Tag Archives: Human Rights

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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No Charges Against BC RCMP in Pepper Spray and Choking Death of Jacobus Jonker in 2015

On Thursday, December 14, 2017 the British Columbia Prosecutor’s Service announced that there would be no charges against the killer Smithers RCMP officers involved in the pepper spray and choking death of 53-year-old rugby coach Jacobus Jonker in 2015. Jonker was killed at the police station a week after his Valentine’s Day arrest.

An investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians (but is by no means independent of police), decided there was a lack of evidence of a crime or use of excessive force by police, despite the fact that RCMP pepper sprayed the victim and one officer held him in some form of choke-like hold until he stopped moving. The state protects the state in cases of police violence against civilians.

Jacobus Jonker, had been arrested at his Smithers home following a call to 911 by his daughter around 10:34 PM on February 14, 2015. She had said the father was “horribly drunk” and the family had left the premises to go to a neighbor’s residence. Police arrived around 11:00 PM.

RCMP officers pepper sprayed Jonker and took him to the Smithers RCMP detachment. At the detachment there was allegedly a conflict between Jonker and an officer. As Jonker was moved to a cell, a supervisor claimed he felt threatened and other officers moved to restrain the victim. In the ensuing struggle, an assisting officer held Jonker around the head and neck. According to the report of the Prosecutor’s Service: “After a brief struggle the suspect stopped resisting and went limp. The officers rolled him over and found that he had stopped breathing.”

Jonker never regained consciousness. He was transported to Bulkley Valley General Hospital and then to Victoria General Hospital, where he died on February 21, 2015.


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


Killer Toronto Cop James Forcillo Heading to Prison as Bail Revoked

Killer Toronto cop James Forcillo is going to prison after his bail was revoked it was announced on November 30, 2017. Forcillo shot and killed 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013, shooting the teenager multiple times, including after he had fallen to the ground from a fatal shot, even though Yatim was alone on an empty streetcar and posed no immediate threat to the public or to police. The killing was captured on video. Constable Forcillo was convicted in 2016 of attempted murder in the killing, because he shot Yatim after he had fallen to the ground of wounds already inflicted by the officer. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Forcillo had been out on bail pending the appeal of his conviction. He was arrested earlier in November 2017 for allegedly failing to comply with the bail conditions by failing to live with his surety or to inform authorities of a change of address, according to police. Forcillo has been in custody for two weeks since his arrest.

Following his arrest, the Attorney General of Ontario applied to have Forcillo’s bail revoked. A judge granted that request this week. Forcillo will remain in police custody while a charge of breaching bail is dealt with in court. That court date is set for December 15, 2017. He will then be transferred to federal prison to begin serving his prison sentence.


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.


No Explanation Why Charges Against OPP Constable Mark McKillop Dropped in Killing of Debra Chrisjohn of Oneida Nation

No explanation has been given for why charges of criminal negligence causing death have been dropped against Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the death of Debra Chrisjohn (39) of Oneida Nation of the Thames.

In a public statement Chrisjohn’s family said this about the dropping of charges: “The decision by the Crown… is hard for the family to understand. We hope that everyone who played a role will be held accountable.”

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province,  had charged two police officers with the death of Chrisjohn—Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service (LPS) and OPP Constable McKillop. McKillop and Doering faced one charge each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life. Doering will still face those charges.

London Police Service officers responded to calls made to 911 during the late afternoon of September 7, 2016. Chrisjohn was arrested by LPS and transferred into the custody of Ontario Provincial Police with the Elgin County detachment.  At around 7:52 PM, Emergency Medical Services transported Chrisjohn to St. Thomas Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 8:43 PM.

Caitlyn Kasper, a lawyer at Aboriginal Legal Services and counsel for the family, noted that the family has still not been provided with basic details of the death of their loved one. Kasper explained in the public statement:

“Without knowing the specific details surrounding the death of Debra, it is difficult for the family to assess the decision by the office of the Crown attorney. However, we know that as this active prosecution moves towards preliminary inquiry or trial, more details will emerge. In the meantime, I certainly expect that the Ontario Provincial Police will be thoroughly reviewing the actions of Const. McKillop to determine if there were breaches of the Police Services Act.”


Killer SQ Cop Patrick Ouellet’s Charge For Killing 5-Year-Old Nicholas Thorne-Belance Will Not Be Dropped

Killer Quebec cop Patrick Ouellet, a member of the provincial force the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), will not have the charge dropped for killing  five-year-old Nicholas Thorne-Belance in 2014, a Quebec judge has decided. Ouellet had filed a motion seeking to have the charge of dangerous driving causing death dropped and has alleged interference in the case by Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

Ouellet was involved in a police surveillance operation in which he was tailing the director of the Quebec Liberal Party in an unmarked car on February 13, 2014. During this operation officer Ouellet crashed into a car in which Thorne-Belance was a passenger in Longueuil, south of Montreal. Oullet’s care was traveling at a speed in excess of 120 kilometers per hour in a 50 km/hr zone. The young Thorne-Belance died in a hospital a few days after the crash.

The Crown prosecutor had initially decided not to lay charges, the usual result in cases of police killing civilians, even children, in Canada. A single charge was filed against Ouellet in 2015 after Vallée ordered an independent review of the case amid strong public pressure. Quebec Court Judge Denys Noel ruled on November 21, 2017, that there was no interference on Vallée’s part. Concluded Judge Noel: “One cannot infer from the evidence that the minister ordered the director (to file the charge). There is no evidence of abuse of procedure that would allow for the proceedings to be dropped.” Killer cop  Patrick Ouellet’s trial is scheduled to begin in June, 2018.