B.C. Civil Liberties Association questions why Wally Oppal criticized Cameron Ward
Call it payback time.
In a report issued today, missing-women commissioner Wally Oppal has taken a run at Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who represented the families of 25 missing and murdered women.
Oppal, a former attorney general and judge, dismissed Ward's allegations of a police cover-up as "reckless" and "unprofessional" in his executive summary.
"I conclude that these allegations are completely unsupported and unsubstantiated by any evidence and there is no air of reality to them, even as a theory. I am not even clear on what theory Mr. Ward is purporting to advance. I am sympathetic with the VPD’s submissions that Mr. Ward’s position is ludicrous, flippant, unsupported by evidence and unprofessional. His comments are reckless. I do not entertain highly speculative and harmful allegations that are unsupported by evidence or a rational theory."
This came three days after Ward posted a statement on his law firm's website condemning the commission "for perpetuating many of the same prejudices" that resulted in the tragedy.
Today, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued a statement claiming that Oppal's comments "could chill public interest lawyers from asking difficult questions during future public inquiries".
"There were many actors to be scrutinized in this inquiry whose conduct was worthy of questions about professionalism," BCCLA president Lyndsay Lyster declared. "To know that the lawyer for the families was the only party the Commissioner could see who was worthy of being described as 'unprofessional' is bizarre. The Commissioner knows that lawyers must be free to ask difficult questions and press their clients' concerns—this rebuke will chill lawyers representing the public interest in future public inquiries."
Ward's final submission to the inquiry maintained that the Vancouver Police Department "had a duty to warn the public, particularly sex trade workers, that it had evidence of a potential serial killer".
Moreover, Ward claimed that VPD management "actively lied to the public regarding the evidence of a potential serial killer".
"It is not enough to suggest, as the police institutions have, that there is 'no evidence' of systemic sexism or racism, for example, playing a role in the failed missing women investigations," Ward wrote. "In fact, there was evidence, particularly if one paid the slightest respect to the testimony of the Families. Moreover, this Commission failed to compel or consider documents and testimony that would likely have supported the theory that systemic racism and sexism were at play."
During the inquiry Ward tried without success to have several witnesses called to testify, including RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, who was in charge of the Mounties' southwest district's major-crime section when women were going missing.
Oppal also refused to approve Ward's application to bring forward serial killer Robert William Pickton's brother Dave or the Picktons' friend Bev Hyacinthe, who worked at the Coquitlam RCMP detachment.