VANCOUVER — Ninety-eight children of Vancouver’s murdered and missing women, many of them victims of serial killer Robert Pickton, are eligible to split a $4.9-million compensation fund.
The money, offered by the federal and B.C. governments and the City of Vancouver, amounts to $50,000 each for the children of 67 women who disappeared up to 2002, when Pickton was arrested.
“It it our sincere hope that this funding will provide these children with an opportunity to enhance their education, their housing and other circumstances as they progress with their lives,” B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton told a news conference Tuesday.
The fund for the children was one of 63 recommendations made in a report issued in December 2012 from a public inquiry that examined years of police failures that allowed Pickton to prey on women in the Downtown Eastside.
In 2007, Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of six women, but the DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
He was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for 25 years. The B.C. Crown prosecutor’s office then announced that 20 other charges of first-degree murder would be stayed because Pickton already faced the stiffest sentence available under Canadian law.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has repeatedly apologized for his force’s failure to stop Pickton’s killing spree.
On Tuesday, he again apologized and said he will always regret that Pickton wasn’t caught sooner.
“I regret every life that was lost and those murders we failed to prevent,” Chu said.
“I also know that there’s no real compensation when you’ve lost a loved one so tragically. But perhaps it may serve as a reminder, on the record at least, that mistakes were made and that we have made a commitment to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again.”
Lawyer Jason Gratl announced this week that $50,000 settlements were being accepted by 12 of 13 families who were parties in civil lawsuits against the three levels of government.
The lawsuits were launched by the children of women whose remains and DNA were found on Pickton’s farm after he was arrested.
The lawsuit claimed police, including individual RCMP officers, and the Crown failed to warn women on the Downtown Eastside that a serial killer may have been on the loose.
The court action also said the Crown was wrong for not putting Pickton on trial for attempted murder following an attack on a sex worker in 1997.
Anton said the children were eligible to make claims through the Family Compensation Act.
“The $50,000 was arrived at in relation to the lawsuit that is ongoing and in relation to the funding partners and the discussions that have jointly been held. And it’s a fair amount, it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
“No amount of money could compensate the children for the loss of their mother but we do hope that this fund will help the 98 children who are eligible to apply to the fund for $50,000.”