Wally Oppal doesn't deserve criticism for a chance encounter with a Hells Angels member

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      There is lots of fodder for criticizing the missing-women inquiry headed by former attorney general Wally Oppal.

      The decision to appoint someone who formerly oversaw the criminal-justice system reeked from the start, no matter how highly Oppal might be regarded.

      The fact that Oppal was a failed B.C. Liberal candidate—having lost in Delta South to Vicki Huntington in 2009—only added to the scent.

      The inquiry's terms of reference from the B.C. Liberal government were also problematic. By only focusing on policing in the period from 1997 to 2002, Oppal's mandate prevented him from looking into the role that Canada's sex laws are having on the safety of prostitutes.

      The terms of reference also meant that the commission couldn't call Oppal's former boss, ex-premier Gordon Campbell, as a witness. That's because Campbell's term as chair of the Vancouver police board expired when he left city politics in 1993.

      In recent years, the B.C. Liberal government's welfare policies have placed greater strain on single mothers, who are now deemed employable when their children turn three. The federal government "harmonizes" B.C.'s social-assistance policies on First Nations reserves. The inquiry had no mandate to look at what impact welfare rates might be having on aboriginal single mothers leaving reserves, moving to Vancouver, and working in the sex trade.

      Then there were Oppal's own reservations about an inquiry, which he articulated on CBC Radio nearly two months before he was appointed to the job.

      He said that inquiries get expensive when "you've got 25 lawyers in the room". He added that "inquiries can go on forever".

      These were prescient comments in light of Oppal's request for an extension for the missing-women probe.

      Many groups, including Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, boycotted the inquiry because the B.C. government wouldn't cover their legal fees.

      On top of all this were the anonymous claims that male staff at the inquiry created a highly sexualized workplace. This led to an independent investigation.

      This weekend, there was another negative story. The National Post gave a great deal of play to a report that Oppal had spoken to a Hells Angels member when they recently ran into each other at a concert in Vancouver.

      Oppal explained today on CKNW Radio that the man approached him—and as soon as he said he was a member of the gang, the former attorney general ended the discussion. There's not much Oppal can do about someone walking up to him and starting a conversation.

      In comparison to the other problems plaguing the missing-women inquiry, this chance meeting with a member of the Hells Angels is utterly insigificant.

      But like Oppal's decision to appear in a film directed by horror-movie maker Uwe Boll, this little story involving a Hells Angel hasn't added to the overall dignity of the missing-women inquiry. Nor has it reinforced public confidence in what Oppal might end up recommending in his final report.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.



      John Smith

      Jun 9, 2012 at 10:28pm

      the chance meeting was not by chance at least on one part, perhaps two. who do they think they are kidding?

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      Jun 10, 2012 at 12:31pm

      Come on Chuck...

      Oppal has always been little more than a fixer.

      Remember the first time he did this schtick?

      Harcourt! When the cops were killing people with choke holds (as opposed to guns and tasers), Harcourt appointed Oppal to oversee a policing inquiry to whitewash the whole thing. It seems like only yesterday that Oppal was on BCTV at the Justice Institute showing everyone just how SAFE a properly administered choke hold was and making sure everyone KNEW how his expensive little investigation into policing would turn out.

      Also Chuck you forgot to point out that ONLY folks in the Media are obliged to protect the HA...we the public already KNOW that Piggy's Palace was basically a HA clubhouse and the cops, media and government have not only gone out of their way to cover it up, but have shown virtually no interest in pursuing the matter. In fact, the big cop strategy on organized crime is to have members of the public snitch on them? Lots of luck on that responsible bit of policing when organized crime have so much power they can erase themselves from the narrative involving a mass grave bigger than some of the one's uncovered in Bosnia....or have some guy write nonsense in order to adjust the optics, so people don't get the wrong idea about Oppal and mobsters.

      Try to remember Mr. Smith you do live in a place where a couple of RCMP detectives and a vacationing Palm Springs judge deposed a duly elected leader in the space of 24 hours. If the public wants to think it wasn't a chance meeting, they are well within their rights to that opinion.

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      Mark Fornataro

      Jun 10, 2012 at 1:51pm

      Re: 'There is lots of fodder for criticizing the missing-women inquiry headed by former attorney general Wally Oppal.' Yes, more than enough. So much so that Adrian Dix ought to send a signal to the likes of the family and friends of the missing women- and Cameron Ward who legal represented many of them- that it won't be over when Oppal hands in his report. Dix should vow to re-open the investigation under someone other than Oppal- as an adjunct to testimony heard by Oppal, allowing more evidence to be heard.

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      Mark Fornataro

      Jun 10, 2012 at 8:07pm

      Just read the NP piece. An eye-brow raising section is "rumours surfaced...Mr. Oppal had been captured on camera in the company of a full-patch Hells Angel member. Mr. Oppal was purportedly seen embracing the person."

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      Jun 12, 2012 at 8:11am

      Opal seems like a straight above board that is not a scammer.

      He does let himself get used much like a party faithful Guy he tends to toe the party line.

      Worse he takes on these types of roles where I believe he means well but the Lieberals scambells use him whether he knows it or not to limit their exposure.

      The whole hearing has turned into a circus hopefully for the sake of the families and women there is some measure of justice via a decent report at the end of this.

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