At least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

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At least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

Postby Thomas » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:55 pm

Say their names: There were at least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

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. ... anada-2018
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Another deadly year in policing, with at least 57 deaths

Postby Thomas » Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:51 pm

Jeff Shantz: Another deadly year in policing, with at least 57 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

It has been another bloody year of policing in Canada, as police have been involved in the deaths of at least 57 people in 2018. In 2017 there were at least 65 police-involved deaths, so 2018 was close to that number of lives taken.

In referencing the numbers of dead in relation to police contact, we can only say “at least” 57 people because, as I have written previously for the Georgia Straight , there is no systematic, consistent process for publicly reporting police killings of civilians in Canada. Thus there may be cases which have not been reported in a way that makes clear the role of police in those killings. In the case of one death at St. John Regional Hospital in New Brunswick in January, for example, police simply said that it was “more of a hospital matter than police”, yet police were somehow involved. The exact date of the death has not even been given publicly.

The first reported death happened on January 1 in Duoro Township, near Peterborough, Ontario. Police entered a residence and located a man in distress who was later declared dead at the scene. The last reported death involved a 29-year-old who died in custody in London, Ontario, on December 27.

Police violence and, particularly, police use of lethal force still receive too little attention in Canada. The public is left in the dark about many relevant details of police-involved deaths—notably, the names of officers who kill. This means the public is left unaware when police who have killed are on their streets and in their communities. Basic information about victims (age, ethnicity, etcetera) are often unreported.

What We Know

So what do we know for sure about the 57 people whose deaths occurred in some way through police involvement? The names of known victims released publicly include Brandon Stephen, Joey Knapaysweet, Agnes Sutherland, Gordon Couvrette, Bradley Thomas Clattenburg, Zachary Fairbairn, Olando Brown, Sterling Ross Cardinal, Jordon McKay, Stacey Perry, Buck Evans, and Quin MacDougall. Unlike the situation in the United States, where the names of people killed by police become publicly known and their killings become rallying cries for reform, the names of victims of police violence in Canada are not widely known.

Of named victims, we know that three are Cree. A 21-year-old Cree man, Joey Knapaysweet, and a 63-year-old Cree woman, Agnes Sutherland, were left dead after police interactions on the same weekend in the same small northern Ontario city, Timmins. Both were from the Fort Albany First Nation. Knapaysweet was shot by police, while Sutherland died in custody. Their deaths occurred between the Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier verdicts and it is unlikely the officers involved will even be charged.

Another in-custody death involved a Cree man, Brandon Stephen, a 24-year-old father of two. His was an in-custody death with no specific cause of death provided. This was one of two in-custody deaths in January, along with an unnamed 27-year-old in St. Catharines, Ontario, for whom, similarly, no cause was given.

Concerns about racialization and policing—which have been central to public discussions of policing in large part because of community organizing—are apparent in the 2018 record. At least eight victims of police-involved deaths were Indigenous people. Two other victims were identified as black (Olando Brown and Sterling Ross Cardinal). It must be stressed that these numbers only reflect publicly released information. Police do not officially keep records on racial or ethnic identity, though some advocates have suggested they start to do so in order that this information can be made public.

The ages of victims range from 18 to 88. Nine victims were identified as female and 44 as male. For one victim (St. John), no details have been provided of any sort. Many people killed by police were shot: almost half of the police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018 saw the victims shot by police. Tasers were involved in at least four deaths. Falls accounted for at least four as well.

Although the number of cases does not allow for any assessment of trends, we can see some issues recurring. The number of people in distress, for example. Seven people were publicly identified as being in distress or health crisis at the time police encountered them. There were seven in-custody deaths, although in 2017 this was the second most common context for police-involved deaths (18). Seven people died as a result of a vehicular chase, while five died through police chases in all of 2017.

These latter two are significant given that a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) analysis excluded in-custody deaths and police chases from their recently developed database. This latter omission is curious in light of the high profile in-custody death of Olando Brown in Barrie, Brown, a 32-year-old Black man was tasered while wrestled to the ground by three officers in Barrie, Ontario, on June 22 and went into medical distress and died while in custody at the station.

Lethal Forces

More victims of police-involved deaths in 2018 were in Ontario—the largest province by population in Canada—than anywhere else. At least 23 people were left dead there in interactions with police. Twelve people died through police interactions in Alberta, 10 in Quebec, five in British Columbia, and two in Saskatchewan. There was at least one victim in each of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut. That is, police were involved in the deaths of civilians almost everywhere in Canada: nine provinces and one territory.

Not surprisingly, given its role as a municipal, provincial, and federal force, the RCMP were the force most involved in civilian deaths in 2018, with eight people left dead through contact with the RCMP. Next was the Calgary Police Service (CPS) which was the most lethal city force in Canada in 2018, also with eight police-involved deaths. The provincial force in Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), was involved in six deaths. The provincial Sûreté du Québec (SQ) was involved in four deaths, including the death of Brandon Stephen. Among smaller forces, the London Police Service were involved in three deaths and the force in tiny Timmins was responsible for the two previously noted deaths of Fort Albany First Nations people.

In term of cities, the aforementioned Calgary had the most police-involved deaths, with eight. London had three police-involved deaths, and Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Timmins had two apiece. Surrey, B.C., where I live and work had one person die in interaction with police.

A Blue Wall

Difficulties in gathering information on a systematic basis remain. Despite the efforts of researchers, journalists, and criminologists, and the work of community organizers and advocates, police use of lethal force is protected by the blue wall of silence. And this remains a difficult barrier for the public, and media, to crack.

Oversight agencies, in which the public put much faith and trust, have few mechanisms to compel police to cooperate with investigations. Police still obstruct, interfere with, or refuse to fully participate in investigations. In British Columbia, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) had to take the Vancouver Police Department to court in October to get them to cooperate with investigations. In Quebec, community advocates have held news conferences to state that police are not cooperating with the provincial Bureau of Independent Investigations (Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes). A law in Ontario that would have given the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) the means to compel officers to participate fully—with penalties for not doing so—was tanked by the right-wing (and police-friendly) government of new Premier Doug Ford.

Indeed, there are not even established oversight bodies—like the SIU in Ontario and the IIO in British Columbia—for investigating police killings of civilians in each province and territory in Canada. Those that do exist operate under separate and distinct guidelines and with unique organizational structures and cultures and reporting processes in each case. Some oversight bodies, like the BEI in Quebec, are not actually independent from police forces, relying on them for investigative work. In Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, forces from other provinces investigate cases of lethal force, an unacceptable situation for the twenty-first century.


I stated in my 2017 Straight article that most of my students in criminology classes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University come in unaware. They express shock when hearing about the extent of police-involved deaths in Canada. And it is still true that new students coming into lower-division criminology classes still have little idea of the extent of police killings of civilians in Canada. They still greatly underestimate the numbers.

Some things have changed over the course of 2018, if on small levels. My report in the Straight from last year received some attention and started some discussions. In April, the CBC released a major database of police-involved deaths in Canada since 2000 that generated much interest and brought more concentrated focus on the issue than there has been. Unfortunately, the data base excludes, for arbitrary reasons, victims of police chases and deaths in police custody. The criminologist-managed Killer Cops Canada website has continued its work of documentation and analysis.

The lack of detailed reporting makes it difficult for families, community members, and researchers to know the circumstances of police killings in Canada. Access-to-information requests often do not yield needed information. The practice of not naming police officers who kill means that community members cannot know if repeat offenders are still serving as officers on their forces. And we cannot know if, and where, killer cops are simply moving around and changing forces.

But we can prepare and report the documentation provided here as a way of ensuring information is gathered and available to the public. In Canada, there is much work to be done to bring attention to police killings of civilians.

Jeff Shantz is a full-time faculty member in the department of criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) on Coast Salish territories (in Metro Vancouver). He is the founder of the Critical Criminology Working Group and cofounding member of the Social Justice Centre at KPU, where he is lead researcher on the Anti-Poverty/Criminalization/Social War Policing project. ... anada-2018
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