The BC Civil Liberties Association has filed a complaint against the RCMP for its role in the deaths of Raymond Silverfox and Robert Stone.
The association also supports the Silverfox family’s call for a public inquiry.
“We don’t recommend that people go out and file complaints when they’re upset with police because we find the whole system to be totally problematic and the police do a very bad job of investigating themselves,” said David Eby, executive director of the association.
“We recommend they sue in court instead.”
The goal is to build a case before an impartial decision maker and get access to all the original documentation, video and notes, he said.
“At least those that haven’t been destroyed.”
When there are in-custody deaths, the association often makes these complaints to obtain all the information turned up by the investigations.
“We find those documents very important in terms of creating a formal record of what the official RCMP position is,” said Eby. “Because sometimes we come across information that contradicts the official version of events.”
However, the two recent Yukon cases have been unique because the association has filed complaints about the deaths and also allegations surrounding the deaths.
Stone died in detox on May 2, and spent five hours in police custody before being taken to Whitehorse General Hospital.
His family has filed a complaint against the RCMP, claiming he appears to have been beaten and Tasered multiple times.
Silverfox died on December 2, 2008, after spending more than 13 hours in the Whitehorse RCMP drunk tank.
He threw up 26 times while in custody and was allowed to lay on the floor of a cell covered in his own urine, feces and vomit.
Outside the cell, officers and guards laughed and jeered at Silverfox. They didn’t seek medical attention until he became unconscious.
A coroner’s inquiry found Silverfox died of natural causes – acute pneumonia and sepsis, probably contracted from inhaling his own vomit.
The RCMP has initiated five Code of Conduct investigations as a result of the inquiry revelations.
It is not releasing the names of the officers under investigation, although Const. Geoff Corbett acknowledged he was under investigation during the inquest.
When Raymond Silverfox asked for a mat to sleep on, Corbett responded, “Sleep in your own shit.”
Both cases remind Eby of the death of Frank Paul, who died of hypothermia in 1998 after being dumped in an alley by Vancouver police.
Police claimed Paul walked out of the city drunk tank under his own power, said Eby.
But video showed officers dragging Paul out of his cell.
“We don’t have any confidence in the police investigating themselves in these matters,” said Eby.
“We don’t think this will get us the truth of what happened, or even an approximate version of it.”
The civil liberties association supports New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen’s private members bill urging creation of an independent civilian investigation service for police.
It would investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of, or the occurrence of serious bodily harm to, any person while in police custody.
Contact Chris Oke at