Ninety-eight children will divide $4.9-million in compensation for the loss of their mothers to serial killer Robert Pickton or other predators in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The compensation, from the federal, B.C. and Vancouver governments, was a recommendation made at the public inquiry looking into police failures involving the disappearances of 67 women, mostly Pickton's victims.
Pickton admitted to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women, but the DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his farm. He was convicted of the second-degree murders of six women and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
"It is our sincere hope that this funding will provide these children with an opportunity to enhance their education, their housing and other circumstances as they progress with their lives," B.C. Attorney-General Suzanne Anton told a news conference Tuesday.
Lawyer Jason Gratl represents 13 children who filed civil lawsuits against the three levels of government in connection with their mothers' deaths. Their remains were found on Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., after he was arrested in 2002 – four years after he first became a suspect.
"I have no doubt that our clients' courage in bringing forth these lawsuits forced the government to reckon with their responsibility, ethical and legal, to all of the children of the missing women," Gratl said.
Twelve of the 13 children have accepted the $50,000 offer, he said.
"We're having difficulty locating one of our clients and if the government refuses to recognize the 12 binding agreements because one of our clients is difficult to find within a three-day period, well then that's just sheer bureaucratic intransigence."
Gratl said the settlement gives the children an opportunity to overcome some of the burdens they've had to deal with after losing their mothers to murder.
"Our clients have suffered tremendously by the loss of their mothers – not only not knowing for years and years where their mothers were, what had happened to them, but when they found out the manner in which their mothers' lives had ended they were traumatized."
After Pickton was convicted in 2007, the Crown announced that 20 other charges of first-degree murder would be stayed because he already faced the stiffest sentence available under Canadian law.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has repeatedly apologized for his force's failure to stop Pickton's killing spree.
On Tuesday, he again said he was sorry and said he will always regret that Pickton wasn't caught sooner.
"I regret every life that was lost and those murders we failed to prevent," Chu said.
"I also know that there's no real compensation when you've lost a loved one so tragically. But perhaps it may serve as a reminder, on the record at least, that mistakes were made and that we have made a commitment to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again."
The lawsuits claimed police, including individual RCMP officers, and the Crown failed to warn women on the Downtown Eastside that a serial killer may have been responsible for women disappearing.
The court action also said the Crown was wrong for not putting Pickton on trial for attempted murder following an attack on a sex worker in 1997.
Anton said the children were eligible to make claims through B.C.'s Family Compensation Act.
"No amount of money could compensate the children for the loss of their mother but we do hope that this fund will help the 98 children who are eligible to apply to the fund for $50,000."
The federal government and the RCMP will contribute 40 per cent towards the fund, B.C. will also provide 40 per cent of the money, and the remaining 20 per cent will come from the City of Vancouver.