Tag Archives: transparency

Woman Dies in RCMP Custody in Dawson Creek, British Columbia (April 13/14, 2019)

A woman died in RCMP custody in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, some time during the weekend of April 13 and 14, 2019. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, has reported RCMP arrested the woman, along with a man, in Dawson Creek, on April 13. She was held in a cell, where paramedics attended later in the day due to unspecified “behavior.” The IIO reports that at some point she went into medical distress. She was airlifted to Prince George Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead early on April 14.

The IIO has launched an investigation into the death.

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Confirmed: RCMP Killed Both Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson in Surrey, BC, in March

Many questions have been unanswered since two people, later identified as Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson, were killed during an alleged hostage taking and police standoff in Surrey, British Columbia on March 29, 2019. Foremost among these was whether RCMP officers actually fired the fatal shots, killing both people. Police have been notably silent on that question all the while putting out a public narrative that they used lethal force to save a hostage who was probably killed by the hostage taker. On May 2 the horrible answer finally came. The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO) has publicly confirmed that both Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson were killed by multiple shots fired by the RCMP.

Initial reports suggested that both had been shot with Crosson dying at the scene and McEwan dying later in hospital. Police alleged that Crosson had taken McEwan hostage and implied that police violence was necessary to save the hostage.

When asked previously by reporters if he could say conclusively that a police bullet did not hit Nona McEwan, the Surrey Now-Leader reports that Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesperson Corporal Frank Jang replied:

“No, I mean that’s all part of the investigation that’s happening now. There will be updates coming forth from the IIO but all those details, the exact mechanism, entries, where the shots came from, that’s all going to be part of the investigation. I can’t comment further because it’s still ongoing.”

Police control the information flow when they kill in the Canadian context. In various cases when they kill, they frame reports of events to blame victims or suggest that police acted heroically under immediate threat. As in this case they suggest that a victim was killed by “a suspect” rather than by police.


Man Dies in Winnipeg Police Custody (April 16, 2019)

The Independent Investigative Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the death of a 56-year-old man in custody of Winnipeg police on April 16, 2019. Initial reports suggest that Winnipeg police officers arrested the man a little after 5 PM after responding to a call regarding an assault and disturbance at a home in North Point Douglas.

At the home, police allegedly found an injured man in his 50s and the man was taken to hospital, supposedly in stable condition. Officers also allegedly arrested someone they claim was a suspect near Main Street and Sutherland Avenue. He was taken to the North District station for processing. The arrested man was later found unresponsive in a holding cell and was taken to hospital in critical condition. Police report that he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

No other details have been released publicly, including how or why the man became “unresponsive” or when that was first noticed. None of the information reported by police has been independently confirmed publicly.


Cops Investigating Cops: OPP Investigate RNC in Killing of Jorden McKay in Newfoundland

Cops are investigating cops again in Canada. This time members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be in Corner Brook, Newfoundland to investigate the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) officer who shot and killed Jorden McKay on November 27, 2018. Two officers involved in the interaction and both have been placed on leave. They will be assigned to administrative duties when they return to work as the investigation continues. Neither officer has been named publicly, generally the case in Canada where it is difficult for families and communities to find out the names and histories of police who kill.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) which has a history of letting killer cops off, will carry out a review of the OPP’s investigation, once that wraps up.


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


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 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.