Pickton victims treated as throwaways

The families of Robert Pickton's victims have received public confirmation of something they already knew to be true: if their daughters, sisters and mothers weren't poor, drug-addicted sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, many of them aboriginal and all living on the margins of society, some of them might still be alive.

If they were a different group of women, living in other, richer parts of town, the police would have done more to find the killer. The public would have been outraged.

Commissioner Wally Oppal comes to that devastating conclusion in his final report from a public inquiry into the case, concluding systemic bias towards Downtown Eastside sex workers was a key factor that allowed Pickton to spend years hunting his victims.

"These women were vulnerable; they were treated as throwaways," Oppal said Monday as he released his findings.

"Would the reaction of the police and the public have been any different if the missing women had come from Vancouver's west side? The answer is obvious."

Instead, the police simply did not do enough, he said. The public was largely indifferent.

Oppal noted that even referring to Pickton's victims as missing women is a misnomer.

"The women didn't go missing," Oppal told a news conference that was interrupted by applause, jeers, drumming and aboriginal singing.

"They aren't just absent. They didn't just go away. They were taken."

Oppal released a 1,448-page report that chronicles years of critical mistakes and poor leadership within the Vancouver police and the RCMP that allowed Pickton to lure dozens of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The report calls for sweeping change to ensure history does not repeat itself.

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