The tearful relatives and friends of Robert Pickton’s victims consoled each other outside the doors of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday, and wondered if they’ll ever get the full truth.
In 53 days of hearings, they have heard many, but not all, of the answers they sought.
Now they fear many questions will remain unanswered as commissioner Wally Oppal announced the inquiry is launching “less adversarial” panel workshops next week.
The panels will focus on policy recommendations and do away with the thorough cross-examinations of a courtroom setting.
Formal witness testimony will continue, but not to the same extent. Some scheduled witnesses will
instead take part in the panel process.
Inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said the commission has already heard enough to develop “a clear picture” of events and police failures from 1997 to 2002 and that it’s time to start thinking about preventing future failures.
But Lilliane Beaudoin, sister of victim Dianne Rock, said she was blindsided and disappointed by the news.
“Yes, we need to help the women on the street now, but the only way we can do that is here with fact-finding,” she said. “We came here to speak to the officers to find out where things went wrong. If we don’t know what’s broke, we can’t fix it.”
Vertlieb tried to reassure media that formal hearings would continue, but admitted the witness list could see changes.
“We will continue to make sure that anyone that’s got important information will be here to help the commission,” he said. “The witness list, as it is, really is constantly an evolution.”
At the end of the day, Vertlieb argued, the success of the inquiry will be judged on how well it protects society’s vulnerable women.
The panels will allow police, aboriginal leaders and the greater community to help draft a set of effective recommendations, he said.
“The most important thing is to come up with recommendations that can be implemented that can save the lives of vulnerable women,” Vertlieb said. “The inquiry is only as good as the report and recommendations. That’s where we need to be focusing at this point in time.”
The inquiry continues.