Category Archives: Death in Custody

Inquest Set for In-Custody Death of Ina Matawapit of North Caribou Lake First Nation after Lengthy Delay

After five years, a date has finally been set for the inquest into the death in police custody of 37-year-old Ina Matawapit, at the Weagamow Lake Nursing Station in North Caribou Lake First Nation, in northern Ontario. Matawapit died on June 7, 2012 after a transfer from a police vehicle while in custody. Matawapit’s case was one of several that have been egregiously delayed due to widespread problems with Indigenous representation on jury rolls. This ongoing, entrenched problem has characterized criminal justice systems and inquests in the Canadian state context. At least 20 cases in Ontario have been delayed by province’s jury roll problems.

The inquest into Matawapit’s death is mandatory under the Coroners Act because she was in custody at the time. The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding her death by hearing from about 10 witnesses over the scheduled six days of proceedings. Dr. Michael Wilson will be presiding coroner during the inquest which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2018 at the Days Inn in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

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Investigation into Death of David Tshiteya Kalubi (23) in Custody of Montreal Police (Black Lives Matter)

Quebec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the in custody death of David Tshiteya Kalubi, a 23-year-old Black youth. Kalubi, who was arrested by Montreal police in his own neighborhood of Hochelaga, was declared dead less that 12 hours after his arrest.

Little information has been released publicly. Police say Kalubi was stopped by officers in Hochelaga and arrested on an outstanding warrant after police ran a background check. The BEI has not stated publicly what the outstanding warrant was for, only that it involved a municipal offense.

Community activists in the city, which has seen many cases of lethal police violence against civilians, and disproportionately against Black people, are raising concerns about Kalubi’s death and the actions of police. Racial profiling and so-called carding, where people are stopped by police and subjected to interrogation and/or background checks, have been strongly condemned by community members in cities across Canada. Carding goes hand in hand with profiling as Black people are disproportionately stopped for carding checks in Canadian contexts. Kalubi is of Congolese background.

Montreal police reportedly took Kalubi to the station, where he spent the night before being transferred to the municipal courthouse in Old Montreal to appear before a judge, according to the BEI. The transfer took place at 7:35 AM. Only a little more than an hour later, at 8:55 AM, a guard noticed that Kalubi was on the floor and appeared to be unconscious. He was then taken to the hospital and declared dead at 9:55 AM. Community members are raising concerns that Kalubi was subjected to differential, discriminatory, treatment because of histories of police racism in Montreal. The family, for its part has not raised the issues of racial profiling. According to the family’s lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire: “For the moment, there’s not enough information to know if it’s a case of racial profiling, but with a young black man arrested it can look like racial profiling” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).

Dan Philip, the executive director of the Black Coalition of Quebec has said publicly that it took police seven hours to notify his mother and family of Kalubi’s death. Even then, police took the opportunity to  first interrogated the family about Kalubi, before telling them he was dead, according to Philip. Said Philip, in an interview with CBC News: “They felt it was a travesty. They felt there was no compassion. They felt that there was no concern about either the death of the young man or the family themselves who have to mourn the situation” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).

Community advocates have little confidence that the BEI will provide satisfactory answers to the family’s many questions. Critics have long pointed out that the BEI includes several former police officers among its active members.  As Philips suggests: “It’s the police investigating the police. They have no interest in finding out why did he died and what negligence caused his death” (quoted in MacArthur 2017). It has also been pointed out repeatedly that the BEI lacks any meaningful diversity. It is expected that their report will not be released for another year yet.

 

Further Reading

MacArthur, Cecilia. 2017. “After a Young Man Dies in Custody, a Family Searches for Answers.” CBC News. November 24 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/david-tshiteya-kalubi-montreal-police-1.4416153


SIU Investigating Death of 57-Year-Old Man in Toronto Police Custody

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating the death of a 57-year-old man in custody of Toronto police on the evening of Sunday, November 26, 2017. According to the SIU, the man, who has not yet been named publicly, was sitting handcuffed in an apartment building security office when Toronto police officers arrived in response to a disturbance call. The SIU reports that after the officers searched the man he was returned to a sitting position. A short time later, the man fell over and his vital signs were absent. He was pronounced dead in hospital early on the morning of Monday, November 27. No other details have been released publicly, including information regarding why the man was arrested in the first place, or what the so-called disturbance involved.


Coroner’s Inquest Begins in Custody Death of Ebony Aaron Wood in Quesnel, BC

A coroner’s inquest into the November 7, 2016, in-custody death of Ebony Aaron Wood (36) in Quesnel, British Columbia, began Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The BC Coroners Service reports that Wood was involved in a vehicular incident and was taken into custody and placed in a police cruiser on November 5, 2016. He apparently told an RCMP officer that he had chest and shoulder pain and an ambulance was called. Wood was transferred to the ambulance to be taken to hospital. At some point en route he exited the rear of the ambulance falling to the road and suffering a head injury. He dies two days later on November 7, 2016.

The inquest is mandatory because Wood was in the custody of a police officer at the time of his death. Regional coroner Donita Kuzma will be joined by a jury in hearing from witnesses in an attempt to establish the facts of Wood’s death. Coroners’ inquests do not assign fault in such deaths, and its recommendations need not be followed by any police force or officers.


23-Year-Old Dies in Police Custody at Montreal Courthouse (Nov. 8, 2017)

A 23-year old man has died in police custody after being transferred to the Montreal municipal courthouse. The Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Quebec, has assigned a team of 15 investigators to examine the circumstances of the death. According to the BEI, initial reports suggest the victim was arrested by Montreal police at 10:40 PM on the evening of Tuesday, November 7, 2017. On Wednesday, November 8, at around 7:30 AM he was transferred to the Montreal municipal courthouse where he was set to await his court appearance later that day. BEI claims that at around 8:55 AM officers assigned to watch the prisoners became aware that the victim was on the ground and apparently unconscious. He was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead only one hour later. Details of this case have not been independently confirmed publicly.


Halifax Regional Police Constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner Charged in Custody Death of Corey Rogers

Halifax Regional Police Special Constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner have been charged with criminal negligence causing death after 41-year-old Corey Rogers was found dead in a police station cell in the early morning hours of June 16, 2016. Despite paramedics being called, Rogers could not be revived. Constables Fraser and Gardner were working as booking officers on the night of Rogers’s arrest and detention.

Corey Rogers death came only hours after the birth of his daughter. He had been arrested for public intoxication the previous evening outside of the IWK Health Centre.

The case was initially given to Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province. SIRT referred the case to prosecutors in Manitoba because the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service apparently wished to avoid an appearance of conflict.

Rogers’s death has also been the subject of a Police Act investigation. That investigation is now on hold pending the outcome of the criminal charges.


SIU Investigating Death of 44-Year-Old Man During Arrest in Brampton (Oct. 31, 2017)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating the death of a 44-year-old man during an arrest outside a home in Brampton on October 31, 2017.

According to the SIU, a 911 call was made to Peel Region police at around 8:45 AM. The SIU further suggests that police officers arrived at a residence near Bovaird Drive and McLaughlin Road sometime later. There police reportedly “interacted with a man” who was then taken to hospital where he later died. The SIU statement did not provide any specific detail regarding what the “interaction” entailed, any details of the man’s injuries, or why the 911 call was made in the first place.

The SIU has said in a statement that two officers are under investigation. Details about the victim’s identity have not been released publicly.