RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson got a free pass from missing women's inquiry, say lawyers
His name stands out among witnesses who weren’t called by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
At the time when police forces were fumbling the hunt for the person preying on women working Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside strolls, he was the noncommissioned officer in charge of the RCMP’s southwest district major-crime section.
Then a sergeant, Bob Paulson is now the RCMP commissioner, and lawyers representing the families of these women wanted him on the witness stand. But the commission chaired by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal refused to summon Canada’s top Mountie.
In their final submission to the commission, lawyers Cameron Ward and Neil Chantler and researcher Robin Whitehead argue that the inquiry is incomplete because witnesses like Paulson weren’t summoned.
According to their filing, Paulson was “extensively involved in the missing women’s investigations”.
“His name appears hundreds of times in the documents disclosed to the Commission,” the submission states.
It also notes that in March 2000, then-sergeant Paulson and a staff sergeant approached then–chief superintendent Gary Bass of the RCMP’s E Division in B.C. “with a proposal to create a coordinated effort to review” unsolved homicides and the cases of the missing women. This was mentioned in a report for the Oppal commission by Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans of the Peel Regional Police.
Evans noted that the staff sergeant wrote a proposal that read in part that “at least 3 (three) serial killers are believed to be operating in BC at this time”.
It took almost a year before a so-called “Joint Forces Operation” was launched in connection with investigating the disappearances of the missing women.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight on August 22, Chantler indicated that lawyers for the families hoped to ask Paulson about this March 2000 meeting.
“We would have wanted to probe the circumstances and find out exactly what they exactly said and what discussions were had, and why efforts weren’t taken to form a JFO earlier in those circumstances,” Chantler said.
Robert Pickton, a pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, was eventually arrested in 2002. He was convicted in 2007 for the deaths of six women whose remains were found on the farm. The Crown eventually stayed charges against him for the deaths of 20 other women.
Paulson was sergeant in charge of the RCMP’s southwest district major-crime section from 1999 to 2001. B.C.’s southwest region includes the Lower Mainland. Paulson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment before deadline.
The final submission by the families’ lawyers also identified 16 other witnesses who were not called by the commission.
One of these is David Pickton, who lived with his brother Robert and was “well known to police” for being associated with the Hells Angels. According to the submission, the Picktons’ properties in Port Coquitlam were “known by the police to be hives of illegal activity, including cockfighting, illicit alcohol and drug use, prostitution and petty theft”.
The document states that “despite the RCMP’s frequent attendances there, possibly as many as 49 murders were perpetrated”.
Commission spokesperson Ruth Atherley told the Straight by phone that Oppal cannot comment because he’s preparing his report.
In their final submission, the lawyers for the families also note that there are “many theories” about why Pickton wasn’t stopped early on. One is in connection with the police investigation of the Hells Angels, whose members frequented the Picktons’ Piggy Palace booze can.
According to the lawyers, this could have “in some way played a role in the police departments’ failure to intervene in Robert Pickton’s activities”.
They also raise the possibility that “police knew more about the Picktons than they were willing to disclose publicly.”
As well, the lawyers state, “many believe…that Robert Pickton did not act alone.”