Thursday, October 24

The discriminatory attitudes against natives are rooted in our DNA, an attitude inherited by children and new immigrants to Canada


Alvin Dixon, 76, was forced into a residential school when he was a child, where he was deliberately malnourished as part of scientific experiments conducted by the state.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG, The Province

Racism against aboriginals in B.C. runs so deep that we barely recognize it. It's in our DNA, it's in our children's vocabulary, it's absorbed by new immigrants as soon as they land.

The stereotypes: Indians don't work, don't pay taxes.

They're 'chugs' - lazy drunken welfare bums. They're chronically poor because they settle for handouts, and they deserve what they get.

Many average Canadians harbour these attitudes, legacies of racist policies baked into government laws that continue to reverberate throughout our institutions.

And the impacts are clear. Aboriginals are suffering more acutely than any other Canadian community, by any economic and health measure. Proportionately, they vastly over-populate jails and the foster-care system. They die sooner and face the highest levels of poverty, disease and violence.

They are also the youngest, fastest-growing group in Canada, with a median age of 28 compared with 41 for the rest of the population.

Social assistance transfer costs will skyrocket for all Canadians if the suffering continues, says Calvin Helin, a First Nations author who advocates greater self-reliance and economic power for indigenous people.

"This is probably the most important issue that Canada faces," Helin says. "If we will continue to be a prosperous nation we have to fix this, not for altruistic reasons, but in our self-interest."

As far as 76-year-old Alvin Dixon can tell, the racism comes down to everlasting greed.

Dixon - a self-described guinea pig in newly revealed government experiments - was taken from his parents in Bella Bella under the Indian Act. His parents would have been jailed if they refused to release their six children, who were scattered across western Canadian residential schools.

Dixon was placed in Port Alberni Indian School when he was 10. He recently learned the horrific secrets behind questions that always puzzled him.

Dixon and his friends milked cows for chores, but were fed powdered milk. Fresh salmon was abundant nearby in the Pacific Ocean, but they ate stale rations of fish from the Atlantic. The kids were made to record their daily portions in spread sheets. They stole potatoes from local farms and ate them raw, Dixon says, because they were always hungry.

"We were all under-nourished and thin," Dixon recalls. "I guess if we didn't fill out those sheets we'd be punished. We were strapped, slapped, our knuckles hit with the yardsticks."

When a University of Guelph, Ont., historian published new evidence showing Dixon's school was among six that Canada used to conduct scientific malnourishment experiments on about 1,000 aboriginal children, Dixon wasn't really surprised, just disappointed. "The first reaction was anger because nothing has changed, the racism is still here," Dixon says.

Dixon, who was 128 pounds when he graduated Grade 12, studied English at university and eventually became a manager in a fishery business.

He believes racism toward aboriginals in Canada stems from the land grab that established the wealth of our nation at aboriginals' expense. The same factors are still at work, according to Dixon.

"White Canada thinks that we are getting everything for nothing, when they are really getting everything for nothing, because they stole the land and resources from us," Dixon says. "The resource corporations are still after our territories, and they are offering us peanuts. It's beads and trinkets. The racism comes from greed - I've said that over and over again."

Stereotypes are so entrenched and tolerated in Canada, Dixon says, that recent immigrants quickly turn on aboriginals.

"It is in Canadians' DNA, newer immigrants are acquiring this racism from older Canadians," Dixon says. "One of the aboriginal girls I know that goes to school in North Vancouver was racially bullied. She was told she should go back to the reserve she came from, and we at first assumed it was a white kid. But we found out it was a South Asian girl.

"And where did she learn it? From the white kids she is with."

Mo Dhaliwal, a young Vancouver high-tech executive who's passionate about eliminating racism, shares Dixon's assessment. Racism toward aboriginals is in Canada's bones. Dhaliwal noticed it first in Abbotsford's Punjabi community, where he grew up.

"Some people would talk about them, like, 'They're just a bunch of chugs,'" Dhaliwal says. "In the Punjabi community, if you talked about Indians it was just dismissive. It was an assumption that they were savages, drunk and lazy."

Dhaliwal says he believes Canadian immigrants are deeply sensitized to systemic racism because of what they face upon arrival. But they also quickly recognize Canada's racial pecking order, with aboriginals stuck at the bottom.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children, probably knows better than anyone the institutional and personal racism that aboriginals face in B.C. Turpel-Lafond - a Harvard-educated judge from Saskatchewan who is Cree - and her husband, George Lafond, a treaty commissioner in Saskatchewan, are arguably at the top of Canada's meritocracy, and look the part. But even they face racism.

"It is painful, I bear witness," she says. "We see the situation where we've gone to the pharmacy and my husband buys mouthwash and they've made the point to him, 'Please don't drink it.' It's the reminder that this is how we see your family, this is how we see your children.

"It's imprinted on me."

Many of the abuse and self-harm cases Turpel-Lafond investigates involve foster children. Of 8,000 kids placed in foster care in B.C., 5,000 are aboriginal. That ratio is much higher than the already stunning national average of 48 per cent aboriginal children in foster care.

It's "grotesquely clear" that destruction to aboriginal families in residential schools continues to echo and disintegrate First Nation children in the system, Turpel-Lafond says.

She says the failed policies of the Indian Act still directly impact, as family maintenance orders can't be enforced on reserves and police are barred from stopping assaults.

"I feel like we are screaming in a snowstorm - we have to have basic equity in family supports," she says.

"I've had hundreds and hundreds of cases where a woman is victim of persistent domestic violence, there are children in the home, and there is no safe house," said Turpel-Lafond. "It creates a ghetto mentality, because the nuts and bolts of our family policy in Canada don't apply on our reserves.

"The Indian Act still has racist statutes on the books, which is quite an affront. It needs to be torn up."

The children Turpel-Lafond deals with are doubly hurt, by institutional failings and the racist thoughts that other children have absorbed in Canadian society.

"When they go to school, they face other children saying aboriginal people are drunks or homeless or they don't pay tax. Young people are hurt by that, and they express that to me regularly," she says. "The weight of racism on top of failed policies is a pretty toxic combination."

Racial bullying makes many young aboriginals feel shame about their origins and dream of being white, according to social workers and teens interviewed by The Province. Some aboriginal teens even use racial taunts against others.

"Older girls were telling me, 'Your mom is a welfare bum. She's alcoholic,'" said one 14-year-old girl put in care for cutting her wrists.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers - a young aboriginal leader working with the City of Vancouver - helped complete a 2010 Environics Institute survey of non-natives in major Canadian cities that suggests racism against aboriginals is well-hidden.

Very few respondents made racist remarks, but 25 per cent of nonnatives surveyed in Vancouver had dismissive opinions of aboriginals as freeloaders.

Ernie Crey was the first high-profile aboriginal leader to speak out when women began disappearing from the Downtown Eastside in the early 1990s. In a horrible irony, his sister Dawn Crey disappeared from the neighbourhood in 2000, and her DNA was found in a trailer on Robert Pickton's pig farm.

Crey compares the crisis for aboriginals in the DTES with the first case he had as a young social worker in the 1970s. He remembers travelling into the bush off Highway 16 outside Prince George to meet 150 members of the Tsay Keh Dene band, who were flooded out of their territory by the building of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in 1968.

Band members were suffering from tuberculosis and impetigo, and weren't being accepted into schools and hospitals. Flooding destroyed their hunting grounds, homes, trap lines and graves. Promises made to the band by the government were broken.

"They were living in the direst poverty in Canada," Crey recalls. "I don't see the difference between what I see in the Downtown Eastside, and what I saw 40 years ago in the bush near Prince George. All sorts of promises were made to these people that were not kept, so here they are, high and dry."

There is much work to do, but there is evidence of progress says Wade Grant, a young Musqueam band councillor who also sits on Vancouver's Police Board.

"My grandfather never would have believed I'd be sitting on a board," Grant says. "It took about 100 years for the Government of Canada to almost decimate our culture, and it will take a long time to heal."

Life of Hardship

Statistics show how aboriginal people are faring compared with the rest of the population:

. The life expectancy of a First Nations child born today is six years shorter than that of a non-native child.

. Aboriginal children die at a rate that is three times higher.

. Aboriginal children are more likely to be born with severe birth defects and debilitating conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

. The suicide rate is six times higher for aboriginals.

. Natives have three times the rate of diabetes of non-natives.

. Members of aboriginal and Inuit communities suffer traumatic injuries at four times the rate of the general population.

. Nearly half of children under 14 in foster care in Canada are aboriginal children. Four per cent of aboriginal children are in care (15,345) compared with 0.3 per cent of non-aboriginal children.

. Tuberculosis rates are 16 times higher in aboriginal communities than in the rest of Canada.

. Aboriginal peoples have lower median after-tax income. They also are more likely to: - Receive employment insurance and social assistance.

- Live in housing needing major repairs.

- Experience sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

- Be victims of violent crimes. - Be incarcerated.

Myth Busting

Sales tax Status Indians do not pay the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) on goods purchased on reserve.

In other cases, where status Indians make purchases off reserve and take possession of the goods at the time of sale, such as restaurant meals or clothing, they are required to pay both PST and GST as applicable.


Income earned by status Indians on a reserve is exempt from provincial and federal income tax.

If income is earned from an employer located off reserve, and employment duties are carried out off reserve, status Indians are required to pay income tax.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Death of Vancouver woman on rural Surrey road continues to haunt homicide investigators, 12 years later


Cpl. Mike Hall, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP's Unsolved Homicides Unit, took over Angela's case in July 2007.

Photograph by: ., Surrey Now

SURREY — As crime mysteries go, they don't get much more puzzling than the one surrounding the death of Angela Hazel Williams.

Nearly 12 years have passed since the 31-year-old Vancouver woman's body was found lying face down in a patch of weeds and gravel on the shoulder of Surrey's infamous Colebrook Road.

A father and son driving in the 13200-block spotted her, got out to have a look, and called 911. This was at 7:50 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, 2001.

Angela's body was still warm to the touch. According to a police report, a trickle of blood ran from her nose and right eye. Otherwise, there was no visible sign of trauma or sexual assault.

It looked like she had simply fallen to the ground.

Another witness told police she'd seen her walking down the road, clutching her stomach, shortly before her body was found.


Colebrook Road cuts through the fields below Panorama Ridge from Mud Bay eastward into Cloverdale, where it abruptly ends, only to resume near the Langley border.

Homes are few and far between, and deep ditches separate the roadway from farmers' fields. Traffic on Highway 99, to the south, is within faint earshot, but civilization still seems a world away.

It's a lonely place to die.

This past year alone, the bodies of four murder victims have been found either on or beside the road, earning it the indelicate moniker of "Killbrook."

But even before Angela met her end, Colebrook Road had borne witness to several tragic crashes involving trains, cars and bicycles, as well as murders, suicides, sexual assaults and stabbings.


Angela lived in East Vancouver, almost an hour's drive from Surrey.

What was she doing when she disappeared?

"That's the confusing part," said her eldest sister, Eliza Williers, 44, "because that's the side of my sister I didn't really know."

Eliza said her parents, now deceased, were raised in residential schools and the girls grew up apart, but connected in their teens.

Angela was raised on the north end of Vancouver Island, by her father and his family.

"I don't know much about her upbringing, over there," Eliza said.

She wrestles with newspaper reports indicating Angela dabbled in prostitution.

"There is speculation that, you know, she was experimenting with that but she was out of place in that," said Eliza.

"I can't say she was addicted to drugs, because I don't know. I know my sister had some issues.

"I didn't want that around my family, around my kids, and she respected that. She never brought it around.

"She didn't want to upset me, or she didn't want me to feel disappointed with her because this was the road she was going down, because it was the same thing my parents went through. We went through this with the alcohol and the drugs, and being apprehended by the ministry. But she never went through any of that, because she was on the Island. She was the lucky one, and didn't have to go through any of that stuff."

Angela had three daughters.

"They're still very upset and grieving," Eliza said.

Angela's eldest is now 24, and the others are in their teens. Eliza said her younger sister was "very sweet, quiet and passive — just a timid girl.

"My sister, she was a beautiful person, inside and out. She was a kind, loving mother. She was just a caretaker — all of her life, she took care of her grandmother.

"She'd be a grandmother today. We were supposed to grow old together. It's disturbing still. It's very frustrating, not knowing what happened to our sister.

"I feel like we were robbed," Eliza said.

Angela had another sister, Karen, and a brother.

At one point Angela had a husband, Eliza said. She was working as a hairdresser and the couple was "doing well," living on the Island until "apparently they fell off the wagon there."

Angela came to the Lower Mainland, and never went back.

The couple split up, and lost custody of their children.

Her last home was near 29th Avenue and Renfrew Street in Vancouver.

Because Angela didn't frequent Surrey or know much about it, Eliza thinks the Surrey RCMP is a "strange fit" for the investigation.

Eliza works as a letter carrier and one of her colleagues is filming a documentary about Angela's case.

"I want this to be remembered long after I'm gone, that she was a human being."


Angela's death was treated as suspicious from the outset, but police still don't know for sure if she was actually murdered.

Dr. David Charlesworth autopsied her body the day after she was found and discovered a small amount of bruising on her right and left arms, and a small amount of bruising inside her neck.

The forensic pathologist found it unlikely that the neck bruising was what caused her death, but he couldn't rule it out. Toxicology tests revealed she hadn't died of a drug overdose. A small amount of gamma hydroxybutrate, or GHB - also known as "juice," and a date rape drug - was found in her blood, but no ethyl alcohol or cocaine.

The Surrey RCMP issued a press release eight days after her death, describing her clothing and the rose tattoo on her back, hoping this would turn up some clues.

By Christmas Day, the police had received seven calls from the public in response to the press release, but each tip led investigators nowhere.

Meantime, Angela's family hadn't seen her since Dec. 9 and reported her missing to the Vancouver Police on Boxing Day, completely unaware of the investigation unfolding in Surrey.

Eliza said her family searched for Angela for five days straight in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, talking to prostitutes, posting posters, and walking up and down alleys.

"It was scary," she said. "My family was out there around the clock."

While they were handing out posters, Eliza recalled, a man on the street mentioned to her that Angela's description resembled that of a woman whose body had been found in Surrey. Eliza faxed a copy of their missing person poster to the Surrey RCMP on Dec. 28, and five days later dental charts confirmed Angela to be the woman found on Colebrook Road.

Police suspected she had been strangled. Nevertheless, a full year after her death, they were no closer to solving the case. On Dec. 11, 2002, Coroner Chico Newell classified the cause of her death "undetermined."

A special task force called Project Evenhanded, set up by the RCMP and Vancouver Police in 2001 to investigate 68 cases of missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside, reviewed Angela's file and concluded her death was not linked to serial killer Robert Pickton.

The investigation is now in the hands of Cpl. Mike Hall, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP's Unsolved Homicides Unit. He took over Angela's case in July 2007.

What Hall needs to know is how a woman from Vancouver's eastside, who knew very little about Surrey, ended up on this rural road out in the 'burbs.

"If we knew how she got here, it would provide a great deal of information as far as what happened to her," Hall said.

"Over the course of the first year following the discovery of Angela's body several investigative steps and lines of inquiry took place which were unable to answer the question, 'What happened to Angela?' This question remains unanswered to this day."


A week prior to her disappearance, Angela showed up at her aunt's house in Vancouver. "She was very upset. She was crying; she was saying that she was in a place with somebody, a fellow I guess, that was kind of holding her against her will there, and she managed to get out," Eliza recalled.

Eliza said she doesn't think this person was a boyfriend.

"No, no, I think it was just somebody she had met downtown, and she went to his place and it turned bad, and she had to escape through a window. And she showed up at my aunt's house, about 3 o'clock in the morning, very upset, crying. She had left there that morning, maybe 8 or 9.

"She didn't explain what was going on, or why she was there or who this fellow was. She was just so upset. My aunt was just trying to console her. She did tell my aunt that if she didn't come back, when she left her house that morning, that she knew something happened to her."

Hall said this has been checked out. "We are aware of this incident and have an account of what happened," he said.

Angela was reportedly last seen on Hastings and Gore, in Vancouver.

"The lady who my sister I guess kind of hung out with down there, she said she saw Ange get into a blue car," Eliza said.

"She was at a third floor window from a hotel and she saw Ange, at the corner of the street, and saw her get into a vehicle but she didn't get a licence, she didn't get a description, nothing."

Hall told the Now, "I do not know who this person is, although we have spoken with other individuals that Angela hung out with."

Eliza also noted that her sister was seen at the Wish Foundation, just before she disappeared. "It's for Downtown Eastside women, they go there if they need clothing or whatever, bus tickets, food, that sort of thing. Apparently she had attended some function there that day, and when it was over everybody left, and she was the last one.

"She was kind of stalling, she didn't want to leave - it was like she was afraid to go back to where she had come from," Eliza said. "And so the lady there at the Wish, I forget her name, but apparently the police didn't follow up on her, even though she was one of the last people to see my sister, and give her a bus ticket."

"Until this day, she said, she kicks herself until this day, wishing she had offered Ange a ride because she said she was going to her aunt's when she gave her the bus ticket. She never arrived at my aunt's, and that was the last time they'd seen her.

"I didn't know there was a gap in between there, like a five or six hour gap, where they don't know where she was and nobody had seen her."

Hall noted that police have already interviewed a person who they believe was the last to see Angela at the Wish Foundation.

"If there is anyone else who can provide information on what happened to her prior to her death, I'd be interested in speaking with them," he said.


Eliza has not been to the site where Angela's body was found, but she did see a psychic in Surrey last December who had some chilling things to say about her sister.

Eliza said the psychic told her Angela was re-enacting for him how she died, by strangulation, and that he saw her get into a blue truck, but couldn't see the driver's face.

"Right away he said he found a tightening sensation around his neck."

She said the psychic told her he was struggling to see the man she was with, but it was difficult. "He said he was trying to get into his energy. He said he's very cold. He said he comes off as somebody who is a bully and that people are afraid of him. He said he has a very cold energy and he couldn't get into it."

Eliza said the psychic told her that her sister's killer "looked kind of like a biker," and said he is about six feet tall, had black hair and some facial hair - perhaps a goatee - and wore a red bandana.

"He figures this is what he used to strangle my sister."

She said the psychic also told her this man is still around, "and he's done this before." Eliza said the psychic believes he stalked Angela, and she was afraid of him.

"Possibly she knew him, but he was not a friend."

The psychic told her that if police can find that truck, they'll find Angela's DNA all over it.

Eliza said she didn't put much stock in psychics before seeing this fellow in Surrey but changed her mind after he told her things about her life that only she would know. "I'm a believer now," she said. "I didn't tell him any details. I didn't mention anything about my family prior to going in there.

"He's willing to speak to the RCMP as well," she said.

Asked what he thinks about what the psychic's account, Hall replied, "I've spoken with Eliza previously about her visit. Any credible information or tips received in relation to what happened to Angela will be followed up accordingly."

The homicide investigator hopes someone out there might yet have information to share that could shed light on Angela's case. Eliza is appealing to their conscience.

"This is something that needs to be done for our family," Eliza said. "It's been over 10 years and we still have no answers."

Police ask anyone with tips to contact Cpl. Mike Hall, Surrey RCMP, at 604-599-7634.

Read more Fraser Valley stories at

© Copyright (c) Surrey Now

Son of suspected Pickton victim given 5-year prison sentence for manslaughter


Donald Denis Cote, the son of a woman suspected of being a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton was sentenced Thursday to five years in jail for manslaughter. In April, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Cote, 27, guilty in the October 2011 slaying of Jessie David Daniel Thomson, 22. Cote, was 15 when his mother Dianne Rock was believed to have been slain by Pickton. Cote was also convicted of assault with a weapon and assault.

Photograph by: Graphic, The Province

The son of a woman suspected of being a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton was sentenced Thursday to five years in jail for manslaughter.

In April, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Donald Denis Cote, 27, guilty in the October 2011 slaying of Jessie David Daniel Thomson, 22.

Cote, who was 15 when his mother Dianne Rock was believed to have been slain by Pickton, was also convicted of assault with a weapon and assault.

Prior to the slaying, he had joined a small group of people travelling on SkyTrain from Surrey to Vancouver.

When they arrived in Vancouver, they came upon a woman whose vehicle had run out of gas on Terminal Avenue.

Cote, Thomson and a third man took a jerry can, got in a cab and went looking for gas but when they couldn’t pay the cab fare they left the vehicle.

Thomson returned to the woman’s vehicle on Terminal Avenue in an agitated state and got into the rear of the vehicle.

Cote, who has a violent criminal record, followed Thomson back to the vehicle and used a heavy chain to smash the rear window.

He then pepper-sprayed Thomson, who fled the vehicle but was hit by a car as he tried to cross Terminal, a busy city thoroughfare. Thomson died of a traumatic brain injury two weeks later.

In sentencing Cote, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Voith noted that although Cote’s actions were not premeditated, they were part of an extended assault.

Cote’s actions were not reactive, nor were they the product of a single violent act, he added.

“Mr. Thomson made no effort to defend himself. Mr. Cote was the aggressor.”

The judge noted Cote’s “chaotic” family background in which both his parents had substance abuse problems and he was moved through a series of foster homes.

He sentenced Cote to five years in prison but reduced it to just over three years after giving him credit for pre-sentence custody.

Cote also received one year of jail for each of the assault counts, to be served concurrently with the manslaughter sentence.

The judge said he hoped that Cote would get programs in prison that would help him with his substance abuse issues and provide him with the skills to foster his employment prospects.

The remains of Rock, Cote’s mother, were found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.

Rock, who was identified on one of the 20 Pickton murder counts stayed by the Crown after the killer was convicted of six murders, is believed to have been Pickton’s last victim. Pickton received a life sentence with no parole eligiblity for 25 years.

Rock’s family, including her son Donald, have joined a lawsuit alleging police should have been aware that Pickton was attacking sex trade workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They’re making a number of other allegations including that police failed to pursue all investigative leads and mismanaged information.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Monday, October 7

Vancouver police, RCMP insist they acted reasonably in Pickton case


Robert Pickton is shown in an artist's drawing listening to the guilty verdict handed to him BC Supreme

Court in New Westminster, Sunday, December 9, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Felicity Don

VANCOUVER - The two police forces that failed to catch Robert Pickton as the serial killer hunted sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say they acted reasonably when they received information that women were vanishing and that Pickton might have been responsible.

The Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP each filed statements of defence Monday in a series of lawsuits involving the children of nine missing women, who accuse both forces of inadequately investigating reports of missing sex workers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The case was the focus of a high-profile public inquiry last year that identified a long list of failures and concluded that, had the victims not been poor, drug-addicted sex workers, the police would have done more to investigate what happened to them.

Both forces have issued public apologies acknowledging they could have done more to catch Pickton sooner. The Vancouver police has repeated that apology numerous times in the past several years, while the RCMP offered its apology during the public inquiry.

But in separate statements of defence, each force denies responsibility and argues they should not be held liable for the deaths of women who ended up on Pickton's farm.

"At all material times, the Vancouver police made reasonable efforts to locate and investigate the disappearances of women upon receipt of information or reports," the City of Vancouver, on behalf of its police force, says in one of its statements of defence.

The RCMP's statements of defence offers a similar argument: "The defendant says that the actions of those (RCMP officers) were at all times taken in good faith, were reasonable and were not negligent, particularly given the information available and the circumstances prevailing at the time of those investigations."

The Vancouver Police Department also says in its statements of defence that there is no evidence any of the women disappeared from Vancouver. The force has long insisted no crime occurred in Vancouver, because the women were believed to have willingly left the city with Pickton only to be killed on his farm in Port Coquitlam, which is in the RCMP's jurisdiction.

There were three separate investigations linked to Vancouver's missing women.

The Vancouver police investigated reports of missing Downtown Eastside sex workers, while the RCMP examined Pickton as a potential suspect. In 2001, both forces formed a joint task force to review missing-person cases involving sex workers.

Pickton emerged as a suspect as early as 1998, when the Vancouver police received tips implicating him, but he wasn't caught until February 2002.

Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report from the public inquiry, released last December, identified a list of "critical failures" in the various police investigations.

Those included poor report taking, a failure to take proactive steps to protect sex workers, the failure to pursue all investigative strategies, and poor co-ordination between Vancouver police and RCMP, among others.

At the inquiry, the forces urged the commissioner not to judge their actions with the benefit of hindsight, insisting officers did the best they could with the information they had at the time.

The Vancouver police and the RCMP also spent considerable time at the inquiry blaming each other. Vancouver police accused the Mounties of botching their investigation into Pickton, while the RCMP said the Vancouver police weren't passing along information and resisted forming a joint investigation.

The Vancouver department released its own internal review in 2010, which identified a number of problems with how the force's management handled the case while also laying considerable blame at the feet of the RCMP.

The City of Vancouver's statement of defence says the force will rely on that report as its version of what happened.

The families' lawsuits also allege Crown prosecutors were negligent when they declined to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

Pickton was set to stand trial in early 1998, but prosecutors dropped the case days before trial over concerns about the victim's ability to testify.

The B.C. government has filed court documents arguing prosecutors are immune from being sued.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.

He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.

Pickton is also named in the families' lawsuits, as is his brother, David. Neither has filed a statement of defence.