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Northwest hereditary chiefs demand accountability for deadly RCMP arrests

Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs are speaking out about the deaths of Jared Lowndes and Dale Culver
Dale Culver. (BCCLA photo)

Hereditary Chiefs from northwestern B.C. are calling for a public inquiry into the deaths of two Indigenous people from the region at the hands of the RCMP.

They are also urging the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) to reconsider criminal proceedings against the officers responsible.

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs are speaking out about the deaths of two members of the Gitxsan and Witsuwit’en Nations, Jared Lowndes in 2021 and Dale Culver in 2017.

On April 5, 2024, the BCPS announced has issued a stay of proceedings in the case against constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette, the two RCMP officers charged with manslaughter in Culver’s death in Prince George. Culver, 35, a member of the Gitxsan and Witsuwit’en Nations, died in police custody after being chased for riding a bike without a helmet.

READ MORE: Manslaughter charges stayed against B.C. cops accused in Indigenous man’s death

Just two weeks later, on April 23, the Crown declined to prosecute the three RCMP officers involved in Lowndes’ death. Lowndes, 38 and a member of the Witsuwit’en Nation, was fatally shot by police in a Tim Horton’s parking lot in Campbell River.

READ MORE: Crown says no charges in Lowndes shooting because of lack of evidence

In both cases, charges were stayed or not approved despite the findings of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that officers committed offences, a statement issued by the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs says. The Chief Civilian Director of the IIO is now calling for answers.

“The message is clear, First Nations lives are disposable,” says Joel Starlund/Sk’a’nismTsa ‘Win’Giit, Executive Director of the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs. “We have faced potent racism and injustice at the hands of the RCMP since its creation. The history of systemic oppression is deeply ingrained with numerous instances of violence and discrimination perpetuated against Indigenous people.”

READ MORE: Police watchdog calls for probe in wake of Lowndes no-charge decision

Indigenous people are more than 10 times more likely to be murdered by the police in Canada than non-Indigenous people, the Chiefs say.

“It’s beyond infuriating to witness the RCMP evade accountability time and again for the unjust killings of First Nations,” says Debbie Pierre, cousin of Dale Culver and Operations Manager for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs.

“This crisis demands immediate action, it’s not only necessary but long overdue. How many Indigenous people have to die before changes are made?”

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs says they stand in solidarity with the families of Dale Culver, Jared Lowndes, and all Indigenous communities who have tragically lost loved ones due to the actions of the RCMP.