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BCGEU applauds inquiry announcement, calls for broad mandate and resources

(BURNABY) – The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) is applauding the B.C. government’s decision to call a public inquiry into money laundering headed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen. And the union is praising its members for their advocacy over the last six months as a key driver in the government’s decision.

“Like all British Columbians, our members want answers about how our province got into this mess, how we get out of it, and who is responsible,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “Today’s announcement is a vital step toward getting those answers. I’m proud of our members and everyone who signed our petition—or engaged the government in any other way on this issue—and I’m happy to see the government is listening.”

In addition to money laundering’s impacts on the housing market that have affected affordability across B.C., many BCGEU members have also been impacted at their workplace. Members in sectors from health care, social services, libraries, and gaming to deputy sheriffs and correctional officers have been thrust into first responder roles on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, with members in B.C.’s casinos facing the presence of organized crime at their workplaces.

Despite a series of studies completed over the last year into the impact of money laundering in B.C. and Canada, significant questions remain including the true scope of the problem and who is accountable. This is because, to date, none of the studies have been completed by investigators with the authority to request documents and compel testimony.

“We’ve all learned a lot about money laundering recently,” said Smith. “But it’s really been a case of the more we learn, the more we realize how much we still don’t know. Every report I’ve seen has been like shining a flashlight into one corner of a big, dark room. We’ve said from the beginning that a public inquiry is the only way to turn the lights on so we can get the full picture.”

The government’s decision announced today has broad-based public support. A February 2019 Research Co. poll commissioned by the BCGEU showed 77 per cent of respondents in favour of an inquiry. These findings, and those from two others dating back to June 2018, showed support for an inquiry across age, gender, region, voting preference and ethnicity.

“In addition to the announcement of the inquiry itself, we are also encouraged by the ability of the commissioner to compel testimony, the ability to go as far back in time as necessary, and the co-operation of the federal government. We look forward to learning more about terms and resources in the coming days. It’s imperative that the commissioner has the power to explore the myriad of ways that dirty money has impacted our housing market, the opioid epidemic and other aspects of our economy and communities.”

The union first called for a public inquiry in December 2018 following the collapse of the RCMP’s E-Pirate investigation and launched a public petition in February 2019.

For more information contact Stefan Avlijas, BCGEU 778 833-2667.