Pickton Public Inquiry: Legal Funding Dispute Draws Independent Lawyers

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A tear runs down the face of Reta Blind, left, of the Cree First Nation, as she comforts Vancouver city councillor Ellen Woodsworth who broke down after speaking during the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry public forum in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday January 19, 2011. The inquiry is looking into the conduct of police investigations of women reported missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the decision by the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch on January 27, 1998 to stop legal proceedings ag | CP

VANCOUVER - The public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case has appointed two independent lawyers to represent the interests of aboriginal women and residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The appointments come as a growing list of advocacy groups that were granted participant status at the inquiry vow to boycott the hearings because they were denied provincial government funding.

The lawyers won't represent any specific client, but a news release says they will take direction from the groups that have been granted participant status.

The lawyers are former B.C. Civil Liberties Association president Jason Gratl, and Robyn Gervais, who has previously represented the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.

Commissioner Wally Oppal recommended 13 participants receive public funding to pay for lawyers at the inquiry, but the provincial government only approved funding for the victims of Pickton's families.

Some of the groups that were denied funding have already said they won't use the independent lawyers because they feel the lawyers won't be able to properly represent their interests.

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