In Canada, there is still no formal, systematic process for documenting and recording the police-involved deaths of civilians. Also, there is no systematic method for reporting publicly on civilian deaths through police encounters. Much information is left unreported, including race, ethnicity, age and gender. Often, crucial details like mental health issues are not reported. There is no central registry of victims and victims are not named publicly except in cases where family members come forward to name a loved one killed during a police encounter.
And, perhaps most importantly, little is reported about the officers involved when civilians die through police contact. Officers are not named unless they are criminally charged, which rarely happens, or if there is an inquiry or coroner’s inquest some time well after the fact. This means that the public does not know if officers who have killed are still on the streets, if some officers are repeat offenders or whether officers involved in a killing have personal or professional histories of prejudice or racism. Naming cops who kill is crucial for public knowledge and safety and must become regular practice.
Typically, accounts of police-involved deaths are controlled by police, who may be the only witnesses to a lethal encounter, and who, thus, frame the public reporting of the event. Added to this is the fact that not all provinces have police oversight agencies in place. In Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, police forces from other provinces investigate incidents of death involving police officers. This is an unacceptable situation. More than this, the oversight agencies that do exist have no legal mechanism to compel officers to cooperate with an investigation. Forces routinely interfere with, obstruct and harass investigations.
The main source to track, document and analyze the police killings of civilians in Canada remains the critical criminology project Killer Cops Canada. A baseline or minimum number of people who died through police encounters can be arrived at by a review of oversight agency reports, coroners’ inquest reports, and a close following of media articles. Based on this, we can say that in 2018 there were at least 59 deaths of people in Canada through encounters with police officers. Of these, the majority, 26, were shot and killed by police. Here is some of the very limited information of what we know based on the information reported publicly. We need to know so much more.
Police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018
1. Jan. 1: Unnamed male, 59, Peterborough, Ont. Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). In distress.
2. Jan. 2: Brandon Stephen, 24, Cree male, Waskaganish, Que. Sûreté du Québec (SQ). In-custody.
3. Jan. 3: Unnamed male, 63, Laurentians, Que. SQ. Police vehicle collision.
4. Jan. 3: Unnamed female, 58, Laurentians, Que. SQ. Police vehicle collision.
5. Jan. 13: Unnamed female, 49, Tichborne, Ont. OPP.
6. Jan. 16: Unnamed male, 34, Regina, Sask., Regina police. In distress.
7. Jan. 27/28: Unnamed male, Calgary. Calgary police. Shot.
8. Jan. 27: Unnamed male, 27, St. Catharines, Ont. Niagara Regional Police Service. No cause given.
9. Jan. 26-28: Unnamed, St. John, N.B. No other details provided.
10. Feb. 3: Joey Knapaysweet, Cree male, 21, (Fort Albany First Nation), Timmins, Ont. Timmins police. Shot.
11. Feb. 4: Agnes Sutherland, Cree female, 62, (Fort Albany First Nation). Timmins, Ont. Timmins Police. In-custody.
12. Feb. 22: Unnamed female, 28, Mississauga, Ont. Peel Regional Police. Fall.
13. Feb. 22: Gordon Couvrette, 43, North Bay, Ont. North Bay police. In distress. Taser.
14. Feb. 24: Unnamed male, Chilliwack, B.C. RCMP. Taser.
15. Feb. 25: Unnamed male, 25, Ottawa, Ont. Ottawa police. Shot.
16. Feb. 26: Unnamed individual, Markham, Ont. York Regional Police. Struck by police vehicle.
17. March 6: Unnamed female, 88, Napanee, Ont. OPP. Vehicle collision during police chase.
18. March 19: Unnamed male, South Surrey, B.C. RCMP. Vancouver police. In distress.
19. March 21: Matthew Mahoney, 33, Windsor, Ont. Windsor police. Shot.
20. March 27: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police.
21. March 29: Abderrahmane (Adam) Bettahar, 21, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.
22. March 29: Unnamed male, 36, Montreal, Que. Montreal police. Fall.
23. April 2: Unnamed male, 62, Thunder Bay, Ont. Thunder Bay police. Fall.
24. April 3: Quinn MacDougall, 19, Hamilton, Ont. Hamilton police. Shot.
25. April 9: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot.
26. May 8: Unnamed male, Nanaimo, B.C. RCMP. Shot.
27. May 17: Unnamed male, 22, Saguenay, Que. Crash during police chase.
28. May 17: Unnamed Cree female, 33, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot.
29. May 26: Bradley Thomas Clattenburg, 24, Dartmouth, N.S. RCMP. Shot.
30. May 27: Unnamed male, 32, Summerside, P.E.I. Shot.
31. June 7: Unnamed male, Toronto, Ont. Toronto police. Shot.
32. June 21: Zachary Fairbairn, 28, Gatineau, Que. Gatineau police. Struck by vehicle during police chase.
33. June 22: Orlando Brown, black male, 32, Barrie, Ont. Barrie police. Taser.
34. July 3: Unnamed male, Whitecourt, Alta. RCMP. Shot.
35. July 19: Unnamed male, 63, Trois-Rivières, Que. Police chase.
36. July 20: Unnamed male (Frog Lake First Nation), Frog Lake First Nation, Alta. RCMP. Shot.
37. July 23: Unnamed male, 43, Caledon, Ont. OPP. During arrest.
38. July 25: Unnamed male, 17, Montreal, Que. SQ. Shot.
39. Aug. 7: Bolante Idowu Alo, 49-year-old black male, Calgary, Alta. Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Calgary police. Deportation.
40. Aug. 18: Sterling Ross Cardinal, 29-year-old Indigenous male, Calling Lake First Nation, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.
41. Aug. 21: Nicholas Gibbs, 23-year-old black male, Montreal, Que. Montreal police. Shot.
42. Aug. 31: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot. In mental crisis.
43. Sept. 5: Unnamed 40-year-old Inuit male, Inukjuak, Que. Kativik Regional Police. Shot.
44. Sept. 14: Unnamed male, Kamloops, B.C. RCMP. Shot.
45. Sept. 22: Unnamed male, 32, Burlington, Ont. Halton Regional Police. OPP. Shot.
46. Sept. 16: Unnamed male, 32, Lindsay, Ont. Kawartha Lakes police. Chase.
47. Sept. 18: Unnamed male, Toronto, Ont. OPP. Fall.
48. Sept. 19: Unnamed male, 22, Kugluktuk, Nunavut. RCMP. In-custody.
49. Sept. 29: Unnamed female, Victoria, B.C. Victoria police. Taser.
50. Oct. 11: Unnamed male, 55, London, Ont. London police. In-custody.
51. Oct. 20: Unnamed female, 30, Hamilton, Ont. Hamilton police. Shot.
52. Oct. 30: Unnamed male, 20, Sorel, Que. SQ. Chase.
53. Nov. 10: Unnamed male, Shawnigan Lake, B.C. RCMP. Shot.
54. Nov. 29: Jorden McKay, 27, Corner Brook, Nfld. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Shot.
55. Nov. 30: Unnamed male, 23, London, Ont. London Police. In-custody.
56. Dec. 22: Unnamed male, 27, Saskatoon, Sask. Saskatoon police. Shot. In crisis.
57. Dec. 25: Stacey Perry, 29, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot while in crisis and following police chase.
58. Dec. 26: Buck Evans, 34, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.
59. Dec. 27: Unnamed male, 29, London, Ont. London police. In-custody.
Jeff Shantz is a full-time faculty member in the department of criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on Coast Salish territories in Metro Vancouver. He is the founder of the Critical Criminology Working Group and co-founding member of the Social Justice Centre at KPU, where he is lead researcher on the Anti-Poverty/Criminalization/Social War Policing project.
Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr
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