Dale Culver’s family rallied outside the Prince George courthouse after the BC Prosecution Service delayed the hearing into alleged RCMP misconduct.
The family has been waiting for nearly six years for answers after Culver, a 35-year-old Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan father of three, died during an arrest by RCMP in Prince George in 2017.
The officers allege that he attempted to flee on a bike and was then pepper sprayed while being taken into custody. Culver collapsed and died shortly after, according to the Independent Investigations Office of B.C, or IIO report.
Lily Speed-Namox was a teenager when her father was killed.
Now, 20, her teenage years were spent waiting for the results of the inquiry into his death.
Speed-Namox says that even though the case was delayed, Culver’s family will not stop seeking justice.
“We had to show our support today, and show that, even though they might have moved the date, we’re not going to stop; we are not going to move; this is still my dad’s case.
“That was my dad’s life that was taken away, that means the world to us,” she added.
It was after the inquiry that charges against five Prince George RCMP officers were approved. The officers were due to appear in court on March 14, but the trial is now delayed until early May.
Virginia Pierre, Dale Culver’s aunt who raised him along with her late husband, stood outside the courthouse holding a sign that said “Indigenous Lives Matter.”
She said it took 72 hours after he died for the B.C. RCMP to notify them.
Earlier this week, the family held a press conference calling for systemic changes.
Pierre expressed frustration with how long it has taken to find answers.
“Seventy-two hours before we found out he’s gone, now we’re waiting over six years; then all of a sudden nothing is happening tomorrow – there is something wrong here,” she said.
Last month, the BC Prosecution Service charged two Prince George RCMP officers with manslaughter in Culver’s death.
Three additional officers are facing obstruction of justice charges.
Debbie Pierre, Dale Culver’s cousin, says she had her doubts that officers would be charged, but she was relieved to find out the Crown was moving ahead.
“I really felt it was not going to proceed because this has happened across Canada for how many generations now, and it gives me hope, but it also much uncertainty,” she said at a news conference.
In an emailed statement to APTN News, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said the force had cooperated with the investigations.
“The B.C. RCMP fully cooperated with the [Independent Invcstigations Office (IIO)] during their investigation, and fully supports independent investigations and judicial reviews of police-involved incidents as required,” the statement read.
“We do have concerns regarding the nearly six-year timeline in this instance though as it put undue stress on the man’s family, our members and their families, and the community, which has been looking for clarity and answers on what occurred.”
Saunderson confirmed the RCMP officers are all still employed and on duty.
B.C. Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the Assembly of First Nations called for change alongside the family at the news conference.
He listed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the MMIW Inquiry, and other plans and commissions – as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and said all of their proposed calls to action should be completed.
In 2020, Teegee’s family member, Everett Patrick, a 42-year-old father from Lake Babine Nation, died after suffering a severe injury in the Prince George detachment.
Last year, the IIO asked the Crown to consider laying charges against one officer. As APTN previously reported, the BC Prosecution Service says it does not have a timeline for its decision.
At the news conference Monday, Speed-Namox expressed frustration that the officers were still on active duty, yet she and her siblings could no longer see their dad.
She said her family wants an apology from the officers (allegedly) involved in her father’s death.
For the past six years, she has continued to work through the grief and become an advocate for changes in policing.
She says she won’t let her dad’s memory be forgotten.
“He was my dad and the dad of my two younger siblings, and that needs to be known. He was a person, he wasn’t an item or a piece of paper, he was a person just like you and I, and he deserved to live.”