The decision of the British Columbia Attorney General not to prosecute 20 additional murder charges against Robert Pickton seems like a failure to strike the proper balance between the good use of government resources and the pursuit of justice. It has frequently been pointed out that had his victims been less marginalized members of society their initial disappearances would have been much more thoroughly investigated. Similarly, the failure of the police to appreciate what was occurring and put a stop to it over such a long period of time would have been deemed negligent and unacceptable. By choosing not to prosecute all the murders for which the Crown has evidence, the marginalization of these women is being further entrenched. It is inconceivable that the second trial would not occur if the victims had been wealthy residents of Shaughnessy or the British Properties.
The creation of a detailed public record of what transpired has societal value: both for those who knew the victims and for those who hope to improve the future operation of the police and justice systems. The argument for having a trial is therefore similar to the case I made previously for completing Slobodan Milosevic’s trial after his death. In such cases, the point is not to punish the offender; it is, rather, to make the facts of the situation known, demonstrate places where errors were made, and provide some guidance for future behaviour. On an important but less practical level, a second trial would also be an assertion of the equal human worth of the second group of victims: an especially important message to send given the ways in which the supposed equality of law is not always as meaningful or substantial as it ought to be.