The 2015 police-shooting death of 20-year-old Hudson Brooks in South Surrey is being touted as evidence supporting the ongoing call for changes to B.C.’s Family Compensation Act.
“This is such an egregious case of a wrongful death that it’s proof that the government systems we have in place… aren’t effective at all,” Michael-James Pennie, president of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society, said Friday (July 17).
Acknowledging that civil action in Hudson’s case would be considered under federal legislation, Pennie said he hopes it can bring attention to longstanding deficits in the province’s approach.
“B.C. is the last province yet to modernize its wrongful-death legislation. The way it works in B.C. is that the only way people have value under the law when they’re wrongfully killed is if they meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents. That’s the only way we have value.”
Brooks’ mother Jennifer said for her, in light of last September’s news that charges had been dropped against the officer who killed her son, the issue is more about holding those responsible for his death accountable than it is financial compensation.
“You can’t just shoot a man and walk away,” she said. “There has to be some accountability.”
Brooks died on July 18, 2015, after what police initially described as a physical struggle outside of the South Surrey RCMP detachment, located in the 1800-block of 152 Street. He was shot nine times. The incident also resulted in an officer transported to hospital with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
Only police-issued firearms were found at the scene.
Charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon were announced against Const. Elizabeth Cucheran in December 2017, but were dropped last September – nine months after the judge of a preliminary inquiry ruled there was enough evidence to order the officer to stand trial.
A news release issued by the B.C. Prosecution Service at the time stated “that the available evidence no longer satisfies the charge assessment standard for the continued prosecution of Cst. Cucheran for any criminal offence.”
Evidence that emerged “revealed significant shortcomings in the case against Cst. Cucheran,” the statement added.
“I was so shocked,” Jennifer recalled Friday, describing the news as “so crushing.”
She said she filed a civil claim against the RCMP in 2017 – just shy of the two-year deadline to commence the legal action – and is hopeful Pennie’s group can help her get the justice her son deserves. At the very least, she hopes changes will come about to prevent other families from living the same ordeal.
“There has to be changes made, to help families who have been destroyed,” Jennifer said.
“I don’t want families to have to live through this nightmare and have no justice, no peace.”
Pennie told PAN that in other provinces, and even in the Yukon, there is a “foundation of what’s called bereavement damages,” which consider things such as loss of care when determining compensation, he said.
Without that foundation in B.C., “basically, there’s no ability to sue someone and go to trial and see that there would be a financial penalty at the end of that trial.”
He said good legislation would consider bereavement damages, punitive damages, allow for pain and suffering damages to survive the claimants’ death, and have no legislative caps.
He believes for change to happen, however, it has to become an election issue.
Jennifer said she is still consulting counsel regarding her claim, and a court date has not been set – but she is determined to see it through no matter how long it takes.
“He was a beautiful boy and he’s missed desperately,” she said of Hudson.
“We are healing, but I just can’t rest till something happens. Maybe there will be another law one day – Hudson’s Law.”