The death of Mr. Raymond Silverfox is one of extreme cruelty and prejudgment. It shows the very real conditions that many First Nations people face when dealing with law enforcement.
Alone in a drunk tank Raymond Silverfox, 43, grew gravely ill later dying in hospital. Today the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP released a report into the death of a First Nations man who wasn't drunk but very ill, so ill that he died 13 hours after being placed in that cell.
On December 2, 2008 the Salvation Army shelter in Whitehorse, Yukon called the Whitehorse RCMP about a man causing a disturbance during the early morning hours. Once there the RCMP officers arrested Raymond Silverfox for public intoxication and causing a disturbance. At this time Mr. Silverfox was treated with compassion in an effort to avoid his potential exposure to the elements. That was perhaps the last compassion Silverfox received from RCMP officers.
Somehow Silverfox was medically cleared to be held although he sick with acute pneumonia. Throughout the night Silverfox grew sicker, vomiting as many as 26 times. Instead of receiving medical aid Silverfox was ridiculed and forced to remain in a pool of his own vomit and feces for hours.
It took Silverfox to stop breathing before medical assistance was brought in. Ten days later in hospital the man would pass away much too young.
The death of Silverfox has created changes within the RCMP so that another horrible incident will never again take place.
"Mr. Silverfox's death was a catalyzing event which incited great public concern. However, the RCMP's response to the Commission's report reflects its commitment to positive changes in Yukon policing and should represent a model for other jurisdictions. It is my hope that this improvement will be the enduring legacy of Mr. Silverfox's tragic death", said Commission Interim Chair Ian McPhail in a press release.
The report into the in-custody death of Mr. Raymond Silverfox, released today found that although the initial arrest was reasonable the care that he received while in custody failed on several counts including ensuring that his cell was safe, not providing adequate supervision, not providing sufficient physical checks and not properly communicating information about Mr. Silverfox amongst themselves. Instead of being treated in a respectful manner the man suffered callousness and open mockery at the hands of the RCMP that detained him. Mr. Silverfox's treatment in short lacked common decency.
During the investigation for the report public concerns arose that Mr. Silverfox was classified as 'just a drunk.' Those concerns come out from captures of the guardroom audiotape from law enforcement members on duty.
Because of those concerns the following recommendations have been laid for all members of the Whitehorse RCMP Detachment, as well as guards and matrons employed by the Detachment to be provided with training or further guidance:
* on creating a respectful environment and interacting in a manner consistent with the RCMP's core values;
* regarding signs and symptoms of impairment, and medical conditions that may arise therefrom;
* related to the importance of and the need for meaningful, thorough and consistent communication with respect to persons in custody at the Whitehorse RCMP Detachment; and
* by local medical professionals addressing the recognition of medical issues arising from alcohol or drug consumption.