Saturday, June 30

Memorials an apt tribute to murdered women

BY STEPHEN HUME, VANCOUVER SUN JUNE 29, 2012

Setting memorial plaques into Vancouver's Downtown East-side sidewalks to commemorate the lives of the women murdered and believed murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton is certain to generate a public conversation.

Why plaques for these specific women, singling them out among the hundreds murdered over the last 25 years, critics will ask.

Well, are these women less worthy of commemoration, say, than those murdered at L'Ecole Polytechnique? Or is social class the issue here?

Too little, too late, another likely argument will go, as though the act of remembering were a zero sum equation - remember all or remember none.

What about the symbolism of installing the plaques in sidewalks to be walked upon? Well, Hollywood celebrities are commemorated with side-walk plaques, so that seems a thin complaint. Besides, it was from these sidewalks that the downtrodden disappeared, so the symbolism is apt.

Others may wonder, why such haste to commemorate these particular women?

After all, nobody paid such attention to sex trade worker Karen-Lee Taylor, 19, strangled and left on a plastic sheet in Shaughnessy in 1990.

Dusty Sowan, 25, mother of an infant, was strangled and discarded naked in the south lane of West 24th Avenue's 700-block in 1988. Lisa Marie Gavin, 21, was beaten, strangled and dumped in a lane behind the 6400-block of Knight in 1988.

Vicki Rosaline Black, 23, was disposed of in a dumpster in the south lane of the 2000-block of Hastings in 1993, her shroud a grey sheet with patterned squares. Bernadine Stand-ingready, 26, was beaten to death and thrown away in an auto-wrecking yard in the 700-block of Cordova in 1991. Linda Joyce Tatrai, 18, was stabbed and left to die in an underground parking lot in the 1400-block of East Broadway in 1985.

Is this plaque initiative just exploiting the limelight created by the Missing Women Inquiry and the various controversies surrounding it?

Is it politically correct pandering to a sentimental public desire to exhibit grief as a vicarious alternative to actually doing something about the conditions that put all these women at risk?

Frankly, I don't know and I don't care.

Whatever the motivations, I like the idea of affirming these women's too-brief lives, assigning value to humble people who might otherwise conveniently vanish into the tides of forgetfulness that so often afflict our sense of who we are.

Because, like it or not, these women are us. And protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, we are inescapably them, whether we wish to acknowledge the reality or not.

The conditions that gave rise to the circumstances in which they lived and were slain are of our collective making as a society. And forgetting them doesn't absolve us of what we so easily tolerate in our midst.

As a supposedly enlightened society, how did we come to the point that women like these - each one of them somebody's daughter, sister, mother, niece, aunt, lover, friend - become a disposable commodity; used and discarded naked in a dumpster, or left in the gutter, or a junkyard. Because if the victims are ours, so are the victimizers.

Vancouver is not just the glittering high life reported in Malcolm Parry's society column. It's also the low life. Or, to adopt the words of a small first nations girl I met in a tiny northern settlement and whose description I've never forgotten, "the city that eats people."

If we can commemorate women like Emily Murphy, whose indisputable contribution to advancing women's rights in Canada was stained by racism, surely we can accept a few symbolic plaques acknowledging that victims of the society we've created have worth, whatever we may think of their choices and behaviours.

This isn't a suggestion that Murphy isn't worth remembering, too. I disagree with attempts to demolish her reputation. Like this city, the good in Murphy came bundled with the bad, as it does for all of us; just as the women whose names will now be remembered on these plaques had both good and bad qualities.

Life is never a zero-sum game. Life is messy and complicated. Murphy the racist thought prostitution an evil by-product of Asian immigration, yet it was Murphy the reformer's attempt to intervene in a case in which prostitutes had been arrested under questionable circumstances that led to her long-fought campaign for women's rights from which all women now benefit.

These women, whose lives will now be acknowledged as having worth and dignity, were fallible human beings, like us. They may have made some poor, difficult or unavoidable choices, as have all of us. It's important for the rest of us to remember that regardless of those choices, they had value and deserved far more than they received.

shume@islandnet.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

The wrong call - Winnipeg Free Press

The wrong call - Winnipeg Free Press:

'via Blog this'

Artist grieves for missing women, lost culture - Winnipeg Free Press

Artist grieves for missing women, lost culture - Winnipeg Free Press:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, June 28

Hume: Memorials an apt tribute to murdered women

BY STEPHEN HUME, VANCOUVER SUN JUNE 28, 2012 10:51 PM

Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation will install bronze memorial stones to commemorate murdered and missing women from the Downtown Eastside, most of whom were believed victims of Robert Pickton. Here family members of three victims Sarah de Vries, (holding stone) who lost her mother, Lorelei Williams (left) lost her cousin, Tanya Holyk and Michele Pineault (right) (who lost her daughter Stephanie Lane) on east Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver on June 28, 2012

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

Setting memorial plaques into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside sidewalks to commemorate the lives of the women murdered and believed murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton is certain to generate a public conversation.

Why plaques for these specific women, singling them out among the hundreds murdered over the last 25 years, critics will ask.

Well, are these women less worthy of commemoration, say, than those murdered at L’Ecole Polytechnique? Or is social class the issue here?

Too little, too late, another likely argument will go, as though the act of remembering were a zero sum equation — remember all or remember none.

What about the symbolism of installing the plaques in sidewalks to be walked upon? Well, Hollywood celebrities are commemorated with sidewalk plaques, so that seems a thin complaint. Besides, it was from these sidewalks that the downtrodden disappeared, so the symbolism is apt.

Others may wonder, why such haste to commemorate these particular women?

After all, nobody paid such attention to sex trade worker Karen-Lee Taylor, 19, strangled and left on a plastic sheet in Shaughnessy in 1990.

Dusty Sowan, 25, mother of an infant, was strangled and discarded naked in the south lane of West 24th Avenue’s 700-block in 1988. Lisa Marie Gavin, 21, was beaten, strangled and dumped in a lane behind the 6400-block of Knight in 1988.

Vicki Rosaline Black, 23, was disposed of in a dumpster in the south lane of the 2000-block of Hastings in 1993, her shroud a grey sheet with patterned squares. Bernadine Standingready, 26, was beaten to death and thrown away in an auto-wrecking yard in the 700-block of Cordova in 1991. Linda Joyce Tatrai, 18, was stabbed and left to die in an underground parking lot in the 1400-block of East Broadway in 1985.

Is this plaque initiative just exploiting the limelight created by the Missing Women Inquiry and the various controversies surrounding it?

Is it politically correct pandering to a sentimental public desire to exhibit grief as a vicarious alternative to actually doing something about the conditions that put all these women at risk?

Frankly, I don’t know and I don’t care.

Whatever the motivations, I like the idea of affirming these women’s too-brief lives, assigning value to humble people who might otherwise conveniently vanish into the tides of forgetfulness that so often afflict our sense of who we are.

Because, like it or not, these women are us. And protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, we are inescapably them, whether we wish to acknowledge the reality or not.

The conditions that gave rise to the circumstances in which they lived and were slain are of our collective making as a society. And forgetting them doesn’t absolve us of what we so easily tolerate in our midst.

As a supposedly enlightened society, how did we come to the point that women like these — each one of them somebody’s daughter, sister, mother, niece, aunt, lover, friend — become a disposable commodity; used and discarded naked in a dumpster, or left in the gutter, or a junkyard. Because if the victims are ours, so are the victimizers.

Vancouver is not just the glittering high life reported in Malcolm Parry’s society column. It’s also the low life. Or, to adopt the words of a small first nations girl I met in a tiny northern settlement and whose description I’ve never forgotten, “the city that eats people.”

If we can commemorate women like Emily Murphy, whose indisputable contribution to advancing women’s rights in Canada was stained by racism, surely we can accept a few symbolic plaques acknowledging that victims of the society we’ve created have worth, whatever we may think of their choices and behaviours.

This isn’t a suggestion that Murphy isn’t worth remembering, too. I disagree with attempts to demolish her reputation. Like this city, the good in Murphy came bundled with the bad, as it does for all of us; just as the women whose names will now be remembered on these plaques had both good and bad qualities.

Life is never a zero-sum game. Life is messy and complicated. Murphy the racist thought prostitution an evil by-product of Asian immigration, yet it was Murphy the reformer’s attempt to intervene in a case in which prostitutes had been arrested under questionable circumstances that led to her long-fought campaign for women’s rights from which all women now benefit.

These women, whose lives will now be acknowledged as having worth and dignity, were fallible human beings, like us. They may have made some poor, difficult or unavoidable choices, as have all of us. It’s important for the rest of us to remember that regardless of those choices, they had value and deserved far more than they received.

shume@islandnet.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Downtown Eastside plaques to memorialize missing women

BY JEFF LEE, VANCOUVER SUN JUNE 28, 2012 6:02 PM

Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation will install bronze memorial stones to commemorate murdered and missing women from the Downtown Eastside, most of whom were believed victims of Robert Pickton. Here family members of three victims Sarah de Vries, (holding stone) who lost her mother, Lorelei Williams (left) lost her cousin, Tanya Holyk and Michele Pineault (right) (who lost her daughter Stephanie Lane) on east Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver on June 28, 2012

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

Michele Pineault has nothing left of her daughter Stephanie Lane to mark her passing. No body, no headstone. Nothing to show for the 20-year-old who was one of the 62 women who went missing from the Downtown Eastside during Robert Pickton's murderous rampage.

Eventually, a small brass plaque bearing Lane's name, birthdate and the word 'missing' will be installed in the sidewalk at Victoria and Hastings, the place she was last seen.

It will be one of 62 such sidewalk memorials for women believed to have been Pickton's victims — 26 of whom he was charged with killing and 36 who were never found. (He was tried and convicted in the deaths of six.)

But beginning later this year the 26 victims Pickton was charged with killing, and another 36 who have never been found will be memorialized with small brass plaques placed on sidewalks where they were last seen or lived.

The project is being done by a non-profit Vancouver group that uses art for therapy and restorative justice, the Canadian Foundation for Creative Development and Innovation. It has received support from all but one of the families and has been unanimously endorsed by the city's public art committee.

Sean Kirkham, a foundation director, said the idea for the plaques was taken from cobblestone-sized "Stolperstein" or "stumbling block" memorials erected in Germany to remember those killed in the Holocaust. The fact that the victims took a back seat in the Missing Women's Inquiry only underscored the need to celebrate them, he said.

"The message that we tried to display in this is that throughout the debacle of the Missing Women's Inquiry it is the women who have been forgotten. Not a lot was said in this about them" he said. "It was more about the police shortcomings and Pickton. We wanted to put back the focus on the women."

But the idea of placing what some see as a headstone into a public sidewalk has raised eyebrows, particularly among the city's business improvement associations, which were asked for feedback by the city's streets department.

"Will people know it is public art? When is it no longer a grave marker and when is it public art and will people know what it means?" asked Sharon Townsend, the executive director of the South Granville Business Improvement Association."

"Do we put a marker at 16th Ave and Granville where police shot that guy crawling across the street so that it never happens again? Everyone is quite passionate about the fact that yes, we need to make sure this never happens again, but is this the right way to do it?"

Kirkham said the $18,000 project, which was funded entirely by the group without government support, has not faced any negative feedback and has been endorsed by the Hastings Crossing BIA, where most the plaques will be placed.

The project will see each woman's name and birthdate engraved into a 4" by 4" brass plaque attached to a brick.

For each of the 26 Pickton was charged with killing the word "Murdered" will be inscribed below the birthdate. For everyone else whose remains have not been found, the word "Missing" will be used.

Nine women whose DNA was found but who remain unidentified will have plaques marked with their police case file number. If they are ever identified, the plaques will be replaced with their proper name, Kirkham said. Only one person, the father of Heather Bottomley, has asked that her plaque not be installed in the Downtown Eastside.

Kirkham said the city has also asked the foundation to create a memorial that explains the context of the art work. It will be mounted somewhere in the Hastings and Main area. The foundation is also building an interactive website that will give biographical information about the women but won't focus on Pickton, he said.

The foundation is paying for the cost of the installation, but to keep costs down the blocks will only be placed as the city repairs the sidewalks. While most of the blocks will be installed in front of rooming houses and street corners in the Downtown Eastside, a few will be located elsewhere, including in front of St. Paul's Hospital, the last known location of one victim. Cara Ellis, who was last seen in front of The Bay store, will have a memorial stone placed at Granville and Georgia Streets, Kirkham said.

For Lorelei Williams, having her cousin Tanya Holyk's name on a plaque outside the Vernon Rooms

breathes a little memory back into a woman she worries has been largely forgotten.

"Everybody knows Robert Pickton's name but they don't know the girls behind all of this. This is a way to honour them and have them not be forgotten. I love the idea that it could help another lady down there in the Downtown Eastside if they see their name and realize it could happen to them too," she said.

Williams said at first she was bothered about the macabre idea of someone walking on her cousin's memorial. "But you know, it is a good view for the women down there if they are sad and looking at the ground, and they see her name. It is the perfect spot for them to see it."

Sarah de Vries said she has a lot of faith that those who live in the Downtown Eastside will respect the memorial stones, even though some may walk on them.

"It is a street, so I think it will happen. But for the people who know it is there, they won't do that," she said, adding she was touched by the art group's efforts. "It means a lot to me as her daughter to know that people are remembering them and doing so much for them even though they are gone."

Calls to the Hastings Crossing BIA were not returned. The city also did not provide a spokesperson for comment.

Charles Gauthier, the executive director of the Downtown Vancouver BIA, said he accepts that the murders and disappearances were a terrible chapter in the city's history. "If it means something to someone who lost a loved one, I am not going to stand in the way of that," he said.

Townsend said she's not opposed to memorializing the missing and murdered women. But she thinks some people will be offended or concerned about walking over what essentially are macabre headstones.

And she's had experience dealing with misunderstandings when it comes to street fixtures. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the BIA installed on sidewalks 250 decals representing the stylized flags of every nation participating at the Games. The association was criticized by some politicians and by several countries' consular staff for supposedly breaching international protocol not to disrespect their flags.

"We got beaten up a lot by people who didn't like the idea someone might be walking on their flag, even though it wasn't a flag," she said. "The idea of essentially a headstone on a sidewalk is going to bring just as much concern."

Jefflee@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/sunciviclee

Blog: www.vancouversun.com/jefflee

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, June 26

Edmonton's Project Kare examines links to accused Winnipeg serial killer

BY MARIAM IBRAHIM, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM JUNE 26, 2012 6:15 PM

Shawn Cameron Lamb

Photograph by: Supplied, edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - Project Kare investigators in Edmonton are combing through files for possible links after Winnipeg police arrested a suspected serial killer this week for the murders of three aboriginal women.

Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, was charged with second-degree-murder in connection with the deaths of Tanya Nepinak, 31, Carolyn Sinclair, 25 and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.

Police in Winnipeg said they were working with investigators across Canada to determine if Lamb is connected to the cases of other missing or murdered women.

Project Kare Staff Sgt. Gerard MacNeil said Tuesday that while Lamb’s name has not come up in direct relation to any open cases, “his name does appear in our intelligence data set.”.

Lamb, a longtime drifter originally from Sarnia, Ont., has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for offences, including assault, in Alberta dating to the early 1990s.

MacNeil said there are indications Lamb has spent time in the Edmonton area over the past two decades and investigators are “anxiously awaiting” a package of more detailed information from Winnipeg police.

“At the same time, we’re combing through our data sets to see if there’s anything there that could be linked to Mr. Lamb that might require us to travel to Winnipeg or conduct further investigation here to make sure that if, in fact, he is responsible for any crimes in this province, he is connected to them and hopefully prosecuted,” MacNeil said.

Police in Winnipeg said Lamb knew Nepinak and met the other two women on the street. All three women worked in Winnipeg’s sex-trade industry.

Investigators will not release the exact number of open cases under Project Kare. The task force was formed in 2004 to examine potential links between missing or murdered sex-trade workers in the Edmonton area, with a focus on potential serial offenders. At the time, 79 cases were identified as being of interest, including 10 women who were found dead in fields around Edmonton in the years prior to Project Kare’s creation. The unit’s investigative scope has widened since then to include cases of people around the province who lead high-risk lifestyles.

MacNeil said the transient nature of some of the victims and suspects can create hurdles for investigators trying to retrace their steps.

“It’s a huge problem. A person can come into Edmonton tonight, commit a crime, and then go on to Fort McMurray or Vancouver or Toronto, wherever,” he said.

Victims are also hard to track down because they may not have people around them who will report them missing, he said.

“For a lot of these women in particular, they don’t have the type of support in their lives that lends itself well to people making timely reports when their normal habit of life has changed,” he said.

Earlier this month, RCMP confirmed the death of Deanna Bellerose, who was last seen in Edmonton on Sept. 9, 2002, and was reported missing by her family about a week later.

The 29-year-old was one of a series of transient women who vanished from city streets in the 1990s and early 2000s, leading to Project Kare’s formation. Her remains were found in April by a surveyor working in a Morinville field.

The task force also recently announced it is investigating the death of Annette Holywhiteman, who was last seen in the summer of 2008, and whose body was found on a rural Westlock property by hunters in the fall of 2010.

mibrahim@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/mariam_d

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Police search for links between alleged Winnipeg serial killer and other missing women cases

The Canadian Press Jun 25, 2012 – 2:03 PM ET | Last Updated: Jun 25, 2012 8:54 PM ET

Handout

Tanya Jane Nepinak, Carolyn Marie Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith

WINNIPEG — Police suspect an alleged serial killer who preyed on aboriginal women may have struck before and are contacting police departments across the country to see if he can be linked to other missing women.

Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Monday charged in the second-degree murders of Tanya Nepinak, 31, Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.

A police source told the Winnipeg Free Press the man attracted attention after he claimed to have found the bodies of Ms. Sinclair and Ms. Blacksmith wrapped in plastic and dumped near city garbage bins downtown. Ms. Nepinak’s body has not been found.

I don’t know of any errors in this investigation at all. Sometimes you get a break in the case and that’s what happened here

Ms. Sinclair was pregnant when she died.

Inspector Rick Guyader told a news conference Mr. Lamb was considered a person of interest in all three cases. He was questioned about them after he was arrested Thursday for sexually assaulting a 36-year-old woman.

Police said information turned up that investigation led them to Ms. Blacksmith.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill acknowledged people have been speculating for some time whether there was a serial killer preying on women in Winnipeg, but there hadn’t been evidence to tie any cases together until now.

“We never said there was no serial killer. We said we had no evidence to suggest there is one,” he said.

“Now we have that evidence.”

He said he stands by the work of investigators and how long it took to interview Mr. Lamb.

“I don’t know of any errors in this investigation at all. Sometimes you get a break in the case and that’s what happened here.”

Police described Mr. Lamb, a drifter who is originally from Sarnia, Ont., as well-travelled but dismissed reports he worked as a truck driver.

They said they are contacting other police departments to see if he can be connected to unsolved cases of other murdered or missing women.

Court documents show Mr. Lamb has an extensive criminal history over the past decade. In Manitoba, he has numerous convictions for offences such as robbery, weapons, uttering threats and fraud.

He was most recently charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and procuring the sexual services of someone under age 18. The offences date back to Oct. 23, 2011, but he wasn’t charged until May. He was released from custody at that time on a promise to appear.

Insp. Guyader believes Mr. Lamb had contact with all three victims. He is said to have been a friend of Ms. Nepinak’s and met Ms. Blacksmith and Ms. Sinclair on the street. The police officer would not confirm reports all three were prostitutes.

Chief McCaskill said it doesn’t matter what the women did for a living. “They are victims and they should never have been,” he said.

Ms. Sinclair, 25, who was originally from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation of Pukatawagan, was reported missing Jan. 11, when she hadn’t been in touch with family members.

Court documents show police believe she was killed Dec. 18. Her body was found March 31 near a garbage bin in an alley off Notre Dame Avenue.

Ms. Blacksmith, 18, was from the Cross Lake First Nation. She was last seen last December and was reported missing a month later. At the time, police said they believed she had travelled to Alberta.

She appears to have been killed Jan. 12. Her body was found Thursday by a garbage bin off Simcoe Street.

Police said both bodies were too badly decomposed to determine how the women died or if they had been sexually assaulted.

Ms. Nepinak, 31, was last seen Sept. 13 in downtown Winnipeg. At the time, police issued a news release saying they were concerned for her well-being.

Chief McCaskill said investigators are still trying to locate her body, but have enough evidence to indicate she is dead. Court documents show police believe she was killed the same day she was last seen.

She was from the Pine Creek First Nation, north of Dauphin, and had two children, said Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is a distant cousin from the same reserve.

“Our hearts go out to the families and communities that are feeling the pain right now,” Chief Nepinak said.

He commended police on Lamb’s arrest, but said there are always concerns about the “pace” of investigations involving missing aboriginal women. He plans to ask the Manitoba government to call a public inquiry into missing and murdered women in the province.

The Canadian Press

Accused serial killer arrested

52-year-old Winnipeg man charged with murdering three women in city

Winnipeg Free Press

By: Gabrielle Giroday and Aldo Santin

winnipeg murder

Many had long suspected the disappearances and deaths of a number of aboriginal women in Winnipeg was the work of a serial killer. But it was the voice of a 36-year-old woman that focused police attention on one suspect and led to a breakthrough arrest.

Now a drifter with an extensive criminal background is accused of being just that -- a serial killer in Winnipeg.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press<br />Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill (right), with Insp. Rick Guyader, tells a news conference about the arrest of Shawn Lamb.

Enlarge Image

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill (right), with Insp. Rick Guyader, tells a news conference about the arrest of Shawn Lamb.

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Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Tanya Nepinak, Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith, police announced Monday morning.

Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said a woman came forward Thursday, saying she had been the victim of a serious sexual assault. She provided investigators with enough evidence to lead them to Lamb, who was living on Sutherland Avenue.

Insp. Rick Guyader said Lamb knew Nepinak and was a person of interest in her disappearance and the cases of missing women Sinclair and Blacksmith. But investigators didn't question Lamb until the woman came forward last week.

"Sometimes you get a break in the case, and that's what happened here," McCaskill said during a news conference.

McCaskill defended the Winnipeg Police Service investigation of the women's disappearances, saying until Lamb's arrest last week, there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was at work.

"We never said there was no serial killer, we said we had no evidence to suggest there is one," he said. "Now we have that evidence.

"I don't think we dropped the ball on this," McCaskill said, adding the case will be subject to close scrutiny and there will likely be instances where a different decision should have been made.

"I don't know of any errors in this investigation at all," McCaskill said. "The most important thing at the end of the day is that we do the best we possibly can and get that evidence before the courts."

Guyader said Lamb had lived in the West End, close to where the bodies of Sinclair and Blacksmith were found.

Sources said the reason Lamb was on police radar initially was because he was the one who reported finding Sinclair's body.

A source said after his arrest for the sexual assault, the case broke wide open when Lamb told investigators about the body on Simcoe Street.

Links were made to the Sinclair case, because both bodies were reportedly wrapped in plastic and dumped in a similar area, sources told the Free Press.

Guyader and McCaskill would not say what evidence linked Lamb to the trio of cases but the man was charged with three counts of second-degree murder even though Nepinak's body has yet to be found.

Lamb is being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

The body of Sinclair, 25, was found in March in a Dumpster in a back lane near Notre Dame Avenue and Toronto Street. Sinclair had been missing for three months at the time, and court records indicate she was killed almost immediately after disappearing.

Blacksmith, 18, had last been seen Jan. 11 in the West End. Court records indicate she was killed the very next day. Her body was discovered Thursday night on Simcoe Street, reportedly near a Dumpster and wrapped in plastic.

Nepinak, a 31-year-old mother of two, was last seen around Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue on Sept 13. Court records indicate that is the day police believe she died. The search for her body is ongoing.

Guyader said a team of 24 investigators -- 10 from the Winnipeg Police Service and 14 from the RCMP -- are part of the ongoing investigation into the case, which includes looking into whether Lamb is connected to other unsolved homicides and missing-women cases.

McCaskill said it's irrelevant how the murdered women made a living.

"They are victims and they should never have been," McCaskill said.

He said Lamb, who is originally from Sarnia, Ont., has travelled extensively across the country and investigators will be in contact with other police agencies to see if he is connected with any unsolved homicides in other communities.

A man who identified himself as Lamb's stepbrother from Ontario spoke briefly with the Free Press on Monday afternoon.

He said someone at his work asked him what his brother's middle name is, and when he answered "Cameron," he immediately told him he'd better check the news.

"It was all over the Internet," said the man, who refused to give his name. "He's an idiot. I'm glad he is where he is.

"I feel sorry for those women. I'm a compassionate person. I cried when I heard... Why wouldn't I?"

Police said it's believed Lamb has lived here full time since last year, but has had contact with police in the city dating back to 1999. It's unknown if he lived here full time for all of that period, though.

Guyader said the bodies of Blacksmith and Sinclair are too badly decomposed to determine a cause of death or to know if they had been sexually assaulted. However, he said forensic work is being done to try to answer those questions.

McCaskill said there is no evidence at this point to suggest Lamb had an accomplice.

-- with files from Mike McIntyre

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

serial killer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 A3

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/accused-serial-killer-arrested-160344825.html

Memorial a tribute to lost women

Winnipeg Free Press

By: Gordon Sinclair Jr.

It was the summer of 2009, while seated across from him in his office, that I told then-justice minister Dave Chomiak many people believed there was a serial killer at work in Winnipeg; at which point he told me what the chief of the Winnipeg Police Service and the head of the Manitoba RCMP had told him.

"I have been convinced by police that the evidence does not point to that," Chomiak said.

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By the time I left his office though, Chomiak wasn't so convinced.

He, like many -- including the former Vancouver police officer who saw the hand of a serial killer at work long before Robert Pickton was arrested -- wondered how at least one serial killer couldn't be at work in Winnipeg.

A city where nearly 50 missing women, children and transgender Winnipeg sex-trade workers had been murdered or gone missing over the previous 26 years.

Most of them aboriginal.

It took three more years and at least three more murdered young aboriginal women who are said to be connected with the sex-trade industry.

But Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill now believes there is a serial killer. On Monday, city police announced they had charged 52-year-old Shawn Cameron Lamb with the slayings of three women.

Although, even before that, Tanya Jane Nepinak, Lorna Blacksmith and Carolyn Marie Sinclair had qualified for a memorial garden like no other in Winnipeg.

It was to this sacred place -- this cedar-sheltered memorial garden on Sutherland Avenue, just off Main Street -- that I went Monday afternoon to pay my respects to all the women from that neighbourhood who have died violently.

Or simply disappeared.

And it was there in the heat of the late afternoon -- on the so-called low track -- that I met "Jane," as she wants to be called. She's a working "girl" who said she had laid a stone on one of the circular paths where lilies -- some blood-red -- bloom in memory of the 12 women Jane says she has lost over the 15 years she has survived.

But barely survived.

Jane recalled the late night a few years earlier when a john stabbed her in the stomach.

"I had my guard down," she said as she pulled up her shirt to show me the slashing scar that's testimony to where her guts had fallen out.

It's a fact Nathan Rieger later confirmed when we talked.

Rieger is part of the pastoral team at Vineyard Church, where Jane crawled to at 5 a.m. that early October night, and was taken in. The church is located in a century-old warehouse at Main and Sutherland, which backs onto the memorial garden.

The Vineyard Memorial Garden, as it is formally called. Rieger and some friends started it to remember first 20, and now 24, murdered and missing neighbourhood women. At first, Rieger recalled Monday, it was murdered sex-trade workers who were memorialized; now it's any woman from the area who dies violently.

It was living sex-trade workers who inspired Rieger because they kept coming to him and asking if he could drive them to cemeteries where their friends were buried. And it was these same women -- women like Jane -- who helped build the memorial garden.

Stone by stone. Name by name. Tear after tear.

It was built in way that also honoured aboriginal tradition, and in a manner that allowed families and friends to have a place close by to grieve. The plaques to each woman still have to be put in place. So I asked Rieger when it would be finished.

"Never," he said.

I wondered, as I spoke with Jane, if her name would have been there if the Vineyard Church hadn't heard her calling for help and been there for her.

The answer seems obvious enough.

What doesn't, or didn't, is why police have been so guarded about acknowledging the possibility that a serial killer has been at work in Winnipeg over the years.

Late Monday afternoon, I spoke with Dave Chomiak over the phone.

He was waiting to board a plane back to Winnipeg at Toronto's Pearson International Airport and he hadn't heard the news that police had arrested a suspected serial killer.

"I'm stunned," Chomiak said. "Wow."

He was emotional and he had reason to be. It wasn't just that Chomiak chose three years ago to become unconvinced -- to listen to himself, and not to what police were telling him. He also chose to pay for more city police and RCMP to work on the murdered and missing files in the belief there just might be a serial killer out there. The task force that resulted may not have been directly responsible for Monday's arrest. Nevertheless, Dave Chomiak has learned something good cops already know.

"You never close your mind to anything."

Or, if I might add, your gut instincts.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/columnists/memorial-a-tribute-to-lost-women-160344975.html

Saturday, June 23

A Closer Look: Jody Paterson: Social justice doesn't need heroes

A Closer Look: Jody Paterson: Social justice doesn't need heroes: Early morning in good old YVR, where we arrived at 6 a.m. today to settle in for our five-hour wait until the next leg of the flight kick...

Wednesday, June 20

Political spin ruins credibility

TIMES COLONIST JUNE 20, 2012 3:06 AM

The attempt by Conservative political operatives to gut an apology to Robert Pickton's victims is an appalling symptom of a much wider problem. In January, the RCMP decided its top B.C. officer should apologize to the families of Pickton's victims.

"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. "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."

The apology went too far for the political staffers in the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. They reviewed the statement, and ordered the RCMP to issue a version rewritten in the minister's office.

It did not acknowledge the RCMP "could have done more" and removed the phrase "and I apologize that the RCMP did not do more." (The RCMP delivered the original statement, saying the revisions arrived too late.)

The pointless and dishonest political meddling is all too common and destructive. The RCMP has its own management and communications and legal staff. The force decided, based on the facts, that it had failed the victims and owed the families an apology. But unelected political staffers in the minister's office tried to ignore the facts and empty the statement of meaning.

Why? The Pickton investigation happened under the former Liberal government. The apology had been reviewed by RCMP lawyers. The RCMP believed it owed the victims an apology. There was no risk to the Conservatives.

The answer is discouraging. Political staffers - advisors and assistants and communications people - have increased in number and power. They need to exercise that power to have meaningful jobs. And their instinct is to reduce communications to a mushy mixture of platitudes and spin. (In part because that guarantees they won't get yelled at by their masters.)

The RCMP apology is not an isolated example. Political staffers have also muzzled federal scientists, who were once free to talk about their research. If scientists are allowed to do interviews, policy orders them to work with political communications staff so they "respond with approved lines."

Even ministers have taken to hiding. In B.C. and Ottawa, cabinet ministers increasingly refuse interview requests and their political staff respond with email statements that say nothing. (Sadly, reporters sometimes insert them in stories even though they add no information.)

Nor is the phenomenon limited to the federal government. It was once a simple matter for reporters to call the person in the provincial government working on a project and ask questions. Today, they will be referred to the communications staff, who will assess the political risks of responding.

Leave aside the fact that government is supposed to be open and accountable to the citizens, not to taxpayerfunded political operatives. Forget, for a moment, that this kind of secrecy undermines democracy and contributes to falling voter turnout.

The reality is that this political manipulation is dumb. It was positive for the RCMP to make a real apology for its failures - it increased respect for the force and the government. And when reporters are allowed to speak directly to government employees, they are routinely found to be competent, committed and knowledgeable. Access increases public confidence and results in more informed, positive stories.

The politicians and their political staffs underestimate the public. Any citizens paying attention know that issues are complex and choices difficult. A government that acknowledged that would earn respect. When governments try to hide the realities behind a fog of spin, they destroy their own credibility.

And when over-powerful political employees try to gut a needed RCMP apology, they show how pervasive the problem has become.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Friday, June 15

Brian Hutchinson on the Pickton Inquiry: Whole story still untold

Brian Hutchinson Jun 15, 2012 – 11:09 PM ET

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

There’s worry the final report of Missing Women’s Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal, above, will be read as incomplete, because the whole truth about Robert “Willie” Pickton, below, and the crimes he committed never came out. Pickton was arrested in 2002, but police had been “on to” him years before.

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?”

Related

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.

Police had known quite a lot, it would emerge

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. 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

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.

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

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.

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?

“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.”

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.”

‘Coquitlam RCMP just slipped away.’ So did the full story, and some of the truth. Too often that seemed the real point

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.

National Post
bhutchinson@nationalpost.com

Thursday, June 14

The family of missing woman offers reward

Calls for information renewed

BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE JUNE 14, 2012 3:03 AM

eileen nelson-carey-lee calder

Eileen Nelson (left) and Carey-Lee Calder issue an appeal for information regarding the whereabouts of Angeline Pete.

Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost - PNG, The Province

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry may be over, but B.C. aboriginal women are still going missing.

Angeline Pete, 29, disappeared May 26, 2011.

On Wednesday in North Vancouver, her family announced a $5,000 reward for information that could help to find Angeline.

"Angeline is like my own child, I raised her since she was a little girl and I can't think she's gone. I just can't go there," said an emotional Eileen Nelson, Angeline's grandmother and an elder of the Quatsino First Nation on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

"A very beautiful and outgoing young woman, one of our citizens, Angeline Pete is missing," said Quatsino Chief Tom Nelson, announcing that the band has set up the reward.

"Angeline's son is missing his mother, and so is all the rest of her family," he said.

Christopher Dixon, 25, said he moved to Vancouver for a time to help his mother, Molly Dixon, who has been tirelessly searching for Angeline, but he has since moved back to the Island.

"I really miss her," said Dixon.

North Van RCMP Cpl. Richard DeJong said Pete went missing May 26, 2011, from the North Van home she shared with a boyfriend but wasn't reported missing to police until August 2011.

Molly Dixon has charged that Angeline's boyfriend was frequently violent to her and she was angry police let him leave the country.

But DeJong said the man returned to Canada and passed a polygraph test, eliminating him as a person of interest. RCMP have no other suspects, he said.

"Police have no evidence of foul play at this time," said DeJong.

Investigators have followed-up on more than 100 tips and false sightings, yet Angeline never accessed her bank account, her Facebook or email, or her phone.

sfournier@theprovince.com

© Copyright (c) The Province

Wednesday, June 13

The bizarre rides of ‘Wally World’ could continue to cost taxpayers

BY MICHAEL SMYTH, THE PROVINCE JUNE 13, 2012 6:51 PM

Missing Women Commission of Inquiry head Wally Oppal arrives at the forum in Vancouver on Thursday, May 3, 2012. Oppal has a cameo role in a slasher movie being produced by a man who is called the worst filmmaker in the world.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

Wally Oppal has a habit of getting himself into sticky predicaments — like when he decided to take a bit part in a bloody slasher film at the same time he heads an inquiry into the Willie Pickton serial killings.

The role called for Oppal to act in a blood-soaked shirt — not exactly an appropriate image while he investigates the most gruesome serial murders in Canadian history.

But that’s Wally for you. Crazy stuff just seems to follow him around. Or does he bring the craziness on himself?

Consider the latest bizarre trip into Wally World: the ex-attorney-general’s recent statement describing his “chance exchange” with a full-patch biker.

“I recently attended a public entertainment event at B.C. Place,” Oppal revealed. “I had the occasion to briefly speak with a person that, unbeknownst to me, is reportedly a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.”

The buzz is Oppal’s encounter with the biker happened at the May 26 concert by Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. The National Post reported an “unconfirmed rumour” that Oppal embraced the biker and the whole thing was caught on video.

But, just as Oppal has a knack for landing himself in weird jams, he also usually finds a way to wriggle out of them.

Yes, Oppal did cut off questioning at his inquiry into Pickton’s links with the Hells Angels. But his encounter with an Angel at B.C. Place “was of no substance” and “does not have any impact or influence” at the inquiry, he said in the statement.

The decision to act in a blood-soaked slasher flick? It included “no intent to show any disrespect,” Oppal said, adding: “I’m entitled to have a life.”

And remember the claims of sexual harassment among staffers at his commission? That was all cleaned up on Wednesday, too, when a lawyer hired by Oppal to investigate the allegations cleared everyone involved.

Cases closed and everybody’s happy, right? Well, not quite.

The strange episodes described above may undermine public confidence in Oppal’s inquiry, but they’re the least of his problems as he sits down to write his final report into the police handling of the missing-women cases.

There were ugly battles at the inquiry over disclosure of evidence, restrictions on cross-examinations, surprise witnesses and — of course — controversial and provocative statements by Oppal himself.

In other words, Oppal’s report could very well trigger costly legal appeals. Any of the parties involved could seek a judicial review over issues of procedural fairness or perceived bias.

The controversial inquiry has cost taxpayers more than $6 million so far. It could end up costing a lot more.

msmyth@theprovince.com

twitter.com/mikesmythnews

© Copyright (c) The Province

No evidence of sexist behaviour by Pickton inquiry staff: probe

Brian Hutchinson Jun 13, 2012 – 8:01 PM ET | Last Updated: Jun 13, 2012 8:18 PM ET

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files

In his written response to the Sartison report, Missing Women's Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal said the “anonymous allegations were devastating to everyone at the Commission.”

VANCOUVER — A lawyer hired to investigate allegations of sexist behaviour behind closed doors at the beleaguered Missing Women Commission of Inquiry found no evidence of “human rights” violations, according to documents released Wednesday. But employment and labour law specialist Delayne Sartison said her investigation was limited to interviews with current and former inquiry employees willing to have their identities revealed, something whistleblowers were unprepared to do when interviewed in a National Post story that first raised the allegations.

Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal retained Ms. Sartison in April after five of his former staff members told the National Post about episodes of harassment, intimidation and conflict in the workplace. Sexist and degrading language was allegedly used on occasion.

Related

“The evidence received during the investigation did not corroborate allegations of inappropriate sexual remarks, comments, or behaviour occurring at the Commission workplace,” Ms. Sartison wrote. “We have concluded there is no basis upon which to find that conduct constituting a violation of section 13(1) of the [B.C.] Human Rights Code, in particular discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, occurred in the Commission workplace.”

Our focus is and has always been to produce an effective Report and Recommendations that will save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens

Ms. Sartison delivered her findings to Mr. Oppal on May 29, a week before the Missing Women inquiry hearings ended. The Post then requested the report be made public.

One former staff member told the Post that a senior commission staff member referred to a local sex trade worker as “the fat hooker.” It was alleged that another male staff member made degrading remarks about a female colleague’s body.

The claims upset Mr. Oppal, a former B.C. judge and attorney general. His provincially funded inquiry is examining why Vancouver Police Department officers and the RCMP failed to apprehend Robert Pickton, their prime suspect in cases of missing women, until February 2002. Pickton was subsequently charged with the murders of 26 women, most of them aboriginal sex trade workers from Vancouver’s drug-infested Downtown Eastside. He was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder in 2007; the remaining 20 charges were stayed.

All five former inquiry employees who spoke to the Post about workplace allegations had requested anonymity, citing concerns for their future employment prospects. This complicated Ms. Sartison’s fact-finding mission. “This investigation was unusual in that there was no identifiable complainant,” she noted.

Ms. Sartison attempted to speak with current and former commission staff members. “We received responses from most, but not all,” she noted. Some refused to cooperate “because they were not satisfied with our investigation process, in particular, the fact that we could not guarantee the information gathered by us would not be attributed to them.”

Other staff members declined because they had no relevant information to provide, while some offered no explanation, said Ms. Sartison.

In his written response to the Sartison report, Mr. Oppal said the “anonymous allegations were devastating to everyone at the Commission.” His executive director, a former VPD sergeant, has agreed “to return to an active role at the Commission” after spending two months on paid leave while Ms. Sartison investigated.

Mr. Oppal must deliver his final report to B.C.’s Attorney General by October 31. “Our focus is and has always been to produce an effective Report and Recommendations that will save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens,” Mr. Oppal said in his statement.But lawyers for the families of Pickton’s victims have accused the commission of “enabling” a police cover-up. There have been other controversies and curious incidents. In April, Mr. Oppal accepted an invitation to appear in a violent slasher movie being filmed in Vancouver. He played the role of a man shot to death by a serial killer.

And in a statement issued last week, Mr. Oppal said he recently “had the occasion to briefly speak with a person that, unbeknownst to me, is reportedly a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Not being aware of this person’s reported affiliations, I had a casual conversation with him…Of course, this brief, chance exchange in a public venue does not have any impact or influence on the report and recommendations I will develop.”

National Post
bhutchinson@nationalpost.com

No evidence of sexism by staff at Missing Women inquiry, probe finds

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JUNE 13, 2012 11:39 AM

The head of the Missing Women inquiry announces he has appointed an independent investigator to probe workplace harassment allegations made by former inquiry staff. "I am outraged by these anonymous allegations and I take them very seriously," Wally Oppal said in a statement issued this morning.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER -- An investigation into anonymous allegations of sexism, harassment and intimidation by staff working for the Missing Women commission of inquiry has found no evidence to substantiate the claims.

Peter Gall, the lawyer appointed by the inquiry to oversee the investigation, issued a media statement today saying the report has been completed.

"The conclusion of this report is: There was no evidence presented during this investigation that constituted a breach of the Human Rights Code by commission managers or senior staff, including Mr. [John ] Boddie," Gall's statement said.

Boddie, the executive director of the Missing Women inquiry, took a paid leave of absence during the investigation at the request of Commissioner Wally Oppal.

"He took this leave of absence because of his commitment to the important work being done through this commission of inquiry. He did not want any misperceptions to occur during the independent investigation," Gall said.

"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."

Now that the independent investigation is complete, Gall added, Boddie will return to the Missing Women inquiry as executive director.

The investigation was launched after an article was published on April 4, 2012 in the National Post, which contained allegations from anonymous sources of "harassment, intimidation and conflict" occurring within the working environment of the Missing Women inquiry.

The investigation report, done by Vancouver lawyers Delayne Sartison and Gabrielle Scorer, said: "This investigation was unusual in that there was no identifiable complainant. The investigation was undertaken after anonymous reports of sex based discrimination in the commission workplace. The purpose of the investigation was to determine whether such discrimination had occurred.

"In light of the fact that there is no specific complainant, our analysis of the prima fade test for discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is based on the evidence obtained from the witnesses we interviewed.

"As noted there was no direct evidence of gender-based discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Further, other concerns or challenges communicated by some of the staff interviewed were not attributed, even by those staff, to gender bias. Accordingly, one cannot reasonably infer that any alleged adverse treatment in employment was based, even in part, on gender. In short, while evidence of differential treatment may, at times, provide a basis for a finding of discrimination, there is insufficient evidence to draw any such a conclusion here.

"We conclude that there has been no evidence presented during this investigation which establishes that conduct constituting workplace discrimination or harassment in violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code occurred in the Commission workplace."Oppal also issued a statement today, saying "we can now put this issue behind us and focus on producing a valuable report with practical recommendations that can be implemented, measured and that will help to save lives in the future."

Oppal's report was scheduled to be completed by the end of this month but the government has granted a four-month extension, to the end of October.

The inquiry probed why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch serial killer Robert Pickton sooner.

Despite tips about Pickton received by Vancouver police in 1998, he wasn't arrested until February 2002.

Police eventually found the DNA and remains of 33 women on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.

He was convicted of six murders in 2007 but once admitted he killed 49 women, who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The full report is posted online here:

http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/2012/06/june-13-2012-independent-investigation-report/

nhall@vancouversun.com

Here is Oppal's full statement issued today:

June 13, 2012 - Media Statement from Commissioner Wally Oppal

The independent investigation in response to anonymous allegations published in the National Post is complete. The report concludes that there was no breach of the Human Rights Code by Commission managers or senior staff.

Mr. Boddie agreed to take a leave of absence during this investigation. He did this so there could be no possible perception of any management interference in the independent investigation as, in his role as executive director, he interacted daily with almost all staff and counsel. I want to express my appreciation to Mr. Boddie for putting the important work of the Commission ahead of his own needs. I know that this has been a difficult time for him and his family. I am also aware that Mr. Boddie's leave of absence may have been misinterpreted in some circles. I want to make it clear that his leave of absence does not reflect negatively on his personal or professional integrity.

I have asked Mr. Boddie to return to an active role at the Commission and he has accepted.

These anonymous allegations were devastating to everyone at the Commission. It is to the credit of Commission staff and counsel that these allegations did not distract them from the important work being done here. Our focus is and has always been to produce an effective Report and Recommendations that will save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge and to thank the people that work at this Commission. It is a demanding environment and our work is focused on an unimaginable tragedy - the worst mass murder to ever occur in Canadian history. The people that come to work here every day are focused on horrific events and this type of work is emotionally challenging, even for seasoned professionals.

Commission staff and counsel work long hours, on weekends and holidays, and they regularly sacrifice personal and family time in order to do their jobs. They are passionate about creating positive change through the work being done at this Commission. Like every office, we have our share of workplace challenges: budget issues, personality conflicts, deadlines and urgent demands both in the office and in the courtroom. It is not an easy place to work. And yet, each day, I am witness to their unwavering dedication and commitment to social change. I am honoured to work with professionals of their calibre.

With the independent investigation concluded, we can now put this issue behind us and focus on producing a valuable report with practical recommendations that can be implemented, measured and that will help to save lives in the future.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, June 12

Tories tried to limit RCMP's apology to Robert Pickton victims

BY DOUGLAS QUAN, POSTMEDIA NEWS JUNE 12, 2012 5:03 PM

RobertPickton, 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.

Photograph by: File, Reuters

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.

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 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.

dquan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/dougquan

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Teen's killer still at large

Speeder said cop picked on 'blonds'

BY FRANK LUBA, THE PROVINCE JUNE 12, 2012 4:02 AM

Ramona WILSON

Photograph by: Submitted, The Province

It's been 18 years since teenager Ramona Lisa Wilson disappeared in Smithers.

Her body was not discovered until nearly a year later, on April 9, 1995, in a wooded area just west of Smith-ers Airport, but police have still not found the 16-year-old's killer.

"It's still under investigation," said Cpl. Annie Linteau, of RCMP E Division.

Wilson's slaying is one of 18 killings being investigated by Project E-PANA from 1969 to 2006.

But Wilson's disappearance is particularly poignant at this time of year, when graduations fill the calendar. The five-foot-one, 120-pound aboriginal girl left home the night she disappeared to attend grad parties.

Anyone with information about the killing is asked to call the Unsolved Homicide Unit tip line at 1-877-543-4822.

fluba@theprovince.com

theprovince.com

twitter.com/frankluba

© Copyright (c) The Province

Monday, June 11

Memories haunt daughter of Pickton victim

CANADIAN PRESS JUNE 11, 2012

Angel Wolfe

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo , PNG Files, Canadian Press

Angel Wolfe has to reach back more than a decade to remember a time before she had to think about murder trials and public inquiries and a man named Robert Pickton.

It was roughly 10 years ago, living in foster care in Toronto, that she learned her mother Brenda's remains were found on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.

It was a few years before that when the phone calls from her mom suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

And not long before that was the last time she saw her mother, sharing their goodbyes as Brenda put her daughter into foster care in Vancouver. Soon after, Wolfe moved to Toronto, where she lived with her father and then in foster care.

But searching her memories for a time before all of that, Wolfe pulls out a memory: one of her family's regular trips to Stanley Park in the late 1990s, picking seashells on the beach.

"One day I found a starfish and I wanted to bring it home, and my mom wouldn't let me because they stink," the 18-year-old says with a hearty laugh that hides the years of trauma that followed. "So we had a little fight about that. I wasn't allowed to bring home the starfish."

In the years since, her mother and the man who killed her have permeated nearly every aspect of Wolfe's life - most recently sitting through a public inquiry in Vancouver that ended last week. Wolfe and other relatives of Pickton's victims, many of whom live outside Vancouver and have spent much of the past seven months between a hotel room and the inquiry, are now returning home after what may be the final high-pro-file public events of the Pickton saga.

They are now returning to their lives, but some say they're unsure how to find normalcy after dealing for so long with the disappearances of their family members and the monster that took them.

Brenda Wolfe vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1999. She was among the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering, though he is believed to have killed dozens.

Angel Wolfe says her mother's disappearance will continue to guide her life after the inquiry.

She's joined her stepmother at a Toronto-based organization called Sextrade101, which advocates for sex workers and offers them help to leave the streets. Wolfe is one of the group's speakers, using her story to reach out to at-risk women and girls.

"I go around to schools and other events and I share my story, every-thing I've been through, my mother, how I've grown up in care, the problems I've had growing up as aboriginal and the issues that a lot of women find themselves in," says Wolfe.

"I want to be that girl who comes in and tells my story and then they think twice."

The inquiry put Wolfe's high-school graduation on hold, but she hopes to attend university, where she's considering a degree in criminology.

Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report is due Oct. 31 and is expected to be released to the public, and the families, shortly after that. The inquiry examined why police failed to catch Pickton before he was arrested in February 2002. He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.

He once told an undercover police officer he killed a total of 49 women.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Sunday, June 10

Families of Pickton's victims leave inquiry longing for normalcy

BY JAMES KELLER, THE CANADIAN PRESS JUNE 10, 2012 4:50 PM

A Squamish First Nation woman stands behind a display with photographs of missing women during the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry public forum in Vancouver on January 19, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Angel Wolfe has to reach back more than a decade to remember a time before she had to think about murder trials and public inquiries and a man named Robert Pickton.

It was roughly 10 years ago, living in foster care in Toronto, that she learned her mother Brenda's remains were found on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

It was a few years before that when the phone calls from her mom suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

And not long before that was the last time she saw her mother, sharing their goodbyes as Brenda put her daughter into foster care in Vancouver. Soon after, Wolfe moved to Toronto, where she lived with her father and then in foster care.

But searching her memories for a time before all of that, Wolfe pulls out a memory: one of her family's regular trips to Vancouver's Stanley Park in the late 1990s, picking seashells on the beach.

"One day I found a starfish and I wanted to bring it home, and my mom wouldn't let me because they stink," the 18-year-old says with a hearty laugh that hides the years of trauma that followed.

"So we had a little fight about that. I wasn't allowed to bring home the starfish."

In the years since, her mother and the man who killed her have permeated nearly every aspect of Wolfe's life — most recently sitting through a public inquiry in Vancouver, which ended last week.

Wolfe and other relatives of Pickton's victims, many of whom live outside Vancouver and have spent much of the past seven months between a hotel room and the inquiry, are now returning home after what may be the final high-profile public events of the Pickton saga.

They are now returning to their lives, but some say they're unsure how to find normalcy after dealing for so long with the disappearances of their family members and the monster that took them.

Brenda Wolfe vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1999. She was among the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering, though he is believed to have killed dozens.

Angel Wolfe says her mother's disappearance will continue to guide her life after the inquiry.

She's joined her stepmother at a Toronto-based organization called Sextrade101, which advocates for sex workers and offers them help to leave the streets. Wolfe is one of the group's speakers, using her story to reach out to at-risk women and girls.

"I go around to schools and other events and I share my story, everything I've been through, my mother, how I've grown up in care, the problems I've had growing up as aboriginal, and the issues that a lot of women find themselves in," says Wolfe.

"I want to be that girl who comes in and tells my story and then they think twice."

The public inquiry put Wolfe's high school graduation on hold, but she hopes to attend university, where she's considering a degree in criminology.

For Lori-Ann Ellis, who lives in Calgary, the disappearance of her sister-in-law Cara Ellis has dominated her life for the past 15 years.

It was Ellis who travelled to Vancouver in the late 1990s to search the streets of the Downtown Eastside for Cara, whose DNA was later found on Pickton's property.

She lived through Pickton's murder trial, and she attended all but one day of the public inquiry.

Now, Ellis, 51, is returning home to Calgary, where she works as a travel agent.

Ellis says she's hoping to return to normal life, but she's still not sure what that will look like. She points out that she met her husband in the early 1990s, meaning Cara's disappearance and the subsequent legal proceedings have overshadowed more than two-thirds of their marriage.

Because of his work, Ellis's husband stayed home for much of the inquiry. Even though the families' expenses in Vancouver have been covered by the B.C. government, she says it's still been difficult on her husband, living apart and surviving on just one income.

"My husband, with his one paycheque, was supporting the house and keeping it going, and my mother in law, Cara's mom, lives with us, so also keeping her going. I think they ate a lot of macaroni over the winter," she says.

"We made it through. We're tough people."

Ellis says her first order of business at home in Calgary is to catch up on the "Young and the Restless" and enjoy some home-cooked food, namely shepherd's pie.

Nevertheless, she also expects the end of the inquiry won't mean leaving the case behind entirely.

"There is life after this, and what it is exactly I'm still going to have to figure out," she says.

"If someone rings and needs a comment, I'll still be there, but I'm going to trying to live my live, enjoy my kids, pray for grandchildren — all those real-life things people do every day."

Oppal's final report is due Oct. 31 and is expected to be released to the public, and the families, shortly after that.

The inquiry examined why police failed to catch Pickton before he was arrested in February 2002.

He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.

He once told an undercover police officer he killed a total of 49.

© Copyright (c)

Wally Oppal doesn't deserve criticism for a chance encounter with a Hells Angels member | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com

Wally Oppal doesn't deserve criticism for a chance encounter with a Hells Angels member | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com:

'via Blog this'

Families of Pickton's victims leave inquiry longing for normalcy

By: James Keller, The Canadian Press

Jun 10, 2012
Posted: 3:01 AM 

VANCOUVER - Angel Wolfe has to reach back more than a decade to remember a time before she had to think about murder trials and public inquiries and a man named Robert Pickton.

It was roughly 10 years ago, living in foster care in Toronto, that she learned her mother Brenda's remains were found on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

It was a few years before that when the phone calls from her mom suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

And not long before that was the last time she saw her mother, sharing their goodbyes as Brenda put her daughter into foster care in Vancouver. Soon after, Wolfe moved to Toronto, where she lived with her father and then in foster care.

But searching her memories for a time before all of that, Wolfe pulls out a memory: one of her family's regular trips to Vancouver's Stanley Park in the late 1990s, picking seashells on the beach.

"One day I found a starfish and I wanted to bring it home, and my mom wouldn't let me because they stink," the 18-year-old says with a hearty laugh that hides the years of trauma that followed.

"So we had a little fight about that. I wasn't allowed to bring home the starfish."

In the years since, her mother and the man who killed her have permeated nearly every aspect of Wolfe's life — most recently sitting through a public inquiry in Vancouver, which ended last week.

Wolfe and other relatives of Pickton's victims, many of whom live outside Vancouver and have spent much of the past seven months between a hotel room and the inquiry, are now returning home after what may be the final high-profile public events of the Pickton saga.

They are now returning to their lives, but some say they're unsure how to find normalcy after dealing for so long with the disappearances of their family members and the monster that took them.

Brenda Wolfe vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1999. She was among the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering, though he is believed to have killed dozens.

Angel Wolfe says her mother's disappearance will continue to guide her life after the inquiry.

She's joined her stepmother at a Toronto-based organization called Sextrade101, which advocates for sex workers and offers them help to leave the streets. Wolfe is one of the group's speakers, using her story to reach out to at-risk women and girls.

"I go around to schools and other events and I share my story, everything I've been through, my mother, how I've grown up in care, the problems I've had growing up as aboriginal, and the issues that a lot of women find themselves in," says Wolfe.

"I want to be that girl who comes in and tells my story and then they think twice."

The public inquiry put Wolfe's high school graduation on hold, but she hopes to attend university, where she's considering a degree in criminology.

For Lori-Ann Ellis, who lives in Calgary, the disappearance of her sister-in-law Cara Ellis has dominated her life for the past 15 years.

It was Ellis who travelled to Vancouver in the late 1990s to search the streets of the Downtown Eastside for Cara, whose DNA was later found on Pickton's property.

She lived through Pickton's murder trial, and she attended all but one day of the public inquiry.

Now, Ellis, 51, is returning home to Calgary, where she works as a travel agent.

Ellis says she's hoping to return to normal life, but she's still not sure what that will look like. She points out that she met her husband in the early 1990s, meaning Cara's disappearance and the subsequent legal proceedings have overshadowed more than two-thirds of their marriage.

Because of his work, Ellis's husband stayed home for much of the inquiry. Even though the families' expenses in Vancouver have been covered by the B.C. government, she says it's still been difficult on her husband, living apart and surviving on just one income.

"My husband, with his one paycheque, was supporting the house and keeping it going, and my mother in law, Cara's mom, lives with us, so also keeping her going. I think they ate a lot of macaroni over the winter," she says.

"We made it through. We're tough people."

Ellis says her first order of business at home in Calgary is to catch up on the "Young and the Restless" and enjoy some home-cooked food, namely shepherd's pie.

Nevertheless, she also expects the end of the inquiry won't mean leaving the case behind entirely.

"There is life after this, and what it is exactly I'm still going to have to figure out," she says.

"If someone rings and needs a comment, I'll still be there, but I'm going to trying to live my live, enjoy my kids, pray for grandchildren — all those real-life things people do every day."

Oppal's final report is due Oct. 31 and is expected to be released to the public, and the families, shortly after that.

The inquiry examined why police failed to catch Pickton before he was arrested in February 2002.

He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.

He once told an undercover police officer he killed a total of 49.

© 2012 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

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