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Riot 'review' falls short of formal inquiry

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark tour Granville St. in Vancouver on Thursday June 16, 2011.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

An independent investigation into the Stanley Cup riots will not be a blame game, B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond vowed Monday.

Instead, the quick, concise review, to be funded by the province, will be intent on making recommendations to help ensure future celebrations take place safely and responsibly, Ms. Bond said. "I'm interested in finding the facts. … It's not about assigning blame."

Still, scrutiny will include whether lessons from the 1994 Stanley Cup riots were sufficiently taken into account by police ahead of this year's Game 7 celebrations. Bob Whitehall, who co-authored a report on the eerily similar street rampages of 17 years ago, has criticized police for not following his report's recommendations.

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"You're seeing a review, because we do think it is important to look back and ask whether or not there was attention paid to recommendations," Ms. Bond told reporters in Victoria.

The review will look at the role alcohol played in the riots, and how plans by police and the city were implemented leading up to and during the looting, burning and assaults that erupted after the Canucks' 4-0 loss Wednesday night.

No one has been named to head the review, nor is there yet a budget, but all parties involved - the province, the city and the Vancouver Police Board - want a report completed by the end of August, ahead of November's Grey Cup street festivities in Vancouver.

The riot review will be well short of a formal inquiry, relying not on subpoenaed witnesses but on thorough, candid discussions with representatives from the Vancouver Police Department and City of Vancouver, according to Ms. Bond.

"Certainly, I think there is a level of accountability that is being demanded," she said.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was pleased all three parties have co-operated to set up an independent review.

"It won't be a statutory process. It's all about fact-finding," he said. "It's designed to ask the tough questions and bring forward answers for the future."

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At the same time, mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton of the opposition Non-Partisan Association accused Mr. Robertson of a lack of leadership by failing to take responsibility for the riots.

"He needs to say: 'This was a city event, and I take responsibility.' Was Georgia Street the right venue? Was adding another live site the right decision? Were police consulted? These are things that need to be asked," Ms. Anton said, suggesting it could be an issue during the coming municipal elections.

"We'll see how this plays out, but at the moment, I'm not at all impressed. I don't think he's shown good leadership, beyond downtown sort of pleasantries and, 'We'll get those bad guys.' "

The mayor shrugged off Ms. Anton's accusations.

"I've made this [the riots]my number one focus. I absolutely take responsibility as mayor, along with city council and the VPD," he said. "We all share responsibility for what happened, including myself. What we need to do is determine what didn't work, and why."

Mr. Robertson said he didn't mind the questions posed by Ms. Anton "if they could be asked without partisan cheap shots. Until the last [game] everything [about the live sites]had been incredibly positive.

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"Turning this into a vehicle for political cheap shots is pathetic, at this point."

He said city manager Penny Ballem worked closely with the VPD on all downtown activity connected with the Canucks' Stanley Cup run. "All requests from the police were honoured."

An Angus Reid poll of B.C. residents, meanwhile, has found that two-thirds of those surveyed believe police handled the situation in a proper manner, and nearly 60 per cent oppose an outright ban on street parties.

The same poll found that 59 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents surveyed support a single police force for the entire Lower Mainland.

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