B.C. Canada’s capital for police deaths: New BCCLA report

The BCCLA has released a new report that says B.C. has more than twice as many jail and police-involved deaths as Ontario, even though Ontario has three times the population. With 267 deaths over the last 15 years, B.C. had the largest number of deaths per year of any of the six provinces and territories for which numbers were available. The BCCLA says this information calls out for the B.C. government to reform how these jail and police-related deaths are investigated and how they can be prevented.

“Our research shows that one person died every three weeks in B.C. in jail or as a result of police action between 1992 and 2007,” said David MacAlister, Director of the Institute for Studies in Criminal Justice Policy at SFU, and author of the report. “With 267 deaths in 15 years, we need to make sure that investigations are done properly to emphasize accountability and prevention.”

The B.C. government promised following the Dziekanski Taser Inquiry to establish a civilian investigative agency to investigate all cases of death or serious harm caused by police. Chief Constable Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department recently suggested that the new civilian agency should investigate all complaints against police, an idea that the BCCLA supports.

“While public discussion about the scope of the new civilian investigative agency is going on, the province does not seem to be participating,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “Unfortunately, after making a commitment, the Province has not yet been openly asking for help on how to proceed. We need to learn from other jurisdictions’ experiences and prevent these needless deaths.”

The BCCLA’s report examines the phenomenon of in-custody deaths with new statistics and reports from across Canada into in custody deaths, as well analyzes national and international civilian investigation bodies, and how those bodies have functioned. B.C. is policed primarily by the RCMP under contract with the provincial government.

To download a copy of the report (PDF), click here

Report launch events across British Columbia

The BCCLA will be launching this report with a series of free public forums on the issue of in-custody and police-involved deaths across the province featuring report author David MacAlister, Director of the Institute for Studies in Criminal Justice Policy at SFU.

Dates and locations of the planned presentations are:

Victoria
Presented in partnership with the University of Victoria Law school – November 2, Noon to 1:00 p.m. - University of Victoria Law School, Rm FRA159, Murray and Anne Fraser Building at McGill Road and Ring Road, November 2, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Prince George
Prince George Civic Centre, 2nd Floor – November 10, Noon – 1:00 p.m.

Vancouver
Presented in partnership with the Simon Fraser University Public Interest Research Group – Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre, date and time TBA.

Kamloops
Location TBA – November 9, Noon to 1:00 p.m.

This report and these public forums are generously sponsored by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.

Key Statistics

The BCCLA collected coroner’s inquest data from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, the Yukon Territories and the Northwest Territories on in-custody and police involved deaths. Statistics were not available for Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland, and Nunavut. The following statistics come from that data:

  • B.C. had the greatest number of in custody deaths (267 in the 15 years between 1992 and 2007, with more than twice as many deaths in custody per year than any other province studied, including Ontario, which had 113 deaths between 1993 and 2007.
  • Over the timeframe studied, one person died every three weeks in B.C., one every six and a half weeks in Ontario, one every 19.5 weeks in Saskatchewan, one every 31 weeks on New Brunswick, one every 45.5 weeks in the Northwest Territories, and one every 71 weeks in the Yukon.
  • B.C. had the greatest number of deaths per year per capita of the provinces, with 1 death for every 254,550 people per year, compared with 1 death for every 1.63 million people per year in Ontario; 1 death for every 457,000 people per year in New Brunswick; and 1 death for every 392,100 people per year in Saskatchewan.
  • For provinces in which race was noted of those who died in custody, 55% (Yukon) and 38% (Saskatchewan) were aboriginal.

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