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B.C. Missing Women Commission Appoints Four Lawyers to Enable Participation in Hearings

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The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has found money in its own budget to pay two of four attorneys to represent the interests of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side community and aboriginal women at hearings scheduled to begin on October 11. Two others will work pro bono.

To do so it “reallocated resources and benefitted from cost savings in its investigations, which did not take as much time as previously anticipated,” the commission said in its August 10 statement announcing the appointment of attorneys Jason Gratl and Robyn Gervais.

Gratl is a former president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Gervais previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council at the Commission. They are joined by Bryan Baynham and Darrell Roberts, who will work pro bono as Gervais’s support staff, the commission said.

The appointments come in the wake of turmoil in which six groups of 13 granted standing before the commission withdrew because the British Columbia government refused to help defray the legal expense of participating in the hearings.

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Rather than representing specific clients, the four attorneys will work independently of the commission, the statement said, taking guidance from unfunded participant groups and the organizations and individuals affected.

The hope is that the four lawyers’ input “will contribute significantly to the commission’s ability to conduct a relevant inquiry leading to findings and recommendations that will make a real difference to the people of British Columbia and Canada,” commission spokesperson Chris Freimond said in the statement. “The commission has worked hard to prepare for the hearings and believes that when they begin on October 11, it will become clear that the resources and structure are in place to deal thoroughly with the important issues in a way that satisfies British Columbians.”

All four will be able to examine evidence in an adversarial role at the hearings if necessary, Freimond said.