I am writing to you regarding the RCMP-involved killing of Jared Lowndes, a Laksilyu, Wet’suwet’en father killed on July 8, 2021 in so-called Campbell River. In the aftermath of Jared’s death, the First Nations Leadership Council has called for “justice, accountability, an inquest, and a higher level of oversight.” I am writing to demand justice for Jared.
Mr. Lowndes’ death was followed by a hateful, racist backlash, including online and the destruction of a memorial site set up for him in Campbell River. Additionally, Brian Sauvé, Director of the National Police Federation issued an inappropriate media release, blaming Mr. Lowndes for his own police-involved death. These remarks reflect the deeply structural racism of policing and more broadly the criminal justice system, where Indigenous people are treated as “inherently criminal.”, Police forces and oversight bodies have not undertaken any significant work to eradicate structural racism within their policy or operations.
Following Mr. Lowndes’ death, the Independent Investigations Office launched an investigation into the incident. This marks the fourth civilian investigation into the police shooting of an Indigenous resident of Vancouver Island in a year. A 2020 analysis done by CTV news found that an Indigenous person in Canada is over 10 times more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer than a white person. In the IIO’s investigations from 2020-21, over 25% of affected persons who provided their ethnicity to the agency identified as Indigenous, while Indigenous people make up less than 6% of the province’s population.
Mr. Lowndes’ family, legal advocates, and Indigenous leaders and advocates have developed three recommendations to address the diminished importance police and policing oversight bodies place on the deaths of Indigenous people. I am writing you to echo the following recommendations:
1. Appoint an Indigenous Civilian Monitor Immediately
We write to call on the chief civilian director to immediately appoint an Indigenous civilian monitor to review and assess the integrity of the investigation into Mr. Lowndes’ death. The Police Act section 38.08 sets out this ability.
2. Mandate the Involvement of an Indigenous Civilian Monitor
We call on the IIO and the Attorney General to update legislation and policy to mandate the inclusion of an Indigenous Civilian Monitor whenever an Indigenous person is identified as an affected party in an incident of death, serious harm, or reportable injury. The Police Act must be updated to include this responsibility.
3. Support Access to Justice for Survivors
Finally, we call on the IIO, the Attorney General and the provincial government to dedicate legal aid funding for family members during IIO investigations, Coroners’ Inquests, or independent commissions of inquiry relating to incidents of death or serious harm that may have been the result of the actions of a police officer, whether on or off duty.