Missing Women Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal at the public release of his findings in mid-December 2012. The province had received his five-volume report 'Forsaken' a few weeks earlier.

Oppal presses for police reform a year after Pickton inquiry findings

Missing Women report needs new 'champion' for change, says brother of murdered woman

The head of B.C.’s Missing Women Inquiry says he’s pleased with some of the actions taken in the year since he issued 65 recommendations aimed at protecting vulnerable women from a future serial killer.

But Commissioner Wally Oppal told Black Press he wants much more done, particularly with his recommendation of creating a regional police force for Metro Vancouver.

Oppal acknowledges various improvements in policing since botched, badly coordinated investigations let serial killer Robert Pickton stalk addicted sex-trade workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for years until his arrest in 2001.

“They have more regional cooperation and they have better communications,” Oppal said, citing improved police databases, the regional homicide squad IHIT and other integrated teams.

“But still the present patchwork of policing really makes no sense,” he said. “The evidence was quite clear – if we’d had a regional police force a number of murders would have been prevented.”

The mix of municipal police forces and RCMP detachments across the region was one of his main targets for reform but several Metro mayors have resisted any change, fearing a regional force might mean less local control over policing or less coverage if officers are pulled away to regional priorities.

Oppal contends a regional force could still be created that allows decentralized community-based policing that respects their wishes.

The province this month announced a pending review of policing in the new year that is expected to consider further integration of forces and potential alternate models.

Victoria is also funding more work to combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking, which often sees criminals lure girls from small towns and reserves into drug-addicted prostitution in the Lower Mainland.

“I do recognize that the situation is much improved from what it was when Pickton was killing women,” Oppal said. “The likelihood is that he would be apprehended quicker. But I can’t say it couldn’t happen again.”

The provincial government’s move to fully fund the WISH drop-in centre in the Downtown Eastside is one of the steps Oppal credits.

The province says it has fully implemented three recommendations and is working on numerous others.

Ernie Crey, brother of murdered woman Dawn Crey, said he fears the drive for change has faltered since the resignation of former Lieut-Gov. Steven Point as the “champion” for Oppal’s recommendations.

Point left as families of Pickton’s victims launched civil lawsuits against police forces and the government seeking compensation.

Crey said the province must name a successor to Point “to drive the process forward.”

He also said that if the province had compensated victims’ children – as Oppal recommended – the families likely wouldn’t be in court suing the authorities and much more progress might have been made.

One initiative both Oppal and Crey said should be pursued is an intercity bus service between northern B.C. communities along the so-called Highway of Tears where many women have vanished hitchhiking.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said the province is making significant progress on many of the inquiry’s recommendations.

“None of us want to see something like this tragedy happen again in British Columbia,” she said after meeting with advocacy groups Monday. ” The province is committed to building a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Submitted
BC VOTES 2020: John Rustad re-elected in Nechako Lakes riding

The result is based on preliminary vote count and the final results will be available after Nov.6

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

The track washrooms will be opened up again next year in May. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Toilets, sinks torn off, graffiti on walls at the Burns Lake track washroom

“Seems to happen once or twice a year” says the Village CAO on the vandalized track washroom

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for Stikine candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Most Read