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B.C. privacy laws slow efforts to find, compensate children of missing women

A woman places roses on photos of murdered or missing women after the Missing Women Coalition met with government officials, Nov. 25, 2013.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Government privacy regulations are hampering efforts to locate and pay the last few people who remain eligible for $50,000 under a process to compensate the children of missing and murdered women in British Columbia.

The compensation package was announced in March, 2014, for the children of 67 women identified in a public inquiry that examined the failed investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton. Nearly half of those women were linked to Mr. Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Since the settlement was announced, 90 of 98 people who were found eligible have received payments. They include 13 children who had filed a court case before the compensation package was announced and who settled when the payment become available, and another 77 who have since received a settlement or are in the process.

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But another eight people have yet to be found, in part because at least some of them have been adopted – a development that restricts how much information B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) can turn over to the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for administering the funds.

"Whenever an individual has been adopted, there is limited information we can share," an MCFD spokesman said in an e-mail.

"However, we continue to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and to explore options for connecting all remaining eligible individuals with the compensation to which they are entitled."

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton are aware of the bottleneck.

"The ministers … are aware of the legislative challenge and the two ministries are working together to reach a solution," the spokesman said.

"Privacy is a crucial consideration in circumstances like this, but the bottom line is that we continue to work with our Justice partners because we all believe that, if a court process deems money is owed to people, we must do everything possible to honour that court decision," he added.

B.C. announced a $4.9-million compensation fund for 98 children nearly two years ago. All living, biological children of the 67 missing and murdered women identified in B.C.'s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry are eligible for a $50,000 payment.

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"These children are entitled to this money," Neil Chantler, a lawyer who represented 13 children in civil suits for compensation, said Friday in an e-mail, adding that the children's mothers went missing because different arms of government did not share information.

"Of course there are also legitimate concerns about privacy," Mr. Chantler said.

"But those concerns should be tempered here with the reality that these children are entitled to compensation and they should be found."

B.C.'s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry looked into the deaths and disappearances of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the crown's decision to stay charges against Mr. Pickton for the 1997 assault of a sex trade worker.

Mr. Pickton was arrested in 2002 on a weapons charge. Other charges followed. In 2007, he was found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder. Another 20 charges were stayed in 2010.

In total, the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Mr. Pickton's farm.

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The Commission was established in 2010 and issued its final report in 2012. It included 63 recommendations, ranging from improved missing-person practices to a regional police force for Greater Vancouver.

In a "final status report" in December, 2014, the province said work was under way or complete on 75 per cent of the recommendations and that work continues in programs such as the provincial domestic violence, human trafficking and community safety plans.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More


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