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.