Manitoba has experienced two of its deadliest years on record when it comes to people being killed by police, and the majority of those who died were Indigenous.
A CBC analysis of the people killed in police encounters across Canada shows nine people in Manitoba have died after either being shot or Tasered by a police officer in the last two years, compared to six deaths in the six years prior.
Six of those who died over the last two years were Indigenous, one was black, and two have not been identified by police.
One of those who died was Eishia Hudson, 16, whose police shooting death in April 2020 was one of four in 40-day period in Winnipeg.
Her death sparked protests across the city and Canada’s Indigenous Bar Association called for an independent inquiry into the shooting.
Her father, William Hudson, has become an advocate against what he deems unnecessary use of force.
“I lost my daughter. How many other parents out there have lost children to this? Change has to happen and it has to happen soon,” Hudson said in an interview with CBC this week.
Eishia is the youngest person to die from a fatal police shooting in at least two decades in Manitoba, according to CBC’s analysis.
‘No justice in that’
Police allege the teen was the driver of a stolen SUV that crashed into several cars after being used in the robbery of a Liquor Mart on April 8.
When the SUV came to a stop at the intersection of Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue, officers approached the vehicle and Eishia was shot, police say.
The investigation into her death has been turned over to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates all fatal encounters involving police in the province.
William Hudson believes more could have been done before police fired.
“There were no houses around. There could have been a canine unit. Before the canine they could have used a spike strip. They could have used how many other procedures to make sure the outcome didn’t come this way,” he said.
Less than 12 hours after his daughter died, William Hudson’s friend Jason Collins was also fatally shot by police.
“It was two people that were close… It’s very tough, you know. It’s why I want to keep the fight strong. We did the rally [at the Manitoba Legislature on June 19] … and immediately people are really asking me, ‘When are we going to do the next one?'” he said.
“We have to keep being heard. And that’s the only way we have to get change to happen.”
Hudson says he want to help other families who lost a loved one in a lethal encounter with police.
“We’re all kids once. We all made mistakes. I think police shouldn’t have done what they done. I mean, it’s a justice system,” he said.
“That was taking my daughter’s life. There was no justice in that.“
Inequality drives over-representation: lawyer
The latest CBC analysis, which comes at a time when use of force by police has been under intense scrutiny following the May killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, is an update of a 2018 investigation that looked at fatal encounters with police from 2000 to 2017.
Since 2000, 28 people have been killed in encounters with police in Manitoba. Of those, 17 were Indigenous and about one-third happened in the last two years.
Eighteen of those killed suffered from mental health problems or symptoms of drug abuse, according to CBC’s database.
Zane Tessler, the civilian director of Manitoba’s Independent Investigation Unit, says it is too early to point to a reason for the spike this year.
“Other than the fact that someone died as a result of that interaction, each of the circumstances are different than the next one,” he said.
“You can go for months without having a police officer discharge their firearm and then suddenly, for who knows why, you have four officers discharging their weapons at four different people over four different days.”
Winnipeg defence attorney Zilla Jones says she hopes the death of George Floyd will be the flashpoint needed to spark change in how police are funded, how police respond to calls, and when force should be used.
Jones says both Indigenous and Black people are over-represented in every aspect of the criminal justice system, so it makes sense they are more often involved in fatal encounters with police.
“Sentencing is disproportionate. Lack of parole is disproportionate. Amount of arrests is disproportionate. Poverty is disproportionate. So all of it connects,” Jones said.
“People that are having more encounters with police that are being viewed a certain way by police are more likely to be killed by police. So it’s not surprising or abnormal considering the other inequalities that we have in our society.”
Police cleared in 3 of 9 shootings
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said they couldn’t do an interview as the 2020 deaths are still being investigated.
After the shooting deaths of Eishia Hudson and Jason Collins, Chief Danny Smyth said the police force would fully co-operate with the IIU’s investigation.
“This has been a tragic 12-hour period of time for our community,” Smyth said on April 9. “I can tell you that the police officers did not come into work expecting to be involved in shootings, especially those involving fatalities.”
In three of the nine police-related deaths that have occurred in the past two years, Manitoba’s police watchdog has cleared officers of wrongdoing.
All four deaths from this year remain open and active investigations.
The investigation into the 2019 Taser death of a 42-year-old man is complete, but is with Manitoba Prosecutions Service awaiting a Crown opinion, Tessler said.
The investigation into the 2018 death of Matthew Fosseneuve, meanwhile, is at a standstill as the IIU awaits a court ruling on the status of cadets as witnesses.
The 34-year-old experienced a medical emergency when police used a Taser to subdue him. Manitoba’s chief medical examiner has ruled the death accidental, with contributing factors — meth use and physiological stress from a fight and police restraint.
There is no government database listing deaths at the hands of the police available to the public in Canada, so CBC News created its own.
The CBC’s research librarians have collected detailed information on each case, such as ethnicity, the role of mental illness or substance abuse, the type of weapon used and the police service involved, to create a picture of who is dying in police encounters.
The database focuses on fatal encounters where police used force. It does not include in-custody deaths, self-inflicted wounds as a result of suicide or attempts to evade police, or accidental police-caused deaths (such as a traffic accident).