Canada serial killer inquiry finds 'systemic bias' by police

Police made critical errors in pursuing Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton partly because of "systemic bias" against his victims, sex trade workers from a rough Vancouver neighborhood, according to the final report from a public inquiry released on Monday.

Commissioner Wally Oppal was asked by the British Columbia government to investigate, in effect, why Pickton was not caught sooner. Women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside neighborhood for more than a decade before the pig farmer's 2002 arrest.

"The investigations of missing and murdered women were characterized by blatant police failures, and by public indifference," Oppal said at a press conference in Vancouver that was frequently interrupted by protesters.

Pickton was convicted of six murders, but prosecutors believe he killed many more - 20 other charges were stayed after he received the maximum possible sentence.

Oppal outlined a string of police errors, from failing to take proper reports when women went missing and communicate adequately with families, to ineffective coordination across jurisdictions. He called his more than 1,200-page report, which is based on eight months of hearings, "Forsaken".

"After reviewing the evidence of the investigations, I have come to the conclusion that there was systemic bias by the police," he said.

Oppal recommended that the provincial government establish a compensation fund for the children of the victims and consider creating a regional police force for Vancouver, instead of the patchwork of jurisdictions currently in place.

After Oppal's announcement, B.C. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond wiped away tears as she spoke to victims' families.

"I want you to know that, however inadequate these words sound, we are sorry for your loss," she said. "We will work hard to prevent these circumstances from being repeated in our province."

She announced the appointment of a former lieutenant governor, Steven Point, to serve as the report's "champion", guiding implementation. Bond said the government would immediately give new funding to WISH, a drop-in center for women who work in the Downtown Eastside's sex trade.

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