Tag Archives: Human Rights

Family Say Montreal Police Brutally Beat Koray Celik: Refute Police Account of His Death

Koray Kevin Celik (28) died during a police intervention at his family’s Île-Bizard home one year ago. On March 6, 2018, his family organized a vigil outside the Pierrefonds police station to commemorate their loved one and raise some troubling questions about police actions, and accounts of their actions, in Koray Celik’s death. Celik’s parents, Cesur and June, say their son needs to be remembered and what happened to him needs to be discussed publicly. And this discussion needs to happen loudly and often until there is some change (Feith 2018).

Koray Kevin Celik, 28, died during a police intervention at the family’s Île-Bizard home one year ago when the young man was experiencing some distress. Said Cesur Celik: “My son was in crisis and was in a vulnerable state. When the police walked in, he was standing. When they left, they carried his body out. He lost his life in their hands, in front of our eyes.” (quoted in Feith 2018).

Celik acknowledged that the parents called the police seeking help and assistance. The call was made a bit before 2 AM. The parents did not want him their son to hurt himself or to leave the house (Feith 2018). They now express regret at having called police at all.

What happened during the police intervention is under investigation. Few details have been made public. According to Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the body that examines police interventions connected to deaths or injuries in the province, Montreal police responded to a call regarding a distressed man. The official story says that upon arriving at the house in Île-Bizard, Koray Celik became aggressive and suffered a fatal heart attack while police tried to control him (Feith 2018).

Cesur Celik, who says he witnessed the interaction in his home, rejects the bureau’s public version of events. He says four officers “brutally and viciously beat” his son before he died (2018). The family is considering legal action against the Montreal police force. They have tried to see a police incident report, autopsy, or coroner’s report but their efforts have been thwarted at each turn. The lack of information has added to the family’s grief. Says Cesur Celik: “We’ve been living with this nightmare ever since. One year later and there is still nothing. How can that be?” (quoted Feith 2018).

The Montreal police force (SPVM) has refused to comment on what happened the night Koray Celik died. Since June 2016, the BEI has investigated 72 cases. These include 37 fatal police interventions and five deaths that occurred during police detention (Feith 2018).

At the March 6 vigil, family and friends held signs reading : “Justice for Koray”; “We will not go away”; “The law applies to everyone” (Feith 2018).


Further Reading

Feith, Jesse. 2018. “A Year After Fatal Police Intervention in Île-Bizard Questions and Pain Linger.” Montreal Gazette. March 6. http://montrealgazette.com/news/a-year-after-fatal-police-intervention-in-ile-bizard-questions-and-pain-linger


Inquest into Killing of Michael David Perrault by Edmonton Constable Wayne Haltli Concludes

Michael David Perrault (31) was shot and killed by Edmonton Police Constable Wayne Haltli on May 18, 2015, during a traffic stop. A fatality inquiry that wrapped up over the last week of February 2018 made several recommendations focusing on the need to make crisis intervention and de-escalation training mandatory for police officers in Alberta. It was also recommended that Edmonton police pursue the “zero death” mandate arising from the inquiry into the killing of Sammy Yatim by Toronto police officer James Forcillo. Police are not required to adopt any of the recommendations and as is typically the case in such circumstances in Canada they will not do so here.

The inquiry reported that Michael David Perreault was in mental health crisis at the time police encountered and killed him. The inquiry also reported he had a long history of mental health issues and substance use troubles which may have been exacerbated by the health care system and doctors. He had been prescribed medications for a range of issues including depression and chronic pain from a number of accidents and workplace injuries.

Constable Haltli and his partner, Constable Jeffrey Park, were members of Edmonton’s Specialized Traffic Apprehension Team (STAT) when they responded to a 911 report of a suspected impaired driver in the city’s Beverly neighbourhood. Perreault’s car had stopped in the curb lane on Victoria Trail near 118 Avenue when the constables approached it. Constable Park reportedly reached into the car to try to take the keys out of the ignition when Perreault allegedly grabbed his arm. Park punched Perreault in the head several times during the encounter. It is alleged that at some point Perrault retrieved a shotgun and managed to shoot Park in the leg. It is claimed that he excited the vehicle when he was shot in the head and killed by Constable Haltli.

An investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, had already cleared the officers. ASIRT found, not surprisingly given their history,  that the officers used reasonable force. No further word on whether punching someone repeatedly in the head over a traffic stop is reasonable force. Or a reasonable way to treat someone in distress.

Notably, Perrault had been targeted numerous times by Edmonton police officers and, perhaps quite justifiably, felt “cops hated him” and had singled him out for scrutiny, according to the inquiry report. The day of his killing he was apparently concerned that police were outside his home.

Pressing Questions as Inquest into Police-Involved Death of Indigenous Man Jordan Lafond is Postponed to June

There are many unanswered questions about the role Saskatoon police played in the death of 21-year-old Jordan Lafond of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. An inquest into the death that was scheduled to take begin March 5, 2018, and which family hoped would provide some answers, has now been postponed until June 25.

The questions surrounding Lafond’s death are more pressing given that police initially suggested the injuries that led to Lafond’s death were inflicted in a vehicular crash and did not report that an officer used his knee to subdue the young man when he was handcuffed.

It has been reported publicly that Jordan Lafond died after the stolen truck he was a passenger in crashed into a fence on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the early morning hours of October 23, 2016. Lafond was taken into custody and later died in hospital. Police have not been forthcoming on their role in Lafond’s death and what they did to him during the arrest.

A six-person jury, five women and one-man, was selected on Monday. Four of the jurors are Indigenous. Three were selected from a special jury pool of Indigenous people and one who self-identified. The request for Indigenous jurors can be made at inquests but not for criminal trials, an issue that has received great attention following the recent not guilty verdicts in the killings of Indigenous youth Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The inquest is strictly a fact finding exercise and cannot assign blame or lead to charges being laid.

Grace Lafond-Barr, Jordan’s grandmother expressed the family’s grief: “Emotions have been up and down. A lot of tears, a lot of anger, a lot of sadness. Because we don’t know what happened to Jordan” (quoted in Hamilton 2018). She noted that police were not honest in reporting their actions during Jordan Lafond’s arrest. In her words: “We didn’t hear the truth when we were told of Jordan’s injuries. It would be nice to know what happened to him” (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Police changed their story about what happened a few weeks after Lafond died. They had initially claimed that Lafond was found underneath a tire of the truck that crashed and said at that time that he died of injuries resulting from that crash. Then-police Chief Clive Weighill alleged that officers believed Lafond was resisting arrest and acknowledged that an officer used his knee to subdue Lafond and that he was handcuffed. Police have not admitted what part that might have played in the death.

Police even had to downgrade the initial charge of dangerous driving causing death laid against the driver of the stolen truck. Said the Crown prosecutor at the time: “We weren’t in a position to prove that the accident—or the collision, in this case—caused the death” (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Saskatoon Police Service released a statement on March 5 saying that  they had carried out an internal investigation into Lafond’s death but would not release any details or results. There is no police oversight body, independent or otherwise, in Saskatchewan. The officer responsible is still on regular duties.

Jordan Lafond was a new father and worked at a roofing company to support her. Said Lafond-Barr: “Yes maybe he was in a stolen vehicle. But that doesn’t mean you should end his life over it. That’s what I said. I would like to bring some humanity to this (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Anyone following events in Saskatchewan will note that young Indigenous men have been killed in that province for as little as stepping foot on a farm claimed by a white settler, with the settler farmer getting off despite admitting to the killing. So being killed by police for being in a stolen vehicle would not be unlikely in that context. And the officer involved will likely not even be charged. Jordan Lafond was the same age as Colten Boushie.


Further Reading

Hamilton, Charles. 2018. “’Everyone is Disappointed’: Inquest into Death of Jordan Lafond Postponed Until June.” CBC News March 5. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/family-hoping-for-answers-as-inquest-in-jordan-lafond-s-death-begins-1.4559159



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.


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.