The former lieutenant governor of B.C. will now play a key role in ensuring recommendations released Monday in the final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry are implemented with input from family of the missing and murdered women.
The Honourable Steven Point was appointed Monday by Minister of Justice Shirley Bond as one of the immediate steps taken by government in response to the report’s 63 recommendations.
“His experience as a treaty commissioner, as an elected chief, will allow him to work in communities in a way that the government simply cannot do,” said Bond, who wiped tears as she spoke to a throng of reporters and relatives of the missing and murdered women gathered at the Morris J. Wosk Centre on West Hastings.
Point will be the chairperson of the advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women. The position was created in response to the report’s recommendation that an independent adviser be appointed to work with representatives of aboriginal communities, the Downtown Eastside and victims’ families.
The recommendation called for the position to be created within 12 weeks but Bond said it was critical Point be available immediately while the government works through the recommendations of the report.
“That dialogue needs to continue, voices need to be heard,” she said.
Point was in the audience for Bond’s announcement and issued a statement saying it was his sincere hope the committee will serve as a vehicle for reconciliation and healing in B.C.
“I am positive that we can work together through these recommendations and make a difference consistent with the spirit and intent of commissioner Oppal’s report,” he said.
Point’s appointment was followed by news the government will immediately provide $750,000 to the WISH drop-in centre for sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside to expand its hours.
The report, titled Forsaken, and delivered by commissioner Wally Oppal prior to Bond’s announcements, outlined the critical and systemic failures of police during the five-year investigation into missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002. Oppal called the investigations a “blatant failure” by the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department.
He told reporters he believed his recommendations were a road map for change. One of his key recommendations was that a regional police force be established in Greater Vancouver.
Oppal urged mayors to lead the campaign for a regional police force. Mayor Gregor Robertson is on record of establishing a Metro Vancouver police force.
“It has to come from the mayors because they’re closest to their own constituents,” Oppal said.
Bond said she will hold all police leaders in B.C. “accountable” for implementing systemic change in policing to ensure there is no repeat of the tragedy that unfolded in the Downtown Eastside.
Serial killer Robert Pickton was arrested in 2002 and charged with killing 26 women. He went to trial on six murders, was found guilty on all counts and was sentenced to life in prison. The Crown chose not to prosecute Pickton on the 20 remaining cases because he was already serving a maximum sentence.
Police Chief Jim Chu issued a statement Monday saying he hoped the findings of Oppal’s report gave the families of the victims of Pickton “some measure of consolation and closure.”
“We know that nothing can ever truly heal the wounds of grief and loss, but if we can we want to assure the families that the Vancouver Police Department deeply regrets anything we did that may have delayed the eventual solving of these murders,” said Chu, whose department will spend some time reviewing the report’s recommendations before commenting further.