Process Management Directive #3

  1. This is Process Management Directive #3. In my first two Process Management Directives issued on January 11 and January 24, 2012, I emphasized three overriding principles:

    • the need to focus on my mandate to make recommendations that will make a real difference in practical terms to the pressing and continuing concern of missing and murdered women;
    • the need to focus on the systemic dimensions of any police failures rather than finding individual scapegoats; and
    • the need to carry out the hearing aspects of my mandate in an effective manner and to ensure important attention is given to the study commission aspect of my mandate.


  2. After the passage of more than four weeks of evidentiary hearings since Directives #1 and #2 were issued, I remain focused on these three principles and will be moving forward to strategically manage the Inquiry process in line with these previous directives.

  4. Important information has been learned during the 53 days of hearing thus far, including from:

    • evidence from nine members of victims’ families – Liliane Beaudoin, Marion Bryce, Ernie Crey, Lorraine Crey, Lori-Ann Ellis, Lynn Frey, Margaret Green, Donnalee Roberta Sebastian accompanied by Anne Marie Sebastian, and Angel Wolfe;
    • extensive expert evidence about the conditions of the lives of women who are involved in the sex trade in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver from Professor John Lowman, Dr. Thomas Kerr and Dr. Kate Shannon;
    • evidence from Elaine Allan, former coordinator of WISH (Women’s Information Safe House) and former street nurse in the DTES, Catherine Astin – both of whom provided services to many of the missing women;
    • evidence from a former survival sex trade worker, Susan Davis;
    • evidence from the lead investigator in the Vancouver Police Department missing women investigations – Detective Constable Shenher;
    • evidence from the lead investigator of the Pickton Investigation led by the Coquitlam RCMP – Corporal Connor;
    • evidence from Dr. Kim Rossmo who is an expert in the investigation of serial killers and was involved in the missing women investigations;
    • evidence from the Team Commander of Project Evenhanded – Sergeant Don Adam (retired) (his testimony is currently ongoing);
    • evidence from Chief Constable Terry Blythe (retired) (his testimony is currently ongoing); and
    • extensive evidence from three police review witnesses – Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard, Superintendent R.J. Williams, and the Commission’s independent expert, Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, all of whom are highly-experienced and carried out detailed reviews of the missing women investigations based on an extensive review of documents and numerous interviews with those directly involved in all levels of the investigations.
  5. I would like to thank all of the witnesses for their participation and for the assistance that they have provided to me. Together this evidence is helping build a broad and detailed factual framework for my report.
  6. I expect to hear from additional senior members of the RCMP and the VPD. I have not yet come to any conclusions on the facts and appreciate that these witnesses will continue to contribute to my ongoing fact finding.
  7. I will also be hearing from witnesses regarding the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch to enter a stay of proceedings against Robert Pickton pursuant to paragraph 4(b) of my terms of reference during the week of March 26, 2012.
  8. While being helped by our fact-finding progress I must remain vigilant and mindful that my mandate also involves making recommendations to help save the lives of marginalized women. I believe this can be best accomplished by working with the participants and the broader community, particularly women who are street-involved and engaged in the sex trade, who on a daily basis face the highest risk from all forms of violence, including serial predation. I cannot imagine anyone would seriously disagree that this is my most important task.
  9. From the very beginning of this Commission, I have emphasized the need to work together in as many ways as possible to ensure that this tragedy is never allowed to happen again. I continue to believe that working together is vital to our success.
  10. We have spent much time and learned a lot about what went wrong and it is now time to focus more actively on any investigative failures and how they can be prevented in the future. Therefore, in addition to the more traditional evidentiary hearings that are underway, we will be introducing a more cooperative approach to allow us to pursue this aspect of the mandate.
  11. It is for these reasons that I set out additional steps that the Commission will be taking in this Process Management Directive. To achieve this I am implementing several strategic approaches to obtaining further information. All of these approaches have a common purpose: working collaboratively with communities, police agencies, governments and women at risk to develop new strategies to protect women at risk. I am asking for help from all those affected, including victims’ families, community members and leaders, First Nations community members and leaders, political leaders, police and policing institutions.
  12. Accordingly, one approach will be to receive information from groups of witnesses which will be constituted as “panels”, which I expect to include the following:

    • Victims’ Family (the following family members have stated they would like to give evidence: Bonnie Fowler, Lisa Bigjohn, Marilyn Kraft, Daphne Pierre, Lila Purcell, and Sandra Gagnon) – This Inquiry has provided for the first time an opportunity for families of victims to be heard;
    • DTES Community;
    • Aboriginal Interests;
    • District 2 Police;
    • VPD and RCMP Supervisors; and
    • Vancouver Police Board and Other Officials.
  13. The purpose of these panels will be to inform the development of recommendations in the three core categories which I identified in Process Directive #2:

    • the difficult interface between the policing authorities and the marginalized community of these victims;
    • inter-jurisdictional difficulties between different police forces; and
    • shortcomings in organizational systems.
  14. The panels will enable us to develop this information in an effective and efficient manner across a broad range of perspectives. The panels will consist of people who are able to provide experience based insights and ideas to assist me develop practical and effective steps for change. Counsel will be given an opportunity to ask questions of the panel members within the spirit of the purpose for which these panels are being constituted.
  15. I am hopeful that individuals who have important information to contribute will be more willing to come forward and participate in this less adversarial hearing process.
  16. Second, I would like to understand the impact the failed missing women investigations have had on individuals and the community at large. It is critical that I have the information required to allow me to assess the harms experienced, including the magnitude of the harm caused to families and the community beyond the crime and sentencing of Robert Pickton. I need to gain a better understanding of what will be required to build trust and a positive police-community relationship in the DTES. This renewed relationship is essential for the implementation of workable protection and prevention measures of vulnerable and marginalized women as well as to support effective future investigations.
  17. To this end, I am asking Aboriginal leaders and other community leaders to assist in developing a process whereby this can occur. I wish to meet with family members as a group to hear from them directly about the harms they have experienced and their recommendations to improve the safety and security of vulnerable women.
  18. Third, I would like to focus on how the relationship between the community and the police can be improved. The Commission will be exploring with key organizations and institutions the potential for developing a dialogue to support the work of the Commission, to voice and address their own concerns and to advance their mutual interests that what happened here will never happen again. One specific step that I would like to see considered is the organization of an information sharing workshop that will also include learning more about programs and approaches that have worked elsewhere so as to increase our understanding of ideas and options that should be considered herein BC. I also envision that this dialogue initiative will provide support and bridge the Commissions ongoing research, consultations and the already scheduled Policy Forums.
  19. Currently, the study commission has undertaken a number of research and consultation activities. Detailed reports of these activities have been published on the Commission website. I would like to highlight three of the reports which are now available on our website:

    • a report on the Northern Community Forums that I held last September in seven communities along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears;
    • a report on consultations in the DTES held by Commission staff last fall; and
    • a policy discussion report on the police protection of vulnerable and marginalized women.

    These reports contain a great deal of information about the scope and nature of the issues that I must address and upon which I am considering making recommendations for change. I will not be making any findings of fact based on these reports, but they will inform my analysis and provide important policy advice. I am hopeful that these reports and any additional Commission reports that will be published will stimulate further public discussion, additional input from interested parties, and the formulation of recommendations for reform.

  20. As previously announced I will be holding policy forums in early May. These forums will be an opportunity to bring together the various aspects of the study commission’s research and consultations, the workshop and the written submissions received from interested members of the public and organizations. I encourage all interested individuals and organizations to make written submissions to me.
  21. My commitment to the safety and security of women, especially marginalized ones has never wavered. I am determined to ensure that these women did not die in vain and that positive change resulting in the saving of lives will be the lasting memorial for the missing and murdered women.

The Honourable Wallace T. Oppal, Q.C.