For Lilliane Beaudoin, Monday was only the latest stop in the never-ending nightmare around the death of her younger sister, Dianne Rock, that began with a call from police in British Columbia in 2002. When the phone rang at her home in the Niagara region community of Welland in southern Ontario, an officer told her that her sister had been murdered, her DNA found on the farm of Robert Pickton.
“I went crazy,” Ms. Beaudoin said, her eyes wet and her voice thick with emotion on Monday. “That was very difficult to take.” The family did not even know that Ms. Rock, who had fallen on hard times and was living in the Downtown Eastside, was missing.
On Monday, Ms. Beaudoin was at the release of the final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry – the latest of the harrowing events she has attended, including the trial of Mr. Pickton, who was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison. Charges in the death of Ms. Rock, among 21 others, were stayed.
Commissioner Wally Oppal came in for sustained verbal abuse during an hour-long session that was part news conference, part rambling town-hall meeting. While the media looked on, Mr. Oppal talked about his work and conclusions, generating occasional ferocious heckling from family members and activists in a downtown conference centre space operated by Simon Fraser University.
But Ms. Beaudoin said she was somewhat supportive of the embattled former attorney-general, saluting his tough talk about police errors.
“That is what we did want to hear,” she said. “We’re, right now, impressed with what Wally had to say. He seems sincere in what he’s saying. We’re going to stand back now and see if any of his recommendations are implemented.”
Still, Ms. Beaudoin and others were exasperated with elements of the report process, noting that the victims’ relatives were not able to make much of a contribution except to offer what she called “family stories.”
“We want an inquiry into this inquiry,” she said. “We have to be heard one more time.”
She said nothing from the report jumped out at her. “Right now, the families have not had even the longest time to glance over [the report].” The document ran 1,448 pages. Even the executive summary was about 150 pages. Despite having four hours behind closed doors before Mr. Oppal’s news conference, it was a challenge to get through, some said.
“We were trying to get through each of the books to see what we felt was pertinent, and we wanted to read right now.”
The DNA of Ernie Crey’s sister, Dawn, was also found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam east of Vancouver. Mr. Crey, a one-time skeptic about the process, was upbeat about the report on Monday.
“This was a day that exceeded my expectations. The report exceeded my expectations along with its recommendations,” he said.
Still, Mr. Crey acknowledged sadness at the gathering. “I haven’t forgotten what underlies it all, which is the tragic loss of so many lives.”
He recalled the atmosphere in the reading room.
“Some families were very moved by the things they were reading. They were very touched. There were tears in the room. But the first thing that occurred to everyone as we received the report is: ‘Wow, 1,500 pages.’”
He said he was taking the report home to read over time to figure out how to tailor his activism to help make it all stick.
“I’ll always be there asking the government not to forget what the recommendations were all about and the promises they made,” he said. “It will give me an opportunity to give some honour to my sister who is no longer here.”
He said he expected the families that have stuck together so far would largely continue to do so.
Even from Ontario, Ms. Beaudoin said she has no choice. Her journey propelled by Mr. Pickton’s actions will not end, she said, until authorities reopen the remaining 21 charges –including those involving her sister. Until then? “It’s not over.”