B.C. Says Dismiss “Children of alleged Pickton victims lawsuit” against Crown prosecutors

Dismiss Pickton lawsuit against Crown prosecutors, says B.C. Pickton victims’ families allege Crown failed to warn women

CBC Report Jul 5, 2013

missing-women-poster-8col

Serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder, but is suspected of killing dozen of women who went missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. (Vancouver Police Department)

The B.C. government says it can’t be sued over the Crown prosecutor’s decision to stay attempted murder charges against Robert Pickton in 1998 — four years before the remains of dozens of women were found on the serial killer’s farm.

The families of four women whose remains or DNA were found on Pickton’s property filed a lawsuit in May targeting the provincial and federal governments, the City of Vancouver, Pickton’s siblings and Pickton himself.

The provincial government has filed an application in B.C.Supreme Court asking that the allegations targeting B.C.’s criminal justice branch be removed from the statements of claim.

The lawsuits allege, among other things, that prosecutors were negligent when they decided not to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder in early 1998. The lawsuits also claim the Crown should have warned sex workers in Vancouver about Pickton in light of the attempted murder charge.

But the B.C. government’s notices of application say Crown lawyers are immune from most claims of negligence, unless there is clear evidence of “deliberate and malicious” conduct.

“The notice of civil claim in this case includes no pleading of malice on the part of the Crown counsel involved,” says one of four notices filed with the court last week.

“This is clearly not a claim of malicious prosecution. It is therefore plain and obvious that it has no reasonable chance of success.”

The notices also argue Crown prosecutors don’t have a duty to warn the public.

Attempted murder charges stayed

In March 1997, Pickton and a sex worker became entangled in a violent confrontation at his property in Port Coquitlam, B.C., leaving the woman with injuries so severe she died on the operating table before she was revived.

The sex worker, whose name remains covered by a publication ban, had a set of handcuffs locked on one of her wrists — the key to which was later found in Pickton’s pocket.

Days before Pickton was set to stand trial, a Crown prosecutor decided not to go ahead. Crown counsel Randi Connor told a public inquiry last year that she believed the sex worker’s drug use meant she wasn’t in a condition to testify.

Between January 1998, when the charges against Pickton were stayed, and his arrest in February 2002, 19 women disappeared and were later connected to Pickton’s farm.

Also after Pickton’s arrest in 2002, forensic investigators found the DNA of three missing women on evidence they seized from the 1997 attack, including clothing and a condom package.

Families allege police botch up

The lawsuits involve the daughters and sons of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen.
The statements of claim allege the Vancouver police and the RCMP botched their respective investigations into missing sex workers from the Downtown Eastside and failed to warn women in the neighbourhood that a serial killer was likely at work.

Boen’s and Feliks’ children also allege they were harmed by the insensitive manner in which they were informed of their mothers’ deaths.

Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

When Pickton lost his appeals for those convictions, charges related to the murders of 20 other women, including Rock, de Vries and Feliks, were stayed by the Crown. Boen is among six women whose remains or DNA were found on the Pickton property, but for which no charges were ever laid.

The statements of claim contain allegations that haven’t been tested in court.

None of the defendants have filed statements of defence, and the province’s recent notice of application makes no mention of any of the other allegations in the families’ lawsuits. Source

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Education not enough to fix Native disparities

December 11, 2008
By Carlito Pablo

Anyone who has paid attention to the plight of Native people knows that their average educational levels are low compared to other social groups. The lack of schooling is often cited as one reason why many Natives are poor.Closing the educational gap between aboriginal and nonaboriginal peoples is often cited as a key step in bridging the income disparity
between them.

However, a working paper by two professors who are also brothers—one in Vancouver and the other in Ottawa—offers a sobering conclusion that this equation doesn’t seem to fit nicely.

In “Aboriginal Income Disparity in Canada”, SFU economics professor Krishna Pendakur and University of Ottawa assistant professor of public and international affairs Ravi Pendakur observe that even Native persons “who attain high levels of education still face substantial earnings disparity”.

“We find little evidence of high returns to education for Aboriginal people in any of our groups,” the Pendakurs write in the still-unpublished academic work. “Although Aboriginal incomes do rise with increased education, this finding suggests that even those Aboriginal people with high levels of education face considerable economic disparity.”

In a phone interview, SFU’s Pendakur argued that this finding has potentially significant policy implications.

“You might have thought that they [aboriginal people] were just part of the kind of bottom end or unlucky end of Canadian ethnic diversity,” Pendakur told the Georgia Straight. “But, in fact, they’re so far below the bottom end of nonaboriginal disparity that you kind of start worrying about aboriginal people, and it’s not worth worrying about anybody else. All policy approaches to inequality and poverty have to face aboriginal issues head-on.”

In a 2007 article that the Pendakurs cited in their working paper, the professors established that Canadian-born blacks and South Asians fare poorly in terms of income compared to other persons of similar education, age, and city of residence.

Canadian-born South Asian and black men earn 16 percent less than others, except Natives, while South Asian and black women face an income disparity of six percent and 12 percent, respectively.

In their new paper, the Pendakurs note that aboriginal people actually fare worse that South Asians and blacks.

For one thing, Native persons registered under the Indian Act earn 20 percent to 50 percent less than the rest of the population. Aboriginal persons who do not register under the Indian Act but self-identify as Métis, Inuit, or a member of a First Nation earn, on average, 10 to 40 percent less.

Those who neither register nor self-identify but who acknowledge aboriginal ancestry are the “least disadvantaged”, but they face an earning disparity of 10 percent to 20 percent, which is no better than South Asians and blacks.

“From a comparison of these findings, it appears that a little ‘Aboriginality’ is associated with very poor labour market outcomes,” the Pendakurs note in their paper.

They also warn that with Natives comprising the fastest-growing but poorest ethnic group in Canada, the disenfranchisement of aboriginal people “faces considerable risk of growing over time”.

Amidst all this, the educational prospects of aboriginal people continue to worsen.

Two months ago, the C. D. Howe Institute, a Toronto-based think tank, released a paper about the growing education gap between aboriginal and nonaboriginal peoples, as reflected in the 2006 census.

Author John Richards, a professor in SFU’s graduate public-policy program, writes in Closing the Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal Education Gaps that although high-school graduation is almost universal among non-Native groups, 40 percent of young Natives aged 20 to 24 lack high-school certification. Among Natives aged 25 to 44, some 32 percent have not finished high school.

In his paper, Richards recalls that in November 2005, then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin concluded the Kelowna Accord with provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders. The succeeding Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to ignore this pact. One of the agreement’s stated goals was to close the aboriginal and nonaboriginal high-school completion gap in a decade.

However, Richards notes that based on the current record of Canada in kindergarten to Grade 12 school performance, the Kelowna Accord’s educational goal is a “chimera”.

Ken Clement was elected as a new member of the Vancouver school board in last month’s civic election, and he feels an added weight of responsibility resting on his shoulders.

As a trustee, Clement is expected to help ensure that the school district’s resources are managed well for all students and other stakeholders in the city. But there’s more. As a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation, Clement is also the first Native politician to be elected in Vancouver. As such, there is much expectation that he will provide a voice for Native people amid the widening educational gap between them and the non-Native population.

“We need to strengthen the aboriginal involvement in the school system,” Clement told the Straight as he prepared for the new school board’s inaugural meeting on December 8.

Source

Attorney General stays sewage prosecution, Chapman v. BC

Attorney General stays sewage prosecution, Chapman v. BC, GVRD & GVSDD

December 8th, 2008

Fraser Riverkeeper Doug Chapman

On November 18, 2008, the Attorney General of Canada ordered a “stay” in the private prosecution investigated by Doug Chapman, now the Fraser Riverkeeper, who worked with the Georgia Strait Alliance, the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (CAW).

The prosecution, Ecojustice, argued the city of Vancouver and the BC government violated the Canadian Fisheries Act by allowing the release of barely treated sewage into the Georgia Strait from the Iona Sewage Treatment Plant.

Almost a billion juvenile salmon have to pass through this area annually.  In 2005, testing revealed chemicals released from Iona included heavy concentrations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Ammonia, Mercury, Zinc, Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead and Copper – all of which are toxic to fish.

The Attorney General (AG) brought the private prosecution to an end in mid-November after a two-year battle in the courts. In Canadian law people have the right to initiate a private prosecution when an individual or group gathers evidence of a wrongdoing. They lay charges with approval from a Provincial Court Judge. However, the federal Attorney General’s Office retains the right to:

  • Intervene and “stay” the case (an indefinite suspension only the AG can restart); or
  • Intervene and conduct the following: call witnesses, examine and cross-examine, present evidence, and make submissions

“I am disgusted that the federal government has ended this prosecution,” Chapman told local media. “What’s the point of the law? Polluters get off scot-free.”

Doug Chapman is one of Canada’s most experienced environmental prosecutors, with numerous high-profile convictions in Ontario, including the first ever jail-sentence for an environmental criminal.

How the case came to such strange end is the subject of this week’s Living at the Barricades.

Source