Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in November 2023
At least 8 people were killed in police actions in November 2023. This means that at least 85 people have had their lives taken through police actions so far this year. This includes people who were directly killed by police, as in police shootings, or died during police deployments or in police custody. In 2022, there were at least 117 police-involved deaths in Canada.
In October, there were at least 7 people killed in police actions. At least 8 people were killed in police actions in each of September and August. At least 10 people were killed in police actions in July 2023, following a June that saw at least nine people killed. At least 12 people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in May 2023, the bloodiest month of police violence since October 2022. At least five people had their lives taken in police actions in April 2023, at least eight people in March, at least six people in February, and at least four people in January.
In November, at least four people were confirmed to have been shot by police (Sûreté du Québec, Winnipeg Police, Saugenay Police, Abbotsford Police Department). One of these shooting victims was during an intoxication arrest of a young boy in distress. One person was killed in a police pursuit. Three of the victims were described as in some type of mental distress or during a wellness check at the time police were deployed against them. This reinforces the fact that policing is not care and police are not the appropriate response to health care needs. One victim, Don Bennett, has been identified publicly.
The details below are based on police reports, reports from oversight agencies, and in some cases information from families. As always, because there are no formal, systemic mechanisms for documenting and reporting police killings publicly in Canada, all numbers presented for police-involved deaths represent an undercount. In addition to the known cases, there are cases of police-involved deaths that have no reporting.
November 7. Sûreté du Québec. Intoxication Arrest. Shooting.
On November 7, Sûreté du Québec (SQ, provincial police) shot and killed a boy during their deployment for a person who was reported to be intoxicated and in crisis on Route du Développement in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, near Victoriaville. The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) reports that at around 6:43 PM a call was made to 911. Three SQ patrol vehicles arrived on the scene around 7:25 PM and at some point during the police intervention the person was shot by police. He was reportedly transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
A neighbour and direct witness at the scene, Steve Houle, says police killed a boy who was sick. In his words, “It was a young boy who was sick, he rushed towards the police and the police opened fire. I was outside, it happened 100 feet from me, it’s something, it’s overwhelming.” Houle said he was still in shock.
The BEI has assigned four investigators to examine the killing. The BEI is not an independent agency and uses the services of another police force for its investigations. In this case the Montreal City Police Service will be involved.
November 10. Don Bennett. Langley RCMP. Wellness Check.
Family members have identified Don Bennett (66) as the man believed to have died in a fire inside a barn during an RCMP “wellness check” at a blueberry farm in Langley on November 10. It is reported that there was an hours-long standoff beginning when RCMP were called for a wellness check on an “individual who was distraught and made concerning comments.” RCMP arrived at a farm on the 23000-block of 0 Avenue, on the Canada-U.S. border, at around 4 PM. Police claim they heard gunshots and, in response, called the force’s integrated emergency response team. Police claim that at around 10:40 PM a fire broke out that consumed the barn, leaving the person inside likely dead.
Bennett’s daughter, Nicky McIntosh, has come forward to question the RCMP handling of the encounter and to ask whether RCMP did enough to defuse the situation. McIntosh told media that an armed response to a mental health crisis was not justified. She also wished the RCMP had involved Bennett’s family early on. In her words: “I don’t know if there was a mental health worker or a social worker or a support worker in attendance with the officers who came to do the initial wellness check. But the family wasn’t involved from the beginning. And by the time we did find out about it, I think it had already escalated to a point where I don’t know if there was any way to go back.”
McIntosh said she was only notified of the standoff a bit before the RCMP said the barn burned down. She is asking why the family was not contacted earlier: “He has so many friends and family members that could have easily been contacted, even just to touch base with him. And then who was on the scene with the police officers? Because when somebody is in mental distress, having a badge and a gun isn’t necessarily the answer.”
Incredibly, police called in dog handlers to remove dogs that were on scene and allegedly impairing police movements. The dog handlers claim a shot was fired near them. Yet, while it has not been determined that counsellors were dispatched for Mr. Bennett, it has been reported that a counsellor was called to the scene—for the dog handlers. Sarah Jones, executive director of the Aldergrove-based Langley Animal Protection Society told media, “She was called that evening and had a session with each of them in the night to make sure that they were okay. They’re getting the mental health and emotional support they need, and they’re doing remarkably well, but I think this [is] something that [can] show up later.”
Bennett had reportedly rented space on the property to park his RV for around a decade. He had been living in the RV inside the barn.
The owners of the blueberry farm have also come forward to say how the police operation traumatized them, leaving them in shock even two days later. The Brar family says that police tactical officers arrived at their door and told them to hide in their farmhouse with the lights off as dozens of officers “swarmed” the property.
According to Sandeep Brar, “The SWAT team…they were running around all the house. We were totally shocked. There’s lots of RCMP police cars, fire trucks, and then ambulances … I was totally shocked and I keep crying—what’s going on here? We never had any kind of a problem.”
Brar said her nine-year-old daughter and two elderly parents were in the house at the time, while she and her husband got stopped at a police barricade while trying to return home after running some errands elsewhere. Brar told media, “My daughter was crying and my parents didn’t know what to do.” Ranvir Brar, a 14-year-old daughter, told media of the fear inside the house. In her words, “My little sister was in the house and my grandparents … [It] was pretty scary for them.”
McIntosh described her father as easygoing and kind man, who was close to her two daughters. In her words, “Everyone he met—strangers on the ferry, on the trail, Campbell Valley Park where he rode his horses—he would make friends everywhere.”
She said that anyone close to Bennett knew he struggled with mental health issues, and that he was in a crisis on that day. Recognizing that many people have died during so-called wellness checks in Canada, McIntosh said, “If they don’t change the way they deal with it, it won’t be the last time either.”
November 18-19. RCMP. Dawson Creek.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC is investigating a police action in Dawson Creek in which one man died and police fired weapons. They report that at about 11:45 PM on November 18, police were at a residential building in the 10600-block of 10th Street looking for someone as part of an investigation. They determined that three women and one man were inside a unit, and the man was reported to have a weapon. The three women exited the residence, but the man did not. Police claim that over the next several hours, they made several attempts to get the man to exit. At some point, there was reportedly an exchange of gunfire between the man and police. At about 8:25 AM on November 19, police entered the residence, and reportedly found the man dead.
November 23. Sûreté du Québec. Crisis.
The BEI is investigating a woman’s death during a police intervention involving the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) on November 23. The BEI reports that around 2:58 AM, a call was made to 911 for a person who was in crisis. Police arrived on scene around 3:12 AM and attempted to make contact several times with the person who was inside a residence. They were informed that the person allegedly had bladed weapons in her possession. Police allegedly carried out several triangulation procedures to contact the person in the house, but were not successful. Around 5:19 AM police allegedly saw the person through a window of the residence unconscious on the ground. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police are not about care and should not be deployed against people in crisis. There have been numerous cases in Canada of people in crisis taking their own lives when police are deployed.
November 25. Longueuil Agglomeration Police Department. Police Pursuit.
The BEI is investigating the death of a pedestrian during a police vehicular pursuit by the Longueuil Agglomeration Police Department on November 25. According to the BEI, around 5:43 PM, a 911 call was made for a vehicle that was stolen in Boucherville, Quebec. Around 6:17 PM, police located a vehicle they believed was the one they were looking for. A patrol car pursued the vehicle to try to intercept it before police allegedly lost sight of the vehicle. Around 6:22 PM, the vehicle allegedly had an accident in which a pedestrian was involved. The pedestrian was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. One of the occupants of the pursued vehicle was taken to a hospital and his condition is currently considered stable.
The BEI has assigned seven investigators to examine the circumstances surrounding the police actions. The BEI is not an independent agency and relies on other police forces to carry out their investigations. In this case the Montreal City Police Service will be involved. This is a clear conflict of interest as a parallel criminal investigation into the events that occurred is also being carried out by the Montreal City Police Department.
November 28. Winnipeg Police. Shooting.
A 39-year-old man was shot and killed by a Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officer on November 28. The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) reports that the killing occurred at around 12:37 AM when members of the WPS central traffic division attempted a traffic stop in a rear lane on Dalhousie Drive near Pembina. Police claim that one of the officers was pinned with a vehicle and an officer discharged their service firearm striking the driver. The man was transported to the Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg in critical condition. He later died there. A woman passenger was taken into police custody.
Because the incident involves a fatality, the IIU will request the Manitoba Police Commission to appoint a civilian monitor.
November 28. Saugenay Police. Shooting.
Saguenay, Quebec, police shot and killed a man on November 28. The BEI reports that Saguenay Police Department officers received a 911 call reporting a stabbing shortly after 10 AM with officers arriving a few minutes later and allegedly seeing an individual with a knife. It has been reported by a witness that the man was shirtless. Police first used a taser on the man after, they say, he did not comply with orders to drop the alleged weapon. One of the police officers then shot the man. He was declared dead at the scene.
It has since been confirmed by The University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) that the victim was an international student from Guinea who attended the university. UQAC released a stament, saying, “Following [sic] the police operation that took place near our Saguenay campus yesterday, we regret to announce that the person concerned was a student from our university who came from abroad. […] The police are continuing their investigation and we have offered them our full cooperation.”
The BEI has assigned five investigators to examine the death. The BEI is not an independent agency and other police forces are involved in their investigations. In this case the Sûreté du Québec (SQ, provincial police) will be involved. Yet, a parallel criminal investigation into the events will also be undertaken by the Sûreté du Québec, so this adds another layer of conflict of interest, beyond the basic conflict of police investigating police.
November 30. Abbotsford Police Department. Shooting.
A man was shot and killed by an Abbotsford Police Department (APD) officer following a call to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital on November 30. British Columbia's IIO reports that at about 3:45 PM, APD officers responded to a report of a man with a weapon at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. When police arrived, there was allegedly some sort of unspecified interaction between the man and police and an officer fired their weapon, striking the man. The victim received immediate treatment but was subsequently pronounced dead.
Initial reports said the shooting occurred at the hospital. Subsequent reports said officers arrived in the area of Robertson Avenue and Ware Street and a confrontation occurred in that area. Police have said the man was running away, but it is not reported how police intervened against him prior to shooting him.
Jeff Shantz is a long-time anti-authoritarian organizer, researcher, and writer who lives and works on Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories (Surrey, British Columbia).
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