In the last three years, there have been three deaths in custody of Indigenous men in the northern town of Prince George, British Columbia.
Lily Speed-Namox and her mother Tracey Speed search for answers and seek justice for Lily’s father, Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan man who died during an RCMP arrest in July 2017.
A report from the Independent Investigation Office of BC (IIO), the police watchdog, says RCMP in Prince George were responding to a call of someone casing vehicles.
Culver fled on a bicycle, a struggle ensued, and pepper spray was used while multiple officers were apprehending him. Culver was having difficulty breathing, police called for medical assistance but he died shortly after.
It has not been confirmed the Dale Culver was the person reported.
“He was an Indigenous man on a bike in the wrong place at the wrong time and that’s exactly what happened to him and completely surrounded by police officers, who saw an Indigenous man on a bike and thought that he was doing something wrong because of the colour of his skin,” said Tracey Speed.
A bystander captured the arrest on video.
Last year, the IIO recommended charges against five officers in the death of Dale Culver. Two charges over the use of force and three for obstruction of justice.
When contacted by APTN Investigates, the media relations contact the Crown prosecutor’s office said they have the file but there is nothing to report.
“We are in the process of conducting the charge assessment,” said Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service. “We do not currently have a timeline for the completion of this process but we anticipating issuing a media statement announcing the decision once the process is concluded.”
That’s not sitting well with the family.
“There’s no repercussion and not to mention that, but there’s no repercussions for what’s done and what they do. So what’s going to happen to the cops that killed my dad?” a frustrated Lily Speed-Namox asked.
Advocates question if systemic racism played a role in his death.
B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee lives and works out of Prince George.
He has been vocal that changes are needed at the local and federal levels in policing.
“We see it to this day the issue of how colonial policies has really entrenched itself in terms of racism within the police force and we’re seeing that in general in society,” he said. “But in particular its police force, we’re seeing high incarceration rates, profiling of Indigenous peoples, which really lends itself to really a stereotypical, I suppose, view of Indigenous peoples and racism towards Indigenous peoples.”
In April 2020, his own family was affected when his cousin Everett Patrick died in custody in Prince George.
According to an IIO report, Patrick was taken to the University Hospital of Northern BC after a multiple-hour standoff with police. He was cleared medically and released into RCMP custody. Hours later in the Prince George RCMP detachment, Patrick was in medical distress. He was rushed back to the hospital but died days later from injuries.
There is an active investigation into his death.
BC Civil Liberties Association has spent decades fighting for equality in policing and the justice system.
According to their community lawyer, Carly Teillet, systemic racism can be found in structures and as well as biases of individuals.
“So when we’re talking about systemic racism, we’re talking about a couple of different things and they’re all combined together, we’re talking about the system, the system of policing, and the structures of policing. There is racism and there is bias in those structures,” she said in interview from Vancouver.
“There’s also individual issues, and there are individual officers who are also exercising discretion. So that’s a decision making in a moment to moment basis, and racism operates there as well.”
Teillet says accountability and a need for overhauling oversight bodies on a national level is an essential step to addressing issues.
“The BCCLA sees huge issues in police accountability in this country from the provincial level to the national oversight body, and we’re not alone. The chairperson of the CRCC (Civilian Review and Complaints Commission) sees so this is the complete oversight mechanism for the RCMP has said themselves that they are in a way, unable to do their own job,” the lawyer added.
Three years have passed since Dale Culver died during his arrest and there have been no new developments in the case of Everett Patrick.
“Like any Indigenous person, especially ones that are related to me angry that, you know, if you’re arrested, you end up dying and that shouldn’t be the case and it’s frustrating to find the answers for the family. Not just my family, but other families that are related to Dale Culver,” said Terry Teegee.
Next week, we cover the case of Chad George, 23, from Carrier Sekani who died in Prince George Regional Correction Centre days after being picked up by RCMP, the police response as well as the response to Black Lives Matter rallies that swept across Canada calling for changes in policing of minorities.