Full credit to Rich Coleman; it only took a few minutes for the former solicitor general to demonstrate why we need a public inquiry in the Robert Pickton serial killer case.
With Attorney General Mike de Jong on holidays, Coleman was the designated point person for the B.C. government on the issue last week.
But if the spin doctors were hoping to push this story to the back pages, they picked the wrong person to respond to the Vancouver police department's review of the missing women investigation.
Coleman, who appeared not to have read the report, dismissed it as so much "finger-pointing." He also offered the usual assurances that much has changed since Deputy Chief Doug LePard began his research years ago.
The report shows that the deaths of more than a dozen women could have been prevented and Coleman, an ex-Mountie, seemed to be saying: "Move along, folks. Nothing to see here."
Except that there is plenty to see. One person's finger-pointing, after all, is another's scathing look at B.C.'s policing system.
Although Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu says the troubled missing-women investigation "would not happen today," it's obvious from LePard's report that a lot still needs fixing.
Maybe such a tragic case would not happen in Vancouver any time soon, but what about all the barriers that remain between the patchwork of departments on the Lower Mainland and in Greater Victoria?
What if women started going missing from New Westminster and the killer lived in Delta? How long would it take those agencies to spot the similarities, strike a task force, decide who pays and for what and agree to share information?
LePard's report makes it clear that B.C. lags in key areas. We have no provincewide mechanism to get task forces up and running quickly, and investigators use different computer systems at different agencies.
The report concludes that many of the problems that derailed the Pickton investigation would have been moot if the Lower Mainland had a regional police force. LePard urged the government to look at the issue.
It seems that if it were up to Coleman the public would never have seen LePard's report -- let alone considered its recommendations. (This would be in keeping with the government's record. It was offered confidential copies of the report in 2006 and 2009 and chose not to look at it.)
Indeed, Coleman was so intent on dismissing LePard's work that, for the first time, he promised a "transparent review" of the case rather than relying on a report by "one officer in Vancouver."
"The premier has said that last week," he told my colleague Judith Lavoie. "We've always been very open about that."
Neither statement was true. The premier never promised a review and, until publicly faced with LePard's report, the government had shown no inclination of doing anything.
Most telling, however, was Coleman's comment that "we did feel that this report, like others, should be coming into basically a collection for the transparency of it, because each report that gets written doesn't have all the information from another agency."
Twisted syntax aside, it looks as if the government had been hoping to suppress the LePard report, merge it with the RCMP's review, and push out a watered-down "collection" a few months down the road.
To be fair, the RCMP review remains secret, so it might be more useful than expected. But it's hard to get your hopes up after reading the latest issue of the RCMP Gazette.
One of the articles -- Snaring Pickton -- has been pulled from the online edition, likely because it plays fast and loose with the truth. The headline reads: "How the Vancouver Missing Women Task Force Caught Canada's Worst Serial Killer."
Who knew? I could have sworn from court testimony that Pickton was captured by fluke. A rookie constable, with no ties to the task force, went looking for a weapon on the farm in February 2002 and stumbled upon items belonging to two missing women.
"It was the first crack in the case," the article says, ignoring the earlier cracks in 1998, 1999 and in 2000, when Pickton consented to a search of his property and two RCMP officers never took him up on it.
The article, in fact, makes no mention of the Coquitlam RCMP-led investigation that stalled in August 1999 -- allowing Pickton to go on killing for anther 21/2 years.
If this is the kind of revisionist history we can expect from the Mounties, I'd prefer to wait for the results of a public inquiry or judicial review -- assuming the reviewer is truly independent of government.
After all, Coleman and his colleagues have made it "transparent" that they want this whole mess to just go away.
The Pickton Series
This page was posted: October 2010 by BMW: