Two years after he was killed by the Campbell River RCMP, the family of Jared Lowndes has filed a civil claim against the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General as well as four unnamed RCMP officers.
According to the claim, on July 8, 2021, Lowndes was shot and killed by “one or more” of the police defendants near Tim Hortons in Campbell River’s Willow Point neighbourhood. According to the claim, the RCMP had blocked Lowndes’ vehicle, and commanded a police service dog to enter the vehicle through an open window. The police dog was also killed in the incident.
On Dec. 1, 2022 the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO) announced it would be referring the file to the Crown for consideration of charges against three of the unnamed officers, having determined that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that these three officers may have committed criminal offences in relation to various uses of force.”
According to an emailed press release from Pivot Legal society, the IIO has not yet filed its report with Crown Counsel.
“Systemic delays are unconscionable and inflict an excruciatingly high cost on families left behind. It is appalling that families have no choice but to wait — usually alone and in the dark — for any measure of accountability from our dysfunctional system,” said B.C. Civil Liberties Association director Meghan McDermott in the Pivot Legal Society press release. “The lags, holdups, and pauses consistently experienced by families undermine any notion of justice and highlight how broken the current model is.”
The civil claim seeks general, special, aggravated and punitive damages against the defendants, with Lowndes’ family saying that they’ve suffered the loss of financial support, household services, care, guidance and companionship, inheritance, as well as experienced emotional distress, and incurred funeral expenses.
“This lawsuit is a message for the RCMP: you cannot keep killing us,” Lowndes’ mother Laura Holland said in the Pivot press release. “Across B.C. and Canada, Indigenous Nations, communities and families are reeling from continued police killings of our people. We must replace these unaccountable systems.”
“At one time I had to have faith in the IIO, it was the only hope we had. Now I need to put my faith in the court system, that hasn’t always been just for my people. It is my hope we see some semblance of justice through these systems,” she said. “Nothing will bring my son back, my granddaughter will never have her dad at her graduation, and there will be no father to walk her down the aisle if or when she marries. There will be no one to guide her and teach her the things that only a dad can.”
Supporters of the Lowndes family have been working on a public advocacy campaign since Lowndes’ death to bring attention to the Indigenous people who are killed by police or in police custody across the country.
“The reality that too many Indigenous people face is that our deaths are swept under the rug because we lack the resources to bring cases like this against police and government, who have access to seemingly-endless resources to fight our people,” Holland said.
According to trackinginjustice.ca, a website that tracks Canadian police-involved deaths, there have been 117 police-involved killings of Indigenous people since 2000, 17 of which took place in B.C. involving the RCMP. That is out of a total 732 incidents since 2000.
“For the entirety of the RCMP’s history, they have been killing and displacing Indigenous people and there has been little to no accountability,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) in the Pivot Legal Society press release. “They rarely serve jail time for committing crimes while on the job, and almost never see accountability for violent actions against Indigenous peoples. We have been calling for an overhaul to the racist policing system for years; it is not working, and it is inherently discriminatory.
“The disproportionate number of Indigenous peoples in the prison systems, and the alarming increase in brutal deaths in police custody are a testament to this imbalance, and it stems from the systemic racism in these colonial institutions,” he said.
The family of Jared Lowndes and supporters will mark the anniversary on July 8 in Vancouver, with a community event called Honouring their Names: Indigenous Justice & Healing.
The Mirror has contacted the IIO and the Campbell River RCMP for input on this article.