Silverfox inquest under review

Raymond Silverfox's family is taking his case to the Yukon Supreme Court in September.

Raymond Silverfox’s family is taking his case to the Yukon Supreme Court in September.

The 43-year-old Carmacks man died in police custody on December 2, 2008, after spending more than 13 hours in the Whitehorse drunk tank.

During those long hours, Silverfox wet himself, defecated in his pants and vomited 26 times.

Roughly 60 per cent of the cell was covered in the mess, and when Silverfox asked for a mat to sleep on, he was told, “No, you can sleep in your own shit.”

Silverfox spent most of the time on the floor, sometimes moaning, curled up in the fetal position.

Emergency medical services weren’t called until Silverfox’s heart stopped beating and he was found unresponsive. He was pronounced dead two hours later, having died from an acute infection that he likely contracted by inhaling his own vomit.

After his death, the Whitehorse RCMP was investigated by RCMP from Prince George’s E Division.

And this is not acceptable, said Silverfox family lawyer Andre Roothman.

“There is a huge criticism about this current system of the RCMP investigating the RCMP,” he said.

“But when there is a death in RCMP custody, one would think you should at least go outside (the force).”

After a death in police custody, it’s up to the coroner to appoint a peace officer to investigate.

In this case, officers from E Division were called in.

“But the way it all played out, it was basically the tail wagging the dog,” said Roothman.

The investigation also failed to show video footage of Silverfox in custody to the pathologist, prior to the pathologist doing his report, said Roothman. “And this is a pathologist who is acting on a regular basis for the RCMP”- the same pathologist, Charles Lee, who was subject to criticism during the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport, he said.

But it’s not just the investigation that worries the Silverfox family, there were also issues with the coroner’s inquest, said Roothman.

“Some reports that relate to the investigation weren’t entered as exhibits.”

And the full video footage of Silverfox’s time in custody was not played for the jury, a section was fast-forwarded, he said.

Roothman is challenging the investigation and the coroner’s inquest.

Both should be subject to a judicial review, he said.

In September, it will be decided whether the investigation is also subject to the review.

“It can be quite awhile before we get to an actual judicial review,” he said.

The Crown has indicated it’s still looking into possible criminal proceedings against the RCMP, added Roothman.

“So far there hasn’t been a decision.”

But its been almost two years since Silverfox died – the RCMP report was done long ago – and nobody was prosecuted, he said.

“And if the Crown is not going to do anything, Silverfox’s family has instructed us to look into a private prosecution.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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