A public inquest must probe the death of Raymond Silverfox, according to civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby.
“The results from the coroner’s inquest make no sense whatsoever,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
“Natural causes would be dying of pneumonia from choking on your own vomit out in the forest or something.”
Silverfox died after spending over 13 hours in an RCMP cell.
A forensic pathologist found he died of acute pneumonia and sepsis, likely contracted from choking on his own vomit.
He vomited 26 times while in custody, while police and guards laughed and mocked his situation.
The six-member jury at last month’s coroner’s inquest into Silverfox’s death found that he died of natural causes.
The death should have been ruled culpable homicide, said Ruby.
This ruling is given for failure to provide the necessities of life or criminal negligence causing death, under the criminal code.
This would apply to anyone who did not help a dying man, but RCMP should be a held to a higher standard, said Ruby.
“They have more expertise than you or I. They should have recognized that he was sick and taken him to the hospital,” he said.
“It’s common practice. People are taken from police cells to hospitals because otherwise they would die.”
Ruby also finds fault with the way the investigation was conducted.
An audio component to the cellblock security video was discovered only days before the inquest and after the RCMP had completed its investigation.
The audio contained some of the most damning evidence, with officers laughing and telling Silverfox to “sleep in (his) own shit” when he requested a mat to sleep on.
The RCMP investigators claimed to have no idea that the audio was there.
“No RCMP officer is that dumb,” said Ruby.
“They didn’t bother to call headquarters where there are experts who are, trust me, sophisticated beyond belief in terms of deciphering video and audio recordings.
“And they know that they have these technical assistants because they use them in the criminal court all of the time.”
Ruby also has issues with the RCMP investigating itself.
The rules have since been changed and similar investigations are now conducted by an independent police force.
For example, the Medicine Hat Police is currently investigating the recent death of Robert Stone, who spent eight hours in the drunk tank on the evening that he died.
“I don’t think that’s enough, frankly,” said Ruby
“I think there ought to be a civilian complaints investigation bureau for the RCMP. You shouldn’t have active police officers investigating this sort of thing.”
There is the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, who will be issuing their report on Silverfox’s death sometime this summer.
However, the commission does not have the ability to conduct its own investigations and is notorious for having very little power.
Former commissioner Paul Kennedy complained about his agency’s lack of legal and political authority and lost his job because of it, said Ruby.
“I think at this point a public inquiry is the only way to deal with this issue.”
A public inquiry would be overseen by a trained, superior court judge who would retain their own independent council.
The budget would not be limited and the proceedings would be far more transparent than the coroner’s inquest.
The public inquest could look into previous in-custody deaths and also the issue of racism within the RCMP.
“Some of the things that were heard on that audiotape are unacceptable in Canada,” said Ruby.
“But they will certainly shed light on those who permitted this death to take place.”
“No one ever lays a charge against a Mountie and that’s not acceptable,” he added.
“If I did these things, if I locked a guy in my basement for well over 12 hours and watched while he developed pneumonia and choked to death, I’d be put in prison, it’s as simple as that.”
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