A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » 2013 » August
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC
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The news that James Forcillo has been charged with second degree murder in the death of eighteen year old Sammy Yatim in July indicates that the Ontario system of criminal justice, while perhaps not perfect, is still light years ahead of this province’s in such cases.

No British Columbia police officer has ever faced a criminal trial as a result of a death caused by the application of force.  We should soon know if that perfect record remains intact when special prosecutor Mark Jette completes his review of the Paul Boyd shooting.

British Columbia police officers have shot, beaten and Tasered people to death with impunity for years, secure in the knowledge that Crown Counsel have never prosecuted a police officer as a result of such homicides.  Indeed, although the Crown knew that Paul Boyd was crawling across a Vancouver street on his hands and knees, unarmed, when the fatal shot was fired into his brain by one of the numerous Vancouver police officers on the scene, the prosecutors somehow concluded (more than two years later) that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the police use of force was excessive. Only when a bystander’s video graphically depicted the enormity of the matter did the Crown act to refer the case to a special prosecutor for an independent assessment.

I have dealt with enough grieving families to understand that they do not seek revenge when their loved ones die at the hands of police officers-they just want a fair and unbiased application of the criminal law that supposedly exists for the benefit of every Canadian.  In British Columbia, unlike Ontario, they haven’t had that…yet.


A few of the other egregious fatalities in which Crown Counsel concluded, after lengthy reviews of over a year in each case, that charges would not be laid against the police officer who killed the deceased:

Ian Bush: unarmed, shot in the back of the head after being taken into custody on a minor liquor infraction.

Kevin St. Arnaud: unarmed, shot in the chest from 15 feet away, there was evidence that  St. Arnaud’s hands were raised in surrender at the time.

Jeffrey Berg: unarmed, beaten and kicked eleven times in the head and neck while offering no resistance.

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I’m not sure what is more disturbing…the news story reproduced below, or the apathetic shrug the vast majority have on hearing the news that police will stop people engaged in perfectly legal activity (e.g. walking down the street with an unopened bottle of wine) and confiscate their property if not satisfied with the explanation.


VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver Police are surprised people continue to take booze to events like the Celebration of Light, despite repeated warnings not to.

But there is a way to get back any liquor the cops may confiscate. If your booze isn’t open, an officer will hand you a receipt, sort of like a coat check, so you can take it to the police station later to reclaim your alcohol.

Cst. Brian Montague explains what happens if you don’t go back to get it. “It’ll just be unclaimed property. Like any other unclaimed property, it would get destroyed. Other property is burned, I don’t know if they would add it to the incineration pile but it’s destroyed with other property.”

If your drink is already open, it will poured out in front of you.

Montague says an officer can use his or her own discretion. “I had a situation last week, stopped a man and woman walking down the beach and they had a perfectly logical explanation as to where they were coming from, where they were going to, they were able to provide me with some basic information and I let them proceed on their way, alcohol in hand.”

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