The daughter of an Indigenous man who died in Prince George while being arrested by five Mounties says that for the sake of her younger siblings, she would like an apology for what happened to her father, 35-year-old Dale Culver.
British Columbia’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which looks into deaths that involve police, last Friday recommended the Crown charge the five Prince George RCMP officers.
“What happened to him wasn’t right and it shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Lily Speed-Namox, 17, said in an interview on Monday. “My dad was just kind of a native on a bike riding through an area the cops had received a call about.”
Mr. Culver was a member of Gitskan Wet’suwet’en and a general labourer in construction. He died in 2017, after police responded to allegations he was casing parked vehicles. The IIO said in a summary of events released on Friday that when police attempted to question Mr. Culver, he tried to flee by bicycle. A struggle ensued and pepper spray was used. When Mr. Culver had trouble breathing, police requested medical help, but he died soon after.
The BC Civil Liberties Association later alleged that RCMP members instructed witnesses to delete cellphone evidence of the incident after the fact.
The IIO says reasonable grounds exist to indicate two officers involved in the incident committed offences in relation to the use of force, and three others committed offences regarding obstruction of justice.
“It’s sad to see, being an Indigenous person being arrested, that you’re at risk of being killed,” Terry Teegee, the regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, said on Monday. “If you’re arrested, you shouldn’t end up dying.”
Mr. Teegee said the case has parallels with the death in the United States of George Floyd, which has inflamed violent protests. “It’s very similar with what happened to Dale Culver," as both were cases of excessive force used against minorities who are overrepresented in the justice system.
However, he added that charges came more quickly in Mr. Floyd’s death, while the recommendation in Mr. Culver’s case “has been a long time coming.”
Daniel McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service, said in a statement that a decision on charges would be made based on the standard two-part test of whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and the public interest requires a prosecution.
Staff-Sergeant Janelle Shoihet of the RCMP’s E-Division said the officers have been on active duty, and the RCMP will support them through the next phase of the process. “We will continue to respect the process and await the outcome of the charge assessment by the B.C. Prosecution Service,” she said in a statement.
Ms. Speed-Namox said she is happy something is being done.
At the very least, she said, she would like an apology. She said her little brother was 4 and her sister six months old when their father died. “It would be nice to be able to have an apology to show my little sister and little brother once they are older and can have a better understanding of what happened,” she said.
Asked what her father was like, she spoke of a “happy-go-lucky” guy. “He was always goofing around, joking around with people, trying to make people smile, especially if he noticed they were down ... just a good person.”
IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald said he regretted that the investigation took three years, with progress delayed awaiting autopsy results and owing to issues with co-operation of civilian witnesses. He declined to be more specific about the latter.
“While the complications of this file certainly are responsible for a good deal of the time frame, there are some things we could have done better,” he said without elaborating.
He said he could not comment in detail on the allegations that officers told witnesses to delete video, but said part of the recommendation "relates to those types of issues.”
He said the police were co-operative.
Mr. MacDonald said he visited Mr. Culver’s family in Smithers last year as part of a tradition of keeping involved parties informed on the progress of files. He added, without elaborating, that contacts made during the day-long visit helped with the investigation.
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