Family of Indigenous man who died after being arrested was dismayed by the delay in Mounties’ court appearances
The family of an Indigenous man who died after being arrested by RCMP more than six years ago said they were upset to learn long-awaited court dates for officers charged in his death have been postponed to later in the spring .
At a press conference Monday, relatives of Dale Culver said they found out less than a day in advance that the hearings, scheduled for Tuesday in Prince George, BC, had been postponed.
“It’s like a nightmare,” said Virginia Pierre, Culver’s aunt.
“We’ve waited over six years and then suddenly nothing happens tomorrow? Something’s wrong here.”
All five Prince George RCMP officers charged in Culver’s death are now scheduled to appear in a provincial court on May 2.
Two are charged with manslaughter, while the three have been charged with obstruction of justice in connection with events that took place immediately after Culver’s death.
Culver, 35, was a father of three and a member of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations. He died of breathing difficulties following his arrest in the city in 2017.
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Culver was taken into custody after police were called over a man who allegedly disguised vehicles, according to the BC Police Inspectorate. According to one report, he was pepper sprayed during a fight, had difficulty breathing and died.
“We can’t celebrate the normal things that a family goes through,” said Culver’s eldest daughter, Lily Speed-Namox, now 20.
“I was scared, angry and confused about how people who are supposed to help, guide and protect people could just as quickly take those people’s lives.”
Police officers Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette are charged with manslaughter.
constant Arthur Dalman, Const. Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz face attempted obstruction charges.
Four of the five – Ste-Marie, Monette, Dalman and Cruz – remain on active duty. MacDonald is on administrative leave for reasons unrelated to Culver’s death, the RCMP previously said.
An independent review in 2019 found “reasonable reasons” to believe that two officers may have committed offenses involving the use of force and three others obstructed justice, but a final report was not handed to the Crown until 2020.
It took nearly three more years for the indictment to be approved – a delay agreed by the family and the head of BC’s Independent Investigative Bureau was “unacceptable”.
At a news conference on Monday, BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth – whose department oversees the RCMP – said the province plans to introduce new legislation this year to ensure investigations move faster.
“As we’ve seen, tribal peoples are grossly over-represented in our correctional facilities and have suffered deaths in too many cases, and that’s just not acceptable,” Farnworth said.
Accusation officials urged witnesses to delete the video
In Canada, manslaughter is defined as homicide committed without intent to kill, although intent to cause bodily harm may exist.
Obstruction is an offense requiring “a willful attempt by a defendant in any way to obstruct, pervert or obstruct the course of justice”.
In 2018, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a formal complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, alleging that Mounties directed witnesses to delete video footage of Culver’s arrest.
The association also questioned whether “explicit or implicit racial prejudice” played a role in the case. The complaint said the BCCLA was told there was “several hours” between the initial call to police and the RCMP’s arrival at the scene, raising questions about whether Culver was approached because he was Indigenous.
Culver’s death prompted allegations of anti-Indigenous racism in policing and was the focus of a series of protests in northern BC following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.