Sexual harassment alleged at Missing Women Inquiry workplace

Former Missing Women Inquiry employees allege they were subjected to sexist comments

The head of B.C.’s Missing Women Inquiry says he is appalled by anonymous allegations that male staff created a highly sexualized work environment at the commission workplace.

According to unconfirmed reports published in the National Post on Wednesday morning, five former commission staff are alleging they encountered harassment, intimidation and conflict in the commission workplace.

The newspaper does not name any of the former or current employees alleged to be involved in the incidents.

“I am outraged by these anonymous allegations and I take them very seriously,” said Commissioner Wally Oppal in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

The report says the ex-employees allege that a senior commission staffer repeatedly used derogatory language to describe a sex trade worker participating in the inquiry.

Oppal said he hired an independent investigator, lawyer Delayne Sartison, to look into the allegation immediately after he learned of them.

“I was first informed about these allegations last Friday morning by Senior Counsel Art Vertlieb, after he was interviewed by Brian Hutchinson of the National Post. Mr. Vertlieb was shocked by these accusations and came to me right after the interview was over. I immediately took the steps to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations.”

Oppal said he has heard no complaint from the staff at the commission and he personally has no tolerance for the kind of behaviour alleged in the newspaper report.

“Not once has anyone come to me with a complaint about the kind of behaviour that is outlined in this article. I am truly saddened by this,” said Oppal.

“I realize that you will have many questions about this article. I am not able to answer those questions until we have the report from the independent investigation that has been started,” he said.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was set up by the B.C. government to investigate the police mishandling of the Robert Pickton investigation.