of the police force's failings in relation to the tragedy of the missing women."

    While the Vancouver Police Department has acknowledged its own senior officers were slow to realize a serial killer was operating in their city, Dickson said the department's greatest fault was not pressing the RCMP to do more to investigate Pickton.

    The RCMP, however, rejected the Vancouver Police Department's suggestion that the Mounties were solely responsible.

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    RCMP lawyer Cheryl Tobias said the two forces should have combined their efforts much earlier, but she said that didn't happen because Vancouver police were slow to realize the gravity of the investigation.

    "There was a delay in forming a formal joint-forces operation of the kind that was necessary to deal with the complex and extensive investigation," she said.

    "But the evidence has shown that the delay was mostly, if not entirely, due to the delay that occurred in the management in the Vancouver Police Department coming to realize that a serial offender likely was involved."

    In addition, Tobias said one of the reasons the RCMP's investigation slowed in 1999 and 2000 was because Vancouver police did not tell RCMP investigators that women were still disappearing.

    That mistaken belief meant the RCMP didn't consider the case to be an urgent public safety concern, she said.

    Tobias said officers on the ground did the best they could with the information they had at the time, but she said all they had was a series of uncorroborated tips, which didn't amount to proof that Pickton was the only suspect worth pursuing.

    "Hindsight is the wrong lens to use to evaluate past conduct," said Tobias.

    "It should not be used to judge the efforts of those who did not have the advantage to know how things ultimately turned out."

    Both forces have issued apologies for not doing enough to catch Pickton — the Vancouver police in 2010, and the RCMP earlier this year. But both forces have also insisted their officers did the best they could at the time and they shouldn't be judged with the benefit of hindsight.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal has heard from dozens of witnesses, including current and former members of the Vancouver police and the RCMP.

    His final report, due by Oct. 31, will detail what each police force did and resolve conflicts in the testimony at the inquiry.

    While he can't assign legal blame or liability, Oppal can make findings about whether either force or their officers acted properly or ought to have done more.

    Closing arguments are scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002 and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm, though he told an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49.


  127. Pickton inquiry hears final submission

    CBC News June 6, 2012

    The public inquiry looking into why it took so long to catch serial killer Robert Pickton has come to a close in Vancouver, as testimony and submissions ended Wednesday with a defence of police and a plea for sense in dealing with drug-addicted sex workers.

    It now remains for Commissioner Wally Oppal to complete his report and recommendations, due at the end of October.

    The public hearing phase wrapped up much as it began — with the downtown Vancouver street where the inquiry was held blocked off by protestors, some weeping in memory of the missing and murdered.

    Many groups boycotted the hearings, saying it was stacked in favour of the police.

    “It feels incomplete,” said Cynthia Cardinal, sister of one of the murdered women, Georgina Papin.

    “We didn't really get the answers we wanted and things didn't go the way we wanted to because of the lack of evidence.”

    Earlier this week, the lawyer for 26 of the families, Cameron Ward, ended his submissions with a blistering critique, saying the commission failed because vital evidence was never heard.

    Pickton claimed after he was arrested that he had killed 49 women.

    One of the key questions facing the inquiry is how so many women could have disappeared over so many years without an arrest, or even public acknowledgement a serial killer was at work.

    Police on defensive
    One police lawyer told the commission in a final submission Wednesday that authorities often seem to be in a no-win position.

    “If the police are too present, they're over-policing, harassing, displacing the sex trade workers, as we've heard here,” said Vanessa Christie, counsel for retired Vancouver police chief Terry Blythe and deputy chief, Al Unger.

    “If the police are not present enough, they're disengaged, disinterested, not protecting the sex trade workers, as we've heard here.”

    Christie urged the commission to avoid blaming individuals, such as her clients, saying that if there was a failure, it was the lack of resources and other constraints facing police.

    The sordid and sad world of the sex trade workers who were killed also figured prominently.

    Women will remain vulnerable as long as addiction is treated as a criminal problem rather than a health issue, said Len Doust, lawyer for the B.C. government.

    “Drug addiction problems are at the root of almost all of the problems of significance in those communities. We try to address them as a society with the criminal justice system, but it's obvious it's going to fail,” Doust said.

    The next task is to come up with ways to fix the problems pointed out in the months of testimony. Reform of drug and prostitution laws is just one of the big picture items Oppal will have to deal with as he writes his report in the months ahead.

    The other major issue is the complicated web of policing and courts, jurisdictional disputes and the rights of the accused.

    The families of the missing and murdered say they want change, but there's lots of politics and turf wars between those calls and real change on the streets.


  128. Meeting with Hells Angel a casual encounter, head of Pickton inquiry says

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post June 8, 2012

    VANCOUVER — The head of a controversial public inquiry called to examine how police botched investigations into serial killer Robert Pickton has admitted to having recently engaged in a “casual” encounter and conversation with a Hells Angels motorcycle club member.

    “I recently attended a public entertainment event at B.C. Place Stadium,” Wally Oppal, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry chief, said in a statement emailed from his office to inquiry participants late Friday afternoon. “During this event, I had the occasion to briefly speak with a person that, unbeknownst to me, is reportedly a member of the Hells Angels.

    “Not being aware of this person’s reported affiliations, I had a casual conversation with him. Had I known that this person was reportedly a member of the Hells Angels, I would not have had even this brief exchange with him.”

    A former B.C. Court of Appeal judge and former B.C. Attorney General, Mr. Oppal said that while the exchange “was of no substance, when I learned of the reported affiliation of this person, I felt it was necessary to communicate what happened to [inquiry] participants.”

    Unsubstantiated rumours surfaced earlier this week that Mr. Oppal had been captured on camera in the company of a full-patch Hells Angel member. Mr. Oppal was purportedly seen embracing the person.

    Public hearings at the missing women inquiry concluded this week, with some lawyers questioning why evidence regarding relationships between members of the Hells Angels, police, Robert Pickton and his brother, David Pickton, was not introduced or closely examined. Mr. Oppal made a number of rulings over the course of the hearings phase that angered some lawyers and their clients.

    The inquiry has been beset with controversy since it was called by the B.C. government in 2010. Hearings began in October. By February, citing lack of proper document disclosure by police, a lawyer for the families of 25 missing and murdered women alleged that the inquiry was “enabling a police cover-up,” a charge that Mr Oppal vigorously denied.

    In April, the National Post brought to light allegations of harassment and intimidation occurring inside the commission of inquiry office in Vancouver. The commission’s executive director, a former Vancouver Police Department sergeant, was placed on paid leave and a Vancouver lawyer was appointed to investigate the allegations. A second Vancouver lawyer, Peter Gall, was appointed to oversee the investigation and act as a media contact. The Post asked Mr. Gall this week to provide an investigation update. He did not offer one.

    Later in April, Mr. Oppal appeared in a sadistic slasher movie filmed in Vancouver. He played the victim of a serial killer, a role he said he enjoyed. Relatives of women murdered by Pickton said they were appalled at Mr. Oppal’s behaviour.

    Mr. Oppal insisted in his email sent Friday that his “brief, chance exchange” with the Hells Angel member “does not have any impact or influence on the report and recommendations I will develop.” He is to submit his report to the province in October.


  129. Tories tried to limit RCMP's apology to Robert Pickton victims


    The federal public safety minister's office tried to scale back an apology the RCMP delivered earlier this year to the families of serial killer Robert Pickton's victims, Postmedia News has learned.

    A senior adviser to the RCMP commissioner later wrote that the government's proposed revisions — which ended up not being adopted — drained the apology of its "purpose" and "impact," according to internal emails obtained under access-to-information laws.

    A Public Safety spokeswoman and top RCMP officials insisted this week that the email exchanges reflected a natural back-and-forth dialogue that occurs between government and its agencies. Experts were divided over whether the government had overreached or not.

    On Jan. 27, just days before RCMP investigators were scheduled to start testifying at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia's top Mountie, then-assisstant commissioner Craig Callens, released a statement to media regarding the force's handing of the Pickton investigation.

    "I believe that, with the benefit of hindsight, and when measured against today's investigative standards and practices, the RCMP could have done more," the statement read in part.

    "On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to express to the families of the victims how very sorry we are for the loss of your loved ones, and I apologize that the RCMP did not do more."

    Pickton, a pig farmer, was arrested in 2002 and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property in Port Coquitlam, B.C. He once told an undercover officer that he killed 49.

    Email records show that shortly before the RCMP statement was issued, Julie Carmichael, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, wrote to Daniel Lavoie, the RCMP's executive director of public affairs in Ottawa, requesting changes to the text.

    "Daniel — please find attached the revised product," she wrote.

    The next line was underlined for emphasis: "Please ensure the statement issued is reflective of these changes."

    The revised statement did not include any acknowledgement that the RCMP "could have done more" in the Pickton investigation and the apology was limited to saying "how very sorry we are for the loss of your loved ones."

    "Here is the text," Lavoie wrote later that day in an email to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. "I have removed what they did not want issued. Truncated this way, it looses (sic) its purpose and its impact."

    But in the same email, Lavoie wrote that the revisions had come "too late" and that Callens had already delivered the apology to reporters in B.C.

    A spokesman for Callens, now a deputy commissioner, confirmed Tuesday that any recommendations received by Public Safety were not received in time for him to consider.

    "Callens stands by his statement," the spokesman said.

    Carmichael refused to explain this week why the minister's office sought to pare down the wording of the apology.

    "We always work with the RCMP to ensure that we communicate with Canadians as effectively and appropriately as possible," she said in an email.

    Carmichael added the government extends its "heartfelt sympathies" to missing and murdered aboriginal women, and noted that the government supports a number of law-enforcement initiatives designed to help locate missing people.

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    The RCMP commissioner said Tuesday that the government had a "legitimate interest" and was "entitled to give advice" regarding the apology.

    "In the end, we said what we had to say," Paulson said via email.

    Paulson also confirmed that he was originally going to deliver the apology in B.C., but that the timing of a plane flight prevented him from doing it.

    Lavoie, who had initially expressed disapproval of the proposed changes, said via email Tuesday that the government's feedback was "part of the process" to ensure that Public Safety and the RCMP "can respond appropriately to the public."

    "We work with partners and the process yields good results," he said.

    Darryl Davies, a professor of criminal justice and criminology at Carleton University in Ottawa, said there is no need for a public apology to be "scripted and edited and re-edited and wordsmithed."

    "The government seems to bureaucratize even an apology," he said. "What people are looking for is genuineness and sincerity."

    Davies speculated that concerns about legal liability were likely behind the government's attempts to revise the wording of the apology.

    Troy Riddell, a political science professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, offered a different take.

    "While one may disagree with the nature of the requested changes, it was not an inappropriate request in terms of the relationship between the executive and the RCMP, particularly given that there was no interference with police operations," he said. "Given that it's a public announcement and could impact on the perception of the force, it is a legitimate concern of the government."

    Under a "communications protocol" signed between the RCMP and Public Safety Canada in September 2011, the RCMP agreed to give "advance notification" to Public Safety of any public statements related to "major events," that were defined as incidents, events, announcements and speaking engagements "likely to garner national media attention."

    The protocol states that communications "products" - such as media advisories, news releases, media lines and talking points — for major, non-operational events were to be approved by RCMP communications staff at headquarters in consultation with Public Safety communications staff "PRIOR" to public use.

    "Public Safety Canada will provide timely feedback on these documents," the protocol states.


  131. Pickton inquiry cleared of sexual harassment

    CBC News June 13, 2012

    The commission conducting a public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case has been cleared of sexual harassment after an independent investigation.

    The two-month investigation was launched in April after anonymous allegations were made in a National Post story against some staff at the office of the ongoing inquiry.

    Commission staff were accused of making derogatory comments about other staff and sex workers testifying at the hearings into why police failed to catch a serial killer.

    As a result of the allegations, executive director John Boddie took paid leave and Commissioner Wally Oppal appointed lawyers Delayne Sartison and Peter Gall to look into the claims.

    In a press release issued Wednesday, Gall said the investigation found no evidence of a breach of the Human Rights Code by commission managers or senior staff, including Boddie.

    "Mr Boddie’s leave of absence should in no way be interpreted as anything except a necessary precaution and it does not reflect on his personal or professional integrity," said Gall.

    'Stressful workplace'
    Gall confirmed Boddie will return to the commission in his role as executive director and praised commission staff for their commitment in a "stressful and demanding" workplace.

    "It is clear that everyone involved in the process wants to help make sure that the horrific circumstances which confronted the missing and murdered women and their families can never happen again," he said.

    The inquiry is examining why Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Robert Pickton, a serial killer who preyed on sex workers from the city's impoverished Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Pickton was eventually arrested in 2002, when RCMP officers executing an unrelated warrant for illegal firearms stumbled upon the belongings and remains of missing women on his farm in nearby Port Coquitlam.

    In 2007, he was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

    In all, the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property, though he once bragged to an undercover police officer that he murdered 49 women.


  132. Brian Hutchinson on the Pickton Inquiry: Whole story still untold

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post June 15, 2012

    Near the end of the hearings, with questions still hanging and more tempers flaring, and police and their counsel pointing fingers again, a lawyer for one RCMP witness approached this reporter.

    “What are we doing here? Look at all of us,” he said, scanning the room where the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry held its hearings. A room in downtown Vancouver, filled with some of the city’s finest legal minds, but also with anger, recrimination, loss. The lawyer shook his head. “What’s been the point?”

    The inquiry was called to examine why, from 1997 to February 2002, the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP failed to stop Robert (Willie) Pickton — their prime suspect in dozens of cases of missing women — from apprehending his victims and chopping their corpses into pieces. He was killing prostitutes, right under the noses of police. Wally Oppal, the former provincial attorney general appointed to lead the inquiry, called an end to the hearings last week. He says he wants to make recommendations to ensure such an outrage never happens again.

    But some believed the entire process was unnecessary. Pickton is in prison, serving life sentences on six murder convictions. Twenty other murder charges he faced have been stayed; there will not be another trial, but he’s locked up for good.

    Others thought the inquiry’s design and mandate were fatally flawed. Aboriginal groups refused provincial funding to hire their own lawyers and participate as equals. They called the inquiry a “sham” and held protests outside.

    The inquiry was called in 2010, one of Gordon Campbell’s last acts as B.C. premier. Some critics said that appointing his former attorney general was a glaring mistake. Mr. Oppal proved an impatient commissioner whose strange behaviour outside inquiry hours — in particular, his decision in April to play the role of a serial killer’s victim in a violent slasher film — raised additional questions about his judgment and common sense.

    But the point was never lost on the victims’ relatives. Nor was it lost on certain police officers, men and women who had been “on to” Pickton years before his 2002 arrest, and knew of his predilection for skid-row prostitutes, and his violence and threats, and the illegal cockfights he hosted on his grubby pig farm every weekend during summer and the illegal booze can across the street that he ran with his younger brother, David. The one frequented by minors and Hells Angels and people off the street. Police had known quite a lot, it would emerge.

    “It has been determined that [a stabbing victim whom Pickton allegedly attempted to murder] is an East Hastings area hooker and Pickton is known to frequent that area weekly,” read a March 1997 RCMP report entered into evidence at the inquiry. “Given the violence shown by Pickton towards prostitutes and women in general, this information is being forwarded to your attention…”

    “Discussed Pickton again,” a staff sergeant at the RCMP’s Coquitlam detachment wrote in his notebook in April 2000, the inquiry learned. “If he turns out to be responsible — inquiry! — Deal with that if the time comes!”

    Officers involved in the botched missing women and Pickton investigations all lawyered up. Dramas unfolded, inside and outside the inquiry room. Some lawyers quit. Mr. Oppal is now writing his final report, due Oct. 31. There’s a fear it will read as incomplete, because the whole truth never came out. Shocking evidence was presented, but documents were missed and potential witnesses thought to have critical information weren’t called. Not every detail was read, nor every voice heard.

    Mr. Oppal’s hearings ran almost nine months before time ran out.

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    Near the end, even the commissioner was raising concerns about late disclosure from police. “Here we are at the end of the inquiry and we’re getting — we’re getting material that should have been produced months ago,” he said in May.

    Yet he suggested more than once that he’d heard enough. Current and former VPD officers and their lawyers had outlined their position, and it didn’t budge: There were good cops, women and men who had tried to investigate cases of missing women despite their inexperience and inadequate resources. Yes, mistakes were made. “Systemic” problems existed. Some officers, especially senior management types, seemed to care not a whit about missing “hookers.” They thought the women would eventually turn up alive.

    During hearings, the VPD criticized the RCMP, and vice versa. Vancouver police were late to identify women as missing and as potential victims of homicide. But look where the murders took place: On a pig farm, five kilometres from an RCMP detachment in Coquitlam, B.C. This was RCMP turf. And Pickton was known to local Mounties, years before his arrest.

    In 1997, Pickton allegedly stabbed a Vancouver prostitute on his farm, nearly killing her. Attempted murder charges against Pickton were dropped by B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch the next year, something that flummoxed RCMP Corporal Mike Connor, the local Mountie who investigated the case.

    By 1998, the inquiry heard, Cpl. Connor was convinced that Pickton was responsible for missing women, and that police sources were giving straight goods about mayhem and death on the farm. The veteran, barrel-chested Mountie spent countless off-duty hours thinking about the suspect, even sitting outside the Pickton farm in his car, looking for unusual activity.

    In mid-1999, he received a promotion, and against his wishes, was yanked off the case. Cpl. Connor’s transfer “had a devastating impact on the investigation,” the inquiry was told. Cpl. Connor, who is retired from the force, testified in February. Like some other officers who had been close to the case, he said he has suffered depression and post traumatic stress. He described his frustration with the manner in which colleagues handled the Pickton investigation, once he’d left the case. It had literally made him sick.

    With the clock ticking, Mr. Oppal became more impatient, telling lawyers to speed up their performances and chastising those who requested more time. By April, key witnesses were being bundled into four-person “panels” and giving fragmentary testimonies. Lawyers had an hour or less to cross-examine an entire panel at once, a perversion of “natural justice,” complained Cameron Ward, counsel for families of 25 missing and murdered women. Mr. Oppal replied that the new format, while “unusual,” was fair.

    Some witnesses were called to testify with little notice; others were suddenly knocked off the inquiry’s list, with no reasons given to participants. The whole process seemed ad hoc.

    Four crucial police witnesses — three former Mounties from the Coquitlam detachment, and one retired member from the RCMP’s Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit — were called to testify as a panel over two days in May, near the end. Their appearances were long-anticipated; these officers had been there. They could explain a lot.

    Earl Moulton was the Coquitlam detachment’s former operations boss. Darryl Pollock was its former supervisor, and Ruth Chapman was a former corporal who took over the Pickton investigation from Cpl. Connor. And there was Frank Henley, a former homicide investigator based in Vancouver.

    In 2000, the inquiry heard, Mr. Henley was assigned to assist Coquitlam with their flagging Pickton file. He did anything but help, it has been alleged.

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    In one extraordinary episode, characterized by a lawyer representing the Downtown Eastside community (where Pickton trolled for victims) as “quite contrary to police practice and possibly amounting to sabotage,” Mr. Henley made a solo trip to the Pickton farm, without telling his colleagues. He secretly met with Pickton a year before the killer’s arrest; Pickton was still murdering women. It was “like really, very much a social visit,” Mr. Henley would recall, in an interview conducted prior to his inquiry appearance.

    He spent about an hour with Robert Pickton, wandering his cluttered property and looking at old cars. Incredibly, he told Pickton about a confidential police informant, a man who had shocking, incriminating knowledge of him. Mr. Henley also revealed to the suspect the name of another potential informant, a woman who eventually testified against Pickton at his murder trial.

    “Did you consider whether or not you were putting a potential informant … at risk?” senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb asked Mr. Henley, on May 14.

    “No,” replied Mr. Henley. “I just wanted to meet [Pickton] and see him.” And that was the end of that; lawyers for other inquiry participants complained they had not enough minutes allocated to conduct proper cross-examinations of Mr. Henley, let alone the other police witnesses.

    Things went from bad to worse. Mr. Ward, lawyer for the families of Pickton’s victims, had previously asked Mr. Oppal to call other witnesses: police informants already identified at the inquiry, and widely discussed; David Pickton, who was never charged and never testified at his brother’s trial; more RCMP officers. Those requests were denied.

    Mr. Ward also wanted to hear from an RCMP civilian employee named Bev “Puff” Hyacinthe, who had worked in the Coquitlam detachment. Mr. Ward argued that Ms. Hyacinthe had known the Pickton brothers “personally” and had shared alarming details about them with her police colleagues. Details were sketchy; Mr. Ward wanted the inquiry to hear from Ms. Hyacinthe directly. Mr. Oppal denied the application in April. He gave no reasons.

    Mr. Ward subsequently read into the inquiry record some extracts from interviews that, he said, Ms. Hyacinthe had conducted with police after Pickton’s arrest. Ms. Hyacinthe told investigators that she’d known Pickton for 20 years. Her husband had grown up with the Pickton brothers; he had once helped the Picktons bury stolen vehicles on their farm. Her son had worked on their farm, she had told investigators, and he’d been “in Willie’s truck one time and there was bloody clothing in it that stunk.”

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    According to Mr. Ward, Ms. Hyacinthe had also described to investigators parties she’d attended at Piggy’s Palace, the Picktons’ illegal booze can. She described it as “a zoo with people in attendance,” said Mr. Ward. “There were Hells Angels, there were people off the streets.”

    Ms. Hyacinthe told police about a 1999 New Year’s Eve party she attended at Piggy’s Palace. “Willie brought a date,” she told police, according to Mr. Ward, referring to police documents. She told police she saw a photo of the same woman a few weeks later, in a newspaper. The woman had gone missing; she was “later determined to have been murdered by Willie,” said Mr. Ward.

    Bev Hyacinthe had taken photos at that New Year’s Eve party, said Mr. Ward, again referring to police documents. She had offered the photos to police. What about all of this, he asked the four RCMP panelists.

    “Ms. Hyacinthe told me nothing,” said Mr. Pollock, the former Coquitlam detachment supervisor.

    “All I can say is, if this is the state of Puff’s knowledge at some earlier point, I sure wish she’d made it known to us,” said Mr. Moulton, the detachment’s former boss.

    If she had not made her story known earlier, then why? What else had she not shared with her police colleagues? Could her information have cracked the Pickton case earlier? No one knows, because Ms. Hyacinthe didn’t testify. Mr. Oppal didn’t want to hear from her, and now it’s too late.

    “Those two days in May were a procedural and evidentiary low point in the inquiry,” another lawyer reflected later. “Coquitlam RCMP just slipped away.” So did the full story, and some of the truth. Too often that seemed the real point.


  136. Top cop concerned with Mounties airing problems in public

    CBC News June 23, 2012

    Canada's top cop is signalling Mounties to stop airing their workplace grievances in the public eye, after a week when reports surfaced about an RCMP Inspector accused of groping his co-workers, and allegations of workplace bullying on the Prime Minister's protective detail.

    In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told host Evan Solomon "one of the trends that I have seen is this propensity to go public on every sort of beef that happens in the workplace."

    An internal RCMP management report leaked to Radio-Canada this week revealed there were internal concerns about workplace bullying by Supt. Bruno Saccomani, a senior RCMP officer responsible for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's security detail.

    Earlier in the week, Paulson called the leak "unlawful."

    While the RCMP Commissioner conceded there may be a good reason why Mounties may be going public in the first place, he also suggested that going outside of the chain of command to air their dirty laundry doesn't necessarily solve the problem either.

    "I suppose you could argue that is a result of having no confidence in the internal processes and systems, but the fact is that the RCMP is very central in the public discussion these days. Any sort of issue relating to affairs within the RCMP is noteworthy and people exploit that," said Paulson.

    Last November, Cpl. Catherine Galliford came forward to CBC News with complaints of continual sexual harassment during her career in the RCMP.

    Since then, a former Nanaimo, B.C., RCMP officer Janet Merlo has filed a class-action lawsuit for alleged sexual harassment against the RCMP. Her legal team has told CBC News that up to 150 women are ready to join the suit with their own claims of sexual harassment.

    Although Galliford is not part of the class-action lawsuit, she has filed an internal complaint with the RCMP.

    Men have also complained about abusive behaviour and intimidation.

    Paulson, PMO defend senior officer
    With respect to the concerns raised about Saccomani in the leaked management report, Paulson told Solomon it's "a workplace issue, a management issue, there wasn't any discipline attached to that."

    Paulson called Saccomani "a fine officer who's done a good job throughout all of his career."

    The RCMP is "working with him," Paulson said.

    "We have coaches and mentors, and systems to try and help him hone his leadership and management style such that his employees love coming to work, which is the case in most RCMP officers."

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    An internal memo sent to Conservatives by Harper's office on Monday praised Saccomani's work, underlining that the prime minister and his family "have witnessed first-hand a dramatic improvement in the unit's performance, an improvement due largely to [the detail's] strong leadership in recent years."

    The internal memo urged Conservatives not to discuss the issue publicly.

    New bill to end 'outrageous' Mountie behaviour
    Paulson says a government bill introduced this week will give him additional powers to deal with "outrageous" behaviour Canadians have come to see from members of the RCMP.

    Paulson told Solomon that Bill C-42 will amend the RCMP Act to give him the ability to appeal a decision where "the sanction" awarded in a case of employee misconduct comes up short of personal or public expectations.

    In May, Sgt. Don Ray, an RCMP officer from Edmonton, was demoted and transferred to B.C. after admitting to harassing and engaging in sexual relations with subordinates in the workplace.

    Paulson said the new bill would give him "the ability to appeal a decision like that."

    The bill, introduced in Parliament on Thursday by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, proposes a new centralized system for investigating harassment. It would also add additional powers with which to discipline or fire what Paulson has referred to as "bad apples" within the force.

    "You can't just go to Costco and buy a new culture," Paulson said.

    However, NDP Public Safety critic Randall Garrison said the new bill "doesn't appear to address the larger problem of changing the culture in the RCMP."

    Garrison also raised concerns about the proposed civilian commission, which he said is "not independent" and would report to the minister instead of reporting directly to Parliament.


  138. B.C. RCMP officer's sexually explicit photos on S&M website spark inquiry

    Mountie who worked on the Robert Pickton case snapped in online torture images

    By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun Columnist July 5, 2012

    An RCMP code-of-conduct inquiry is underway into a Mountie who played a bit part in the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton and appeared on an Internet website posing in sexually explicit torture images reminiscent of the pig-farmer's crimes.

    In some of the graphic pictures obtained by The Vancouver Sun, Coquitlam Cpl. Jim Brown appears to wear only his regulation-issue Mountie boots and an erection as he wields a huge knife and a bound naked woman cringes in terror.

    The narrative of the still photographs, posted on an S&M website, progresses from an apparent street scene of the woman walking past Brown sitting on a wall; he overpowers her; he hog-ties her, he imprisons her in a cage, he threatens her with a large butcher knife and he slashes her.

    His detachment commander, Supt. Claude Wilcott, said that when he became aware of the material on the Web earlier this year, he discussed the issue with the force's legal services to determine if there was a violation of the Mountie code of conduct.

    "The alleged issue was deemed to be off-duty, non-criminal, adult consensual activity during which the individual was not representing himself as a member of the RCMP and thus it did not appear to legal services to meet the threshold for a code-of-conduct violation," he said.

    "Despite this legal opinion, a code-of-conduct investigation is under-way to determine if there are any additional facts and ensure the fullest review possible. While I agree the staged images are graphic, it's important to note that they appear only on an adult site catering to those who seek them out."

    Mike Webster, who has had a career counselling police officers and advising departments, including the RCMP, said the sexual degradation of women in the images raises serious concerns.

    And he thought the initial response of the national force cavalier.

    "The fact that Mr. Brown could engage in these activities without considering current attitudes toward this type of behaviour indicates to me that his empathetic abilities are impaired," Webster said.

    During a brief telephone call Wednesday at the detachment, Brown declined to comment about the pictures and the "Kilted Knight" persona featured in them.

    He acknowledged being aware of the material.

    "I am familiar with an internal investigation that was conducted," Brown said tersely. "It concluded in March or April and it was decided it was a non-issue - There was no victim."

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    Lawyer Jason Gratl was astounded by the images and said Brown's even peripheral involvement in the missing women investigation was troubling.

    Gratl, who represented Down-town Eastside community groups at the public inquiry into the Pickton police investigation, wondered why Commissioner Wally Oppal wasn't informed when he was conducting hearings at the very moment the RCMP learned of the material.

    "This pictorial enactment of a kid-napping and torture by an RCMP investigator crystallizes the ethical nexus between the detachment and the farm," Gratl said.

    "Investigators from the detachment informed Pickton he was a suspect while he was still under investigation. While the enactment of the kidnapping of a young woman from a place that resembles Strathcona to a dimly lit rural setting where she is put in an animal cage and tortured may have occurred after the terms of reference [of the inquiry], its relevance ... is indisputable."

    But Supt. Wilcott maintained in an email that to "associate this to a more than decade old investigation into a serial killer ... is an incredible leap. If you would like to check back with me in a couple weeks I may be in a better position to provide more information as I expect the investigation to be submitted to me in the near future."

    Art Vertlieb, counsel for the inquiry, said he only learned about the situation late Wednesday and would be seeking an explanation.

    Brown did not appear at the Missing Women's Inquiry or at the Pick-ton trial.

    His name, however, appears on the "Key Events Chronology" exhibit filed for one of the policing panels.

    In an entry dated July 16, 1999, it reads: "[Vancouver Police officer Geramy] Field receives call from Cst. Jim Brown (Coquitlam RCMP) re [source Ross] Caldwell; assigns tip to [officer Mark Chernoff."

    Chernoff and his partner were assigned the task of interviewing Caldwell, the second tipster to con-tact authorities and finger Pickton nearly three years before he was arrested.

    Caldwell lived on Pickton's farm and provided key information about the killer, but the inquiry was told the RCMP questioned his credibility.


  140. Missing Women Commissioner wants answers to RCMP officer's sexually explicit photos

    By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun Columnist July 6, 2012

    Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal wants quick answers about the Coquitlam Mountie, his X-rated Internet exploits and any relevance they may have to the Robert Pickton serial killings.

    But he is refusing to reopen his one-man inquiry into the investigations of the crimes and where police went awry, prolonging the heinous murder spree.

    Oppal said he had asked for a full explanation from the federal Department of Justice Thursday after reading a Vancouver Sun story about an RCMP code-of-conduct investigation into the officer who posted disturbing torture and sexually explicit photographs on the Web.

    That didn’t satisfy Cameron Ward, who represents families of missing and murdered women.

    He demanded Oppal interrupt writing his final report and reopen his just-wrapped hearings.

    “This particular officer, given his personal involvement in the Pickton investigation and the role he played three years before Pickton was apprehended is critically important,” Ward said.

    The graphic Internet images show Cpl. Jim Brown — who has been placed on administrative duties — posing in kidnap-and-torture scenes reminiscent of the pig-farm slayings.

    In one, a naked woman hangs with her hands tied above her head while the self-styled “Kilted Knight” appears to slash her with a large butcher’s knife.

    Late Thursday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Randy Beck said in a media statement that the force actually found “some graphic staged photographs” on a memory stick belonging to Brown in December 2010.

    But at that time, no investigation was begun, Beck said, because the officer in charge of the Coquitlam detachment “did not believe it met the threshold for a code-of-conduct violation.”

    In March 2012, during an investigation into a complaint by a woman about Brown, the photos on the Web were discovered. As a result, a code-of-conduct inquiry was ordered and is being conducted by the Richmond RCMP.

    “In keeping with the RCMP’s commitment to hold our members to a higher standard, I am taking the unusual step of asking an external police agency to independently review our internal code-of-conduct investigation,” Beck said.

    “While we must strike a balance between an individual’s rights and freedoms when off duty and the RCMP Code of Conduct, I am personally embarrassed and very disappointed that the RCMP would be, in any way, linked to photos of that nature.”

    In July 1999, more than two years before Pickton was arrested, Brown introduced detectives on the missing women’s task force to a key witness, Ross Caldwell.

    “We have known all along that Brown was a go-between,” Oppal said in an interview. “He had a bit part to play in all of this.”

    But Ward disagreed: “During the hearings, I unsuccessfully requested that both Brown and Pickton informant Ross Caldwell be called as witnesses … The relevance of this should be self-evident.”

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    “The ‘bit part’ Brown played was actually pretty big,” Ward said, “he produced the informant Caldwell who corroborated the prior informant [Bill] Hiscox’s information that Pickton was a killer.”

    Ward has advanced the unproven theory that RCMP members were aware years before Pickton’s arrest that off-duty cops, gangsters and sex trade workers frequented parties at Piggy’s Palace, a rural booze-can run by his brother Dave.

    When Ward put his theory to a retired senior RCMP officer at the inquiry in May, he denied knowing of Mounties partying with the Picktons.

    Beck also was incredulous.

    “The member’s full involvement in the Pickton investigation was provided to the inquiry in keeping with normal disclosure practices,” the acting commanding officer for B.C. said.

    “We will continue to cooperate fully with the inquiry and we will inform the inquiry of the findings of our code-of- conduct investigation as well as those of the independent external review.”

    Oppal insisted he was reluctant to reopen his inquiry because he believed he had heard all of the relevant evidence.

    “Cpl. Brown had no contact with Caldwell other than he was a go-between,” he said. “But because of the inflammatory nature of what we found out in The Vancouver Sun this morning I’ve asked commission counsel to look into it to see if anything else should be done. We need to know what is relevant and what might impact on the investigation.”

    The former Appeal Court justice and cabinet minister acknowledged being troubled by the controversial material.

    “It’s our duty to find out if there is anything more to this story,” Oppal said. “We have to do that.”

    Art Vertleib, commission counsel, echoed the commitment and said the inquiry hoped to have answers within a day: “We are taking it very seriously.”

    Coquitlam RCMP commanding officer Supt. Claude Wilcott said the force began investigating Brown’s Web activities after he was cleared of the complaint from “a girl on a dating website.”

    “We concluded that investigation at the end of June,” Wilcott said.

    Initially, the RCMP legal services department said Brown had been acting on his own time, was not holding himself out as a representative of the force and was engaged in legal consensual adult conduct.

    “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it should be condoned or accepted by any manager,” Ward said.

    “I know most law firms wouldn’t condone it and I’m hard-pressed to think of any reputable organization that would condone such behaviour.”


  142. Female B.C. Mountie files 2nd lawsuit against RCMP

    The Canadian Press July 8, 2012

    A female RCMP officer in British Columbia has launched a second lawsuit against the national police force.

    Const. Karen Katz is taking the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada to court over unproven allegations of harassment, sexual harassment and humiliation dating back to the late 1980s.

    Earlier this year, Katz filed a separate lawsuit against fellow officer Baldev (David) Singh Bamra and the provincial and federal governments over allegations of harassment and sexual assault.

    RCMP Supt. Ray Bernoties says the force hasn't reviewed the most recent allegations, and that at some point all the facts will be known and statements will be made under oath in court.

    In her most recent statement of claim, Katz alleges a superior described her as being a security risk who was infatuated with outlaw motorcycle gangs and biker men.

    Katz, who is the author of four books on outlaw biker culture, alleges she has also been subjected to "offensive, humiliating and demeaning" sexual comments.

    None of the allegations made in her statement of claim have been proven in court.

    The RCMP is facing a raft of sexual harassment allegations from current and former female officers, including a class-action lawsuit that lawyers say could include up to 150 women who have stories of harassment and gender-based discrimination in the police force.

    Confronting the emerging scandal was one of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's first priorities on being sworn in late last year.


  143. Mounties issue sweeping denial in B.C. harassment lawsuit

    CBC News July 17, 2012

    The RCMP is denying allegations contained in a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit against the force that prompted several other female Mounties to come forward with claims of abuse.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was a police spokeswoman on the Air India and Robert Pickton cases, first outlined her allegations in an interview with CBC News last fall and filed her lawsuit in May

    The provincial government and Ottawa, which acts on behalf of the RCMP, filed a response to civil claim on Monday.

    The response denies all of Galliford's allegations and instead paints her as an alcoholic who refused treatment and rejected the RCMP's efforts to keep her away from one of the men she alleged harassed her.

    The response to civil claim says Galliford never alerted the force to her allegations before 2011, when she filed a formal complaint that was investigated immediately.

    The governments also dispute Galliford's claim that a medical report provided to an RCMP doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress.

    In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Galliford acknowledged she did not alert the force to the harassment.

    "I didn’t complain. They’re right when they say that. I did not complain because when you go to someone to complain about harassment and abuse in the workplace, it’s almost as if they’re paying lip service," she said.

    "There really isn’t an investigation and so I really didn’t think there was any point because I knew that if I complained about what was happening to me, I would become a target and my career would be over."

    The response to civil claim goes on to say that even if the allegations are true, the acts were consensual — a statement Galliford denies.

    "It was never consensual because it was always a person in a position of authority above me," she said.

    "What I noticed over time is that these people who were my supervisors would try to get me in a place where they could do or say what they wanted and I was alone with them and they made sure that there were no other witnesses."

    Galliford is seeking unspecified damages for loss of past and future income in addition to punitive and aggravated damages.

    Her high-profile case is the latest in a growing list of legal actions against the Mounties alleging a culture of harassment inside the force.


  144. B.C. RCMP officer sues for unfair dismissal

    CBC News July 25, 2012

    A former RCMP detchment commander is suing the force, saying he was unfairly dismissed while on medical leave.

    Staff Sgt. Kevin Picard , the one-time commander of the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment, says he was dismissed without reasonable cause while suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    In a civil claim filed in the Supreme Court of B.C., Picard says he suffered embarrassment and extreme emotional distress as a result of the dismissal.

    Picard was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 because of events related to his work. He remained on the job and was promoted to commander in 2007.

    But he says that when he went on medical leave for surgery a few years later, a special review of his detachment was launched.

    Over the next few years, the RCMP allegedly ordered Picard to return his work equipment, cleared out his office and personal locker, and replaced him as commander in January 2011.

    Picard, a 22-year veteran of the force, has been placed on administrative duties in the Lower Mainland District Headquarters Office and the North Vancouver RCMP Detachment.

    He says the treatment has caused him loss of reputation and employment prospects, and made his PTSD worse.

    It’s the latest embarrassment for the force, which has been hit by a series of allegations of sexual abuse by former female officers.

    In May, the force again came under criticism for its handling of another harassment case. Alberta officer, Sgt. Don Ray, who admitted to years of sexual misconduct, was transferred to B.C. instead of being fired.

    The government has promised to introduce new legislation, after RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said an antiquated discipline process was preventing him from dealing quickly with abuse allegations.


  145. Hundreds of women join RCMP harassment lawsuit

    The Canadian Press July 30, 2012

    Hundreds of current and former female Mounties have come forward from across Canada to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

    Lawyers expected dozens of women to contact them with allegations after Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the force, filed suit in March but attorney Jason Murray said Monday that more than 200 people have called his firm in Vancouver.

    "It's a significant number. It says to us there's a significant problem that people feel has happened within the RCMP with respect to how women are treated," Murray said in an interview.

    And more people are expected to join the class action.

    "We're still hearing from women who either are currently members of the RCMP or who have retired or left the force in other ways," Murray said. "On a week-to-week basis we're hearing from people coming forward who have complaints about how they feel they were treated when they were with the RCMP."

    The civil suit filed by Merlo alleges she suffered bullying and verbal abuse throughout a career that began in March 1991 and ended in March 2010, all but a few months of it at the detachment in Nanaimo, B.C.

    In her statement of claim, Merlo says male members of the detachment repeatedly made statements to her then-boyfriend and now husband, Wayne Merlo, that they'd had sex with her.

    "The supervising corporal on Ms. Merlo's night shift watch commented to Wayne Merlo words to the effect... 'Janet is the right height because you can lay a six-pack of beer on her head while she gives you a blow job,"' says the claim.

    Merlo claims offensive items were left in her mail slot by colleagues, including a dildo and a fictional manual titled "Training Courses Now Available for Women," comprising a list of 30 derogatory courses.

    The court document claims Merlo left the force in March 2010 suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The case will officially get underway with a first appearance before B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday, but a class-action suit typically takes several years to wend its way through the justice system.

    Merlo's is just one of several lawsuits filed against the national police force by women who say they suffered abuse and harassment on the job.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford is suing the RCMP in a separate case claiming she suffered post-traumatic stress because of harassment that spanned two decades. She claims she was sexually assaulted, harassed and intimidated during a career in which she was the public face of the Air India investigation and the task force that arrested serial killer Robert Pickton.

    The federal government, which represents the RCMP, denied all of Galliford's allegations in a response to civil claim in her case, but the rash of allegations since she came forward last fall prompted the force to announce earlier this year that it would train 100 officers to investigate internal complaints of sexual harassment.

    Murray said the women who have contacted his firm concerning Merlo's suit will not be named in the lawsuit at this time, but their allegations may be heard in court as the cases progresses.

    "Everyone's experience is different, obviously, but [the allegations] range from people who feel they've been passed over for an assignment or promotion because of their gender to people who have had words and taunting all the way up to incidents of sexual assault and physical assault."


  146. High-profile former mountie joins RCMP harassment lawsuit

    CBC News August 2, 2012

    A well-known British Columbian has come forward to join a harassment lawsuit against the RCMP, as hearings to certify it as a class action opened in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Thursday morning.

    The former head of the Better Business Bureau, Valerie MacLean, says she was a young RCMP constable in Maple Ridge in the late 1970's when her supervisor, a corporal, liked to ride shotgun in her cruiser on overnight shifts.

    "He would, for eight hours, on the shift, tell me that if I was friendly, if we had a relationship, it would be good for my career because he was doing my assessment."

    Maclean says she complained on numerous occasions, but "nothing happened. It wasn't stopped."

    When she received a poor assessment a year later, she decided to quit the force, MacLean told reporters outside the courthouse.

    Now she says she has joined the lawsuit to support women in policing because she's shocked they are fighting the same battle.

    "The fact that it still going on and the stories are the same, it would seem to me that nothing has changed," she said.

    200 officers join lawsuit
    After the short hearing, lawyer David Klein said more than 200 female RCMP members past and present have shared stories of harassment and joined the lawsuit, after Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the force, filed suit in March.

    Thursday was Klein's first day in court to attempt to certify the case as a class action, and he is predicting it could be years before the case is settled.

    Merlo's is just one of several lawsuits filed against the national police force by women who say they suffered abuse and harassment on the job.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford is suing the RCMP in a separate case claiming she suffered post-traumatic stress because of harassment that spanned two decades. She claims she was sexually assaulted, harassed and intimidated during a career in which she was the public face of the Air India investigation and the task force that arrested serial killer Robert Pickton.

    The federal government, which represents the RCMP, denied all of Galliford's allegations in a response to civil claim in her case, but the rash of allegations since she came forward last fall prompted the force to announce earlier this year that it would train 100 officers to investigate internal complaints of sexual harassment.


  147. RCMP emails reveal tension as force faces changes

    CBC News August 10, 2012

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's pledge to restore public confidence in the national police force — following a number of high-profile scandals — has created tension among some members, who feel he is lumping all officers into the same category, a recent email exchange obtained by CBC News reveals.

    But the head of the organization says change is necessary and it requires "all hands on deck."

    A staff sergeant from B.C. wrote to Paulson after the RCMP chief issued a video statement focusing on the need for solid police work, accountable leadership, discipline and a respectful workplace.

    Paulson has been vocal about the need to rid the force of its "bad apples" and the government recently introduced legislation to give the commissioner more powers to discipline or fire those who give the force a bad name.

    Staff Sgt. Tim Chad, however, wrote to Paulson saying trust is missing between officers and senior managers, who are trying to create a new culture within the RCMP when only a few are to blame for its woes.

    "We are not all a bunch of screw-ups but it is evident we are all being lumped into that category and we are not valued and trusted," he wrote in an email in July.

    Chad also said the RCMP senior executive committee is pursuing changes to benefits without proper consultation with employees.

    "We are being paid lip service and this is of grave concern," he wrote.

    Paulson responded by suggesting that Chad is "living under a rock" if he thinks that the RCMP does not require an "all hands on deck" approach to restoring the public's trust.

    "Wake up Man, this organization is at risk," he wrote.

    Paulson stuck by his comments in an interview with CBC News and said the RCMP troubles didn't start with recent accusations of sexual harassment but go back years, including a pension scandal and the Taser-related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.

    "When some of our members think of our challenges as being a PR exercise that is being dominated by some bad behaving members then we do the organization a disservice," Paulson said.

    The RCMP is facing a number of lawsuits from women who allege they were subject to harassment and bullying on the job. One class-action suit has been filed by hundreds of current and former Mounties.

    Paulson said the RCMP needs to make fundamental changes or risk losing the trust of Canadians.

    "The employees in the RCMP need to understand what's at stake," Paulson told CBC. “And not everybody does. A lot of people do but not everybody does."

    Chad declined a request for comment saying it would violate policy.

    Staff Sgt. Mike Casault, from the RCMP's staff relations program, said he has heard similar complaints from other officers but said it is due largely to the widespread changes coming to the organization.

    Along with the changes to the way officers are disciplined, the RCMP announced it would overhaul employee health, disability and support services to reduce costs.

    "There are some members out there that are getting disgruntled, discouraged and so Tim [Chad] is not the only one," Casault said.

    Mounties are dealing with a number of unknowns and many are looking for clarity about what's in store, he said.

    Paulson was promoted to commissioner in November of last year and pledged to transform the RCMP to restore morale within the force and trust with Canadians.


  148. RCMP blacklist B.C. psychologist critical of force

    CBC News August 10, 2012

    The RCMP is refusing to pay the medical bills for Mounties treated by an outspoken critic of the force, CBC News has learned

    Patients of B.C. psychologist Mike Webster have been told to find another doctor, or pay for Webster's sessions out of their own pocket.

    Webster treats about two dozen RCMP officers who are on medical leave due to some sort of on-the-job conflict.

    Webster said the RCMP's move to silence him is a political vendetta that will only hurt its own members.

    "It just amazes me that one little-old-psychologist can have this kind of effect on the RCMP— can bring it to its knees so that they have to resort to something like this," Webster said.

    The RCMP also lodged a formal complaint against Webster with the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.

    In a letter sent to Webster, the RCMP said its medical case managers lodged the complaint because: "...your lack of objectivity in both your clinical work and public commentary towards the RCMP have weakened your effectiveness in treating your RCMP client base."

    It also said it is concerned Webster isn't getting his patients back to work quickly enough.

    Webster has long argued that an unhealthy workplace can affect a person's mental health, but he said the RCMP doesn't want to fix that. He said the force just wants its members work-ready.

    "It's uncontroversial that working for the RCMP can make you sick, so why would I want to return my patients to the toxic environment that made them sick in the first place?"

    Cpl. Roland Beaulieu has been off work since February of last year due to what he described as systemic harassment issues.

    He said he's been seeing Webster for about two years, and has improved. He said it should be up to him who he sees — not the RCMP.

    "For them to dictate who I see tells me they want a certain report back that they're happy, not necessarily the truth," he said.

    "And sometimes the truth hurts."

    The RCMP said members can still see Webster: It just won't pay for it.

    Supt. Kevin DeBruyckere said the change is not meant to be punitive and that with Webster's co-operation, patients can transition to other psychologists.

    "The number one priority is the health of the members. A by-product of that is getting them back to work. And that's the expectation of our employees, of those members and of the people who are paying for it: the taxpayers," DeBruyckere said.

    Cpl. Beaulieu said the organization is making Webster's patients suffer.

    He said if the RCMP really cared about the health of its members, it would put its differences with Webster aside.


  149. RCMP must disclose intimate relationships, draft policy states


    Supervisors and subordinates in the RCMP who engage in consensual, intimate relationships will be required to “immediately” report in writing details of their relationships under a draft administrative policy obtained by Postmedia News.

    Such relationships raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest, preferential treatment and sexual harassment, the draft policy states, and could be damaging to morale, productivity and public confidence in the force.

    In an interview Friday, Commissioner Bob Paulson said the policy is not intended to regulate people’s lives or prohibit relationships from forming — “I’m all for relationships,” he said — but to ensure that the workplace remains respectful and professional.

    “The trouble with relationships where there’s a relative power imbalance in the workplace should be pretty evident to everybody,” he said.

    The draft comes at a time when Paulson has been trying to clamp down on officer misconduct and is grappling with allegations of pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination within the force.

    The draft “interpersonal workplace relationships” policy defines reportable relationships as “ongoing or singular consensual, intimate, romantic or sexual relationships” between those in positions of authority and their subordinates or those who fall under their sphere of control.

    The policy would also apply to those working together in undercover operations and employees working on the same tactical troops, emergency response teams or dive teams.

    Employees involved in such relationships would be required to report the “existence, nature and extent” of their relationships to a manager immediately in writing.

    Once notified of such relationships, managers would work with human resource officers to discuss whether intervention is needed. Options could include removing or transferring one of the employees, reassigning duties, or “any other measures to mitigate concerns of conflict of interest, preferential treatment, or a reasonable apprehension of bias within the workplace.”

    Failure to report an interpersonal workplace relationship could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal, the draft policy states.

    Jennifer Berdahl, a professor of organizational behaviour at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said Friday that such disclosure policies are common in the working world. Some companies are stricter than others.

    Berdahl said the RCMP appears to be moving in the right direction. Such transparency, she said, not only helps to mitigate conflicts of interest but could also help uncover coercive relationships and manage souring relationships before they get really nasty.

    “When people try to hide these things, it backfires,” she said. “People pick up on it, rumours start spreading. You don’t want that going around the RCMP.

    “Better to have it on the record,” she said. “It can be awkward, but it’s going to come out anyway.”

    Staff Sgt. Mike Casault, who sits on the national executive of the RCMP’s staff relations program, said Friday members of the internal affairs committee are still reviewing the draft to ensure the policy doesn’t infringe on members’ privacy and charter rights.

    Paulson said he hopes to have a policy in place in the fall.


  150. Missing Women inquiry workers paid more than B.C.’s longest-serving judges

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post August 10, 2012

    VANCOUVER — Public hearings ended months ago but work continues behind the scenes at the controversial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, where lawyers and other handpicked staff members continue to bill B.C. taxpayers at rates that former inquiry participants claim are “outrageous” and “out of control.”

    The province’s latest public accounts record reveals that senior inquiry workers including commissioner Wally Oppal commanded more pay in the last fiscal year than B.C.’s most highly compensated public servants, including its longest-serving judges, provincial cabinet ministers and their deputies, and all but a handful of top Crown corporation executives.

    Senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb topped the list, charging the province $483,741 for inquiry work performed in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. Associate counsel Karey Brooks and her Vancouver-based law firm billed taxpayers $482,139 over the same period. Mr. Oppal, meanwhile, charged $324,267, according to the public accounts.

    Jessica McKeachie, a first-year lawyer whom Mr. Oppal hired to conduct research, billed the province $203,134. Another young inquiry lawyer with three years’ experience charged taxpayers $236,606 for her work.

    Inquiry executive director John Boddie, a former Vancouver Police Department (VPD) sergeant who handles office administration duties for the commission, billed the province $299,807. That’s twice the amount billed over 12 months by the executive director at the recently concluded Braidwood Commissions of Inquiry, called to examine the use of Tasers by B.C. police forces and the 2007 death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski.

    Mr. Boddie’s renumeration was close to VPD chief constable Jim Chu’s annual paypacket, and exceeded almost all provincial bureaucrat salaries. Only John Dyble, deputy minister to B.C. premier Christy Clark and head of the province’s entire public service, was paid more.

    For reasons that no one has explained, Mr. Boddie billed the province via his wife’s company, Paula Boddie & Associates.

    In contrast, the lawyer who represented the families of 25 murdered and missing women at the inquiry billed the province $60,000 for work in the same fiscal year. Another Vancouver-based lawyer, Jason Gratl, billed $143,100 for his work at the inquiry; he represented local community interests. The amount covered his own fees and expenses, plus the services of an assistant and an articling student, he explained. Unlike inquiry lawyers and staff, who billed by the hour, Mr. Gratl was paid a flat monthly fee. “It worked out to something like legal aid rates,” he added.

    One lawyer who played a key role at the inquiry called the amounts charged by inquiry staff “outrageous.” And a lawyer who worked for the inquiry and was familiar with its internal accounting practices said there did not appear to be any “checks and balances…it seemed out of control.” Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

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    In a written statement, Mr. Vertlieb noted that rates of pay “were discounted from normal market rates and agreed to by the government. We have always been very conscious of the fact that this important Commission is funded by the public. Ultimately, the small staff of the Commission worked very long hours, most weekends and holidays.”

    The Braidwood inquiries — one examined police use of Tasers in general, a second the Dziekanski Taser death — cost taxpayers an estimated $4.5-million in total. Mr. Oppal’s inquiry has already cost the province $7.85-million, according to B.C. attorney general Shirley Bond, and the meter is still running. Some inquiry staff — including Mr. Oppal, Mr. Vertlieb and Mr. Boddie — remain on the job and continue to bill for their services. Mr. Oppal has until Oct. 31 to deliver his final report to B.C.’s attorney general.

    The inquiry was formed in September, 2010, with a mandate to examine why the VPD and the RCMP failed to apprehend serial killer Robert Pickton prior to 2002, by which time he had allegedly murdered at least 26 women. Pickton was convicted on six counts of second degree murder in 2007; 20 other murder charges were later stayed.

    Seven community forums were held in September, 2011. Evidentiary hearings began in October and ended in June amidst controversy and anger; families of Pickton’s victims said the inquiry didn’t probe deeply enough into police conduct.

    Mr. Oppal was a controversial choice for inquiry commissioner. A former B.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judge, he turned to provincial politics and was elected to represent a Vancouver riding in 2005. He served as the province’s attorney general during the Pickton trial. Mr. Oppal was not re-elected in the 2009 provincial election.

    Mr. Vertlieb, his chief counsel at the inquiry, is an experienced Vancouver litigator and is currently vice-president of the B.C. Law Society, the body that governs the legal profession in the province. Mr. Vertlieb also served as senior counsel at the Braidwood inquiries, where his billings never exceeded $271,000 per fiscal year.

    To date, Mr. Vertlieb has charged the province a total of $1,222,250 for his work at the Braidwood and Oppal inquiries.

    During an interview conducted in March, Mr. Boddie told the National Post that he “takes no holidays” from the inquiry, even during scheduled breaks. He had just returned from a week-long trip to Arizona, where he said he spent his time reading inquiry documents.


  152. 30-year North Vancouver RCMP veteran slams Commissioner Paulson

    By Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen August 14, 2012

    OTTAWA — A 30-year veteran of the RCMP has sent an extraordinary letter to Bob Paulson blasting him for the way he is handling the problems facing the force, saying he has no respect for the commissioner’s stewardship.

    In a scathing letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Citizen, Peter Kennedy, an officer with the North Vancouver Detachment, said RCMP top brass have failed one of Canada’s most revered institutions, and years of mismanagement has eroded confidence and trust in the force. The recent sexual harassment allegations by female officers are only the tip of the iceberg, Kennedy said. Using words like “immature” and “arrogant” to describe some of Paulson’s recent actions, Kennedy said he used to be proud of the RCMP, but not any more.

    His letter follows an earlier email exchange between Paulson and another critical B.C. officer, Staff. Sgt. Tim Chad.

    When the Citizen called the North Vancouver Detachment to speak with Kennedy, a reporter was told the officer was not working Monday.

    “There is a lot more than sexual harassment happening in this organization. There is bullying, intimidation, exclusion, veiled threats and more. The RCMP is slowly eroding because of management’s refusal to admit failure, or even step up to the proverbial plate. What image are you trying to protect. That ship has passed and sunk ... We are no longer the image on the post card purchased by tourists,” Kennedy, who included his badge number in the letter, wrote.

    “Management keeps on failing with a big fat F.”

    Addressing Paulson, he went on, “You do a good interview on television and say all the right things. But words will not help this organization in any way. Never have and never will. I have seen many commissioners come and go ... They used all the right words also. None have measured up to what a police officer should be or even the way one should behave.”

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    Controversy has been swirling around the RCMP for years over a number of high-profile bungles, including the Tazer death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport. But things appear to have come to a head following allegations by female officers of widespread sexual harassment within the force.

    Paulson, whose mandate upon appointment included the restoration of confidence, has vowed to clean up the force with a call for a cultural change. But his efforts have not been met with universal acclaim among the rank and file, some of whom believe the problem lies with the managers.

    Kennedy’s letter follows an email sent earlier to Paulson by Chad, who criticized the commissioner for “talking down” to members of the force “like we are all a bunch of screw ups.” Chad also warned that trust between senior managers and rank and file has disappeared.

    The commissioner’s response accusing Chad of “living under a rock” and saying the officer’s statements “reveal an ill-informed arrogance” that is “at the heart of what ails us” appear not to have gone down well with Kennedy.

    “I find your reply to him aggressive, insulting arrogant, condescending and immature,” he wrote.

    “All S/Sgt. CHAD was trying to tell you, there is a trust issue between management and its members. They are not being engaged. A man asking for a little understanding and help, was bullied by the very person who is supposed to help not only him but all of us. This email would be somewhat acceptable if it had been written by an angry teenager. However it was written by a 25 year member of the RCMP that should have better leadership skills ...”

    When Paulson calls for a change in attitude, Kennedy believes it should start at the top, noting that “most of the problem with these harassment investigations is the fact that they were handled by what is now your management team.”

    “At this time I do not have very much respect for your actions. You are at this point a man of words only. Your words are falling on deaf ears commissioner,” he said.


  154. Dissident Mounties threaten to expose force’s ‘orchards of Bad Apples’

    Brian Hutchinson | National Post August 15, 201

    VANCOUVER — On the heels of a bitter public spat between Canada’s top Mountie and two B.C.-based officers who criticized him, a new group of disgruntled officers has emerged, sniping at RCMP brass and threatening to expose certain “investigative files” and compromising pictures of members whom it deems unworthy of the uniform.

    The Re-Sergeance Alliance announced itself in an anonymously written email to media outlets this week. Claiming to speak for “slightly over 500 members” inside the RCMP’s E Division in B.C., the group apparently formed as two local officers were sending letters under separate cover to Commissioner Bob Paulson, chastising him and other senior RCMP managers for a host of controversies and alleged institutional failures.

    “Our Alliance is slowly now moving across the nation,” reads a missive posted this week on its website. “So those of you whom our leadership has ‘Handled’ for so many years, our so-called orchards of ‘Bad Apples,’ we simply state your time has arrived and your corruption is about to see the light and justice of your fellow Canadians.”

    The RCMP has been rocked in recent months by accusations of inappropriate — even criminal — conduct levelled at some members, a preponderance of them based in B.C.

    Several female members have filed lawsuits alleging harassment at work, as well.

    Mr. Paulson has been attempting to mend fences since his appointment as RCMP commissioner in November. He acknowledges the force needs to be reformed, and that it employs a number of wayward officers who aren’t easily dismissed under current rules. He believes proposed changes to the RCMP Act will bring accountability to the internal disciplinary process and will make it easier for him to fire Mounties who commit crimes.

    “It’s unsatisfactory that we have to continue spending your tax dollars to pay individuals that don’t deserve to be in the RCMP,” Mr. Paulson wrote in an open letter to Canadians in May. “I know that legislation alone is not enough to keep your trust … I have started working at changing attitudes and behaviours within the RCMP.”

    Some Mounties aren’t satisfied. In an email sent to the commissioner in late July and leaked to the media, RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Chad dismissed the commissioner’s promises as “lip service” and accused him of “talking down to us like we are all a bunch of screw-ups.”

    Mr. Paulson responded in kind. “Your attempt to discredit my effort to have an honest discussion with the staff of the RCMP strikes me as a cheap and unsophisticated insult when you suggest that I am talking down to members,” reads his email in reply to the staff sergeant, who works from a detachment just outside Vancouver. “Wake up, Man, this organization is at risk.”

    His tone upset a second veteran Mountie; he fired off his own letter to the commissioner. “I find your reply to [Staff-Sgt. Chad] aggressive, insulting, arrogant, condescending and immature,” wrote Const. Peter Kennedy, who is based in North Vancouver. “At this time I do not have very much respect for your actions. You are at this point a man of words only…. Management keeps failing with a big fat F.”

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    The dissident Re-Sergeance Alliance has stepped up the attack on RCMP brass, posting on its website anonymously penned screeds containing unsubstantiated accusations about a number of current and former members. They also call into question Mr. Paulson’s sincerity and undertakings as commissioner.

    Mr. Paulson was unavailable for comment Wednesday. An RCMP spokesman in Ottawa said the force does not respond to “anonymous web postings.”

    Another posting defends Mike Webster, a B.C.-based psychologist who treats approximately 25 Mounties suffering from work-related problems. Mr. Webster has for years been critical of RCMP leadership, describing it as “cultish,” “xenophobic” and “unhealthy.”

    The RCMP informed him by letter earlier this month that it will no longer pay for services he provides its officers. “Your lack of objectivity in both your clinical work and public commentary towards the RCMP have weakened your effectiveness in treating your RCMP client base,” the letter read.

    The RCMP has also lodged a complaint against Mr. Webster with the College of Psychologists of British Columbia, the body that regulates the profession in the province.

    Reached at his office on Denman Island, on B.C.’s West Coast, Mr. Webster said he wasn’t surprised at the blacklisting. RCMP brass have expressed their displeasure with him before. “I wear it as a badge of honour,” he said. “I’m interested to see how the College will deal with this.”

    Mr. Webster said he will continue to meet with an “RCMP members support group,” some two dozen officers who gather near Vancouver once a month to discuss their various workplace problems. He will offer his services free of charge, he said.

    He noted that one of the support group members is Peter Kennedy, the North Vancouver corporal who recently criticized Mr. Paulson.

    Mr. Webster acknowledged he has a relationship with the Re-Sergeance Alliance, as well. “I have intimate knowledge of them,” he said. They are real RCMP members, he insisted, not frauds. “They are credible people.”


  156. Chilliwack corporal’s critical letter latest dig at RCMP management

    By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News August 16, 2012

    Distrust of the RCMP's senior managers by rank-and-file members is widening by "leaps and bounds," according to a letter sent recently by a 39-year veteran of the RCMP in British Columbia to his member of Parliament.

    The letter, obtained by Postmedia News, is the latest salvo against RCMP leadership by disgruntled officers, who say their concerns are not being addressed.

    Cpl. Loren Chaplin writes that the force "needs to be burnt to the ground, metaphorically speaking, and either resurrected from the ashes with clear new focus and direction ... or it needs to be buried once and for all as having outlived its intended purpose."

    Chaplin said that officers are stressed out, burned out and tasked with doing more with less, and harassed or bullied if they "stumble or balk under the load."

    If the government is insistent on continuing with its national and international policing role, then municipal or provincial contracts need to be scrapped, he said.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. His staff says he is currently away on summer leave.

    Insp. Marc Richer, a national spokesman in Ottawa, said in an e-mail that the "obsession with making public these intended private communications only serves to undermine the majority of hard working members who are dedicated to the well-being of the communities they serve and safety of all Canadians.

    "No organization can undergo change without facing concerns from its employees. It is a situation where all have a contribution to make so that over time the situation improves."

    Reached by phone Thursday, Chaplin, who is currently on medical leave from the force in Chilliwack and plans to retire in January, said current efforts to reform the RCMP amount to nothing more than "tinkering."

    Those who believe that RCMP managers, who were responsible for the force's problems to begin with, can now fix those problems are "delusional," he said. His letter, addressed to Conservative MP Mark Strahl, is the third critical letter to surface in recent weeks from an RCMP member in B.C.

    On July 30, Staff Sgt. Tim Chad of the Ridge Meadows RCMP wrote to the commissioner saying that he and his colleagues were tired of being talked down to as if they were a "bunch of screw ups" and that reforms within the force are being carried out without proper consultation and instead being "forced upon us." He also expressed concerns that benefits and working conditions were being eroded.

    Paulson replied in an e-mail that Chad was "living under a rock if you think that our current situation ... does not warrant an 'all hands on deck' approach to restoring the public trust."

    "Wake up man, this organization is at risk," he said.

    Paulson acknowledged that changes are underway to the way health care is managed but that benefits will not decrease. Changes to the disciplinary process will still be carried out with the "greatest respect for due process," he added.

    After that e-mail exchange went public, Peter Kennedy, a veteran Mountie in North Vancouver, sent a letter to Paulson accusing him of being arrogant and condescending to Chad.

    "All S/Sgt. CHAD was trying to tell you, there is a trust issue between management and its members. They are not being engaged," he wrote.

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    This week, an anonymous blog site claiming to represent more than 500 current and former RCMP members emerged, stating that the only way change was going to occur within the force was from the "bottom up."

    The blog said the force's "rotten apples" need to be pushed "directly into the light" and that members need to demand their removal from the organization.

    "It's time for us as Canadians to rise to the challenge and take back the Force for our Fellow Canadians and demand justice for them, as we are better than this," said the blog, which has since been taken down.

    Simon Fraser University criminology professor Rob Gordon said Thursday that he feels some sympathy for Paulson. When the commissioner was appointed in November, he inherited a "maelstrom of problems that he's had to sit down and work his way through."

    "In eight months you're not going to turn around what's been building for 25 years," he said. "It's unfair to criticize him for not achieving that miracle."

    Clearly, he said, there are some members who are entrenched in their old ways and disapprove of all the changes that are happening, he said.

    Staff Sgt. Mike Casault, a member of the national executive of the RCMP's staff relations program, said Thursday he's not certain that the letters and the blog are necessarily indicative of a groundswell of discontent in the force.

    "There are some who have voiced their displeasure. But there are lots who go about their daily work. ... They just want to do a good job and go home safe."

    The reforms underway are creating uncertainty and panic among some officers but staff relations representatives are doing their best to ensure that officers' benefits, working conditions remain intact, he said.

    Rob Creasser, a spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association, a group of officers seeking the right to collective bargaining, said he believes the letters and the anonymous blog reflect widespread distrust in the senior mangers to create "meaningful change" in the force.

    He said the issue is not that members don't want change; they just don't think that Paulson and his senior executives can bring about real change without "buy in" from front line officers.

    Creasser said he is "hopeful" that more members will come forward to air their grievances in public.

    "The gloves have to come off."


  158. Ontario judge rebukes top Mountie in leaked letter

    By Curt Petrovich, CBC News Aug 17, 2012

    An Ontario judge has admonished RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson for the way he has dealt with dissent within the force. Ontario Superior Court Justice Brian Abrams wrote Paulson a letter, taking him to task for his tone and choice of words in responding to internal criticism during an email exchange between Paulson and B.C. Staff Sgt. Tim Chad. "After some deliberation I felt compelled to write a note," Abrams says in correspondence obtained by CBC News.

    In the email exchange — which was leaked to the public — Chad complained that Paulson was portraying rank and file members as "a bunch of screw-ups". Paulson replied, reprimanding his subordinate. While Abrams wrote the comments were unbecoming of both officers, the judge — a retired Mountie himself — levelled his criticism at Paulson. "While I take no position with respect to the substantive matters discussed in the correspondence, I was surprised by the tone," Abrams writes, after noting his regimental number when he was a member of the force. "To tell a subordinate they are 'living under a rock', that they are 'unsophisticated' and that to 'inform yourself ... it will take an effort', are not words I would have expected to read in correspondence coming from the Office of the Commissioner," he added.

    Abrams's letter was leaked on the heels of one from North Vancouver Const. Peter Kennedy, who likened the commissioner to an "angry teenager" who is "aggressive, insulting, arrogant condescending and immature." In a statement to CBC News, Paulson dismissed Kennedy's complaints, writing: "For every email from the likes of Const. Kennedy, I get a pile of supportive — it’s about time — messages." But the letter from Abrams may not be as easy to dismiss. In it, Abrams offers Paulson two admonitions. One is from his grandmother, who told him: "Just because you may be right doesn't always give you the right to say so." The other, Abrams says, he learned from the lawyer who was his articling principal, who cautioned him never to write a letter he wouldn't want to see on the front page of the Globe and Mail, introduced in court, or that your mother would be embarrassed to read.
    "All good advice, I think", Abrams concludes.

    Lawyer Walter Kosteckyj, a former Mountie, says the letter from a sitting judge is a remarkable indication that Paulson may be losing the moral authority to restore the RCMP's reputation. "I don't think the RCMP can fix this problem on their own anymore," Kosteckyj said. NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison says while the spate of leaked internal correspondence indicates deep structural problems within the RCMP, he doesn't think too much should be read into Abrams' letter. "And I don't think this public debate of what is essentially private correspondence is helpful in solving the larger problems", he says.

    Julie Carmichael, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, wouldn't comment on the correspondence. "What I can say is that our Conservative government is committed to ensuring Commissioner Paulson has the tools he needs to restore pride in Canada's national police force. Minister Toews recently tabled the Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act to do just that," Carmichael said. The RCMP also refused to comment on the letter. "It is unlikely that we would respond to what is likely a private communication between two parties", Sgt. Greg Cox told CBC News, noting that Paulson is on vacation.

    Mohan Sharma, the acting executive legal officer for Ontario's chief justice confirmed Abrams wrote the email. "It was the expression of a purely personal view," Sharma told CBC News in an email. "Justice Abrams has no further comment."


  159. RCMP Commissioner had staff stand guard at his wedding

    by SEAN SILCOFF, The Globe and Mail August 27 2012

    Members of the RCMP’s iconic Musical Ride team spent a recent Thursday afternoon in another ceremonial role – acting as an honour guard at RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s wedding – a part that normally isn’t played by officers on duty.

    The Mounties, when first contacted by The Globe and Mail, said the officers were volunteers, which is the practice, but when pressed revealed they were on a paid shift.

    Commissioner Paulson and Erin O’Gorman, a director-general in Transport Canada, were married at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Ottawa on Aug. 16. The bride wore a strapless white gown; the groom was in his RCMP uniform, said guest and parishioner Marlene Pignat.

    The low-key wedding was attended by about 80 guests – plus a full “honour guard” consisting of eight RCMP officers dressed in their red serge uniforms, who formed a bridal arch with their lances. “They were dressed in all their finery,” said Ms. Pignat. “It was very nice. The couple seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the moment.”

    When The Globe enquired the following day, RCMP spokesman Corporal David Falls said the eight officers were members in training from the Musical Ride branch who volunteered to be at the wedding.“These duties were performed voluntarily at the end of their workday,” Cpl. Falls said in an e-mail.

    But sources familiar with the situation say the eight trainees were in fact assigned to attend the wedding as part of their regular duties. Because the wedding happened at 4 p.m., their shift was changed that day to start at noon instead of 7 a.m.

    When pressed for clarification, Cpl. Falls acknowledged the wedding in fact happened “in the middle of the [modified] shift” and that the commissioner requested an honour guard. But the spokesman insisted the trainees “were polled for their possible interest in this event. They were not assigned.” Again, sources familiar with the situation say that in fact they were assigned and did not volunteer.

    While the officers were not pulled from active police work – they are spending the year learning to ride and care for horses before joining the ceremonial riding team next year – they were assigned to attend a private function on their employer’s time, to the benefit of their boss.

    Commissioner Paulson has made it his mission to clean up the troubled organization.

    The Globe made several attempts to contact Commissioner Paulson, who is on leave until Sept. 4. He was not available for an interview, and it is unclear whether he knew the officers were on duty.

    One retired high-ranking RCMP official who asked not to be identified said he’d never heard of anyone being assigned during their working hours to perform honour-guard duties at a colleague’s wedding. “These are things that in the past would have been looked past, but in this day and age, when everybody’s looking at how we spend the public purse, they aren’t.”

    Tim Killam, a retired deputy commissioner with the RCMP, pointed out the officers pulled in for wedding duty were performing a ceremonial role in their regular day jobs in the first place, and that RCMP officers regularly show up at sporting events and other public forums as part of their assigned duties to do little more than stand upright and look iconic. “We do honour guard all over across this country because people look at the RCMP as a national symbol. How do you say no to that?” he said. “We’ve been doing it forever and people want it. People are proud of traditions. This is a duty I would think [the trainees] would want to do. It’s a great gig. It’s this, or what do you do back at the stable?”


  160. Whistleblower claims RCMP targeting him

    CBC News August 27, 2012

    A man who complained to the RCMP that one of its officers posted bondage photos online says that after he reported the Mountie, he and his wife were terrorized by police during a raid on their home.

    The man, whose name is not being made public, told CBC News that the raid occurred after he reported to the RCMP that Cpl. Jim Brown, of Coquitlam, B.C., had posted several bondage-type photos of himself with women on a website with a purported 1.7 million members.

    The RCMP is investigating Brown's connection to the photos.

    But the man said seven officers — bearing a warrant that said the search was being carried out as part of an investigation into alleged defamatory libel — raided his home and seized several computers and cell phones.

    The man said the officers told his wife that he was likely cheating on her because he had been lurking on the website where he found the photos of Brown.

    "After assisting the RCMP regarding this matter we have been targeted by those in Organized Crime Section," the man wrote in a letter to CBC News.

    The raid on the whistleblower’s home came a few days after a blog was posted online by a group called the Re-Sergeance Alliance, which claims to represent 500 Mounties. The blog post alleged corruption by RCMP management and accused the force of trying to cover up Brown's scandalous photos.

    The blog was quickly pulled down and all RCMP officers were advised of a new policy restricting members writing on social media.

    Micheal Vonn, a lawyer with B.C. Civil Liberties Association, calls the RCMP actions an inappropriate use of police resources, because defamation belongs in civil court.

    Vonn also said she believes the defamatory libel section of the Criminal Code is unconstitutional.

    “When we look at these arcane, highly suspect provisions of the Code and we see the police going after their own critics, we have reason to be very concerned indeed,” said Vonn.

    he RCMP has told CBC News there was no “raid” on the man’s home but a legal search that had judicial authorization and that its officers were respectful.


  161. Mounties criticized in B.C. jail sex case

    The Canadian Press August 29, 2012

    An investigation by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission has found that three officers accused of watching two female inmates have sex in a jail cell without intervening demonstrated a lack of professionalism.

    The commission said Wednesday that, while the RCMP investigation of the incident was thorough, the force failed to recognize an issue that could lead to a perception of bias when the force investigates its own members.

    The commission made four recommendations, including that the RCMP consider amending its policy in connection to when an investigation should be turned over to an external agency.

    The Elizabeth Fry Society filed the complaint after the August 2010 incident came to light.

    The women -- who had been arrested separately and were both clearly intoxicated -- were being held in the drunk tank when the officers and a guard allegedly watched them have sex via closed circuit TV.

    Cpl. Kenneth Brown, Const. Evan Elgee, Const. Stephen Zaharia and guard David Tompkins still face breach of trust charges in the case.


  162. Female Mounties fear backlash over reporting harassment, report shows

    by DANIEL LEBLANC The Globe and Mail September 17 2012

    Female members of the RCMP are still afraid that they will be the ones to suffer if they report cases of workplace harassment and bullying.

    An internal report obtained by The Globe and Mail – a survey of 426 members of the RCMP’s “E” division in British Columbia – has found that female members do not trust the force’s system to deal with harassment complaints and frequently avoid reporting instances of perceived wrongdoing.

    “Participants strongly expressed that they were fearful of coming forward to report harassment as it could hinder promotional opportunities, have a negative impact on their careers, and possibly cause them to become a scapegoat for anything supervisors wanted to find fault with,” the report said. “The opinion was also expressed that the RCMP is known for moving the complainant rather than dealing with the problem.”

    The report, dated April 17, was commissioned after last year’s installation of Commissioner Bob Paulson, who has prioritized the fight against harassment after a number of damning media stories. Many of the allegations of workplace harassment have come out in B.C., the location of the RCMP’s biggest division, housing about one-third of the entire force.

    Commissioner Paulson has vowed to root out what he calls “dark-hearted behaviour” in the RCMP, which is facing a number of lawsuits over allegations of widespread sexual harassment.

    However, the internal report makes it clear that there remains much work to be done inside the RCMP to solve a problem that has persisted for decades in the quasi-military organization.

    The author of the report, diversity strategist Simmie Smith, pointed out that there is confusion within the RCMP between harassment and bullying. In addition, the report points out the majority of respondents did not feel that harassment was “rampant” inside the force, but they still expressed frustration at the handling of existing cases and the high number of unreported cases.

    A majority of the respondents “expressed that they have no faith in the current reporting process,” the report said.

    The RCMP report added that the common perception among Mounties is that in the event of a complaint, “the harasser will simply be moved to another unit or promoted.”

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    The Summary Report on Gender Based Harassment and Respectful Workplace Consultations decried the “significant failure to report incidents” by Mounties, adding that the lack of formal complaints has resulted in “pent up” frustrations in the force.

    “This perception of no real consequences left participants feeling that coming forward was not worth it,” the report said.

    Almost all of the participants in the study were female, but the report added that follow-up interviews might be necessary. “There has been a groundswell among some male members who felt they should have been included,” the report said.

    The participants in the study said they were encouraged by the RCMP leadership’s current stance against harassment, although there were concerns that the efforts to get rid of the problem would die down along with media interest.

    The solution to the problem starts with a fact-based reporting system that includes a definition of harassment and a process to deal with it, the report said. The system must be confidential and independent, and be able to deal with complaints quickly, according to the recommendations provided to the RCMP brass.

    Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, responded to the report by sending more than 100 officers for training to ensure “greater timeliness and follow up to complaint investigations,” the RCMP said in a statement.

    Still, the RCMP must also deal with the perception about the existence of an “old boys club,” in which members protect one another from complaints. “There is a belief that in some cases, if you are a friend of your supervisor, you never have to worry about being held accountable,” the report said.

    Participants in the study reported cases of sexual harassment ranging from “inappropriate innuendo” to indecent exposure.


  164. B.C. Mountie suspended for 7 years fights dismissal

    Constable charged with sexual assault off work with pay from 2005-2012

    By Jason Proctor, CBC News September 25, 2012

    A B.C. Mountie who was accused of sexual assault is fighting a decision to kick him out of the RCMP after he had been suspended with pay for nearly seven years.

    Const. James Douglas MacLeod resigned from the force at the end of August when RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson rejected his appeal of a code of conduct decision, ordering Macleod to either quit or be dismissed.

    Now, MacLeod has filed an application in Federal Court for a judicial review of the decision.

    Critics say the case highlights problems with the RCMP's internal disciplinary procedure, which, in MacLeod’s case, has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and benefits while he sat suspended from work.

    "In my view, nearly seven years is an extraordinarily lengthy period. It's a ridiculous period of time," said Robert Gordon, director of Simon Fraser University's school of criminology. "I couldn't see that being tolerated in other areas of the public sector, let alone the private sector."

    RCMP announced charges of sexual assault against MacLeod and another man in December 2005. The allegations were the outcome of a 10-month investigation into events that allegedly took place at a Super Bowl party the previous February.

    At the time, RCMP refused to speak in detail about the case, but a writ of summons filed by the alleged victim and another man in B.C. Supreme Court in 2007 claimed for damages of "physical and emotional injury and emotional shock." The writ claimed MacLeod and his co-accused "committed physical and sexual assault and battery against [the woman] and assault and battery against [the man.]"

    MacLeod countersued the woman for what he claimed was "defamation, libel, slander and false, negligent and malicious statements made to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others."

    The Crown stayed the charges in October 2007, and in March 2008, both MacLeod and the complainant applied in B.C. Supreme Court to have their civil claims dismissed.

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    The test for accusations made as part of an RCMP Code of Conduct hearing is a balance of probabilities. MacLeod was ordered to resign or be fired from the force, a decision the RCMP says Paulson upheld this July. In his Federal Court application, MacLeod claimed Paulson's decision was either based on "erroneous finding of fact" or made in a "perverse or capricious manner."

    The RCMP said MacLeod was suspended with pay from Dec. 9, 2005, until his resignation on Aug. 31, 2012. The commissioner has been vocal in his desire to speed up the disciplinary process to remove so-called "bad apples" from the force. Gordon said this case illustrates why.

    "I think Paulson has been quite frustrated by the length of time it takes to bring these cases to a conclusion," Gordon said. "The solution is to completely revamp the disciplinary process, so that you've got a better series of steps and a faster series of steps that people have to go through and in the process of designing the legislation, you put cut-off points in it."

    "How changes are engineered is, of course, the big challenge. And we know that there has been a process underway to get some changes introduced through Parliament in the form of amendments to the RCMP Act. One would hope that they're in a reasonably advanced stage because they've been at that for some time as well."

    Cpl. Gerry Hoyland, a 35-year veteran who won an apology from the RCMP in the settlement of a harassment suit earlier this year, said the RCMP uses delays in discipline as a way of getting rid of officers without actually having to fire them.

    "To have a member suspended with or without pay for six or seven or eight years is just unconscionable," said Hoyland, who lives in Edmonton. "You're under a cloud for a long period of time, and that's going to cause all sorts of things like depression, and stress, and anxiety and things like that. All sorts of mental health issues."

    Hoyland also questioned the seemingly arbitrary nature of the suspension process. He compared MacLeod's suspension with pay to the case of Const. Derrick Holdenried, a Burnaby RCMP officer suspended without pay for nearly two years after allegedly stealing $22 in change from a community policing station. Holdenried, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is still awaiting his code of conduct hearing.

    Gordon says dealing with year-long delays would be a lot easier for an officer suspended with pay than without.

    "The stress and strain on the individual officer is — I would think — quite substantial," said Gordon. "Of course, if the individual knows that at the end of the day, all that's going to happen to him at worst is that he's going to be dismissed, then in all probability he's been preparing for that eventuality. And if you're in that position, you can just have a really good ride for a large number of years on the back of the process."

    MacLeod's lawyer said her client was not prepared to comment on the case.


  166. RCMP report gives voice to harassed Mounties

    Leaked report offers grim vision of life in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    By Terry Milewski, CBC News  October 2, 2012

    Sad stories about the RCMP have been a staple of Canadian news since the Mounties were bashing the heads of strikers in the '20s and '30s.

    But sad stories by the RCMP are much rarer. They're not supposed to talk to outsiders about their problems, and they usually don't.

    Not that the outsiders don't tell some hair-raising tales. The barn-burning of 1972. Illegal break-ins. The MacDonald Inquiry. The APEC Inquiry. On and on the list goes: Maher Arar ... the pension fund scandal ... the Braidwood report on the death of Robert Dziekanski.

    But, suddenly, the most damaging tales are emerging from inside the ranks — those of desperate voices suggesting that, in the words of David Brown's 2007 scalding report on the pension fiasco, the RCMP's internal culture is, indeed, "horribly broken."

    Brown's report now gathers dust with the rest. So perhaps it's inevitable that rank-and-file Mounties are speaking up. Take these comments, for example:

    "The attitude is buck up, shut up or get out."

    "If you do report harassment, get ready to receive no support or backup from the RCMP. It's an Old Boys' Club."

    "I am tired of hearing some supervisors laugh at the employees who have reported harassment to the media."

    "I would never report harassment. I have seen what happens to those who have and their lives were made hell by those in management positions who have used their authority to intimidate."

    These depressing — and anonymous — quotes come from an internal RCMP report that was supposed to remain confidential.

    It looks at one of the RCMP's most active regions — "E" Division in B.C. — but leaked copies are causing raised eyebrows across the country because of the stark picture it paints of routine workplace harassment — and of the despair of those who complain about it, only to see their careers ruined.

    The report was filed with the "E" Division brass in April of this year and you can see at once why it was kept quiet.

    First spotted two weeks ago by the Globe and Mail's Daniel Leblanc, the report is written in blunt language by the Division's "Diversity Strategist," Simmie Smith.

    Smith has an M.B.A, is on the advisory board of Simon Fraser University's management school and, evidently, knows something about how not to manage a workforce.

    Smith plunges in head first, in paragraph one, by reporting that most of the 426 Mounties who participated in the study expressed "their continuing loss of pride in being a member of the Force."

    It doesn't get better after that.

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  167. continued from previous comment...

    Most also said that "there is a serious issue with harassment within the RCMP" and that "harassment complaints go unreported due to the perceived negative potential impacts to complainants." They "felt helpless in trying to address it" because "there are no consequences for the harasser other than having to transfer and/or be promoted ... coming forward was not worth it."

    Participants in Smith's review "identified the 'Old Boys' Club' as the underlying problem."

    As if that weren't enough, Smith adds, "Many participants shared that they are embarrassed to admit they are a member of the RCMP."

    Smith stresses that the participants are not just talking about sexual harassment, but about bullying of male officers, too — so much so, the report says, that male officers began clamouring for their own report, since this one focused on women.

    That focus, of course, was dictated by the bombshell dropped upon the force last November by Cpl.

    Catherine Galliford, who told her astonishing story of unrelenting sexual harassment to the CBC's
    Natalie Clancy. That extracted from the incoming commissioner, Bob Paulson, a pledge to tackle the problem as a top priority.

    But, now, a chorus of voices suggests that a culture of bullying and harassment may be so baked into the Mounties' DNA that it will be very hard to uproot. Some more examples from the Smith report:

    "I am at high risk being the single female on the unit. My boss makes inappropriate comments but I know better not to say anything. I've talked to my peers about the inappropriate behaviour but was told not to say anything or I would be sidelined."

    "When I come in the office I hear colleagues say, 'here she comes...shhhhhh.'"

    "We wear a bullet-proof vest to protect ourselves from the bad guys out there but really we need to be wearing the vest to protect ourselves from the bad guys inside our own organization."

    And, inevitably, they take their problems home with them:

    "After my shift, I go home and yell at my husband and kids. I am left feeling awful but I am so frustrated and have no place to go."

    To fix this, the Smith report recommends that complaints cannot be reviewed by the same officers at which they're directed. Rather, members want "a visibly independent unit outside of the everyday chain of command." Smith also suggests a new reporting system and mandatory training for officers on how to handle these issues.

    By all accounts, there's a lot to learn. Still, with luck, this particular story will be written by rank-and-file Mounties themselves — and won't join all the other stories on the shelf.


  168. RCMP using extraordinary measures to silence critic, says BCCLA

    Police raided home of man who revealed Mountie's naked bondage photos

    CBC News October 18, 2012

    The RCMP are using extraordinary measures to silence a critic who outed an officer posting naked bondage photos of himself online, according to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

    Grant Wakefield says he and his wife were terrorized by police during a raid on their home this past August. The raid was executed after Wakefield provided police with evidence RCMP Cpl. Jim Brown had posted several bondage-type photos of himself on social media websites for people with sexual fetishes.

    In some of the photos Brown was wearing RCMP riding boots while posed in sex acts with women in submissive positions. That eventually triggered a code of conduct investigation of Brown.

    But after the story broke in the media in July, instead of searching Brown's home, the RCMP turned their focus on Wakefield and obtained a 71- page search warrant alleging Brown was the victim of defamatory libel.

    Using the warrant they raided Wakefield's home and seized his computers and cellphones.

    Now the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is accusing the RCMP of misusing their powers to silence critics.

    BCCLA executive director David Eby points out any private citizen who has been defamed must sue in civil court, but only police can use the rare criminal charge of defamatory libel.

    "They're using this very rare provision, they're using such extraordinary measures that we don't see in other situations and he's a critic of the RCMP, and we say it's a fair question to ask," said Eby.

    Last month the RCMP did release a version of the information filed to obtain the search warrant, but significant parts of the information were blacked out on 55 of the 71 pages released.

    Now Eby is asking the court to release an uncensored version of the document.

    "The RCMP should be extra transparent in a situation like that and instead they're being extra secretive," said Eby.

    Both the CBC and the Vancouver Sun newspaper were also in court this week seeking the release of the full document, arguing the case begs for public scrutiny as to whether the RCMP acted appropriately.

    What the censored version of the information used to obtain the search warrant does reveal is that Wakefield was working with the RCMP to provide photos and information to police about Brown's online activities and photos posted on sexual fetish websites.

    But then after Brown's activities were revealed in the media, the investigators turned their attention to Wakefield, accusing him of defamatory libel after he posted comments and tweets critical of Brown and the RCMP on a Twitter account that had only 13 followers.

    The document says many of the online comments and tweets alleging criminal and other inappropriate behaviour by Brown are false.

    It also says as of August there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by Brown, but there was new evidence of professional misconduct.

    Specifically, it says a woman came forward to complain about an encounter with Brown while he was on duty in his police car, and that they went to her home, and he returned to work after a two-hour lunch break. But details of the encounter and the alleged misconduct are all blacked out.

    The document also says a third code of conduct investigation was launched after an inspector found a CD full of sexually explicit photos of Brown in the officer's briefcase along with condoms and handcuffs in July.

    The document says RCMP senior management was aware of the explicit sexual photos of Brown back in 2010 but chose not to proceed with any discipline.

    The investigations continue, but so far no one has been charged in the case and there have been no findings of misconduct against Brown.


  169. RCMP issues formal denial in harassment lawsuit

    The Canadian Press October 23, 2012

    The RCMP is denying a series of allegations in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a Vancouver Mountie.

    The force filed a statement of defence earlier this month in a case involving Const. Karen Katz, who launched a lawsuit in January alleging years of bullying and eventually sexual harassment from one of her colleagues.

    Katz's lawsuit, which contains unproven allegations, claimed Corp. Baldev (David) Singh Bamra complained about her to other officers, engaged in inappropriate roughhousing and on one occasion pinned Katz on a desk and pushed his genitals against her.

    The federal government's statement of defence insists Katz never complained to her superiors until April 2011, when an investigation was launched.

    If the plaintiff was dissatisfied with any administrative decisions or actions of [an] RCMP member or a responsible officer, the plaintiff was obliged and had opportunities to grieve those in a timely way," says the statement, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 15.

    The statement of defence accuses Katz, who says she suffers from post-traumatic stress, of failing to follow medical advice.

    In an interview, Katz said the RCMP's statement of defence was predictable.

    "I'm not surprised at their response, because it's typical: deny, deny, deny," she said.

    Katz said the RCMP's position that she should have filed a grievance, not a lawsuit, was unreasonable.

    "It [the RCMP's grievance process] is ineffective, but you wouldn't file a grievance for a sexual assault," she said.

    Katz also launched a second lawsuit in July, alleging more widespread harassment and abuse, but no statement of defence has been filed in that case.


  170. RCMP search warrant information unsealed

    Information used in search of home of man who reported officer's bondage photos

    CBC News October 30, 2012

    Lawyers for B.C. Civil Liberties Association and media outlets, including the CBC, have won court approval to unseal secret information used to get a search warrant against a critic of the RCMP who had reported there were explicit photographs of one of its officers on a bondage website.

    A judge ruled Monday that RCMP investigators were not justified in sealing the warrant they had used to search the New Westminster, B.C., home of Grant Wakefield, who was accused of criminal defamation of the officer, Cpl. Jim Brown.

    Wakefield had notified Brown’s superior officers in the Coquitlam detachment of the posted photographs.

    The RCMP then accused Wakefield of posting defamatory comments about Brown in the comment section of a blog, in a private e-mail and to a Twitter account with 13 followers.

    During the search of Wakefield's home, RCMP officers seized computers and cellphones.

    The BCCLA said the RCMP’s response appeared out of proportion to the alleged offence.

    "These materials were not widely broadcast, and for that reason it is remarkable that so many public resources were used seizing a computer of a critic of the RCMP," said Michael Bozic, who argued the case for the BCCLA.

    On Monday, the judge unsealed more information, including details of death threats Wakefield reported to New Westminster police that he believes came from the Coquitlam detachment.

    Wakefield is now wary of dealing with police at all, said his lawyer, Michael McCubbin.

    "That information was provided to the RCMP for that warrant, so now he's reluctant to deal with the RCMP or any police force he doesn’t know who he can trust," McCubbin said.

    Wakefield has not been charged. The RCMP has said it is investigating Brown’s connection to the bondage photos.


  171. Honouring truth for Vancouver's Missing and Murdered Women

    BY JOYCE ARTHUR rabble.ca NOVEMBER 2, 2012

    On a chilly October day, people listened somberly and some wept quietly as the words were read out loud, a microphone amplifying them across Vancouver's Library Plaza:

    "The record … reveals that violence against sex workers was widespread."

    "The Vancouver Police Department discriminated against survival sex workers by failing to deploy adequate resources to address the risks they knew were faced by sex workers."

    "Stereotyping, overt expressions of bigotry and discriminatory attitudes against sex workers, drug users, and Aboriginal women undermined the investigations of missing women."

    "The Vancouver Police Department and RCMP actively suppressed public recognition that serial killers were killing sex workers working in the Downtown Eastside."

    Some family members of the Missing and Murdered Women, current and former survival sex workers, and sex worker allies and advocates (including myself), had come together on October 25 for an emotional public reading of a 102-page report by Jason Gratl, who was appointed as Independent Counsel to the Commissioner of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to represent the interests of sex workers and community advocates in the Downtown Eastside. The Inquiry itself was launched last year to find out what went wrong with the investigation into the serial murders of sex workers in B.C. by Robert Pickton.

    Gratl's report on the Inquiry is scathing in its indictment of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and RCMP. Many individual officers and civilian employees are singled out for criticism, but the shocking failures and bigoted views reached all the way up to senior ranks, permeating the entire force and sabotaging the entire investigation. The report's title says it all: "Wouldn't Piss on Them If They Were on Fire: How Discrimination Against Sex Workers, Drug Users and Aboriginal Women Enabled A Serial Killer". It is a direct quote from the Inquiry testimony of a VPD officer assigned to the "Missing Women" case.

    To read the report on your own is heartbreaking enough -- but to read it aloud, to hear the callous sexism and racism of the police laid bare in the public square -- was almost overwhelming. Some of the readers -- 25 of them taking turns -- broke down at the mike. One was unable to continue. "This event felt powerful because it brought many of us together to speak the truth and honour the women," said Kerry Porth, a former survival sex worker and part of the organizing group for this "Honouring Truth" event.

    The overall police attitude towards sex workers and Aboriginal women (60 per cent of the Missing and Murdered Women were Aboriginal) was one of indifference and disrespect, as if their lives did not matter, as if they weren't even human.

    Missing persons reports were often not taken or not investigated because officers relied on insulting stereotypes, such as Aboriginal women being "out on a binge," or survival sex workers being transient and "lacking address books, known schedules, reliable routines and homes" -- even though most are residents of Vancouver with homes and families.

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  172. Police routinely used the word "hooker," even in official documents. Some officers or staff were hateful or dismissive towards sex workers, saying things like: "fucking whores," "just a bunch of fucking hookers," and "we don't look for missing hookers." A witness at the Inquiry testified that she heard an officer say "good" when told that a sex worker had been violently sexually assaulted. These discriminatory attitudes about sex workers undermined the investigation, according to Gratl, by "precluding the gathering and analysis of vital information about missing women, by misdirecting police investigators, by undermining the integrity of investigative teams, and by preventing investigators from drawing inferences crucial to solving the cases."

    Comparisons with unrelated cases showed that the VPD had the resources and capability to carry out large-scale, high-quality investigations, but the "Missing Women" case was always grossly underfunded and understaffed. An officer assigned to the file in 1998 worked mostly alone and unsupervised for almost a year even though she was inexperienced and lacked training in investigative work.

    The doctrine adhered to by the VPD and government was that the women were just missing, not murdered (an assumption still reflected today in the omission of "Murdered Women" from the Inquiry's name). But the police had many strong indications that a serial killer was likely involved, and even a list of suspects that included Pickton. The VPD tried to squash the growing recognition of a serial killer at work by engaging in a vicious smear campaign against the family and friends of Missing and Murdered Women who complained about the police's refusal to even investigate the possibility. Advocacy groups and individuals in the Downtown Eastside who tried to raise awareness were attacked using police powers and resources -- for example, the VPD publicly defamed the authors of a PACE Society report on violence against sex workers that criticized the police, removed the PACE representative from sensitivity training for its recruits, and arrested sex worker advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton for running a brothel that helped keep street workers safe. Even dissenting police officers and civilian employees who wanted to look for a serial killer were silenced and marginalized.

    The RCMP and VPD also misled higher-ranking officials and the general public and media. At least 87 newspaper articles during the Inquiry's period of reference (1997 to 2002) repeated the police's public message that that there was "no evidence of a serial killer." Although the Vancouver Police Board and B.C.'s Attorney General supported a reward for information and a serial killer task force, the VPD persuaded them that a reward would be "counterproductive and a waste of resources" and that a task force was unnecessary, since the "women said to be missing were likely not even missing."

    According to Gratl, the deception of the Attorney General "directly contributed to the failure of the investigation."

    B.C.'s Crown Counsel shares some of the blame. Largely because of a "self-imposed shortage of time," Crown counsel Randi Connor decided to stay attempted murder charges against Pickton in January 1998. Tragically, in the intervening four years until the serial killer's arrest, 19 more women disappeared who were later connected to Pickton's farm.

    Our public reading of Gratl's report was scheduled to coincide with the much-awaited release of the final report of the Missing Women Commission Inquiry. But on the same day of the reading, B.C.'s Attorney General granted another extension to Wally Oppal, Commissioner of the Inquiry. The report is now due November 30.

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  173. Will truth be honoured and justice served when Oppal's report finally comes out? Sex workers and their allies do not have high hopes. Early on, the Inquiry lost credibility with the very people it was supposed to help, when the B.C. government denied legal funding to 13 community and Aboriginal groups from the Downtown Eastside who had valuable knowledge and experience with the Missing and Murdered Women case. All but one of these groups were forced to withdraw from the Inquiry, and others soon followed in solidarity.

    The Inquiry's hearings began last October and lasted till June 2012. The plodding pace accelerated to a mad rush in the final months, with Oppal refusing to call certain critical witnesses at the request of family members and lawyers, cutting off cross-examination of key police witnesses, and lumping witnesses together on panels, which meant they couldn't be adequately questioned. In March, the lawyer appointed by the Commission to represent Aboriginal people, Robyn Gervais, resigned to protest the lack of Aboriginal witnesses. Although both the provincial government and Oppal had rebuffed family members' requests to hear more witnesses because of the time crunch, when the hearings wrapped up, Oppal requested and received a four-month extension to write his report.

    Family members and community groups condemned the Inquiry as a "sham" while the lawyer appointed to represent the families of the Missing and Murdered Women, Cameron Ward, called the Inquiry a "fiasco."

    Nonetheless, much useful and damning information did come out in the Inquiry, as demonstrated by Gratl's hard-hitting report. It remains to be seen whether Oppal's report will honour truth and justice in the same way, and whether he adopts any of Gratl's 32 recommendations. These cover numerous reforms to practices and policies of the police and Crown Counsel, financial compensation to the children and grandchildren of Missing and Murdered Women, harm reduction services for street sex workers, human rights and labour protections for sex workers, and decriminalization of sex work or non-enforcement of the communication offence (section 213 of the Criminal Code), among others.

    Although Robert Pickton has now been in jail for 10 years, it appears that very little has changed in the VPD and RCMP. "We certainly know these discriminatory attitudes and practices are still the norm," said co-organizer Kerry Porth. At the close of the event, a group of readers recited the names of about 60 Missing and Murdered Women, accentuating the painful reality that these were real human beings who had lives, families, dignity, and hope. "We will not forget our sisters," said Porth. "We will not forget their names and their faces. We will keep fighting for real change."

    The author is grateful to Esther Shannon, co-organizer of the Honouring Truth event, for contributing to this article.

    Joyce Arthur is a founding member of FIRST, a national feminist sex worker advocacy organization based in Vancouver that lobbies for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada.


  174. RCMP says force is changing after sexual harassment allegations

    Reforms underway, but skepticism and fear remain for whistleblowers

    CBC News November 8, 2012

    A year after Canada's national police force was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment, some within the RCMP say the force is changing.

    Last November, Cpl. Catherine Galliford told CBC News the constant sexual advances and mistreatment she faced while working as the public face of the RCMP in B.C. made her sick.

    Her story moved several other Mounties to come forward, eventually prompting a federal investigation, multiple lawsuits and promises from the government to amend the RCMP Act.

    One year later, Galliford — who still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia — stands by her decision to go public.

    “I didn't ask to become the poster child for harassment in the RCMP. Do I regret it? No, I don't regret it,” Galliford told CBC News through tears.

    “I have mixed feelings about it, but I don't regret it because it's changed part of the culture in the RCMP, because some people are able now to come forward and speak about it," Galliford said. "They are not going to be afraid to talk about it, because that's what made me sick.”

    As many as 150 women are now hoping to join a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP over alleged gender-based discrimination within the force.

    Days after CBC News broke Galliford’s story, the RCMP appointed a new commissioner, Bob Paulson, who promised to rid the force of what he called “bad apples.”

    Managers are being told to enforce a zero-tolerance policy, and nearly 100 officers in B.C. are being trained to investigate harassment, with another 55 about to be trained as harassment advisers.

    A recent study on sexual harassment within the RCMP in B.C. indicates problems are significantly under-reported because members are still too afraid of reprisal to come forward.

    The study, which surveyed 426 members, found female officers believe there is no confidentiality, no consequences for the harassers, and that managers often cover up bad behaviour and punish complainers.

    Insp. Carol Bradley, the inspector in charge of a plan to improve respect in the RCMP workplace within B.C.'s E-Division, told CBC News her own experience in the RCMP has been positive — but says there is much to be learned from the report.

    “I thought the candid report showed us that employees have some trust in terms of sharing their experiences and also hopeful that the organization will take the information and create concrete initiatives to make our workplaces the best that they can be,” she said.

    “We have heard from our employees that reporting is a concern for them. At the same time, many are reporting.”

    However, RCMP officials in Ottawa say there are currently only four sexual harassment complaints on file across the country.

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  175. continued from previous comment...

    The federal government has introduced Bill C-42 — legislation to modernize the RCMP, make the complaint and grievance process faster and in the worst cases, give the commissioner power to fire problem employees whose behaviour is or borders on criminal.

    But Bill C-42 has also raised skepticism and fear among Mounties.

    Some say they worry by giving managers more power, the people who complain about their bosses will be the ones to get fired.

    Some Mounties say the complaint process has to be moved outside the chain of command, or junior ranking members will never complain about their superiors.

    Paulsen declined repeated requests for interviews from CBC News.

    But Insp. Bradley said the RCMP is making positive changes and complaints made today will be investigated outside the officer's own unit, adding officers will soon have access to a harassment adviser.

    “These individuals will be able and will have the authority to bring that issue to the level that it needs to be addressed,” she said.

    “If it's a very senior person, they will go outside of that work environment to someone more senior or to someone who would have some kind of authority over that person, so we are addressing that.”

    But Galliford said she still hears from other women who say they are victims of sexual harassment but are too afraid to complain because of what happened to her.

    “There is no protection for the whistleblower, so if I go to someone in the RCMP and make a complaint about the harassment and the abuse and the way I'm being treated, I'm the whistleblower so it's going to come back on me,” Galliford said.

    “And a prime example of that is the way the RCMP responded to my notice of claim.”

    In response to Galliford’s lawsuit, the RCMP’s response to civil claim painted her as a problem employee and alcoholic who was never harassed by her male bosses. They denied each and every allegation Galliford made.

    Bradley admits it is going to take some time to make all the necessary changes and RCMP management says the passing of Bill C-42 will help.

    Paulson recently told a committee the RCMP has received 1,100 harassment complaints in the last seven years but only three per cent of them were about sexual harassment, saying most were about abuse of authority.

    Bradley said her work will help regain the trust of the rank and file.

    “We’ve heard what they have to say, we're listening, so I'm hoping that with our Respectful Workplace Advisers, with our electronic reporting form, with other initiatives as we identify the right ones moving forward, is people perhaps tentatively at first will reach out and try and that we will respond to their needs,” she said.

    “We will start to rebuild trust where we need to rebuild it.”

    Galliford, meanwhile, is moving ahead with her lawsuit and concentrating on her health.

    “I still struggle with leaving my house, I still struggle with maintaining my relationships,” she said.

    “What happened is I lost all of my self-confidence, all of it, and I am slowly gaining it back, but my doctor said it's still going to be a very long journey. I'm going to have PTSD for the rest of my life."


  176. Raped police officer offered cash to quit

    by COLIN FREEZE — The Globe and Mail November 8, 2012


    A female police officer who was sexually assaulted by a male colleague has spent nearly three years being sidelined from her job – and says she is now being offered a few months’ salary to quit.

    Denise Robinson, 38, says she was raped and then effectively dismissed because of it. She recently told a Quebec court that reporting the crime took “every ounce of courage” she could muster – but, in the end, she was “suspended” and “betrayed” by her police force.

    For three years she had worked at patrolling Inuit communities in Quebec’s far north. But ever since she reported the February, 2010, sexual assault days after it happened, she has not worked or received a paycheque. At the same time, the police officer who assaulted her served only a brief suspension before being allowed to return to work for two years – until this past August, when he was sent to jail as a convicted criminal beginning an 18-month term.

    For her part, Ms. Robinson feels sentenced to a life in limbo. Told to submit to a psychiatric assessment in the immediate aftermath of the assault, she and her employer have spent years locked in a standoff over the precise conditions under which she could return to work.

    The Kativik Regional Police Force says it is holding out for proof she remains psychologically fit to work as a police officer. Ms. Robinson insists that is not the issue – for years she and her own psychologists have pressed the police force to facilitate a transfer so that she wouldn’t have had to face the prospect of working alongside her attacker.

    The regional police force denies any wrongdoing. “Ms. Robinson was not suspended from her position,” spokeswoman Caroline D’Astous wrote in a short e-mailed reply to questions from The Globe. She added that Ms. Robinson technically remains an employee who “has not submitted information indicating that she is fit to return to work” but declined to elaborate.

    Three months ago, Ms. Robinson read her victim’s impact statement aloud in a Kuujjuaq courtroom, as her assailant was sentenced.

    “After I reported this case, I was booted out of my residence, I was sent to Montreal and abandoned,” she said, before breaking down sobbing. “I was suspended from my job, I lost my entire financial support, and now my career is ruined.”

    Ms. Robinson had worked other jobs before deciding to become a northern police officer in her early thirties. She found that patrolling Inuit and Cree villages around Ungava Bay was taxing, given how rates of violent crimes in Canada’s Far North can be triple the national average.

    Her work did not always endear her to colleagues – in fact, she says she criminally investigated several fellow officers, including, she says, a 25-year-old constable whom she helped to arrest during a drunken bar brawl.

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  177. continued from previous comment...

    This was Special Constable Joe Willie Saunders – an officer prized in his home precinct of Kuujjuaq for his ability to speak Inuktitut.

    On Feb. 5, 2010, off-duty police in the village of 2,500 were having a party. Ms. Robinson became intoxicated at the event, when the on-duty Constable Saunders gave her a lift home to a police dormitory.

    She recalls passing out and awaking hours later to see Constable Saunders put on his pants and head for the door. It was only then that she realized that he had just had sex with her, without her consent.

    For a week, she agonized over what to do before reporting the crime. Closure took 2 1/2years. On Aug. 24, Constable Saunders was sentenced, having pleaded guilty to sexual assault on the eve of his trial.

    He “was suspended when the event happened,” explained Ms. D’Astous, the police spokeswoman. “He was brought back on administrative duties three months after.”

    Ms. Robinson received a letter from KRPF Chief Aileen MacKinnon two days after she came forward.

    The KRPF “must be certain that when you are at work you are at all times able to execute your duties in a manner that does not put yourself, your co-workers or the public at risk,” the letter says. It urged Ms. Robinson to go to Montreal for an immediate psychiatric exam. “You will not return to work before your medical evaluation,” the letter says. “You are hereby authorized to use vacation days at this time.”

    For nearly three years, Ms. Robinson has sat sidelined in her hometown of Ottawa, getting by on her savings and a federal crime victims’ fund as she pursues a labour grievance against the force. She says she had taken a short-term stress leave in the months before she was sexually assaulted, but her career was back on track when the assault took place.

    Today, two sides are negotiating the terms on which they can part. Ms. Robinson says she is being offered a few months pay to go away for good. Chief MacKinnon refused to answer any questions about the case, even when she was approached by a reporter in her Kuujjuaq office.


  178. RCMP harassment crisis shadows commissioner's 1st year

    Head of the RCMP Bob Paulson says he's focused on harassment crisis

    CBC News November 13, 2012

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says a harassment culture has shadowed his first year in the role and that he once experienced it himself.

    In an interview with CBC News's Alison Crawford, Paulson says he has spent the year responding to the stories of harassment while also trying to change the RCMP's strategic direction.

    "We were driven to respond to a lot of things. We know the harassment crisis, as I'll call it, has basically shadowed my appointment, and has been, you know, appropriately and properly in need of attention. But reacting to that while trying to bring the sort of strategic direction to the organization that I wanted to bring has been a bit of a challenge," Paulson said in an exclusive interview.

    A year ago, one of British Columbia's highest-profile Mounties said she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of sexual harassment. Cpl. Catherine Galliford went on sick leave in 2007 and launched a lawsuit against the RCMP last May.

    Last spring, it was revealed that RCMP Sgt. Don Ray was demoted and transferred from Edmonton to B.C. after he admitted to having sex with subordinates, drinking with them at work and sexually harassing them over a three-year period.

    Paulson said sexual harassment is part of a culture of misuse of authority the force is focused on addressing..

    "But I think that the bigger concern for me is the idea that people are resistant to reporting harassment generally. And so I really try to bring the sexual element of the harassment conversation out of it. I mean, it's terrible and we can't have it, and when we do have it, we act, but it's … the culture of harassment, it's the culture of misuse of authority. That's really where I've been focused on and where many of my commanding officers have been focused."

    Time in the penalty box
    Paulson said last spring in an open letter that the current discipline system for the RCMP was designed 25 years ago. He also said it's "unsatisfactory" that tax money is used to continue paying people who don't deserve to be there.

    Paulson also said he's had experience with the penalty box, the term used inside the force for officers who feel they're being pushed aside.

    "I spent some time in the penalty box. I think in the day, if you weren't sort of in line with your officer's expectations or consistent with his or her vision of where the organization was going, then you were pushed aside. And it's a very uncomfortable feeling and a very destructive feeling, and it doesn't speak to a transparent, ethical, organization," he said.

    Paulson wouldn't go into details, but said he was "just put somewhere I didn't want to go. I'd rather not say, but suffice it to say that I'm not unfamiliar with the concept."


  179. How to reinvent the RCMP

    The case for civilian oversight of Canada's national police

    By Michael Kempa, CBC News November 14, 2012

    A bill making its way through Parliament promises to overhaul the RCMP by making individual police officers more accountable for their actions.

    But recent history in Canada and elsewhere tells us that improved discipline and a stronger independent complaints process on their own are not enough to get the job done.

    Bill C-42, known as the Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act, will empower Commissioner Bob Paulson and a revamped complaints commission to toss out those officers Paulson has called "rotten apples."

    In an open letter written to Canadians on 28 May, Paulson asked for this overhaul and said that he is "trying to run a modern police force with a discipline system that was current 25 years ago."

    In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, the commissioner went on to say that the sexual harassment problems within the force have largely overshadowed his first year on the job.

    And in this regard, the proposed RCMP accountability act probably has to be seen as a step forward.

    But truly opening up the notoriously clam-tight police culture and demonstrating real change to an increasingly skeptical public will require a much bolder leap to push civilian oversight right down to the core of management and operations.

    This has been the approach successfully taken in Northern Ireland, where the police are understood to be "operationally responsible" to their civilian masters.

    On this, Canada's proposed legislation provides nothing new of importance.

    Beyond the bad apples

    As for the allegations of sexual harassment that have dominated recent headlines, many complainants said that their supervisors ignored or derided them — which indicates a deeper culture within the force that doesn't reflect today's modern, inclusive values.

    But internal harassment is not the only issue here. There have also been damaging public incidents involving the apparent use of excessive force and allegations of inefficiency and poor co-operation with other police and security services.

    RCMP morale is reported to be extremely low and there will be no easy fixes for these deep and connected problems, which corrode the machinery of one the world's largest and most complex policing organizations.

    From addressing noise complaints in Chilliwack to dealing with international organized crime and foreign policing assistance, the RCMP covers aspects of municipal, provincial, federal and international policing across many jurisdictions in Canada and abroad.

    Improving efficiency and rooting out cultural rot in what is quickly approaching a 30,000-member — $4 billion annual budget — behemoth is a daunting task.

    The good news is that there has been no shortage of strategies from reputable bodies on how to untangle these problems. The bad news is that somehow these reforms seem to have always fallen off track.

    continued in next comment...

  180. For example, the 2007 task force into the RCMP, headed by David Brown, a prominent Ontario lawyer and former chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, argued that the Mounties should be overseen by an independent board of directors.

    He was envisioning a group of civilians with business management skills that would be tasked with reviewing and offering input on administrative and organizational matters.

    This would force the police to open up and explain their practices to professionals with trained eyes for efficiency and effectiveness.

    Paulson's immediate predecessor, William Elliott — the first non-Mountie to head the RCMP — supported this approach, as did many academics, lawyers, civil rights groups and police professionals.

    But Elliott ran into a firestorm of internal protest over his leadership style and personality, and nowhere in this newest accountability legislation can this proposal for a professional board of directors be found.

    Of course, having a civilian management board to deal with efficiency is one thing. But the Mounties also need to show on a regular basis that their operations serve the public interest — not the government interest, and not the police interest.

    Nowhere is this more clouded than in the domains of national security and public order.

    The big lesson from the commissions that looked into the Air India bombing and the Maher Arar rendition is that Canada's hodge-podge of security agencies, which includes the RCMP, operate within their own silos, particularly as far as oversight goes.

    And until this is addressed, the concerns of a skeptical public, at the very least, may never be allayed.

    The same can be said about overseeing the RCMP role in securing public order at major events, such as economic summits.

    From the hosting of the APEC conference in Vancouver in 1997 to the more recent events surrounding the G20 summit in Toronto in June 2010, the perception was left that the Mounties put government and economic interests ahead of the safety of citizens.

    Would a civilian board of directors, at arms-length from the government of the day, change that perception? And, more importantly, police practices?

    The civilian board originally proposed by Brown would not have had that kind of role on the operational front.

    But the recent June 2012 report that examined the Toronto Police Service role at the G20 summit, written by former associate chief justice of Ontario John Morden, calls for precisely this notion of operational responsibility.

    The objective is not to allow civilian managers to directly interfere in how the police carry out their extraordinary daily responsibilities.

    But it is about forcing police brass to debate suggestions and provide evidence for why they believe certain strategies are likely to work best in the public interest.

    Evidence-based debate between police and their civilian masters can drive the selection of best practices.

    Again, the example of Northern Ireland shows us that groups of citizens that are bitterly divided in their politics are capable of implementing informed policing policies, which nearly everybody but a few militants can get behind.

    And sticking to best practices can help police and their civilian directors stand up to any political interference.

    It's a gift that keeps on giving in that insulating the police from any government meddling drives home the message that the police work for citizens. And working for citizens helps align police culture with society's values.

    In these ways, operational responsibility brings us closer to the architect of modern policing Sir Robert Peel's historic ideal that "the police are the public, and the public are the police."


  181. Harassment allegations denied by RCMP officer

    Cpl. Baldev Singh Bamra denies claims made by Const. Karen Katz

    The Canadian Press November 19, 2012

    A B.C. RCMP officer accused of harassment by a fellow Mountie is denying the allegations against him.

    The civil lawsuit launched against Cpl. Baldev (David) Singh Bamra by Const. Karen Katz is one of several sexual harassment suits filed by female officers against the RCMP.

    Katz's lawsuit claimed Bamra complained about her to other officers, engaged in inappropriate roughhousing and on one occasion, pushed his genitals against her.

    In his statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Bamra denies he ever harassed, assaulted, or sexually assaulted Katz, or engaged in any misconduct against her, abused his authority or conspired to injure her.

    Bamra also says the RCMP investigated Katz's complaints and determined there was no misconduct by him.

    Earlier, the federal government filed a statement of defence in the same case, denying all of Katz's allegations. see:




  182. Internal RCMP audit shows bias against promotion of women, commissioner Bob Paulson reveals


    VANCOUVER – An internal gender-based audit of the RCMP’s workforce has revealed a “clear, unassailable” bias against the promotion of women in the upper ranks, the RCMP commissioner disclosed Tuesday.

    Bob Paulson shared details of the soon-to-be-released audit report during a wide-ranging interview with Postmedia News in which he admitted that his first year – marked by a harassment scandal and, within the past week, the death of a young B.C. constable in a car accident – has been “very, very tough.”

    But Paulson also said there is a lot to celebrate from the past year. He heaped praise on frontline officers for everything from breakthroughs in small-town policing to the high-profile arrest of a naval officer in an espionage case.

    And he didn’t mince his words when it comes to the force’s detractors.

    To critics who say the force is spread too thin: “Nonsense,” he said. To those municipalities who may be considering dropping their RCMP contracts: “We have the data that demonstrates value for money.” And to those who question the force’s investigative techniques, such as “Mr. Big” stings, he said these approaches are getting killers off the streets.

    “I’ve got to say that sometimes these experts that pop out of cakes that make these broad declarations about what’s best for policing don’t stand the test of a challenge,” he said.

    Still, the fallout from allegations of systemic harassment and discrimination within the force looms large.

    Paulson said while there have been clear improvements in attracting more women into the force, an internal gender-based audit of RCMP members conducted over the past year showed a “clear bias” against the promotion of women in the ranks of inspector or higher.

    “A woman and a man go forward. One of the requirements is to get line-officer support and commanding-officer support for advancement into the executive cadre. We found a bias against women. Not huge, but significant enough,” he said.

    In response, the commissioner said, he is looking to identify a senior officer who can become a “champion” of gender issues within the force.

    Paulson said the audit also revealed a troubling level of “cynicism” among officers about the promotion system at all levels, irrespective of gender. As a result, he said, he is looking to make the selection process more transparent.

    Saying that a barrage of negative press has had a demoralizing effect on officers, Paulson said he’s making more of an effort to celebrate the force’s successes.

    Innovative crime-reduction strategies have resulted in 40 to 50 per cent drops in car thefts and burglaries in some districts, he said.

    Though critics have complained that the force’s use of Mr. Big undercover stings — in which officers pose as members of a criminal organization to befriend a suspect – can lead to coerced confessions and wrongful convictions, Paulson said the technique has solved many homicides and is used responsibly by investigators.

    continued in next comment...

  183. At the federal level, Paulson highlighted the arrest earlier this year of naval intelligence officer Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle, who admitted sharing military secrets with Russia.

    “The power of what we did there is not understood,” Paulson said.

    Paulson, who was recently appointed to the executive committee of Interpol, said the threat from transnational organized crime is significant.

    “You see what’s coming out of Montreal now?” Paulson said. “Left unattended, it can really have souring impacts on society.”

    Citing criminal networks in Mexico who have devised their own phone cellphone networks and towers, Paulson said he worries that police are not being given the tools to lawfully intercept communications.

    “I can’t understand why manufacturers of these devices or networks can’t provide for access when it’s judicially authorized,” he said. “It’s a real challenge for us.

    “I’m worried that we could get to a position where we would go dark on some of this technology - not being able to intercept when judicially authorized.”

    Asked about a recent article published in the journal Canadian Public Administration in which former RCMP superintendent Robert Lunney wrote that the force had become a “monolithic entity” without a clear, core mission and was “galloping off in all directions,” Paulson called it “nonsense.”

    “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s an interesting position to take to say the RCMP is spread too thin. On what basis do you say that? Where are the cracks? Where are the shortcomings?”

    Even though municipalities in eight provinces renewed 20-year contracts with the RCMP earlier this year, at least one - Richmond, B.C. – is reportedly looking at other policing models to save money.

    But Paulson said he’s not concerned. The force has data readily available to show that it’s delivering efficient and effective policing at a reasonable cost.

    “People can make up their minds,” Paulson said. “If it makes sense (to sign a contract), do it. If it doesn’t, there’s an opt-out provision for the contract.”


  184. Pickton inquiry accused of failing marginalized women

    CBC News November 19, 2012

    Three B.C. human rights groups say the Missing Womens Commission of Inquiry failed the people it was designed to help.

    West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), the Pivot Legal Society and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have released a report critical of the way the official inquiry was conducted — just days before the commission's final report goes to the B.C. Attorney General.

    The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was launched last year to look into the police mishandling of the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    Human rights groups have criticized the lack of funding for legal representation for aboriginal and women's groups, and many refused to participate in the inquiry.

    "I will say it again; this was a missed opportunity to include the voices of marginalized women, of marginalized communities. It perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate," said Kasari Govender, executive director of West Coast LEAF.

    Lindsay Lyster of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association questions why the province paid for lawyers for police and government interests, but said no to the victims.

    As a result, the groups say, critical areas were left unexplored.

    "The government's decision to do that put the independence of this commission into very grave doubt," Lyster said Monday.

    Pickton, a former pig farmer, was convicted of six murders in 2007. Investigators have said the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his family's farm in Port Coquitlam. Pickton had bragged to police that he had killed 49.

    Earlier reviews pointed to botched police investigations, a reluctance to act because the victims were involved in drugs and the sex trade and a long list of other failures.

    read the report at: http://www.pivotlegal.org/blueprint_for

    summary of the report: http://www.pivotlegal.org/learning_from_the_failures_of_the_missing_women_s_inquiry


  185. Withhold judgment until missing women's commission report is issued, Oppal tells critics

    By David P. Ball The Tyee November 20, 2012

    The independence of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI), which examined why serial killer Robert Pickton wasn't caught sooner, is in "grave doubt," concluded three of the province's legal advocacy organizations in a report released yesterday.

    But Commissioner Wally Oppal said critics should withhold their judgment until reading his recommendations, which are due the end of this month.

    "My report puts forward strong recommendations for change and it is imperative that everyone comes together to ensure that we can better protect our most vulnerable citizens," he said in a statement released yesterday. "If individuals, groups and associations don't find a way to support my report, the recommendations will not be acted upon.

    "That does not serve our communities or leave a positive and lasting legacy for the missing and murdered women."

    The report critical of the commission by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Pivot Legal Society and West Coast LEAF raised a number of issues.

    "Financially, the commission spent 20 times the operating budget of the major drop in centre for sex workers in Vancouver," it read. "And yet [it] left many of the community's most pressing questions unanswered."

    The inquiry "re-perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate," said Kasari Govender, executive director of West Coast LEAF, at a Carnegie Centre press conference yesterday morning.

    "(It) could have been the starting point for changes to the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP and the way we structure our justice system to keep women safe... There's a huge amount of distrust about how the justice system operates, and this process was a moment in time to begin the healing process and begin the journey forward. This was a missed opportunity to foster reconciliation and community healing," Govender said.

    Among the recommendations in the organizations' report, titled "Blueprint for an Inquiry," are concrete examples from well-known public investigations around the world.

    The examples include training trusted community groups to collect witness testimonies, an aboriginal cultural and rights awareness session for all lawyers involved, and tougher protection offered for witnesses' privacy and safety.

    The report cites Ontario's 2003-2006 inquiry into the police killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park, as well as South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the U.K.'s 1998-2010 Bloody Sunday inquiry into a Northern Ireland massacre decades earlier.

    "The most successful commissions consult widely, early and often," said Darcie Bennett, campaigns director with Pivot Legal Society. "In an inquiry process, like in most things, you get out what you put in. There simply is no alternative to fully engaging and supporting the communities who have been impacted and are most aware of what needs to change to prevent future tragedies."

    The report also criticizes the hiring of a former Vancouver police officer, John Boddie, as its executive director -- suggesting that it's another example of the fox guarding the hen house, or police watching police.

    continued in next comment...

  186. "Blueprint for an Inquiry" reserved its strongest criticism for the B.C. government's early refusal to fund community and aboriginal organizations, whose standing had been approved by Oppal -- a decision which led to a mass boycott by Amnesty International, the Assembly of First Nations and dozens of other groups. Without the budgets to hire lawyers, the report argues, no fair representation could be expected.

    The denial was particularly troubling given the public's funding of 25 lawyers representing police and government, some from Canada's largest law firms, the authors added.

    "Those resources," Bennett urged, "could have been re-allocated to include the voices of the community."

    But the refusal to fund groups' participation was more than simply a budgetary problem, argued BCCLA president Lindsay Lyster.

    "The government's decision to do that put the independence of this commission into very grave doubt," she said. "More balance funding, and government respect for the standing and funding decisions of this or any other commissioner, are essential to the credibility of this or any other such inquiries."

    Pickton was charged with the murders of 33 women. Under Oppal's supervision as then attorney general, he was tried and convicted for six second-degree murders.

    The MWCI was established in 2011 to examine why Pickton was able to continue killing mostly aboriginal women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for years, despite several key informants and eyewitnesses offering police tips, dozens of missing person reports filed, and Pickton himself charged with attempted murder of a sex worker in 1997 -- only to see his charges dropped by a Crown prosecutor, whose files disappeared.

    "I put a lot of faith in the inquiry, believing it was going to bring forth justice and answers to what went wrong -- to why these women went missing," Jennifer Allen, a former Downtown Eastside sex worker and founder of the support organization Jen's Kitchen, told The Tyee. "Unfortunately, all I saw was that the inquiry was a joke.

    "We had aboriginal women standing outside and protesting the inquiry, who should have been inside talking on the stand about what was happening and why women were going missing. In the end, it became a mess. It makes us question if these missing women's families ever going to get justice."

    For Allen, the exclusion of community groups and key witnesses -- plus the police refusal to disclose all relevant documents -- are a symptom of a "two-tiered" justice system where police tend to ignore crimes against poor, racialized women, she said. But ultimately, the Vancouver Copwatch organizer concluded, it is up to the community to hold authorities' feet to the fire.

    "Part of me is hopeful," she told The Tyee. "In the end, what's going to have to happen is we're going to have to read the recommendations and make sure those happen.

    "We're not able to rely on the police or the government to make it happen."


  187. Robert Pickton inquiry report handed over

    B.C. government says Pickton report to be made public mid-December

    The Canadian Press November 22, 2012

    The man who led a public inquiry into the failed police investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton has handed in his report to the B.C. government.

    Wally Oppal studied why it took so long for the Vancouver police and RCMP to identify Pickton as the suspect in B.C.'s missing women case, despite warnings he was preying on sex workers on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    The government says the 1,448-page report and its recommendations will be made public in mid-December.

    Earlier this week, three B.C. advocacy groups declared the inquiry a failure, saying it didn't do enough to include the voices of marginalized women.

    Oppal responded by asking the groups to read his report with an open mind.

    He said the report will make strong recommendations to better protect the most vulnerable citizens in society.

  188. Toews blasts RCMP boss over troubling gender-bias audit, gives them three weeks to compile plan

    Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News November 23, 2012

    OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is giving Canada’s top cop less than three weeks to put forward a plan to address the “troubling” results of a recent gender-based audit of the RCMP’s workforce.

    In a tersely worded letter to Bob Paulson on Thursday, Toews appeared to be dismayed that the RCMP commissioner decided to go public with the results of the audit in an interview with Postmedia News, rather than put forward a comprehensive plan to address the issues related to female representation in the force.

    “Rather than pre-emptively discussing this matter in public and proceeding on a piecemeal basis, I had expected to also receive a plan of response that we (you, I and the RCMP and the government) could present to Canadians,” he wrote. “The time for review and report in relation to this issue has passed. Now is the time for action.”

    “The plan should include specific, objectively measurable, milestones. Each milestone should have a target date. Only in this way will we be able to determine whether we are succeeding or failing in resolving this problem.”

    The pointed letter, widely released to media outlets, is a clear sign the Conservative government is willing to publicly prod and even shame its appointees into carrying out tasks according to the government’s timeline.

    The letter says Paulson recently gave Toews a draft report indicating the number of female cadets at the RCMP training depot had dropped by 52 per cent since 2008-09 despite the need for more female officers.

    “In many ways the analysis confirmed issues that we have all known to exist within the Force,” Toews wrote.

    Toews called on the commissioner to come up with a “detailed plan” using the resources already at his disposal to address the issues laid out in the gender-based analysis and the Employment Equity Systems Review conducted in 2006.

    As per Toews’ instructions, the plan should include specific and measurable goals and target dates for achieving those goals.

    “Only in this way will we be able to determine whether we are succeeding or failing in resolving this problem,” he wrote in the letter obtained by Postmedia News.

    Toews also included a partial checklist of the issues he wanted to see addressed.

    They include:

    recruitment goals for females
    a plan for reaching, in the “immediate term,” a force in which 30 per cent of RCMP officers are women
    reductions in timelines to address complaints and reductions in the overall number of complaints
    recruitment and promotion targets for female members
    retention goals
    Toews demanded he receive the plan “no later than Dec. 11, 2012.”

    The audit is poised to become public Friday once it’s distributed to the Commons committee on public safety, the status of women committee and the Senate committee on national security and defence.

    The letter comes days after Paulson revealed the audit found a “clear, unassailable” bias against promoting females to the ranks of inspector and up, despite improvements in attracting more women to the force generally.

    “A woman and a man go forward. One of the requirements is to get line officer support and commanding officer support for advancement into the executive cadre. We found a bias against women. Not huge, but significant enough,” he said earlier this week.

    “Out of all the things the study looked at, that was the most striking to me. It said, ‘OK, we’ve still got a problem here. It’s unexplained. What accounts for that?”

    continued in next comment...

  189. Paulson, who could not be reached for comment late Thursday, said the audit also revealed a troubling level of “cynicism” among officers about the promotion system at all levels of the force, irrespective of gender.

    As such, Paulson he said he is looking to make the selection process more transparent.

    To try to address the bias issue in the upper ranks, Paulson said he is advertising more widely vacant positions. Also, candidates who are shortlisted for a position but aren’t chosen are now being debriefed on why.

    He said he also wants to find a senior officer who could become a “champion” for gender issues within the force.

    Paulson inherited the force a year ago at a time when the RCMP was facing widespread allegations of harassment involving female officers.

    Despite the tone of Toews’ letter, Paulson characterized the relationship between the RCMP and Public Safety as very good. That said, he indicated during the interview that he rarely speaks with the minister.

    “The role of the national police force is to be independent with respect to our operations. Everybody gets that. But we’re still part of a broader family. . . . We’re part of a portfolio,” he said.

    “The government of the day is entitled to engage on non-operational matters with the police force.”

    Toews’ letter also calls for action on reducing the number of complaints, shorter timelines for addressing them, and improvements in satisfaction among regular members and civilian employees with respect to their working environment.

    The RCMP said Paulson would not be speaking publicly Friday about the letter.

    Paulson recently told a House of Commons committee that sexual harassment complaints comprise about three per cent of the 1,100 harassment grievances filed within the RCMP since 2005, said Paulson. The remainder involve misuse of authority and personal behaviour issues.

    When he took over as commissioner late last year, Paulson said that ridding the force of dark-hearted behaviour is one of his priorities. But he soon expressed frustration about the bureaucratic hurdles to doing so.

    Currently, any serious cases _ those requiring more than a reprimand _ must be referred to an adjudication board composed of three senior officers who follow a heavily regulated process.

    Matters can take up to five years to be resolved and the manager is largely cut out of the loop.

    Under proposed new legislation, managers would be given more responsibility to deal with day-to-day disciplinary issues.


  190. AFN calls for investigation of missing and murdered native women

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY The Globe and Mail December 06 2012

    GATINEAU, QUE. — Shannon Alexander and her teenage friend Maisy Odjick had planned to go to a dance one Saturday night in September of 2008, then sleep alone at Shannon’s house on the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in western Quebec.

    On Sunday, Maisy’s grandmother and mother could not reach her by phone and started to worry. On Monday, they went to the Alexander home, where they found the girls’ purses, identification and backpacks. But Maisy, 16, and Shannon, 17, were gone. More than four years later, there is still no sign of them.

    Maisy and Shannon are just two of some 600 aboriginal girls and women who have been documented as murdered or missing over the past two decades. First nations researchers say there are many more who have vanished without a trace, but whose cases have not generated paperwork or police interest.

    Faced with what they say is a critical situation that is being ignored outside their own communities, the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution this week demanding that the government of Canada establish an independent public commission to investigate the disappearances and killings of aboriginal women.

    The chiefs, who met for three days in Gatineau, want AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo to work with the provinces and territories to press for such an inquiry and for a national strategy to be developed to stop the violence being inflicted on their daughters, mothers, aunts and sisters.

    If the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper ignores their demands – as it has twice – they plan to take the fight to Parliament Hill as well as police stations and the offices of federal and provincial politicians across the country.

    “Over four years later and a lot of questions still remaining,” Gilbert Whiteduck, the chief of the first nation where Maisy and Shannon went missing, said Thursday after a session to discuss the threats faced by native women. “It’s like they were taken off the face of the Earth. It’s like they disappeared into nowhere.”

    The provincial police in Quebec and the first nation’s own force have followed every lead to no avail. But some participants at the AFN meeting said law enforcement officials too often refuse to take reports of missing native women seriously – that victims are dismissed as runaways.

    And they noted, on the day that serves as an annual memorial for 14 women who were gunned down 23 years ago at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, that there is little notice or attention given to the many first nations women who are killed every year with guns and knives.

    According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), about 50 per cent of the violent deaths of aboriginal women and girls result in homicide charges – compared with 76 per cent for the general population in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.

    In British Columbia, at least 18 women have vanished or been killed since the 1970s near the Yellowhead Highway, known as the Highway of Tears, which runs from Manitoba to the Pacific Ocean.

    Mr. Atleo and others say a public inquiry would draw attention to these issues and give people who have lost a female relative or friend to violence a chance to tell their stories.

    NWAC president Michèle Audette has been fighting for years for a public forum to examine the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women.

    “My dream, and the dream of NWAC, of course, is that it will change legislation, policy, programs,” Ms. Audette said, “and it will give an overview of the root cause of this systemic discrimination and how come women are ending like this with no answers and no justice.”


  191. Police officers and doctor deny allegations in RCMP harassment lawsuit


    VANCOUVER - The police officers named in Cpl. Catherine Galliford's sexual harassment lawsuit against the RCMP have all denied her allegations in statements of defence, following the lead of the federal government, which issued its own blanket denial earlier this year.

    Galliford, a police spokeswoman who worked on the Air India and Robert Pickton cases, filed a lawsuit in May, alleging nearly two decades of harassment and sexual abuse by her colleagues and superiors.

    In addition to the RCMP, Galliford's lawsuit also named RCMP officers Const. Marvin Wawia, Supt. Mike Bergerman and Insp. Doug Henderson; Dr. Ian MacDonald, an RCMP-employed physician; and Const. Phil Little, who worked for the Vancouver police but was part of the joint RCMP-Vancouver missing women investigation.

    Wawia, Bergerman and Henderson each filed statements of defence last week, denying all of Galliford's allegations. Little filed his response in October and MacDonald filed his shortly after the federal government did in July.

    Galliford first outlined her allegations in media interviews last year, prompting several other female Mounties to come forward with their own stories of abuse — and their own lawsuits. The series of accusations cast a cloud over the national police force and its treatment of women.

    While officials have acknowledged there are problems within the RCMP and have promised to take steps to fix them, the force has consistently denied any wrongdoing as it responds to lawsuits such as Galliford's.

    Galliford's statement of claim, which contains unproven allegations that have not been tested in court, says she met Wawia in 1990 while she was an applicant for the RCMP. She alleges he then spent years harassing and stalking her.

    Wawia's statement of defence denies he ever harassed or stalked Galliford.

    Instead, Wawia says the pair were in a consensual sexual relationship that began in Richmond, B.C., in 1990 and they lived together until Galliford left for the RCMP's training centre in Regina in 1991. Wawia's statement of defence says he has had "no deliberate or intentional contact" with Galliford since 1991.

    "This defendant specifically denies assaulting, sexually assaulting, threatening, harassing, or abusing his position of trust," says Wawia's statement of defence.

    The federal government has conceded that Wawia was disciplined after a complaint involving Galliford in 1991, though it's not clear what happened. Wawia's statement of defence does not mention the incident.

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  192. Galliford met Bergerman while she was still a civilian and living in Prince George, B.C., when he encouraged her to join the RCMP.

    Galliford's lawsuit claims that when she was at training in Regina, Bergerman visited her and sexually assaulted her in his car.

    Bergerman denies that happened. He said he picked up Galliford in a police car on one occasion in Regina because the two had plans, but he says they decided to cancel those plans and he drove her home without incident.

    Henderson worked with Galliford on the Air India task force, and the pair travelled across the country to meet with victims' families.

    Galliford alleges Henderson made repeated sexual advances and attacked her in a hotel room during a trip to Edmonton. However, Henderson's statement of defence says nothing untoward ever happened between the two.

    Little was a Vancouver police officer assigned to the joint task force investigating missing sex workers and serial killer Robert Pickton. Galliford's lawsuit says Little regularly made sexually explicitly comments and, while they were in a car together, pulled out his genitals.

    Little denies all of those allegations in his statement of defence.

    MacDonald oversaw Galliford's treatment for alcohol dependence beginning in the mid-2000s. Galliford accuses him of failing to diagnose her with post-traumatic stress disorder and improperly disclosing her medical records to her ex-husband.

    MacDonald's statement of defence says he did contact Galliford's husband in an effort to find out more about her alcohol use, but he insists he never shared confidential information.

    He also says he did not diagnose Galliford with post-traumatic stress disorder because she did not have symptoms of the condition.

    MacDonald goes on to detail repeated attempts to treat Galliford, either through relapse prevention agreements, in which Galliford agreed to remain abstinent and follow treatment programs, and by admitting her to in-patient treatment centres.

    In each case, MacDonald says Galliford resumed her drinking and failed to complete her treatment.

    Since Galliford went public, several more women have filed similar lawsuits targeting the RCMP and its officers.

    Const. Susan Gastaldo filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson, who maintains the two were involved in a consensual affair. An internal disciplinary board accepted Pearson's version of events, but Gastaldo is still pursuing her lawsuit.

    Const. Karen Katz has filed two lawsuits. One alleges a colleague harassed and sexually assaulted her, while the second alleges more widespread abuse during her career.

    Cpl. Elisabeth Mary Couture filed a lawsuit in December of last year, alleging harassment and intimidation from her superiors and colleagues.

    And Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the force, filed a class-action lawsuit in March alleging sexist comments, sexual pranks and derogatory remarks while on the job. Her lawyer has suggested that dozens of other officers are prepared to join the case.


  193. Pickton inquiry slams blatant failures by police

    Report recommends Greater Vancouver establish a regional police force

    CBC News December 17, 2012

    Full report: http://www.cbc.ca/bc/news/bc-121217-mwi-report.pdf

    Executive Summary: http://www.cbc.ca/bc/news/bc-121217-mwi-part1.pdf

    The missing women inquiry into serial killer Robert Pickton has slammed police for botching their investigations and has recommended a single regional police force be created for Greater Vancouver.

    Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal released his final report in Vancouver this afternoon, but advance copies provided to the families of Pickton's victims were leaked to media outlets around 10 a.m. PT.

    In his conclusion, Oppal blamed years of inadequate and failed police investigations for allowing Pickton to prey undetected for years on women in the sex trade on Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside.

    "The police investigations into the missing and murdered women were blatant failures," Oppal said.

    "The critical police failings were manifest in recurring patterns of error that went unchecked and uncorrected over several years.

    "The underlying causes of these failures … were themselves complex and multi-faceted."

    Oppal said those causes included discrimination, a lack of leadership, outdated policing approaches, and a fragmented police structure in the Greater Vancouver region.

    While Oppal condemned the police investigations, he also found society at large should bear some responsibility for the women's tragic lives.

    "I have found that the missing and murdered women were forsaken twice: once by society at large and again by the police," Oppal wrote.

    "What we're here to discuss is a tragedy of epic proportions.

    "The women didn't go missing. They aren't just absent, they didn't just go away. They were taken, taken from their families, taken from their friends, taken from their communities.…We know they were murdered.

    "Even though Pickton is in jail, the violence against women in the Downtown Eastside and other areas of this province continues. It's time to end this violence," he said.

    "It's the inequality and the poverty that breeds the type of violence we're talking about here," he said.

    "We need to treat those women as equals. That's part of our duty as civilized people in a social democracy to ensure they're accorded the same rights as everybody else."

    During much of his remarks Oppal turned and spoke directly to the families of the women, and at one point during his remarks he was forced to pause while the families broke into chanting and drumming.

    "There was systemic bias by the police," but the bias was not intentional, said Oppal.

    "As a system, they failed because of the bias. These women were vulnerable; they were treated as throwaways — unstable, unreliable."

    "The women were poor, they were addicted, vulnerable, aboriginal. They did not receive equal treatment by police."

    Oppal called his inquiry, which spanned 93 days of hearings and heard from 85 witnesses, a "heart-wrenching experience."

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  194. 63 recommendations issued

    The final 1,448-page report offered 63 recommendations, including:

    -Fund existing centres that provide emergency services to women in the sex trade, so the centres can stay open 24 hours a day.

    -Enhance public transit to northern B.C. communities, especially along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears.

    -Appoint two advisers, including one aboriginal elder, to consult with affected parties regarding form and content of apologies required to heal and help with the reconciliation process.

    -A compensation fund for the children of missing women.

    -A healing fund for the families of missing women.

    -Establishing a Greater Vancouver regional police force.

    -Striking an independent expert committee to develop a model and implementation plan for a new police force.

    -The province should appoint an independent adviser within 12 weeks to implement Oppal's recommendations.

    -Police officers should be required to undergo mandatory and ongoing training regarding vulnerable community members.

    -More intensive and ongoing training for police on the history and current status of aboriginal people.

    -Make prevention of violence against aboriginal women a genuine priority.

    -Establish more police accountability to communities.

    -Improve police missing person policies and practices.

    Lengthy report

    Before it was released, Oppal said the lengthy report needs to be read and digested before forming opinions.

    “I think it's a strong report. We make some good recommendations, but most of all, the parties need to keep an open mind and not reach a premature conclusion until they've had the opportunity to read the report."

    The inquiry was called to look into the police investigation of the serial killer and their mishandling of cases involving missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002. He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his pig farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.

    The inquiry also examined how families of the victims were treated as they searched for missing loved ones.

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  195. Critical police failures

    Oppal's report outlined seven critical failures in the police investigations.

    1. Police failed to take proper reports on missing women, and failed to act on them.

    Oppal found that families of missing women were given "degrading and insensitive treatment" by police.

    "In a few cases, the barriers were so pronounced as to amount to a denial to make a report," he wrote.

    When reports were taken, they were not acted on with any urgency, he wrote.

    2. Police didn't use available information to connect the dots and realize that missing women were being slain by a serial killer, who posed further public risk.

    Oppal blamed a lack of urgency, which meant working groups were tasked with reviewing but not investigating the missing women cases.

    They failed to fully investigate Pickton, he concluded, and didn't put enough resources into finding the serial killer.

    3. Police "utterly failed" to protect women in the Downtown Eastside.

    Oppal says the first sign of a strategy to protect these vulnerable women came in 2002, just weeks before Pickton was caught.

    "I conclude that the VPD was under an obligation to warn women in the Downtown Eastside and they utterly failed to do so," wrote Oppal.

    "There is no sound evidence of investigative reasons not to issue a warning."

    4. Police didn't use available investigative strategies to solve the case.

    Oppal cited delays, inadequate surveillance and a mismanagement of informants and sources for slowing the investigations.

    5. Police failed to follow a technique known as "major case management."

    Oppal describes poor investigative team co-ordination between the VPD's missing women review team, the Coquitlam RCMP investigation of Pickton, and other investigations.

    6. Police failed to co-ordinate between agencies.

    Jurisdiction issues meant two police agencies (VPD and Coquitlam RCMP) were investigating the same crimes and didn't know whose case it was.

    This "contributed significantly to the blatant overall failures of the missing and murdered women and Pickton investigations," Oppal concluded.

    7. There was not an effective internal review of external accountability of police work.

    Oppal found "no evidence of widespread institutional bias in the VPD or RCMP."

    But he did say there was "isolated" bias to the missing women investigations that allowed "faulty stereotyping of street-involved women" and meant police failed to recognize their "duty to protect an endangered segment of our community."

    Oppal, however, said he did not think there was an intention to dismiss or devalue the missing and murdered women.


  196. Pickton victims families cautious but hopeful for change following inquiry


    VANCOUVER - Families of women believed murdered by serial-killer Robert Pickton welcomed the massive inquiry report into the police bungling that allowed the pig farmer to continue killing, saying wearily they hope it will lead to positive change.

    Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara Ellis's remains were found on Pickton's farm, said Monday she was impressed with Commissioner Wally Oppal's thoroughness, but said she also thinks he wasn't able to see the whole picture because of the limitations in his mandate.

    "It's a baby step, but at least we're moving in the right direction," she said.

    "At some point in time, in order for the families to start healing, we have to trust someone. Do I think it's going to change overnight? No."

    Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the murder of six women, while charges involving 20 others were stayed. The remains of a further seven women were found on his farm.

    Ernie Crey said he, too, was "deeply impressed" with the report. Crey's sister's DNA was found on the Pickton farm.

    He acknowledged the inquiry process had shortcomings and many groups remain angry that they were left out.

    But he added, "It really boils down to, what do we do about it? I'd rather spend my time doing concrete things today and tomorrow and the day after that than just being critical and not participating in the process.

    "We need to work with what we have."

    But if the families were cautious in their support for the inquiry report, other players in the long-running story were sombre, some were contrite and others were terse.

    Attorney General Shirley Bond was overcome with emotion as she noted her government will be moving immediately on some of the recommendations.

    "It is my ardent hope that British Columbia never has another chapter like this in its history," Bond said, fighting back tears.

    "Anyone who begins to read the report will know how difficult it is ... It's almost impossible to imagine that could have happened in the province of British Columbia."

    In keeping with Oppal's recommendations, Bond said her government will give an extra $750,000 to the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, which provides services to women involved in the sex trade. As well, former lieutenant governor Stephen Point, an aboriginal, has been given the job of guiding the government's response to the recommendations.

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  197. NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog said the report is a "very sad comment."

    "No British Columbians today can take pride in what this report reveals about our society," he said.

    "The police involved, I would hope, have learned a very serious and sad lesson."

    Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu said his force has and is committed to learning from its mistakes.

    "We know that nothing can ever truly heal the wounds of grief and loss, but if we can, we want to assure the families that the Vancouver Police Department deeply regrets anything we did that may have delayed the eventual solving of these murders."

    Chu issued a statement saying the force has already taken measures to ensure the same errors are not made again, including completely overhauling the missing-persons unit and its outreach programs.

    Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C., also re-stated his force's regret at the deaths.

    However, he noted the force is still digesting the report and declined to take questions.

    "As a commanding officer, I wish to convey to you that the RCMP welcomes today's report," he said.

    "Policing is constantly evolving, and on an ongoing basis it is necessary for us to look critically at how we deliver policing services to ensure that we respond effectively to our community's needs and expectations."

    Oppal's report did little to quiet those voices strongly opposed to the inquiry's composition from the outset.

    They have argued repeatedly the inquiry's limited terms of reference and the refusal by the provincial government to pay for lawyers to represent sex-trade workers and aboriginal women's organizations doomed the inquiry.

    The groups re-iterated their call Monday for a national public inquiry into the hundreds of murders and disappearances of aboriginal women and girls.

    It's a call voiced by the Assembly of First Nations and one repeated by Human Rights Watch Monday and also by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

    Robertson said he has directed his city manager to immediately implement Oppal's recommendations involving Vancouver.

    "It is my hope that inquiry recommendations are focused on real and lasting change — systemic changes that need to happen to keep young girls and women safe and prevent this tragedy from happening in the future," said Robertson.

    "We need to remember that just because an inquiry is completed, it does not mean action is taken."

    Robertson also noted he has supported the notion of a regional police force in the past and welcomed Oppal's recommendation that the political barriers standing in the way finally be broken down and such a force be implemented.

    Prof. Rob Gordon, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University and a long-time advocate for regional policing, said until now, the provincial government has been unwilling to move ahead with such an initiative.

    Indeed, Bond refused to comment on the recommendation at her news conference following the release of Oppal's report.

    "Unfortunately, it's taken a serial murderer like Pickton to really fire this one up and for people to see the absurdity of the policing system that we have," said Gordon.


  198. Oppal report on Pickton killings signals the end of current prostitution laws

    The Globe and Mail Editorial December 19 2012

    Wally Oppal says the scores of women missing and presumed murdered by Robert Pickton and others in the Vancouver area were doubly forsaken – by society and by police. In fact, they were triply forsaken, though Mr. Oppal’s terms of reference did not allow him to say so. The law itself forsook many of them, by criminalizing them for selling sex and driving them to the extreme margins.

    The long-term value of Mr. Oppal’s report, even apart from its many useful recommendations, may be in indirectly demolishing the federal government’s case for maintaining prostitution laws as they are. A challenge to those laws is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. The evidence of marginalization and vulnerability compiled in the 1,448 pages of Mr. Oppal’s inquiry report is beyond doubt. By worsening the dangers, the criminal law is, in effect, a help to serial killers such as Mr. Pickton.

    Robert Pickton was in plain sight, but the prostitutes were invisible; the criminalizing of bawdy houses (along with the criminalizing of street solicitation, an element of the law we support) and the illegality of hiring a bodyguard left them physically at risk and with little ability to call on police protection. “I cannot ignore the reality that this legal regime played an important role in shaping the relationship between the police and women in the [Downtown Eastside], potentially affecting the police investigations into the women’s disappearances,” Mr. Oppal writes.

    Mr. Oppal is a former appeal court judge and a former British Columbia attorney general; he sets out convincingly how laws and policing work, or fail to work. One woman, known in the report as “Ms. Anderson,” did not disappear; she survived a knife attack, and reported it to police. This was in 1997, and the RCMP believed her completely, though their investigation was clumsy – an officer interviewed her just once, and didn’t follow up leads suggesting that Mr. Pickton had attacked others. A charge of attempted murder was laid, but Crown attorney Randi Connor stayed the charge, finding that Ms. Anderson, because of her drug addictions, was a shaky witness. But as Mr. Oppal documents, Ms. Connor interviewed her only once, found her incoherent and nodding off and didn’t offer to get her help for her addictions. Nineteen more women are believed to have been murdered before Mr. Pickton was finally arrested in 2002.

    The Oppal report is a hair-raising examination of how marginalization undermines equality before the law, including the right to the law’s protection. The report is a death knell for prostitution laws in their current form.


  199. RCMP has a bullying problem, watchdog says

    Complaints commission probe began after female Mounties alleged sexual harassment

    CBC News February 14, 2013

    The RCMP has a bullying problem that needs to be countered by better training and record-keeping, the force's watchdog says in a long-awaited report released today.

    The RCMP public complaints commission launched its investigation in November 2011 in reaction to widespread reports from female Mounties about systemic sexual harassment.

    The report released Thursday looks at 718 harassment complaints filed between 2005 and 2011, representing about 2.5 per cent of all employees at the RCMP.

    Commission chairman Ian McPhail said about 90 per cent of the complaints involved bullying. Only four per cent of the complaints dealt with sexual harassment.

    "Yes, there's a problem of harassment, but overwhelmingly the problem was abuse of authority," McPhail told CBC News.

    In the highest-profile cases of sexual harassment, he said the commission found no bias or negligence.

    McPhail's recommendations include that the RCMP:

    --Improve its record-keeping by tracking all complaints.

    --Improve its definition of harassment.

    --Provide specialized training to investigators and managers.

    --Set deadlines for the treatment of allegations about workplace conflict.

    The commission says its investigation didn't point to a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the police force, despite intense publicity about difficulties and grievances.

    However, the report said the simple perception of a pattern of poor treatment of employees is enough to rattle public confidence and tarnish the force's reputation.

    Public complaints from officers

    Several female RCMP officers have come forward with complaints since Cpl. Catherine Galliford went public in 2011 with allegations of harassment. Male officers have also cited abusive behaviour and intimidation.

    The commission found the complex system for dealing with complaints meant some took as long as four years to process.

    "That's clearly unacceptable," McPhail said. "No one can fairly be expected to have their lives and their careers on hold for up to four years while a complaint is resolved. People see that sort of thing happening, and even if they have a legitimate complaint, they're not going to step forward."

    Also Thursday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced a "gender and respect" action plan that sets out 37 measures he says will improve the culture and the composition of the force.

    The report comes a day after the RCMP in British Columbia was accused of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women. The accusations, which include police threats, torture and sexual assault, were detailed by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called on the federal government to launch a national inquiry.

    The complaints commission report dealt solely with complaints within the RCMP, not those involving civilians.


  200. I have used the comments section of this blog post to publish news articles that update the two main subject matters of the post: murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada, and sexual harassment and other abuse of authority cases within the RCMP. The blog platform is not allowing me to post more than 200 comments, so I have created for this post a second page on this blog where I publish further news updates.

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