The family of Dale Culver and the union representing RCMP officers are speaking out following the approval of charges against five Prince George RCMP officers in the wake of the man's 2017 death while in police custody.
Culver, an Indigenous man from the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nations,was described as a beloved son, brother, friend, and father to three children.
"We cannot shake off the devastation until justice is done,” said Culver's aunt Virginia Pierre in a statement issued through the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “This is hard on every single one of us. And we hurt each time we see police involved deaths in the news. It happens way too much. Too many have died in the hands of the RCMP. The police are supposed to protect us, not kill us."
Next of kin Debbie Pierre said Culver's youngest daughter was less than six months old at the time of his death and will be turning six years old in a few weeks.
"Dale should not be a memory for us. He has many loved ones missing him," Pierre said.
The time it has taken for the case to reach the current stage was also criticized.
BCCLA policy director Meghan McDermott said the three year wait for charge approval from the time the Independent Investigation Office forwarded its report to B.C. Prosecution Service is unacceptable.
"Such delays exacerbate the stress and pain that Dale’s loved ones are already experiencing and contributes more generally to public distrust of policing agencies and the oversight mechanisms purported to hold them accountable," McDermott said.
Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, said in a statement that in-custody deaths are rare and tragic and the process in this case was “far from timely.”
“The investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the charge assessment by the BC Prosecution Service, and the ultimate charge approval decision by BC Crown counsel took almost six years, creating an extensive period of uncertainty for our members, Culver's family, and the community of Prince George,” he said.
He said plans to deploy bodyworn cameras across Canada will help protect police and the public and provide transparency, evidence, and accountability.
In a separate statement, B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief Terry Teegee said news is a "positive step that contributes toward a transformative national effort to ensure all Indigenous and racialized people in Canada are not subject to the discrimination and injustice that is so deeply inherent in the justice system."
The charges stem from a July 18, 2017 arrest when he was pepper sprayed during a confrontation in a parking lot in the 1000 block of Central Street West.
RCMP have said Culver appeared to have trouble breathing and that police immediate called for medical assistance. Once an ambulance arrived, Culver was taken out of a police car and collapsed. He was was pronounced deceased in hospital shortly after midnight.
On Wednesday, the BCPS said a charge of manslaughter have been approved for Cst. Paul Ste-Marie and Cst. Jean Francois Monette and a charge of attempting to obstruct justice against Cst. Arthur Dalman, Cst. Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald, and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz.