For Wally Oppal, one of the most challenging roles of his career involved overseeing the provincial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
As commissioner, the lawyer and former judge was appointed to look into women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the years leading up to the arrest of serial killer Robert Pickton.
In 2012, after extensive public hearings, Oppal delivered a 1,400-page report that condemned the police investigations and recommended changes to protect women and improve policing.
“It was heart-wrenching to hear the stories of those women who were discarded,” he says. “In fact, our report is entitled Forsaken because nobody cared about the women, because they were poor, they were drug-addicted and they were sex-trade workers. They were disposable as far as many people thought.”
“The report has resulted in changes to policing and how police deal with violence against women,” he says. “From that perspective, I’m very proud of what we accomplished.”
Raised in B.C., Oppal began his legal career in private practice after graduating from the University of B.C. Law School. He later served as a judge for the County Court of Vancouver, the Supreme Court of B.C. and then the B.C. Court of Appeal. He also delivered a landmark policing report in 1994 that led to many significant changes in policing.
In 2005, Oppal was elected as MLA in the riding of Vancouver-Fraserview. During his time in provincial cabinet, he served as attorney general and minister responsible for multiculturalism.
Looking back on his career, he credits his mother for giving him a strong work ethic and he expressed gratitude for the opportunity he’s had.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have received many of the breaks that I’ve received,” he says.
At present, Oppal is Chancellor of Thompson Rivers University and practices at the Vancouver firm Boughton Law.