VANCOUVER - The closest thing Marilyn Renter has ever had to a trial for her step-daughter's death is the public inquiry into the failures that allowed a serial killer to target sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Robert Pickton was charged with murdering Cindy Feliks, who vanished in 1997 and whose DNA was found five years later on the former pig farmer's sprawling property in nearby Port Coquitlam, B.C.

But once Pickton was convicted of killing six sex workers and sentenced to life in prison, prosecutors had little appetite for putting him back on trial for 20 additional murder charges involving Feliks and other women whose remains or DNA were found on the farm.

"For a lot of us, there have only been six girls that have actually had justice done to them," Renter said in an interview.

"We haven't had justice for our girls, and if it has to come in this forum, then so be it," she added, referring to the public inquiry.

On Monday, Renter will find out whether her long wait for justice has been answered as Commissioner Wally Oppal releases a 1,448-page report outlining why Pickton wasn't caught sooner and what should be done to prevent similar failures in the future.

For eight months, the inquiry heard from 80 witnesses, including current and former police officers, Crown prosecutors, sex workers, academics and the families of missing women.

Renter told the inquiry that Feliks, a 42-year-old mother who was born in Detroit before moving to the Vancouver area as a child, vanished in November 1997.

She was addicted to drugs — "I think all of them," Renter recalled in the witness box — and supporting her habit with prostitution.

In what became a familiar story, Renter testified that Feliks's younger sister tried, unsuccessfully, to report the disappearance to police in 1997 and again the following year. A formal missing person file wasn't opened until 2001.

Renter blames the delay on police attitudes toward women, sex workers and drug addicts. She hopes Oppal's report can find a way to change that.

"They've got to get rid of a lot of attitude," said Renter, who was living in Calgary when her step-daughter disappeared but moved to Rosedale, B.C., two years ago.

The inquiry was called to examine why Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton before he was arrested in February 2002, despite evidence that surfaced years earlier linking him to the disappearance of Vancouver sex workers.

Oppal was also asked to look into Crown counsel's decision not to prosecute Pickton for attempted murder following a vicious attack on a sex worker in 1997. After that charge was stayed, 19 more women connected to Pickton's farm disappeared.

The inquiry heard that senior officers in Vancouver actively resisted considering the possibility that a serial killer was operating in their city, while RCMP investigators in Port Coquitlam were slow to seriously investigate Pickton.

Oppal said the problems that plagued those investigations must be fixed, because just as Pickton wasn't Canada's first serial killer, he won't be the last.

"Pickton isn't the sole problem — there will be other serial killers," Oppal said in an interview in advance of the report's release.

"Horrible tragedies have taken place here, and we need to learn from those tragedies. We have to come together as a community so that women are better protected."

Bringing the community together, particularly the non-profit groups that work with sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, has perhaps been Oppal's largest challenge.

The provincial government's decision to deny legal funding for advocacy groups that had been granted standing at the inquiry prompted nearly all of them to boycott the process.

Several of those groups held a news conference last month denouncing Oppal's report and the entire inquiry, which they say was too narrowly focused on police and failed to give adequate voice to the vulnerable women it was set up to protect.

Oppal again pleaded for his critics to read his report with an open mind.

"I'm urging those people who have had differences with the inquiry to come forward and co-operate," he said.

"The violence against women and the tragedies that we have experienced in our communities are far more important than the individual differences about the process of the inquiry."

Unlike the advocacy groups, the families of missing and murdered women received government funding to hire lawyers at the inquiry, but they, too, have decried the process as deeply flawed.

One of their lawyers, Neil Chantler, said the inquiry didn't hear enough evidence about systemic problems within the police forces, including allegations of sexism and racism, to determine what really allowed Pickton to remain at large.

"The primary theme we're going to be looking for is some recognition that institutional prejudices were pervasive at the time," said Chantler, who along with lawyer Cameron Ward represented more than two dozen families.

"This commission shied away from those issues during the hearing process and chose to focus on other issues such as technical policing failures rather than the more social, systemic issues that might have been at play."

Vancouver police and the RCMP have each offered apologies, but with disclaimers attached.

Both forces admitted they didn't do enough to catch Pickton, while insisting their officers did the best they could with the information they had.They also spent considerable time blaming each other, with the RCMP accusing Vancouver police of failing to notice a serial killer was at work and the Vancouver police blaming the RCMP in Port Coquitlam for botching the investigation.

Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.

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  • Gale Ann Weys

    Age: 19 Last Seen: Oct. 19, 1973 in Clearwater. Body found April 6, 1974 along Yellowhead Highway. Believed hitchhiking to Kamloops.

  • Pamela Darlington

    Age: 19 Last Seen: Nov. 6, 1973 in Kamloops. Body found Nov. 7, 1973 in a city park. Believed to be hitchhiking at the time.

  • Delphine Nikkal

    Age: 16 Last Seen: June 14, 1990, along Highway 16 in Smithers.

  • Lana Derrick

    Age: 19 Last Seen: October 7, 1995 at a service station in Thornhill, B.C.

  • Nicole Hoar

    Age: 25 Last Seen: June 21, 2002 in Prince George. Believed to be hitchhiking on Highway 16.

  • Tamara Chipman

    Age: 22 Last Seen: Sept. 21, 2005 in Prince Rupert. Believed to be hitchhiking on Highway 16.

  • Alberta Williams

    Age: 24 Last Seen: Aug. 26, 1989 in Prince Rupert. Body found Sept. 16, 1989 on Highway 16.

  • Ramona Wilson

    Age: 16 Last Seen: June 11, 1994, hitchhiking to a friend's home in Smithers. Body found April 1995, Smithers Airport.

  • Roxanne Thiara

    Age: 15 Last Seen: Nov. 1994 in Prince George. Body found near Burns Lake.

  • Leah Alisha Germaine

    Age: 15 Her body was found Dec. 9, 1994.

  • Cecilia Anne Nikal

    Last Seen: 1989

  • Monica Ignas

    Age: 14 Last Seen: Dec. 13, 1974 in Thornhill, B.C. Body found Apr. 6, 1975 near Terrace.

  • Aielah Saric Auger

    Age: 14 Last Seen: Feb. 2, 2006 in Prince George. Body found Feb. 10, 2006 on Highway 16.

  • Gloria Moody

    Age: 27 Last Seen: Oct. 25, 1969 in Williams Lake. Body found Oct. 26 1969.

  • Micheline Pare

    Age: 18 Last Seen: July 1970 along Fort St. John/Hudson's Hope Highway. Body found Aug. 8, 1970 near Hudson's Hope. Last seen hitchhiking to a ranch.

  • Shelly Ann Bascu

    Age: 16 Last Seen: May 3, 1983 near Hinton, Alberta. Seen walking along Highway 16.

  • Monica Jack

    Age: 12 Last Seen: May 6, 1978 near Nicola Lake. Body found in June 1995 north of Merritt.

  • Maureen Mosie

    Age: 33 Last Seen: May 8, 1981 in Salmon Arm. Body found May 9, 1981 near Kamloops. Believed to have been hitchhiking.