Saturday, November 27, 2010

Indian chiefs want Oppal off Pickton inquiry

Indian chiefs want Oppal off Pickton inquiry: "Indian chiefs want Oppal off Pickton inquiry

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has asked the Law Society of B.C. to rule that former Attorney General Wally Oppal is in a conflict of interest as sole Commissioner of the Missing Women Inquiry.

UBCIC president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said his organization fought long and hard to get an inquiry into how dozens of women could go missing without police forces cooperating to zero in on now-convicted serial murderer Robert Pickton.

Pickton openly picked up women in the Downtown Eastside when he dumped off waste from his Port Coquitlam pig-slaughtering operation to an eastside rendering plant, which Pickton later boasted had also accepted human remains.

Pickton was not arrested until 2002. He has been convicted of the murder of six women, but has been linked to the murder of at least 32 women, most of them former sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside.

But Phillip said the UBCIC is concerned that Oppal, who was B.C. attorney general when many of the women went missing, is in a potential conflict of interest.

“How can an inquiry into the failings of police, government and Crown continue when there is at the very least a serious perception of conflict of interest of the person to lead it?” demanded Phillip.

“We share the deep concerns of many families and community leaders that the inquiry they have fought so hard for will not achieve what was hoped for.”

Phillip said the inquiry should seek “honesty, accountability, fundamental change and true reconciliation to honour and bring a measure of justice to the families who had their loved ones stolen from their embrace.”

Oppal has dismissed complaints from some victims’ families and groups, saying he will conduct a fair and impartial inquiry.

Oppal has hired as commission counsel Art Vertlieb, who assisted the Braidwood Commission, and advisor Patrick Kelly, a Sto:lo Nation leader and former Indian Affairs top official.

Oppal has pledged to hold community meetings in Vancouver and Prince George, but has postponed the first such meeting from Dec. 6 to Jan. 19, in Vancouver.

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