Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in December 2023
At least 97 people had their lives taken through police actions in 2023. This comes after a December in which at least 12 people were killed in police actions. This matched May as the deadliest month of policing this year, the two bloodiest months of police violence since October 2022.
The police-involved deaths include 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.
At least eight people were killed in November. In October, there were at least seven people killed in police actions. At least eight 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, while 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.
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. For example, the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO) lists one death involving the Saanich Police Department which was closed without a public report.
In December, seven of the victims were shot and killed by police. Two people were shot and killed by Winnipeg police in a two-day span. Edmonton police also shot and killed two people in December. Other forces shooting and killing people in December were the Saskatchewan RCMP and the Abbotsford and York police forces.
Six 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 includes three people who were shot and killed while in crisis or during a wellness check. One person died after an intoxication arrest. This reinforces the fact that policing is not care and police are not the appropriate response to health care needs.
Two of the victims have been confirmed as being Indigenous. One, Calvin (Kat) Arcand, has been identified publicly. Another victim has been identified as Afolabi Stephen Opaso, a Black youth who was an international student studying at the University of Manitoba.
December 3. Calvin (Kat) Arcand. Edmonton Police Service. Shooting.
Edmonton police shot and killed Calvin (Kat) Arcand, a Cree man, on the evening of December 3, in downtown Edmonton. APTN News has confirmed that Mr. Arcand is a member of Alexander First Nation, about 60 kilometers northeast of Edmonton.
It is reported that the killing occurred after Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers were dispatched to the area of 99th Avenue and 111th Street around 8:30 PM in response to a report that a man with a knife was approaching people in the area. Police claim there was some sort of undisclosed confrontation with the man in the area of 100th Avenue and 111th Street and an officer shot the man, killing him.
Videos show police tasing the man, who appears to fall to the ground. Police then fire six shots in rapid succession. Questions have been raised about why police ignored protocol and got so close to someone who allegedly held a knife. Questions have also been asked about why police acted as they did after the taser appeared to work in dropping the victim.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating. Police have declined to provide any additional details on the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation. ASIRT has not yet spoken on the case.
December 5. Saskatchewan RCMP. Custody.
Saskatchewan’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) is investigating a woman’s death after she was taken into RCMP custody in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, a town located 165 kilometers west of Saskatoon, on December 5. It is reported that RCMP officers were asked to conduct a wellness check on an adult woman at a home there at approximately 7:45 PM. Officers responded to the residence but did not find the woman. At 9:30 PM, police reportedly received a report of a 911 hang-up at a different residence in Wilkie. When officers arrived, they allegedly found a woman who needed medical attention. She was taken into custody under the province’s Mental Health Act and is reported to have gone into medical distress after she was transferred to an ambulance. The victim was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Police are not health care and are not the appropriate response for someone in medical distress or for a wellness check.
December 6. Edmonton Police Service. Shooting.
Edmonton police shot and killed a woman during a wellness check in southeast Edmonton on December 6. It is reported that Edmonton Police Service officers responded to a welfare check in an apartment building in the area of 18 Avenue and 32 Street just after 10:30 AM. Police claim that “when officers arrived at the residence, no one would answer the door despite several callouts to the occupants.” They made the decision to enter the apartment. At some point shortly after entry, an unspecified “confrontation occurred and officers deployed a conducted energy weapon and discharged a firearm, striking the woman.” She died on scene. It has not been explained publicly why police inflicted violence so quickly during a wellness check, but the nature of policing is aggression and brutality.
The woman’s parents have come forward to question the quick violence of the police during a wellness check. In a statement they say they believe that the situation would have unfolded differently had their daughter “fully understood the nature of the visit.” In their view, “Therefore, the issue is in the way the approach was handled — which would have created an understanding of support, rather than one of fear.” They cannot understand how police came to deploy a taser and shoot and kill their daughter. In their words, “This is my primary concern here, in that a wellness check involves a specific approach and makes considerations of the person being dealt with — instead of creating a confrontative situation that creates fear and confusion. I see my daughter’s death as being a result of a complete mishandling of the tools available to law enforcement in the application of dealing with mental health issues. She had every intention of helping herself and being with her son that day.”
Policing is not about care. It is violence. Police are not the appropriate response to people in crisis and police should not be doing wellness checks.
December 7. York Regional Police. Shooting.
A York Regional Police Service officer fatally shot a 37-year-old man in Newmarket, Ontario, on the evening of December 7. The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) reports that officers were called to an apartment on Crowder Boulevard regarding a domestic disturbance at approximately 10:30 PM. Officers located a man in a stairwell of the apartment building. There was reportedly some type of undisclosed “interaction,” and the man was shot by police. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The SIU has assigned five investigators and three forensic investigators to the case. One subject official and two witness officials have been designated at this time.
December 14. Saint John Police Force. Intoxication Arrest.
A 48-year-old man died in Saint John Police Force (New Brunswick) custody on December 14. It is reported that officers detained a 48-year-old man for allegedly being intoxicated in public. They took the man to a detention facility, where later he was allegedly found “unresponsive in his cell.” Police have not said publicly how long he was in the cell before he died. Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the death.
Intoxication arrests are often fatal in Canada and the practice should be ended.
December 17. Abbotsford Police Department. Shooting.
Abbotsford police shot and killed a man on the evening of December 17. The Independent Investigations Office of BC reports that Abbotsford Police Department officers responded to “a report of a suicidal male” at around 10 PM at the 1700-block of Riverside Road. The IIO says there was “an interaction” between the man and police and the man was shot by officers and died at the scene.
This is the second person shot and killed by Abbotsford police in under a month. Another man was killed near the Abbotsford Regional Hospital on November 30, 2023.
Police are not care, and they are not the appropriate response for someone in crisis and should not be deployed against them.
December 19. Saskatchewan RCMP. Shooting.
RCMP shot and killed a 25-year-old man from Red Earth Cree Nation on December 19. It is reported that Carrot River RCMP received a notice of shots fired on Red Earth Cree Nation at about 3:40 AM. They responded and arrested two people. A third person, a 25-year-old man identified as allegedly involved, was located nearby. Police claim that when they arrived at the scene, shots were fired at patrol vehicles. RCMP officers say they exited their vehicles and some type of unspecified “altercation” occurred between the man and the officers. It is reported that there was an alleged shootout, and the man was killed. One officer was reported to be injured.
The Saskatchewan's SIRT will investigate the Saskatchewan RCMP’s actions. This is the 12th SIRT investigation since it began operations at the start of this year.
None of the police claims have been confirmed publicly. The two people arrested have not so far been charged.
December 22. Sûreté du Québec.
The Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) is investigating the circumstances of a man’s death during an intervention involving the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). They report that on December 22 around 2:40 PM, a call was made to 911 by a person with suicidal thoughts. Around 2:52 PM the police arrived on site and observed a person outside a residence with a firearm. Police say they then heard a gunshot. The man died on scene. Five BEI investigators will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death and police actions or inactions.
Police are not care. They are not the appropriate response to someone in distress.
December 25. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Arrest.
A 52-year-old man died after being taken into police custody in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador (SIRT-NL) reports that the man was found unresponsive in his cell and was taken to Corner Brook’s Western Regional Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) say that after they had detained the man, he was transferred to the custody of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP).
No other details have been made available publicly at this time.
December 26. Peterborough Police Service.
Ontario’s SIU is investigating the death of a 40-year-old man who was in distress on the morning of December 26, in Lakefield.
They report that at approximately 1:30 AM, a woman contacted Peterborough Police Service to report that her son was in distress and was at an apartment on Queen Street in Lakefield. Police claim that upon arrival, an officer saw the man holding a baseball bat outside of the apartment. The man allegedly struck the officer with the bat and re-entered the apartment.
Additional officers arrived at the scene, and they reportedly made attempts to communicate with the man which were unsuccessful. When officers breached the apartment door, they allegedly found the man in the kitchen in medical distress. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Three investigators and one forensic investigator have been assigned to the case by the SIU.
Policing is violence. It is not care. Police are not the appropriate response to someone in distress.
December 29. Winnipeg Police Service. Shooting.
Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officers shot and killed a 52-year-old man on December 29. The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) reports that police claim they responded to a hostage-taking at an apartment.
Police claim that a man, armed with a knife, had been holding a 19-year-old woman against her will in a hallway when he forced her into a suite with three other people. Those three people, a 33-year-old woman, her three-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old man, later allegedly escaped.
WPS tactical team officers then entered the apartment. The 19-year-old was removed by police and the man was shot and killed.
Police claim the man they killed was considered a person of interest in the homicide of a BC truck driver. None of the police claims in this case have been confirmed publicly.
December 31. Winnipeg Police Service. Shooting.
Winnipeg police shot and killed Afolabi Stephen Opaso, a 19-year-old Black youth on December 31. A family lawyer has confirmed publicly that Afolabi Stephen Opaso was an international student originally from Nigeria who studied at the University of Manitoba. Mr. Opaso’s family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of the police action. They have questioned why police moved quickly to use lethal force against him.
It is reported that at approximately 2:22 PM, the WPS went to an apartment unit in the 100 block of University Crescent, between Dysart Road and Dafoe Road West a 911 call regarding a man “acting erratically.” The caller allegedly said the man may be armed and there were other people in the unit.
Police claim that upon arrival they were confronted by an armed man. During this encounter, an officer fired their weapon striking the man. The youth was transported to hospital in critical condition and died there.
This is the second person shot and killed by Winnipeg police in two days. A 52-year-old man was killed on December 29.
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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