Minister’s response to Pickton victim family complaint against Coroner penned by service itself

Family says pleas to MLAs routinely ignored

An NDP minister’s response to complaints from one of serial killer Robert Pickton’s victims about the BC Coroners Service was written by that service, documents obtained under access to information laws indicate.

“It’s standard process for government correspondence staff to work with related ministry program areas to ensure the information they are gathering for queries is current and accurate,” a statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (PSSG) said. “Beyond that the ministry has no further response.”

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The Coroners Service response was almost exactly the same: “It is standard process for provincial government correspondence staff to work with ministry staff to ensure the information they are gathering for queries is current and accurate.”

Marnie Frey’s parents, Lynn and Rick Frey, had sought help from Attorney General David Eby in dealing with complaints against the BC Coroners Service for how they believe daughter Marnie’s remains were handled.

The issue was passed to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (PSSG) Mike Farnworth, who assured them they had everything the needed to bury their child.

“The Coroners Service advises that they have provided your family with all documentation necessary for the respectful disposition of your daughter’s remains in the manner of your choosing at any time,” Farnworth wrote to the Freys in July 2018.

Farnworth Letter to Freys by on Scribd

However, that assurance was apparently written by the Coroners Service for the minister, recently released records indicate.

Rick Frey said he continues to ask the government and opposition Liberal MLAs for help but is routinely ignored.

He maintains there is nothing “standard” about having one’s child murdered by a serial killer.

“How can you go to someone I’m complaining about and ask them for assistance?” Frey asked. “It’s utterly ridiculous. You’re asking the fox if it had fun in the henhouse.

Frey suggested their standard process might need to be changed.

Glacier Media filed a freedom of information (FOI) request in September. An email that month from the deputy attorney general’s office FOI coordinator said the request “should also be directed to the Coroners Service, as their branch drafted the reply to the Freys and will likely have further background.”

Attorney General FOI Letter by on Scribd

However, said the attorney general’s ministry (MAG), it and the solicitor general ministry share an FOI coordinator.

“That is why it appeared like the MAG was responding to the FOI request,” the ministry said, noting the Freys’ letter to Eby was transferred to Farnworth’s ministry as the coroners services falls under that ministry’s mandate.

“All questions concerning the Coroner’s Service should be directed to PSSG,” a ministry spokesperson said.

PSSG didn’t have much to say on the issue, though.

The FOI request, despite emails remarking on the files sensitivity, did not seem to generate much interest in Farnworth’s office. FOI officers had to remind his office staff responses were due. That reminder was responded to 13 days later.

The Coroners Service did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Frey’s daughter’s remains, a partially cremated jawbone smashed with a hammer to fit it into an urn, remains on a Campbell River funeral home shelf.

Frey is afraid if he goes ahead and buries her, he will be breaking the law.

Marnie vanished from Vancouver’s squalid Downtown Eastside in 1997, leaving behind a baby daughter. Her remains were found on Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm, Canada’s largest-ever crime scene.

The pig farmer was convicted in Frey’s death, along with those of five others in 2007. He remains in the Port-Cartier Institution prison in Quebec serving a life sentence without possibility of parole until 2032. He confessed to a cell plant to killing 49 women.

The Freys received Marnie’s remains from the Coroners Service in 2010. They were told they had been cremated. Two funeral directors later told them the remains had received minimal heat.

Coroner Owen Court had handled the disposition of the remains, taking them to Abbotsford funeral director Lawrence Little, who maintains all remains were handled with reverence. Little said the remains were so small that he applied some heat in a cremator to make them brittle after which they were put in an envelope, wrapped in a towel and broken up with a mallet.

The Freys rejected this, saying Marnie’s remains were mutilated. They filed numerous complaints, including one to Consumer Protection BC, which investigated the case. Other investigations were also done, including one by the RCMP. Crown prosecutors approved no charges.

Unsatisfied with the findings, the family reached out to Eby. That correspondence was passed to Farnworth’s office.

After saying the Freys could bury their child, Farnworth said, “there are no further actions available.”

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