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Groups call for removal of Peel police in missing women's inquiry

Several B.C. groups are calling for the removal of Toronto-area Peel Regional police involved in the Missing Women's Commission of Inquiry, saying their involvement will compromise the independent nature of the inquiry.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Union and Pivot Legal Society wrote in a statement that "to bring the Peel police officers on board as advisers puts in question the commission's independence and impartiality."

"The Dziekanski and Frank Paul commissions in B.C. have already held that police should not be investigating police," said Robert Holmes, Q.C. and president of the BCCLA.

Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nations called it a direct conflict of interest in a letter to the missing women's commissioner, Wally Oppal.

Nooski writes, "I understand that you have been alerted to this direct conflict of interest and have refused to act by removing police from the document review process."

Chris Freimond, media relations for the missing women's commission, said the Peel officers volunteered their expertise and that they will not be paid or reimbursed for their involvement, except for airfare. "Their role will be to review the police investigation procedures in the Pickton case and then present evidence as expert witnesses," he said.

The Peel officers now involved in the case are Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans and Acting Staff Sgts. Heather Ramore and James Wingate, who will be assisting Evans.

"They're not there as advisors to the commission, they're not doing the commission's work, they're doing the work of expert witnesses," Freimond said.

When asked why the Ontario officers became involved in the B.C. case, Freimond responded, "The commission's terms of reference really interested [Deputy Evans]. She has expertise in that area as a homicide investigator and as the inspector in charge of the Peel homicide unit."

Carrie Swiggum is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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