Pickton inquiry: street nurse Bonnie Fournier wins fight to testify on missing women

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  • Former Vancouver mayor Phillip Owen from 1993-2002, the period in which Pickton did most of his killing.
  • Former BC premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who was Attorney General during the period of the missing women investigation.
  • Mark Wolthers and Doug Fell, two Vancouver Police Department detectives who were early believers that a serial killer was at work in the Downtown Eastside, despite many other police officers' alleged dismissal of that theory. The Vancouver Police Department, however, alleged the two detectives did not work well on the investigation, engaged in sexist and racist behaviour, and refused to follow orders.
  • "Jane Smith," a sex worker who says Robert Pickton attempted to take her to his farm, and admitted to being behind the missing women. He threatened to kill her, she says, but she got away.

But along with Oppal's acceptance of these witnesses, his directive also rejected others which had been requested:

  • Bev Hyacinth, a civilian employee at Port Coquitlam's RCMP detachment. According to the request from families' lawyers, Hyacinth claims she saw Robert Pickton with Dawn Crey -- a missing woman whose remains were found on the pig farmer's land -- at the brothers' nightclub, Piggy's Palace, on New Years Eve 1999. Just before Pickton's arrest – on coincidental gun warrant charges – Hyacinth met with police on Feb. 1, 2002 and told them her own son had discovered bloody clothing in Pickton's truck. When she told police that Pickton had become aware of their months-long surveillance on him during their investigation, police officer Mike Connor allegedly failed to include the information in his report of the investigation.
  • Lynn Ellingsen, a friend of Pickton who told his trial that she saw him skinning a sex worker they had brought to his farm from the Downtown Eastside.
  • Catherine Galliford, the RCMP officer in charge of public relations during the Pickton investigation, and who has alleged she was sexually harassed on the police force.
  • Peter Ritchie, Robert Pickton's lawyer, who Pickton victims' families had hoped would provide information about why the Crown dropped his client's attempted murder charges in 1997. After the inquiry was told last week that the Crown in fact destroyed its files relating to that case, lawyers for the families hoped Ritchie would still have them to shed light on that mysterious decision.

Despite being included on the list submitted by the Pickton victim families, Robert Pickton's brother Dave was not mentioned in the new directive.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Vancouver Observer, Fournier said she had many experiences with police and sex workers alike during her more-than 30 years working on the streets and the courthouse jail.

Her experience of the police were mixed. But the Vancouver Police Department's DTES liaison, Dave Dickson, stood out as a positive example. Dickson is among those who have testifies in the inquiry already.

"They didn't pay attention to any of us who reported these women missing," Fournier told the Vancouver Observer. "When we published the bad date sheets, only Dave Dickson listened.

"At (WISH sex worker drop-in centre's) beauty night, Dave would show up just to say hi – men at WISH had to have permission from the girls. Sometimes he taught self-defence."

The Downtown Eastside community was outraged when the VPD pulled Dickson from that role.

"In around 1999, there was a notice that Dave Dickson was being moved from the Downtown Eastside, his patrol area," she said. "Somebody else would be put on rotation (there).

"There was a lot of upset in the area, and a petition went around. We all signed the petition."

But Fournier also was often angry at police officers who "pushed their weight around" in the neighbourhood, ticketing people for jaywalking and once even destroying a drug-addict's clean needles ("rigs").

In that incident, which Fournier recalled happened on Hastings Street just outside her van, police were going through a man's pockets. When she noticed the officers were not wearing protective rubber gloves, she offered a pair.

"One cop said, 'Get back in there and mind your own business,'" Fournier said. "Well, I put the gloves back.

"Then (the officers) just stomped on all of his rigs. Sure enough, there they were, smashed rigs and needles on the sidewalk.

"I'm down there picking up broken rigs and paraphernalia off the ground, putting them in the bucket. The police officer says, 'What do you think you are doing? You are tampering with what could be evidence.' (I said), 'You tampered with it pretty good with your boot.'"

Fournier said she hopes to talk of both the good and the bad in her testimony.

"The number of police officers I have bad things to say about are not a big bunch," she said. "Most will not bust someone for a jaywalking ticket or arresting someone for a rig in their arms.

"But some of the boys were walking the stroll throwing their weight around. You can't have that kind of person down there. It doesn't bring security."

A lawyer for more than 20 families whose loved ones were found on Pickton's farm said they are pleased to finally know the status of their witness list submitted Dec. 23, 2011.

"We're glad to have a final ruling on our application for witnesses, but the families are dismayed this decision has been made under the pressure of time," said lawyer Neil Chantler. "We won't hear from many important witnesses."

He added that the ambiguous language of Oppal's directive could mean that instead of testifying, they may only provide written affidavits. That, he said, could deny lawyers from all sides the chance to cross-examine the witnesses.

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