July 7, 2023
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) / Vancouver, B.C. - This morning, 24 months after Jared Lowndes was killed by the Campbell River RCMP, the family of Jared Lowndes filed a lawsuit with the support of Vancouver lawyer Neil Chantler (Chantler & Company).
LINK: FILED NOTICE OF CIVIL CLAIM
This lawsuit names the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and 4 unnamed RCMP officers, seeking the following damages: general, special, aggravated and punitive damages pursuant to the Family Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c. 126.
Since Jared’s death, his family, and a community of supporters and allied organizations have been working on a public advocacy campaign to bring attention to the killing of Jared, as well as all Indigenous people killed by police and in police custody across Canada.
Laura Holland, mother of Jared Lowndes says:
“This lawsuit is a message for the RCMP: you cannot keep killing us. Across BC and Canada, Indigenous Nations, communities and families are reeling from continued police killings of our people. We must replace these unaccountable systems. At one time I had to have faith in the IIO, it was the only hope we had. Now I need to put my faith in the court system, that hasn’t always been just for my people. It is my hope we see some semblance of justice through these systems. Nothing will bring my son back, my granddaughter will never have her dad at her graduation, and there will be no father to walk her down the aisle if or when she marries. There will be no one to guide her and teach her the things that only a dad can. The reality that too many Indigenous people face is that our deaths are swept under the rug because we lack the resources to bring cases like this against police and government, who have access to seemingly-endless resources to fight our people.”
Neil Chantler, counsel for the family of Jared Lowndes, details the significance of this claim:
“The wrongful death of Mr. Lowndes has had a profound effect on everyone who knew him, especially his family. They seek justice and accountability with this civil claim, as well as answers to their longstanding questions about how this tragedy unfolded. This was a senseless killing. The RCMP appear to have created the situation that led to Jared’s death. And while we hope this civil claim will result in some financial compensation for Jared’s mother and daughters, it highlights the outdated wrongful death laws in this Province. Families in this situation deserve to be treated better than they are under our Family Compensation Act. BC is the last province in Canada to modernize these colonial-era laws.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has been advocating alongside Jared Lowndes’ family:
“Two years ago, the life of a First Nations father was taken by police officers, and unfortunately, this is not new. For the entirety of the RCMP’s history, they have been killing and displacing Indigenous people and there has been little to no accountability. They rarely serve jail time for committing crimes while on the job, and almost never see accountability for violent actions against Indigenous peoples. We have been calling for an overhaul to the racist policing system for years; it is not working, and it is inherently discriminatory. The disproportionate number of Indigenous peoples in the prison systems, and the alarming increase in brutal deaths in police custody are a testament to this imbalance, and it stems from the systemic racism in these colonial institutions. The work that Laura Holland has done to bring attention to her son’s death shows remarkable strength and courage standing up to our oppressors. But she should have never been in this position. None of our families should ever be in this position to have to ensure that the Canadian criminal justice system works for every person. The rule of law says that no one person is above the law, including those who enforce it, and today Laura and her family are pursuing Justice for Jared and UBCIC stands with them.”
Systemic racism in policing manifests through racial profiling and dangerous stereotypes, leading to disturbing rates of death and injury of Indigenous people in police custody. ADD: police-involved deaths of Indigenous People.
In December, the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) announced that they would file a report with Crown Counsel for consideration of charges against at least 3 police officers. More than 6 months later, the IIO still has not filed its final report with Crown Counsel.
Meghan McDermott, Policy Director at the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, responds to these delays:
“Systemic delays are unconscionable and inflict an excruciatingly high cost on families left behind. It is appalling that families have no choice but to wait- usually alone and in the dark - for any measure of accountability from our dysfunctional system. The lags, holdups, and pauses consistently experienced by families undermine any notion of justice and highlight how broken the current model is.”
Families seeking justice in the aftermath of police killings find themselves navigating a hostile system, without access to independent support or legal counsel. There is no dedicated legal aid funding for families as they navigate the criminal legal system, including the IIO process or the Coroners Inquest.
Meenakshi Mannoe, Criminalization & Policing Campaigner, Pivot Legal Society, describes the paltry access to justice for families impacted by police killings:
“Families impacted by police killings fight for justice - often alone and certainly without the full spectrum of support needed. Amidst their unthinkable grief, families must also navigate IIO investigations, Coroners Inquests, and civil suits - oversight systems that lack teeth. BC’s outdated legislation fails to recognize that wrongful deaths in police custody have rippling and intergenerational effects that can never be quantified.”
Tomorrow, the family of Jared Lowndes and their supporters will mark the second anniversary of his unjust death with a community event entitled Honouring their Names: Indigenous Justice & Healing at Grandview Park on Saturday, July 8. Full event details: https://fb.me/e/3yUtOgnpd.
To arrange an interview please contact Taz Khandwani
Background Information and Documents
- IIO to File Report with Crown Counsel for Consideration of Charges Regarding July 2021 Shooting Incident in Campbell River (2021-179) - December 1, 2022
- National Police Federation Statement: Campbell River RCMP Response Protected Residents, Community and Officers (July 12, 2021)
- BC RCMP notify the IIO BC of a fatal incident in Campbell River - July 8, 2021
- Statement from the Commanding Officer of BC RCMP about the loss of PSD Gator – July 8, 2021
About Neil Chantler, Chantler & Company
Neil Chantler is a Vancouver-based lawyer, at Chantler & Company. Neil has a wide range of experience in complex civil disputes and has acted as counsel at Coroners Inquests into the fentanyl overdose crisis, a death in CBSA (Canadian Border Service Agency) custody, and police use of force, and counsel at two provincial public inquiries: the Davies Commission of Inquiry into the death of Frank Paul, and the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Neil is actively engaged in his local community and regularly volunteers with community organizations on Indigenous rights, social justice, and civil liberties issues. In 2017, Neil was the recipient of Pivot Legal Society’s Access to Justice Award. For more information visit: https://www.chantlerlaw.ca/
About Jared Lowndes
Jared Lowndes, Wet’suwet’en of the Laksilyu Clan, was killed by Campbell River RCMP on July 8, 2021. The Independent Investigations Office of BC (“IIO”) opened an investigation into the officer-involved shooting and in December 2022, the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO announced that he would be filing a report with the BC Prosecution Service for consideration of charges against at least 3 Campbell River RCMP officers. Jared’s friends and family continue to take action, raising awareness about his murder and the many other Indigenous people killed by police across Canada. For more information visit: JusticeForJared.org.