VANCOUVER – Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, reacted this morning to the announcement by the BC Coroner’s Service that it will hold an inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jiménez while in custody of the Canada Border Services Agency in late December. The BCCLA and other organizations had formally requested that the Coroner hold an inquest into the death:
“Calling a coroner’s inquest is the right thing to do, but it will only answer some of the troubling questions about this tragedy. An inquest will be able to examine how and why Ms. Vega Jiménez died and whether her death could have been prevented. Why was she allowed to hang for three quarters of an hour before being discovered? What role did private security company Genesis play in this tragedy? Did she ask for mental health assistance and did she receive it? All these critical questions and more need to be addressed by the Coroner.
A Coroner’s inquest, however, will not be allowed to find fault, or to examine why Canada Border Services kept her death hidden from the public for more than a month, until a journalist broke the story. The Coroner likely will not be able to investigate the allegation that Canada Border Services asked her family to sign some kind of agreement in order to collect Ms. Vega Jiménez’s body. An independent, public inquiry is needed right now to get to the bottom of these questions, in addition to the issues to be examined by the Coroner. And a permanent, independent oversight body is needed to ensure that CBSA is accountable to the public in the future.”
Nobody should die while they are in the custody of law enforcement. The Canada Border Services Agency must be accountable for this tragic death of a woman who was in their care and custody. The public needs answers. How did this happen? Could this tragedy have been prevented?
Unlike other law enforcement agencies in BC, there is no independent oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency’s operations. We understand that the RCMP is investigating, but when deaths happen in the custody of law enforcement, we need to have an independent, civilian investigation of what happened in order for the public to have confidence in the results. As several commissions of inquiry in BC have reported, police-on-police investigation is not appropriate.”