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.

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

Cherry Hill Elementary. Kevin Mills photo.
Cherry Hill Elementary parents heartbroken, angry over mid-year principal swap

PAC president says she doesn’t understand why it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Abbotsford mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby comes home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

This is the fifth school exposure in the district, and the third school. There were three exposures in a row at Hatzic Middle School, followed by this week’s cases. Kevin Mills Photo.
Two more COVID-19 exposures at Mission schools

There have been 5 exposures in 3 schools since Oct. 5

Architectural drawings of the building by JY Architecture. Screenshot from District of Mission council meeting on Nov. 16.
Six-storey, 86-unit development on 2nd Avenue approved by Mission councillors

Project one of the oldest on District of Mission’s books, staff report

Google Maps screenshot taken at 6:07 a.m.
TRAFFIC: Westbound dump-truck crash on Highway 1

Crash occurred around 6:45 a.m., west of 232nd Street in Langley

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

A new ‘soft reporting’ room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020 which is thought to be the first of its kind in B.C. (Ann Davis Transitional Society/ Facebook)
New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

It’s a space for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, or gender-based violence to police

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe in Abbotsford

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days. Police find him at Abbotsford Airport

A UBC study recommends an multi-government investment of $381 million to protect 102 species at risk in the Fraser River estuary. (Photo supplied by Yuri Choufour)
102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

UBC team develops $381-million strategy to combat crisis, boost economy

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Most Read