Chair-Initiated Complaint into the In-Custody Death of Raymond Silverfox, Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2, 2008

December 15, 2008

File No.: 2008-3266

As Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, I am initiating a complaint into the conduct of those unidentified RCMP members involved in the arrest, and subsequent detention in RCMP cells of Raymond Silverfox in Whitehorse, Yukon on December 2, 2008.

The facts as presently known indicate that on December 2, 2008, RCMP members arrested Mr. Silverfox at a local shelter and subsequently detained him in Whitehorse RCMP Detachment cells. Several hours later, Mr. Silverfox was found unresponsive in his cell and was transported to the local hospital where he subsequently died.

I am initiating this complaint with the full appreciation that the RCMP has deployed its "E" Division North District Major Crime Unit to investigate this incident. It is not my intention to prejudice the RCMP investigation. However, I will be closely monitoring the progress of the RCMP's investigation to ensure, at its completion, a timely response to this complaint.

Additionally, the CPC Independent Observer Program was engaged on December 4, 2008 to assess the impartiality of the RCMP members assigned to investigate this incident and will, as circumstances dictate, continue its monitoring activity to ensure that impartiality is maintained.

The RCMP in its 2006 Annual Report of RCMP In-Custody Deaths reported " ...that over 70 percent of in-custody death subjects were using alcohol and/or drugs at the time of their apprehension" and that for some of these subjects "the effects of alcohol and/or drug abuse compound pre-existing medical conditions with lethal results." Given these findings, I am satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to investigate the conduct of all members involved in this incident. Accordingly, pursuant to subsection 45.37(1) of the RCMP Act, I am today initiating a complaint into the conduct of all RCMP members or other persons appointed or employed under the authority of the RCMP Act involved in this incident, as well as matters of general practice applicable to situations in which persons are held in the custody of the RCMP, specifically:

  1. whether the RCMP members or other persons appointed or employed under the authority of the RCMPRCMP Act involved in the events of December 2, 2008, from the moment of initial contact and arrest, through to the subsequent detention and death of Raymond Silverfox, complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements relating to persons held in RCMP custody and in particular to providing access to medical treatment;
  2. whether the RCMP members at the Whitehorse RCMP Detachment provided adequate supervision and direction to the guard or guards who were charged with the care and handling of prisoners in the custody of the Whitehorse RCMP during the period of Mr. Silverfox's detention and subsequent death; and
  3. whether the RCMP national, divisional and detachment-level policies, procedures and guidelines relating to the provision of medical treatment to persons detained in RCMP custody, in particular relating to those who are detained where the consumption of alcohol is a factor, are adequate to ensure the proper care and safety thereof.
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