British Columbia

Investigation urged after man disabled in RCMP custody

The BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are demanding a special prosecutor investigate why charges were not laid when a Terrace man was permanently disabled in RCMP custody.

The BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are demanding a special prosecutor investigate why charges were not laid when a Terrace man was permanently disabled in RCMP custody.

The BCCLA says Robert Wright, 47, was taken into custody by Terrace RCMP in apparent good health, after his wife called police out of concern for his safety on Apr. 21.

Robert Wright was permenantly disabled while in RCMP in Terrace, B.C. in April. (BCCLA)

He was later sent from RCMP custody by air ambulance to New Westminster for emergency brain surgery. He survived, but suffered a major and disabling brain injury and is now permanently disabled.

New Westminster Police investigated Wright's case and recommended charges. But then the case came to a halt when the Crown prosecutor decided not to lay charges, according to BCCLA executive director David Eby.

Eby says the Crown needs to explain that decision, and why they felt the charges did not have a reasonable chance of success in court.

"When the charges recommended involve a police officer and a public duty that comes with policing, the Crown must be extra transparent about its decision not to recommend charges," he said.

Failing that, he is demanding the government appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case. Eby is also calling for the release of any of the cell room video and the full investigation report.

Fed up with RCMP's 'cowboy culture'

Wright's case first came to light in June when the B.C. Civil Liberties Association called for an investigation into three cases in which First Nations people in Terrace and Prince Rupert were seriously injured while in RCMP custody within the space of one month.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says First Nations are fed up with the cowboy culture within the RCMP.

"Our question is what happened, because when the charges were recommended, we were told that the regional Crown in New Westminster refused to approve those charges."

"The Criminal Justice Branch is failing First Nations people, and we deserve an explanation."

Wright's wife's Heather Prisk-Wright says RCMP officers told her that her husband was sleeping in a cell when she asked about him, but the next morning she learned that he had actually been hospitalized several times.

"At no time was I informed that Robert had been taken to hospital three times....or that he had suffered a brain injury as well from an internal brain hemorrhage."

By the time she learned the truth about her husband's condition, Wright had already been moved down to New Westminster hospital.

"This is absolutely unacceptable to our people," said Phillip.