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Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver this morning.

It’s been 16 years since Robert William Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women. He received the maximum life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The sentence brought to a close one of the most notorious murder trials in Canadian history – court heard Pickton told a cellmate there were 49 killed.

But the close of the case was deeply unsatisfactory to the families of some of the 20 other women whose remains were found on Pickton’s farm. Charges against him in those cases were stayed: Pickton was already serving as lengthy a prison sentence as Canadian law allows and convictions on the extra counts wouldn’t have meant further jail time.

Now, the RCMP have applied to a judge to destroy thousands of pieces of evidence linked to the country’s largest serial killer investigation. As Mike Hager reported this week, family members and justice advocates are strongly opposed to the move.

That includes Lorelei Williams, whose cousin Tanya Holyk was among the 20. She said police never informed her family of the effort to dispose of some of the evidence.

“There’s already no justice in Tania’s case because it’s a stayed case – I don’t understand why he and others can’t be charged in her case,” said Williams, who is a member of the Skatin and Sts’ailes First Nations.

She was 16 when her cousin disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 1996 and was missing until her DNA was found on the Port Coquitlam farm.

The non-profit group Justice for Girls, along with more than 40 other organizations, academics and Indigenous groups, has endorsed a letter sent this week to the federal Public Safety Minister, B.C.’s government and RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme, asking them to “take immediate steps to preserve Pickton evidence.”

The letter also calls for changes to the law governing evidence disposition, particularly in unsolved cases involving Indigenous and marginalized women and girls and more accountability for the RCMP.

“Disposal of the exhibits will quash any remaining hope they have and solidify their perception that their daughters, mothers, sisters and aunties are less important than the space required to keep that evidence,” it says.

JFG said it is aware of five similar applications to dispose of exhibits related to the Pickton case that have been granted since 2020, but they didn’t know how many exhibits have already been dispersed or destroyed.

British Columbia RCMP spokesperson Staff Sergeant Kris Clark said in a statement that all the evidence is being preserved until a judge rules on its evidentiary value.

“To put it simply, the RCMP is not authorized to retain property indefinitely and is making application to the court for disposition of that property,” the statement says.

But family members say there has never been adequate answers to questions about whether Pickton acted alone.

In 2010, when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Pickton’s life sentence, the court noted in its decision that Pickton’s statements to police “implied the involvement of others but not to the exclusion of the accused.”

Still, Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney-general whose 2012 Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry focused primarily on the botched police investigations of Pickton, said there has been no credible evidence of anyone else being involved in the killings.

The exhibits are “just sitting there and we’re not in a position to do anything with it, so we have to dispose of it,” he said.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief Mark Iype. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.

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