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.


Shooting a Man in Distress After 30 Seconds Ruled “Not Gratuitous” and “Measured” as Cops Who Killed Chad Murphy Let Off

Police in Canada kill a disproportionate number of people in mental distress. They continue to be deployed to engage with people experiencing mental distress despite the fact that history shows that police respond to those situations with a very quick use of lethal force.

In the case of the killing of Chad Murphy (45), it is estimated that from the moment Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers opened the door to Murphy’s basement apartment in Île-Perrot, it took only 30 seconds for police to fatally shoot him.

On Monday, February 12, 2018, Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) announced it will not be filing charges against any of the officers involved in shooting and killing Chad Murphy on October 2, 2016. The SQ had been notified by Murphy’s sister Sharon that he was distressed and suicidal after fleeing in anger from a family dispute. She said at the time that she made the call to get him help not to get him killed.

Officers allegedly tried to talk with Murphy through his apartment door before opening it with a key provided by a neighbor. The DPCP report says officers saw Murphy sitting on his living room floor with a knife in hand and when he saw the officers he started cutting himself. When he stood up and walked toward the door the police shot and killed him. Thirty seconds to interact with and kill a man.

The DPCP ruled that in shooting a man in distress who was harming himself, after only 30 seconds of interaction, the officers involved did not use excessive force and should not face criminal charges. The DPCP statement said: “A legally acceptable use of force is one that is not gratuitous and is applied in a measured way. The intervention was legal and is based primarily on the duty of the police officers to ensure the safety and security of others.” The report does not say that Murphy was using his knife in a way that threatened anyone other than himself. It does not say how many shots police fired.

This is pure propaganda, copaganda. Shooting someone in distress and harming only himself is described as measured. And it does not show how the safety and security of others, the public for example, was threatened. This decision is the state protecting the state.

The DPCP’s decision to not lay charges in the killing of Chad Murphy is based on the investigation by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The BEI is not independent and relies on police forces for their forensic investigation.

Since June of 2016, the BEI has investigated 72 cases. This includes 37 fatal police interventions and four deaths that occurred during police detention. Of all of the investigations completed and turned over to prosecutors so far, none have led to charges against a single officer. The state does indeed protect the state.


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.


Two Indigenous Victims of Timmins Police in One Weekend: Joey Knapaysweet (21) and Agnes Sutherland (62)

There is growing outrage, and mounting questions, after a deadly weekend in which two Indigenous people were left dead following encounters with Timmins, Ontario, police. Police in the small northern Ontario city shot and killed Joey Knapaysweet, 21, on Saturday, February 3, 2018. Then, on Sunday, February 4, Agnes Sutherland, 62, died in police custody. Both victims were from Fort Albany First Nation, a James Bay community.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents nearly 50 Indigenous communities in northern Ontario, expressed great concern over the two deaths in two days. In his words: “It’s very troubling. The families have a lot of questions” (quoted in Perkel 2018).


Deaths at the Hands of Police

Details about both deaths are limited so far. Police control information about their killings and deaths related to their activities. This is a problem across Canada in terms of policing. Police did not release the names of their victims. The names were conformed by multiple other sources, including federal Member of Parliament Charlie Angus.

With regard to the police shooting of Joey Knapaysweet, the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has only said that  there was “an interaction” between officers and the victim and an officer discharged a firearm striking the man.

Agnes Sutherland was arrested at a shelter after having been asked to leave the Timmins District Hospital, where she had sought help. She was taken to a police station and put in a cell on Saturday, the same day Knapaysweet was killed. Later that same evening she was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead late Sunday.

In a statement issued by Indigenous leaders Grand Chief Fiddler, Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council, and Fort Albany First Nation Chief Andrew Solomon, serious questions are raised: “It is alleged that when police attended at the scene of the local shelter, Ms. Sutherland was treated roughly while being taken into police custody. She suffered severe complications during her detention” (quoted in Perkel 2018).


Systemic Racism and Colonial Legacies

In their statement, Grand Chief Fiddler, Grand Chief Solomon and Chief Andrew Solomon call for a timely and thorough investigation. They raise the very real issues of racism in policing and the violence targeted at Indigenous people by police. In their words: “We have seen systemic racism in the city of Thunder Bay, and must now wonder if this is also happening in Timmins” (quoted in Perkel 2018).

Notably, Timmins Mayor Steve Black acknowledged that the deaths at the hands of police had increased racial tensions in the city, though he did not specify. He said: “I don’t believe there’s room for racism in any community. If changes need to be made or things need to be done to improve those relationships, we’re definitely willing to work with our partners on improving those relationships” (quoted in Perkel 2018). No word on whether that includes dismantling settler colonial police forces (or mayoralties). He has, though, condemned people who have spoken out against the police and their actions on social media (CBC News 2018).


Health Care Not Cops

According to the Chiefs, both victims had left the remote community of Fort Albany, near Ontario’s James Bay coast, to seek medical care in Timmins. They note in their statement: “Our people must continually leave their families and communities to come to cities to seek services that are not available in their respective communities” (quoted in 2018). The deaths come as an emergency summit is being held in Timmins by the Mushkegowuk Council this week. The regional James Bay government declared a state of emergency in November, concerned over the growing number of drugs and alcohol coming into its seven member communities (CBC News 2018).

Sutherland’s son, Glen Sutherland, told the Timmins Daily Press that his mother was a survivor of the notorious St. Anne’s residential school. He said that she needed a wheelchair to get around, and questioned the actions of hospital staff. She was using a wheelchair at the time of her arrest. Glen Sutherland said that her frequent trips to the emergency room were a cry for help (Perkel 2018). She was a mother of six with six great grandchildren.

The mistreatment at hospitals of Indigenous people seeking medical assistance has been a disturbing, and too common, issue in various locations in Canada, including infamous cases in Winnipeg, Manitoba that have gained some national attention. It speaks to ongoing legacies of colonialism and racism in Canada.



A vigil in Timmins for Knapaysweet on Tuesday, February 6, drew around 100 people. Chief Andrew Solomon is calling on the Attorney General of Ontario and the Minister of Community Safety to investigate the Timmins Police (CBC News 2018).

Police and criminal justice systems more broadly in Canada disproportionately target Indigenous people and disproportionately target them for violence. Criminal justice systems, including police forces, were founded as instruments of settler colonialism, occupation, dispossession, and displacement and this must always be front and center in discussions of policing in the country.


Further Reading

CBC News. 2018. “First Nations Chiefs ‘Shocked’ by Timmins Deaths.” CBC News. February 7.

Perkel, Colin. 2018. “Two Indigenous Deaths Linked to Police in Timmins, Ont., has Sparked Sorrow, Anger.” Toronto Star. February 7.