Wally Oppal waffled about necessity of Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

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      Well before the September 28 appointment of Wally Oppal to head a public inquiry into the missing-women investigations, he was asked about the topic on CBC Radio.

      “I think an inquiry should only be held if we think we can learn something from the inquiry,” Oppal told Rick Cluff, host of The Early Edition, on August 6. “We’ve had an exhaustive trial here. And a lot of evidence has come out. A lot of people have recognized that we could have done things a lot better.”

      Oppal stated that inquiries can take on a life of their own. He also said they’re expensive. “You establish an inquiry and then you’ve got 25 lawyers in the room,” he claimed. “And the inquiries go on forever.”

      Cluff then asked Oppal a second time whether there should be a public inquiry into the investigations of serial killer Robert Pickton. Again, Oppal waffled.

      “We know that there are multiple policing agencies in the Lower Mainland,” the former attorney general said. “And are we going to learn anything by virtue of the fact that there were multiple investigations going on? Should the complaints have been received in a different way? So those are things that sometimes the police can do themselves. Sometimes government can assist them doing those things. So merely because things didn’t go the way they should have gone doesn’t necessarily mean we should embark on a lengthy inquiry.”

      Several minutes later, Cluff asked the question a third time. Oppal responded that he wasn’t saying there shouldn’t be an inquiry.

      “I’m just saying that if we’re going to have an inquiry, let’s put a proper focus on the inquiry,” he emphasized. “And let’s find out what issues we’re going to inquire into.”

      Oppal’s comments on CBC disturbed Jamie Lee Hamilton, a former street prostitute of aboriginal descent and a long-time advocate for sex workers. She told the Georgia Straight in a September 28 phone interview that the former attorney general’s remarks demonstrated that he was “noncommittal” on the need for a public inquiry into the missing women.

      “So I have no confidence in him,” Hamilton declared. “The appointment should be rescinded, and the government needs to come back to the various stakeholders [and] communities of interest and properly consult.”

      Hamilton is the spokesperson for the Community Inquiry Committee, which is composed of sex workers, advocates, and relatives of the missing women. On September 7, the CIC wrote to Attorney General Mike de Jong and Premier Gordon Campbell asking that the terms of reference for a public inquiry focus on the safety of sex workers. Moreover, the CIC wanted the inquiry to be headed by the B.C. representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, and to review policies dating back to 1983.

      The Oppal-led inquiry’s terms of reference do not address the safety of the sex trade. His mandate covers the period from 1997 to 2002, which means it doesn’t address the period from 1986 to 1993, when Campbell chaired the Vancouver police board.

      B.C. NDP Leader Carole James wouldn’t say that Oppal’s appointment should be rescinded. However, in a phone interview with the Straight, James criticized the B.C. Liberal government’s refusal to consult with the community before selecting a commissioner. She noted that there is a perception among some families of missing women and within the aboriginal community that Oppal’s former cabinet position means he’s too close to the government to be independent.

      “I think the government has got to answer for the questions around perception of conflict,” James said. “I think Mr. Oppal is going to have to answer them. Whether he can do that to the satisfaction of the families and the aboriginal community and the community at large remains to be seen. I think that conversation should have occurred first, instead of after the appointment.”

      The Straight asked the Ministry of Attorney General for an opportunity to interview Oppal. Oppal did not call back by deadline.

      What do you think of the appointment of Wally Oppal to head the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry?

      Libby Davies
      NDP MP, Vancouver East

      “He has a credible background in the judiciary. He will have to demonstrate that he is completely independent, given his close association as a [former] minister with the Campbell government. He’s there to represent the public interest, and he will have to show all of us that that’s what he is going to do.”

      Sue Davis
      Sex worker

      “The police are once again going to be investigating the police. Wally Oppal was the top cop [as attorney general], and now he’s going to be investigating the failings of the police in this matter. I think it was very shortsighted of them to appoint somebody who was formerly involved with the criminal-justice system in that capacity.”

      Dave Jones
      Former Vancouver police inspector

      “It’s certainly an interesting choice.”¦He talked about regionalization [in the past] as being something that needed to happen and”¦it appears that one of the issues in the Pickton thing was the left hand and the right hand [were] not necessarily working against each other but not necessarily working together in the most productive ways.”

      Victor Wong
      Executive director, Chinese Canadian National Council

      “I think those of us who’ve followed him know that he’s a man of integrity, really a groundbreaking person in many ways, one of the first nonwhites appointed to the bench. He’s served as attorney general in the province.”¦I think the government’s made an excellent choice in asking him to head up this inquiry.”

      Comments

      6 Comments

      RickW

      Sep 30, 2010 at 7:41pm

      Wally Opal only waffled until the price offered him was right..........he didn'tmuch care about the missing women when he was in power. Why should he now? But hey - conducting this inquiry for a year is a nice little nest egg!
      RickW

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      glen p robbins

      Oct 1, 2010 at 7:26am

      Oppal as Pickton choice also sheds light on Attorney General - Solicitor General, BC Liberal House Leader, and Campbell doorman - Mike de Jong as a potential future leader.

      Not only is his judgment poor - he isn't his own man. Whether or not de Jong is recalled in Abbotsford will tell us alot about whether the BC Conservatives are for real - or just an alternative choice arrangement with Campbell and Harper as Delaney has asserted on his way out of the BC Conservative-BC Liberal tent.

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      glen p robbins

      Oct 1, 2010 at 10:57am

      Kari Simpson to BC AG Wally Oppal 'The BC Supreme Court' is in a state of conflict'!

      Apr 07, 2009

      The Hon. Wally Oppal Attorney General of British Columbia
      February 20, 2009
      Re: Demand under Section 63 of the Judges Act for an inquiry into the conduct of Justice Mary Marvyn Koenigsberg

      Dear Sir,
      It has been reported in the media that you are in favour of holding judges accountable and you encourage individuals or communities to do so. You are correct when you say there are few avenues available to bring about the necessary accountability by the citizenry when a judge’s conduct brings the administration of justice into disrepute. However the comments attributed to you in the media, if true, are somewhat misleading because you as Attorney General also have the power and duty to protect the integrity of the judicial process. You, as Attorney General, have the power to request an inquiry, as you should know, with the Canadian Judicial Council whenever you become aware of problematic judges, or judges whose conducts bring the administration of justice into disrepute. You are, or should be, the people’s voice in matters involving unfit judges. It is a false statement for you to assert that judges are not accountable; you have the power as Attorney General to make judges accountable under the Judges Act.

      As you are aware the role of the courts in applying the Rule of Law and the people’s trust in the decisions and conduct of the judiciary is crucial to maintaining our civil society. What you haven’t stated publicly, at least that I am aware of, is that as Attorney General you have the statutory authority - and I would suggest ­an obligation -

      Section 63 of the Judges Act, a federal Act states:
      Inquiries
      63. (1) The Council shall, at the request of the Minister or the attorney general of a province, commence an inquiry as to whether a judge of a superior court should be removed from office for any of the reasons set out in paragraphs 65(2)(a) to (d).
      Investigations
      (2) The Council may investigate any complaint or allegation made in respect of a judge of a superior court.
      Therefore, I am writing to you to request that as Attorney General for the Province of British Columbia you request forthwith a full inquiry into the conduct of Justice Mary Marvyn Koenigsberg by the Canadian Judicial Council.
      Specifically:

      4. To determine the knowledge of Chief Justice Donald Brenner about the activities of Justice Koenigsberg’s spouse - Lubromyr Prytulak - activities that included allegations of hate, religious intolerance, libel and defamation etc. at the same time she was assigned to my case involving very similar accusations (albeit in my case false ones against me).
      5. To answer a further question about why the Chief Justice failed to inform my counsel and the defendant’s counsel about the apparent or real biases and conflicts that could arise as a result of Justice Koenigsberg’s personal affiliations and problems. The documents prove that he had fulsome knowledge in 2004 about Justice Koenigsberg’s situation involving Mr. Prytulak and all that flows from this scandal.
      6. The allegations of fraudulent conveyance against Justice Koenigsberg.
      7. The involvement and conducts of Chief Justice Brenner as it relates to the Kurtz v. Koenigsberg et al matter
      8. Any and all other matters that will no doubt arise when you request an inquiry by the Canadian Judicial Council, including but not limited to her handling of certain other high-profile cases. That is, was there any pattern in the cases she was assigned to handle, and/or any pattern in the decisions she made, which may bring into question the integrity of the justice system?

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      glen p robbins

      Oct 1, 2010 at 2:00pm

      To Libby Davies - I am not sure Ms. Davies added anything, except under this criticsim - Oppal cannot make even one mistake-or omit anything relevant. That is too much pressure, because he walks in with alot of "I told you so's" ready to pounce, notwithstanding the look of it wouldn't pass muster with a political high school class in the United States. Say what you will about the Yanks - the media would put so much pressure on Oppal in the same situation - he would never accept it. BC politics is run like some kids athletic league - often pretty bush league.

      Charlie, respectfully, why is Victor Wong's opinion relevant - he is obviously Chinese - and his political role is as an advocate for the Chinese head tax. Were there lots of Chinese women murdered at the Pig Farm?

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      Chris Budgell

      Oct 1, 2010 at 9:13pm

      I live near the Vancouver Courthouse and am there frequently doing research. Since the end of his political career at the hands of the sole successful independent candidate for MLA, Mr. Oppal has been haunting the courthouse precinct like a ghost. And we have heard before how he has been waiting by the phone for the call - at one point apparently as a candidate to replace Hugh Stansfield as Chief Justice of the Provincial Court. How long was Wally Oppal on the Court of Appeal before he decided the Legislature and Cabinet would be more his style? Appointments to the bench are supposed to be for life. Was one pension not enough for him?

      His latest gig of course won't be rescinded, but it will help to ensure that Gordon Campbell and his cabal do not survive the next election.

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      carla kennedy

      Nov 4, 2010 at 2:41pm

      I don't think an inquiry is necessary either. I think it obvious that the culprit is societal predjudice and general lack of care and interest in people considered to be using drugs and or prostituting. Nobody wants to see them or try to deal with them really or care. In public works with regular exposure to these people a common protective distance is often built where it is believed they can have little effect in helping to produce real change for these people. So they would rather turn away and not make the seemingly useless effort. I think that is what happend. Police and others who could have looked into it earlier just turned away as do most people walking down the street, as they walk by a little faster. It isn't just the police and the Attorney General's office, it is all of us who are culpable.

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