May 24, 2011 – Statement by Commissioner Wally Oppal, Q.C., Regarding BC Government Decision on Funding For Groups Participating in the Missing Women Inquiry

VANCOUVER – I am aware of the reaction of several groups that have been granted standing before the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to the Attorney General’s decision last week not to provide funding for their legal representation at the Inquiry.

My recommendation to the provincial government was to fund all the groups that satisfied me that they would not be able to participate fully without financial support.

My intention was to ensure that no group with standing before the Inquiry would be denied legal counsel at the evidentiary hearings due to lack of funds.

As an inquiry commissioner, I must at all times remain independent and I was therefore not involved in the government’s decision to not fund the groups as I recommended, and I do not know the reasons for the decision. That is an issue that the Attorney General can address if he so wishes.

My intention is still to ensure that any group that feels it needs to be represented by legal counsel at the evidentiary hearings in order to participate fully in the Inquiry has that representation. At this stage, I don’t know if and how that can be achieved. However, I have asked my counsel, Mr. Art Vertlieb, Q.C., to meet with lawyers representing the groups that have been denied funding to see what can be done to meet their clients’ needs.