Auditor raps B.C. for stopping progress reports on missing women programs

Government stopped providing public progress reports two years after former attorney general Wally Oppal tabled report

VICTORIA – British Columbia’s auditor general has rapped the province for dropping its public reports on a commission of inquiry that reviewed the disappearances of 67 women — some of them victims of serial killer Robert Pickton — from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Carol Bellringer said Thursday that the tragedies continue to affect families and communities, and the government must continue to keep British Columbians informed of its progress in meeting more than 60 recommendations from the inquiry.

She said the government stopped providing public progress reports in 2014, two years after former attorney general Wally Oppal tabled his report.

“Because so many families and communities are affected by these tragedies, we feel that government still needs to share its progress with the public,” Bellringer said in a statement.

Oppal’s report detailed systemic police failures that allowed Pickton to target sex workers and recommended support for families of victims.

Bellringer’s report says the government has established a compensation fund for the children of victims, but has made little progress helping their families.

The government has yet to appoint a new champion for the safety and security of vulnerable women since the resignation of former lieutenant-governor Steven Point from an advisory committee three years ago, she said.

The government is acting in other areas, such as improving transportation along Highway 16 and developing standards for bias-free policing, Bellringer said.

But it has not developed a protocol to allow female sex workers who have outstanding warrants to feel more comfortable reporting violence.

Oppal’s report also identified a litany of police failures that allowed Pickton to remain at large for so long, while also concluding that if his victims weren’t poor, drug-addicted women from the Downtown Eastside, more would have been done to save them.

Pickton was arrested in February 2002 and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton’s property in Port Coquitlam.