Monday, March 17

B.C. and Vancouver to pay $50,000 settlements to children of Pickton victims

by TRAVIS LUPICK on MAR 17, 2014 at 2:07 PM


MORE THAN ONE year after the commissioner of the B.C. missing women inquiry recommended that children of Robert Pickton’s victims receive monetary compensation, payments are finally on the way.

Lawyers representing 13 families in lawsuits against the City of Vancouver and the province say they are prepared to accept settlements in 12 of those cases. Victims’ children will receive $50,000 each plus legal costs.

Michelle Pineault, of one of the 12 families and whose daughter Stephanie Lane's DNA was found on the Pickton farm, told theStraight that she’s pleased with the amount that her grandson will receive, but that it’s been a “long time coming”.

“There’s no perfect resolution,” Pineault said. “There is no amount of money that will ever bring any of these women back. But this is the end of another chapter in our lives.”

Jason Gratl, one of the lawyers representing the victims’ families, told the Straight that he is satisfied with the settlement.

“It’s not compensation for the loss of a mother, but it represents an opportunity to try and make up for some of the disadvantage suffered from the loss of a mother,” he added.

The lawsuit was launched in May 2013 and claims that the Crown and police failed to adequately protect women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Gratl said that when the case returns to court on March 18, attention will turn to Pickton’s brothers.

“Our clients intend to advocate for changes to wrongful death laws to allow for punitive damage awards in cases of intentional homicide,” he said. “That’s the focus from here.”

A compensation fund for the children of missing and murdered women was one of 63 recommendations outlined in Wally Oppal’sReport of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which was issued in December 2012.

On March 13, 2013, the B.C. Ministry of Justice pledged $5 millionto take further action on the implementation of those recommendations.

Among other initiatives, the provincial government has promised more than $845,000 to 12 different organizations that are positioned to support the prevention of violence against women.

Sunday, March 16

Pickton lawsuit: B.C. to pay $50K per child

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:00:04 PDT PM

B.C. and Vancouver plan to settle a civil case this week from children of missing women whose DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm, sources told 24 hours. (FILE PHOTO)

B.C. and Vancouver plan to settle a civil case this week from children of missing women whose DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm, sources told 24 hours. (FILE PHOTO)

The province and Vancouver are poised to settle their portion of a lawsuit with 13 children whose mothers' DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, 24 hours has learned. Each of the children will receive $50,000 plus legal costs.

In addition, sources from the victims’ families revealed the province also plans to announce a $50,000 compensation package for at least 80 other children of moms linked to the Pickton case.

“We're generally pleased with the settlement,” said Neil Chantler, one of three lawyers who launched the civil case. “Nobody is suggesting that $50,000 is adequate compensation for the loss of their mothers but this settlement is in accordance with the law in this province, and our clients are happy to put this behind them.”

The lawsuits were launched last May against Pickton, his brother Dave and sister Linda, the governments of Vancouver and B.C. – representing their respective police forces – and several individually named officers. The civil case returns to court Tuesday, but will now focus only on the two Pickton brothers. Chantler said Vancouver and Pickton’s sister have been dropped from the suit.

Until now, several family members had been worried the province was ignoring Wally Oppal's 2012 recommendation to pay the children after his Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

But not all of the families are happy with B.C.'s offer. Bridget Perrier is the stepmother of Angel Wolfe — whose birth mother Brenda's remains were found on Pickton's farm.

“As someone who's raised a child that is an orphan due to the systemic racism that went on within the province of B.C. and within the VPD, this is disgusting,” Perrier said.

Lorelei Williams lost her cousin Tanya Holyk — whose remains were found on the farm — but wasn't part of the lawsuit.

“No amount of money replaces a mother,” she said. “But at least it's something. Wally Oppal said they should do this, but we've had to push and fight for it ever since.”

A lawyer who asked not to be named said while the settlements accord with what the children might have received in court, they shine a “spotlight on the woefully inadequate wrongful death law” in this province.

On Thursday B.C.'s justice ministry announced $5 million for Oppal's recommendations. A spokesperson wouldn't comment on a lawsuit settlement except to say it's moving forward with a compensation fund.

Tuesday, March 4

B.C.’s director of police services to get new powers on cold cases

Government will appoint external forces to review unsolved homicides, cold cases


Giving the director of police services power to assign external investigators was one of the recommendations made by Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal, above, in a 2012 report.

Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG

The B.C. government will appoint outside police forces to audit missing women files, unsolved homicides and other serious police investigations that turn into cold cases, under new legislation introduced Monday.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said her government’s director of police services, Clayton Pecknold, will be given new powers to assign external police investigators to review cases that are stalled or left to go cold within other police departments.

The change was one of the recommendations made by Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal in a 2012 report.

“There were many different problems identified by commissioner Oppal but one of them was missing person’s files had been allowed to languish,” said Anton.

“My head of police services here can (now) order an audit of files that have gone to sleep.”

The decision on which cases to audit will be largely driven by public complaints, she added.

“Certainly in the case of the missing women … there was evidence that families along the way would say, ‘Look you haven’t done anything,’” recalled Anton.

Oppal, a former B.C. Court of Appeal justice, heard from 85 witnesses over 93 days and collected 150,000 pages of evidence as his inquiry examined why it took so long for the Vancouver police and RCMP to identify Robert Pickton as a serial killer, despite warnings he was preying on sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In December 2012 — two years after the $8-million inquiry was struck — Oppal released a voluminous report with 65 recommendations for change, including some big items that have not been acted upon, such as regional policing.

Pickton’s victims disappeared from Vancouver police territory, but he did his killing at his home in Port Coquitlam, which is policed by the RCMP. Oppal’s report said there was a “systemic failure” by the two agencies to deal with those cross-jurisdictional issues.

Oppal said Monday that while there is still more work to be done to address all 65 recommendations, he was happy to see the government follow through on his suggestion to increase the power of the director of police services.

The justice ministry said it also planned to create new standards for missing person and other major investigations, as well as to promote “bias-free policing.”

Oppal said such charges are crucial, as his report concluded police agencies had discriminated against Pickton’s victims.

“That was my finding that the police were biased. Had any of those women come from Kerrisdale or the university district, you can imagine that the reaction of the police would be quite different,” Oppal said.

Neither the RCMP nor Vancouver police would comment on the proposed legislation, referring all questions to the Justice Ministry.

Jason Gratl, a Vancouver lawyer who represented Downtown Eastside communities at the inquiry, said it’s good that this legislation gives the director of police services a bit more power to act when a cold case isn’t solved.

However, he said testimony at the inquiry made it clear that legislative changes alone won’t protect vulnerable women unless police take such cases more seriously.

“The officers simply didn’t investigate. It wasn’t for lack of power, it was for lack of will,” Gratl said.

He added it is crucial for police officers to be unbiased toward victims, so that every case gets the same treatment regardless of the background of the victims. Since the high-profile inquiry, Gratl said he has witnessed slow improvements in how the justice system treats disenfranchised women.

Anton said her government has been working on fulfilling the “majority of the themes” from Oppal’s report, but perhaps not every recommendation.

“We may not be doing every single individual item in the missing person’s report but we are definitely meeting all of the themes identified in the report,” she said.

Rather than amalgamate Greater Vancouver’s many police forces, for example, Anton said the province is pushing for integrated police teams.

But Opposition NDP critic Kathy Corrigan said the province continues to have a “very weak” response to Oppal’s recommendations.

He had suggested the cold case audits be mandatory, she noted, and the proposed changes leave it up to the discretion of government. “That’s a bit of a watering down of the recommendation,” Corrigan said.

There has also been little action on a recommendation for a shuttle bus on the so-called Highway of Tears in northern B.C., she said,

The outside audit of cold cases would occur in files where no investigative steps have been taken for one year, and in cases where criminal charges against an accused person were recommended but not approved by Crown and the case subsequently went cold for a year, according to the bill tabled in the legislature.

The law, if approved, would also force police chiefs to order an internal review of every major case investigation within 60 days of it becoming inactive, and submit a report to the government.

Outside police investigators appointed by government would review evidence, records, and investigative steps, and would not require warrants to obtain access to the police departments and any records they require, according to the bill.

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