BCCLA and UBCIC join to pressure government on Wright case

News Release. November 2, 2012
The BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs are joining forces to pressure the provincial government to appoint a special prosecutor to review the decision not to proceed with charges against a police officer in the disabling injury of Robert Wright a First Nations man in Terrace.

The New Westminster Police Department investigated the case and recommended charges against at least one police officer; however, the regional Crown in New Westminster declined to approve those charges and proceed to trial. Both organizations are demanding an explanation.

“This case reminds us of the death of Frank Paul who was abandoned helpless by police to freeze to death, and the case of Clayton Alvin Willey who was in handcuffs when he was repeatedly Tasered and dropped on his chest, breaking ribs, before he died,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “No charges were approved in either of those cases. It reminds me of the Crown dropping charges against Pickton when he handcuffed and stabbed a woman, leaving him free to go on to kill many more members of our community. The Criminal Justice Branch is failing First Nations people, and we deserve an explanation.”

If the Province chooses not to appoint a special prosecutor, the groups say that at a minimum police should release all surveillance footage that shows the interactions between Wright and police on the evening that he was seriously brain injured, as well as the full investigation report.

“The police are permitted to use force, and in their difficult jobs, often the use of force is unfortunately necessary,” says Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “However, in a case where investigators find that there is a basis to recommend criminal charges against a police officer, and the Crown declines to approve those charges, the public should know how and why the decision was made and should have confidence in the process by which the decision was made.”

Wright survived the incident with disabling brain injuries. He lives in Terrace, B.C., in the full time care of his wife, Heather Prisk-Wright.

In the Frank Paul, Robert Dziekanski and Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, Crown Counsel were called on to explain their decisions not to proceed with charges. In the Paul Boyd case, Crown Prosecutors released a detailed explanation of why they did not proceed with charges, which was later undermined when a video surfaced corroborating police and civilian witness accounts that the Crown had decided were not sufficiently reliable.

For further comment
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC - (604) 684-0231
David Eby, BCCLA - (778) 865-7997

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.