Skip to main content

The mother of a British Columbia man who was shot and killed while in RCMP custody has dropped a civil lawsuit against the force, saying the costs of pursuing the case were too high and some of the changes she hoped it would bring about have already been made.

"We feel that people are aware of our stand on the flaws in the system when police investigate police," Linda Bush said Wednesday at a joint news conference with the RCMP in Vancouver. "There is now a movement towards completely independent investigation of police in cases where there is loss of life or serious harm has been done."

In her quest for answers in the death of her 22-year-old son, Ian Bush, who was shot in the Houston police station nearly five years ago, Ms. Bush became a leading voice among those calling for greater accountability from the RCMP.

Her efforts resulted in significant changes to RCMP policy and procedures, including recommendations to install video equipment in police buildings throughout the province and steps toward civilian oversight in B.C., a senior officer said Wednesday.

"It is clear that our preference is not to investigate our own members, not to be in charge of the investigation, not to influence the investigation," said Chief Superintendent Craig Callens, the RCMP's deputy criminal operations officer in B.C. "So all matters of a serious or sensitive nature will be referred externally."

Under an interim RCMP-wide policy introduced this year, serious cases, such as deaths in custody, are referred to outside forces. Currently, Ontario has a civilian investigative team, Alberta has a civilian-police model and other provinces, including B.C., are considering their own models.

"The unfortunate thing is that RCMP officers, and the public, will have various oversight regimes depending on where they live and work," B.C. MP Nathan Cullen said in a phone interview from Ottawa. Last November, Mr. Cullen introduced a private member's bill that proposed an independent, civilian watchdog for the force.

Ms. Bush said she did not receive a cash settlement as part of her negotiations with the RCMP. Earlier this month, the RCMP made an undisclosed cash settlement, as well as an apology, to Zofia Cisowski, the mother of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. He died in October, 2007, after being stunned several times by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.

Mr. Dziekanski's tasering death, and the persistent questions around Mr. Bush's fate, tarnished the RCMP's reputation and fuelled calls for reform.

Mr. Bush had been picked up outside an arena in Houston on Oct. 29, 2005, for being in possession of an open beer. In the back of a police cruiser, he was asked his name and gave the officer that of his friend instead. He was taken to the local detachment by RCMP Constable Paul Koester.

Twenty minutes later, Mr. Bush was dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

At a coroner's inquest into the death, the police officer said he acted in self-defence.

It was revealed at the inquest that the constable destroyed his notes from the evening in the immediate days after the incident. And when he was interviewed by investigators three months later, they supplied him with their questions in advance.

He was never charged.

Ian's sister Rene spoke to reporters after the news conference and said she wanted people to know that the family is not abandoning its campaign for greater oversight of the RCMP.

"We haven't given up on this at all - we have never given up on Ian," Rene Bush said. "But what we do was not going to bring him back. We need to make it so that somebody else doesn't go through what we have gone through."