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.