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Many rights groups withdraw from the Pickton inquiry
October 7, 2011 12:47 PM   Subscribe

An inquiry has been set up in BC in response to the poor response by the police to missing women from the Robert Pickton case. (Previously 1, 2, 3, 4.) Many smaller groups, such a drop-in centre for sex workers in East Vancouver and First Nations groups have withdrawn amidst allegations that the inquiry is fundamentally biased towards protecting the police, and larger groups such as Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association have also withdrawn in support. posted by jeather (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry, we just don't have the money to properly understand how to prevent this sort of tragedy from happening again. We do, however, have the ability to pay off your lawyers if your testimony will embarrass the government.

And fuck Gordon Campbell.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:19 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


What do the government and police possibly have to hide? A decades-long tacit approval of the murder of aboriginal women? Please. Take your conspiracy-mongering and pattern of continued obstruction and "facts" elsewhere.
posted by [citation needed] at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


*calibrates sarcasm detector*
posted by twirlip at 1:53 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


What do the government and police possibly have to hide? A decades-long tacit approval of the murder of aboriginal women?

Plus in this particular case they didn't charge him with anything when he handcuffed and stabbed a prostitute in 1997 and they didn't follow through on a tip in 1999 that he was storing human meat in a freezer on his farm.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2011


Incidentally, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre is holding a rally on Tuesday, the first day of the proceedings, to protest their de facto exclusion from this whitewashing inquiry.
posted by twirlip at 1:58 PM on October 7, 2011


What do the government and police possibly have to hide? A decades-long tacit approval of the murder of aboriginal women? Please. Take your conspiracy-mongering and pattern of continued obstruction and "facts" elsewhere.

I'm not so sure the lack of political will to provide legal funding to community groups participating in the inquiry is related to a coverup. I think it's the result of

a) the legacy of Campbell's insistence in providing for not extra funding at all for the Attorney General (remember that Penner, probably the most popular member of the government, resigned for a reason)

b) no small amount of chaos in the AG ministry because of Penner's departure and a non-lawyer, Shirley Bond, taking up the file (while having to also managed Soliciter General at the same time; while I have no doubt Bond is a capable minister, I also can't help but think she got the portfolio in return for providing much-needed PG support to Clark, as Pat Bell is doing)

c) absolute arrogance on the part of the government, yet another toxic legacy of Campbell; after working with senior folks in government for several years, I can tell you these people are out of touch, and honestly have no idea what realities exist east of Burrard Street.

While I am not particularly partisan, it is an absolute shame the Liberals were not voted out of office in 2009.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, and racism plays an ugly part in all of this too.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:29 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


What do the government and police possibly have to hide?

The police are far too busy with other business, like colluding in the drug trade with the Hell's Angels.
posted by grounded at 3:09 PM on October 7, 2011


I saw a documentary once, where an officer of the law said a State had over 50 officers investigating DVD and other copyright violations (i.e. bootlegs) and 2 officers investigating human trafficking. It wasn't the BC department, since it was a State rather than a Province, but it really shows where the focus of law enforcement is, or at least can be.
posted by juiceCake at 3:51 PM on October 7, 2011



What do the government and police possibly have to hide? A decades-long tacit approval of the murder of aboriginal women? Please. Take your conspiracy-mongering and pattern of continued obstruction and "facts" elsewhere.
posted by [citation needed] at 1:46 PM


In point of fact, it was internal politics and a willful dismissal of uncomfortable facts by the VPD brass which allowed Robert Pickton to continue preying on women, even after he had already been arrested.

One of the women subsequently raped, murdered, and rendered into pig-food was a grade-school friend of mine; so I find this casual dismissal of such blatant self-serving behavior on the part of the VPD truly upsetting. Imagine what it must be like for these women's families to know that he could have been stopped, but wasn't, partly because of career jealousy.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:16 PM on October 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm trying to understand what's wrong with asking interest groups to pay their own way if they want to participate at an inquiry. These aren't the families of individual victims (and you don't need a lawyer for each one of those, either); and they haven't been denied the opportunity to participate. The government just isn't letting their lawyers run up legal bills on the taxpayers' tab. So at least someone is looking out for the people who have to pay the bills.

One of the groups complaining about not being funded, the Native Womens' Assocation of Canada, received over $5 million from Canadian government departments in FY08/09. It's right there on page 39 of their annual report. (It's not clear why a publicly funded body doesn't have more recent financial statements available, but never mind). They had more than half a million cash on hand. If they want to participate, let them hire a lawyer to participate. Let them put it in their budget. Even better, let them solicit donations from concerned First Nations around the Lower Mainland to pay for representation.
posted by Dasein at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even better, let them solicit donations from concerned First Nations around the Lower Mainland to pay for representation.

Yeah, local First Nations could use some of the money they got from their treaties!*

* Like 95% of the First Nations groups in the province, First Nations in the lower mainland had their territory and resources seized without benefit of a treaty process, in direct and explicit contravention of all relevant constitutional laws and precedents, like the Proclamation of 1763. This was often accomplished through government collusion with financial chicanery and official corruption, making your snide comment about the NWAC's books particularly odious.
posted by docgonzo at 4:53 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


First Nations in the lower mainland had their territory and resources seized without benefit of a treaty process

And now they're making land claims that are netting them far more generous terms than they would have gotten from the British. Their rights are fully protected under the Constitution.

Also, their lands weren't seized, they were settled. If the British had wanted to seize them, they could have passed an Act doing away with their rights. Or, like the American government or the Spanish conquistadors, they could have waged war on them. Based on the standards of the time, they were not badly treated. Their greivances are being address based on the standards of today.
posted by Dasein at 5:08 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dasein: Then they should not provide any funding for the police department. Selectively funding the various parties to the inquiry, even if done for legitimate budgetary reasons, creates the appearance of conflict of interest in this case, and even creating the appearance of a conflict of interest in a matter as serious as this is unacceptable. There need to be serious reforms, that can only take place if the police and the first nations and women's groups are able to work together. Creating the appearance that the inquiry is a whitewash poisons any chance that the inquiry will be able to do it's job.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:08 PM on October 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Quoting from the Current interview, from Harsha Wallia:
We asked our membership if they would want to participate in this inquiry given that it's an adversarial structure [...] most women said no, they didn't want to get on the stand, have to retell their story, and have police lawyers shred them to pieces. The way the inquiry is structured right now is like a trial, where the cops are saying they're not guilty and the women are coming forward with testimony and be told they're not credible and be cross-examined. The starting point of this inquiry was supposed to be some recognition that the police have in fact failed in terms of missing and murdered women. But the way the inquiry's structured is that the police are lawyering up [...] There was an application made to protect vulnerable witnesses that the VPD [Vancouver police department] actually opposed. [...] The process of cross-examination, so when Shirley Bond says there are four independent lawyers, those independent lawyers cannot protect women from cross-examination. Cross-examination is a fundamental aspect of the way that this inquiry is going down. Who is going to be cross-examining the police? There is currently nobody. [Commission counsel] may, but they may not. They have a limited role. [...] This isn't a comment on the commission counsel, it's the fact that women have no legal representation, they've no lawyer to protect them from the cross-examination of the police, and vice versa there's nobody who is going to be able to cross-examine the police in the same way. There's nobody representing the interest of the downtown east side, despite what Shirley Bond says. And frankly, from our perspective, this isn't an issue of lack of resources. If the police are willing to give up their nineteen lawyers, we're willing to go in there.
And that's the problematic aspect, or one of them. The commission is paying a lot of lawyers to protect the police, and some lawyers to be independent, but no lawyers to protect the marginalised populations that have been poorly served by the police. (It's not, I think, controversial that police in Vancouver -- like in many places -- do not investigate crimes against poor people, sex workers, and First Nations people as thoroughly as they do other crimes.) Either give all the relevant groups lawyers, or none of them and just have a lot of independent lawyers, but this inquiry can't go anywhere if citizens aren't engaged because it looks like it's in bad faith.
posted by jeather at 7:05 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm trying to understand what's wrong with asking interest groups to pay their own way if they want to participate at an inquiry.

From what I understand, under the original terms of the inquiry, there was to be no funding for lawyers for police and government, and the introduction of legal counsel to the inquiry made the process, from the perspective of the community groups, adversarial rather than collaborative (and, if you prefer, restorative) as was the original purpose of the inquiry.

When the government decided it needed to protect itself with lawyers, everything changed.

I don't understand why police and government should enjoy unlimited resources for legal counsel. I understand the need for it, but there should at least be an effort to provide similar resources to the "special interest groups" as you call them.

There is something very wrong with a consultative process when the entire community declines to participate.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:20 PM on October 7, 2011


We asked our membership if they would want to participate in this inquiry given that it's an adversarial structure [...] most women said no, they didn't want to get on the stand, have to retell their story, and have police lawyers shred them to pieces. The way the inquiry is structured right now is like a trial, where the cops are saying they're not guilty and the women are coming forward with testimony and be told they're not credible and be cross-examined.

There you go.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2011


Dassein..flagged your derail. We could lots of places with thenfactual basis of your statements, but one that is relevant for this conversation is that not all of the murdered women were First Nations. Most were but some were black and some white too. Race, class, gender, stigma and a whole host of other inequities are all at play here.

Jeather...thanks for that...that is the money quote that explains why legal counsel is essential for this inquiry and not merely desirable.
posted by salishsea at 7:22 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think legal counsel is essential, or was -- when it was collaborative and when the police didn't have counsel, I don't imagine the other groups needed counsel. Now, of course, I don't think it is even possible to go back to a collaborative model, and when the government is off protecting itself (again) and telling the other marginalised people that they're not the victims, well, it all seems very suspicious at best.

I have no doubt that the commission counsel -- who appear to be human rights lawyers -- have good intentions, and will do a good job. But their role is not to protect anyone.

The Current segment is about 20 minutes, so I could not transcribe it all, unfortunately.
posted by jeather at 7:30 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


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