Category Archives: SIU

OPP-Involved Collision Kills 88-Year-Old Woman in Napanee: SIU Investigating (Mar. 6, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating a collision in Napanee that resulted in the death of an 88-year-old woman and serious injuries to a 42-year-old man.

The SIU has reported that the Ontario Provincial Police was made aware of an SUV traveling at a high rate of speed on Bridge Street through the town of Napanee at around 3:30 PM on March 6, 2018. Officers apparently attempted to stop the SUV and on County Road 2, east of Barker Side Road, the SUV became involved in a collision with another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, an 88-year-old woman, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV was transported to hospital with a serious injury.

The SIU has assigned five investigators, four forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to examine this incident.


Family of Gordon Couvrette Says They Warned North Bay Police of Heart Condition Before He was Tased and Killed

The family of Gordon Couvrette (43), who was tased and killed by North Bay police, disputes the police account of their activities. They also say they warned police that Couvrette had a heart condition and that tasing him could be fatal. This according to a report by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which is investigating the killing. It is reported that Couvrette died of a heart attack.

Police claim they were called to the scene of a domestic incident early on the morning of February 22, 2018. A friend close to the Couvrette family, Emma Higgins, disputes that account of the situation. In her words, as reported by the SIU:

“He [Couvrette] woke up from sleep delirious from his bipolar medication and thought someone broke in so he started yelling trying to scare the ‘intruder’ protecting his girlfriend. She and her son told the cops that they can’t taze him he’s bipolar and on medication for it and his heart can’t take it and that he was doing no harm.”

Despite the words of those who knew and lived with Couvrette police moved to arrest the man. In the course of the arrest they used a taser.

What Higgins reports is additionally disturbing. She adds that not only did police tase him, but police “held him down and tazed him in the heart.”

Gordon Couvrette was taken to the North Bay Regional Health Centre where he was pronounced dead.

The SIU is still investigating the killing. They report that one subject officer and seven witness officers have been designated. The post-mortem took place February 23, 2018, in Sudbury.

SIU Investigating Death of Gordon Couvrette (43) During Police Encounter in North Bay (Feb. 22, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating the death of 43-year-old Gordon Couverette during an encounter with police in North Bay on February 22, 2018. According to the SIU, Couverette went into medical distress after police allegedly responded to a domestic dispute early that morning. Couverette was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Four investigators and two forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.

SIU Investigating After Woman “Falls” from Roof During Encounter with Police

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the death of a 28-year-old woman in Mississauga during an encounter with police on the afternoon of February 22, 2018. According to the SIU, the Peel Region Police were called to a townhouse complex at around 4 PM in response to a reported “woman in distress.” The SIU claim that a short time later the unidentified woman fell from the roof to the ground below. She was later pronounced dead in hospital. The SIU reports that four investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to this case. No further details have been released publicly.

Family of Joey Knapaysweet, Cree Youth Killed by Timmins Police, Releases Statement, Calls for Answers

Police in the small northern Ontario city of Timmins, shot and killed 21-year-old Joey Knapaysweet on February 3, 2018. In a context, as is true across Canada, in which police control information about their killings, few details have been provided publicly. Joey Knapaysweet was from the James Bay community of Fort Albany — more than an hour’s flight from Timmins. According to the family statement, he had gone to Timmins to “seek help in dreams for betterment of his life.” On Thursday, February 15, the family released a statement from Fort Albany saying they need answers about why police chose to kill their loved one.

Micheline Knapaysweet expresses her pain:  “I cannot sleep at nights, I need answers. This is my son, my child.” She asks further “What did he do that was so bad that he had to be shot and killed? I am so heartbroken, with so many questions unanswered.”

The Special Investigations Unit, the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario has only said: “There was an interaction between the man and officers, and one of the officers discharged a firearm. The man was struck. He was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.”

The police killing of Joey Knapaysweet occurred the same weekend as another Cree person from Fort Albany, 62-year-old Agnes Sutherland, died in custody of Timmins police. Their deaths through police interactions, happened as an all-white jury in Saskatchewan was about to acquit white farmer Gerald Stanley in the 2016 killing of a young Cree man, Colten Boushie. The Stanley trial and acquittal brought international attention to white supremacy, colonialism, and racism in Canada and Canadian criminal justice. The Stanley verdict sparked protests across the country against the mistreatment of Indigenous people throughout the justice system in Canada.

Might the deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland spark further actions and calls for systemic transformation. In Timmins a vigil before the Stanley trial verdict brought out at least 100 people. Micheline Knapaysweet has made a dedication to wear a red scarf, Joey Knapaysweet’s favorite color, until the family receives need answers to their questions.

SIU Lets Off Brantford Officer For Role in Police Chase that Killed 94-Year-Old Woman

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Canada, has let off a Brantford police officer for his involvement in a police chase that led to a collision that killed a 94-year-old woman and injured a 71-year-old passenger in November of 2016.

The officer turned on his cruiser’s lights and sirens in a an attempt to stop a Nissan after two men entered it from a house where an assault suspect was believed to be. Notably, the officer did not know one of the men was the suspect. In response to the officer’s actions the driver of the Nissan accelerated to try to get away, drove into an intersection, and collided head-on with a Honda, in which the two seniors were passengers. Investigators on scene later estimated that the Nissan was traveling 131 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone before the collision.

The 94-year-old became unresponsive at the scene before paramedics arrived and was pronounced dead at hospital. The 71-year-old passenger suffered a broken sternum, a broken bone in her back, and two broken bones in her left hand.

The SIU reports that it was only after the driver was arrested that he realized it was the assault suspect. That raises questions about why the officer undertook the actions taken. As well it might have been assumed that the lights and sirens would provoke a response as the car was leaving a residence and it was not a routine traffic stop. The SIU did conclude that it was the officer’s actions that led to the collision but still decided to let him off.

Said SIU director Tony Loparco in his report: “I find that there is no evidence that the [officer’s] driving created a danger to other users of the roadway.” But clearly his actions did create a danger to others in the roadway as one person was left dead and another badly injured as a result. According to Loparco, the officer “was concerned that might cause a situation dangerous to the public.” Which it obviously did.

Lone Subject Officer Designated in Police Killing of Babak Saidi (43) Outside OPP Detachment on Dec. 23, 2017

Babak Saidi was shot and killed by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) outside their Morrisburg detachment only minutes after his father dropped him off for a scheduled probation check-in on December 23, 2017. While little has been reported publicly about the details of the killing, as it rarely is in cases of police killings in Canada, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has designates a lone subject officer in their investigation. This means they believe that a sole officer fired the shot(s) that struck and killed Babak Saidi that day. As is unfortunately the standard practice in Canada the officer responsible for the killing has not been identified publicly. Saidi’s killing is being investigated by the provincial police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, which has assigned four investigators and three forensic specialists to the case.

The 43-year-old Saidi, whose was born in Iran but came to Canada as a refugee with his family, had been diagnosed with late onset schizophrenia and social paranoia according to his family. They are looking for answers and for mechanisms to address the ongoing use of violence by police toward people experiencing mental health issues.

In the words of Babak Saidi’s sister, Elly Saidi:  “This is yet another shocking example of a lethal police response to an unarmed person with mental health disabilities. I want everyone to learn from this tragic experience” (quoted in Duffy 2018).

Babak Saidi had gone to the same OPP station more than 30 times — every week for nine months — in 2017. Elly Saidi says that the family remains very much in the dark about why his routine check-in at the police station so quickly turned deadly. In her words “It would be good to get an explanation for what happened. I don’t know what instigated it: Why this time was so different than every other time?” (quoted in Duffy 2018).

Saidi’s father, Mehrab Saidi (83), has reported hearing “multiple gunshots” while in his car, moments after dropping off his son at the detachment. He has also said that he was instructed by police to wait at a nearby coffee shop for more information and was only notified of his sons death hours later.

Elly Saidi is chief executive of United World Voices, a registered charity in Ottawa that works with homeless youth and vulnerable women. She says her brother was only diagnosed with schizophrenia early in 2017 as the family had not been able to get a diagnosis for him. In her words: “We told lawyers for many years he needs help. Like a lot of people in his position, they fall through the cracks. He should have been assessed and treated much earlier. We knew there was something wrong with him, but it was hard to get anyone to listen. That’s the frustrating part” (quoted in Duffy 2018).

In the view of Elly Saidi her brother should not have died in the encounter:

“What is beyond doubt is that OPP members involved in this tragedy were unable to peacefully de-escalate this situation. The OPP resorted to a lethal response to an unarmed individual with mental disabilities. I know that things can escalate from zero to 100 in a few seconds with mentally ill people. The police need to know how to deal with that, how to de-escalate and contain the situation.” (quoted in Duffy 2018)


Interestingly, Babak Saidi had publicly reported feeling harassed by local police in Brockville, Ontario, where he lived. During a 2003 court hearing, Saidi, then 29, told a judge that police in Brockville “have been on my ass for 10 years” (quoted in Duffy 2018). He continued, telling Ontario Court Justice Charles Anderson : “They don’t like me and I don’t like them” (quoted in Duffy 2018).

In 2017 Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director compiled records showing that 142 people were fatally shot during interactions with police between January 1990 and December 2016 (Duffy 2018). Calls for de-escalation training have been made repeatedly in studies and reviews on police violence and mental health with no meaningful improvements. At the end of the day police remain the unaccountable monopoly on violence acting with impunity in communities.


Further Reading

Duffy, Andrew. 2018. “Babak Saidi was Dropped off at OPP Detachment for Routine Check-In—Minutes Later He was Shot Dead.” Ottawa Citizen January 31.