British Columbia’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, looking at suspected multiple murders, has four new lawyers on board to help special interest groups, after First Nations and women’s groups threatened to drop out of participating when government refused to fund legal assistance.
B.C. lawyers Jason Gratl, a past president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and Robyn Gervais, who previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council at the B.C. inquiry into missing women have been appointed to represent specific interest groups such as First Nations and those on Vancouver’s downtown eastside.
In addition, two other lawyers will work pro bono. They are Bryan Baynham and Darrell Roberts. The four lawyers will work independently of the commission and attempt to present the interests of specific groups, without serving any individual client.
Commission spokesperson, Chris Freimond, said commissioner Wally Oppal and his staff are confident the participation of the four additional lawyers will contribute significantly to the Commission’s ability to conduct a relevant inquiry leading to findings and recommendations that will make a real difference to the people of British Columbia and Canada. “The commission has worked hard to prepare for the hearings and believes that when they begin on October 11, it will become clear that the resources and structure are in place to deal thoroughly with the important issues in a way that satisfies British Columbians,” said Freimond.
Starting Sept. 12, the inquiry will hold forums in nine communities between Prince George and Prince Rupert along the northern highway now known as The Highway of Tears where many women have disappeared or been found murdered.
The commission will also be looking into the decision by the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch on Jan. 27, 1998 to stop legal proceedings against Robert William Pickton on charges of attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement, and aggravated assault.