Manitoba

Dumas family sues Winnipeg police for wrongful death

The family of Matthew Dumas is launching a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Winnipeg Police Service and the City of Winnipeg, in the hope of uncovering details about how the aboriginal teenager was shot dead by a police officer in 2005.

The family of Matthew Dumas is launching a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Winnipeg Police Service and the City of Winnipeg, hoping to uncover details about how the aboriginal teenager was shot dead by a police officer in 2005.

"We have to do our own investigation of the facts," lawyer Norman Boudreau, who is representing Dumas's family, said Monday.

The lawsuit, which was filed Mondayonbehalf of Dumas's sister Jessica Paul,seeks a total of $120,000 on behalf of Dumas's family, plus special damages such as funeral expenses.It names police Chief Jack Ewatski, two unnamed police officers and the City of Winnipeg. The defendants have 20 days to respond.

Paul told reporters at a news conference Monday that the claim, filed under the Manitoba Fatal Accidents Act, was not about money, since her brothercannot be replaced.

Dumas, 18, was shot and killed by a Winnipeg police officer on Jan. 31, 2005, in the city's North End. Police say Dumas, who they believe was a robbery suspect, confronted an officer with a weapon that was later determined to be a screwdriver.

The family is not satisfied with an external review of Dumas's death completed in August 2006 by the Calgary Police Service. That review cleared Winnipeg police of wrongdoing in the incident, concluding that the Winnipeg police's internal investigation of the shooting was open, transparent and thorough.

"They've basically told us that nothing more is going to be done, and that's unacceptable," Paul said. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"It will be for a judge to determine on the balance of probability whether or not the wrongful death was caused by neglect," Boudreau said, adding that having a proper inquiry into the incident is the family's real goalbehind the lawsuit.

At the time, Dumas'sshooting prompted accusations of racism in thecity, with some native leaders expressing concern that police targeted the teen because he was aboriginal, even though the officer involved was Métis.

Chiefs provide financial support for lawsuit

The family's lawsuit received financial and symbolic backing from the Southern Chiefs Organization. Grand Chief Chris Henderson urged Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak to call an inquiry into Dumas's death.

"This family— Jessica's family, Matthew's family— does not have the same level of support that the officers in question have," Henderson said.

"So at the very least, we are doing what we can— politically and legally and financially— to support Jessica's family in their quest for justice and accountability in this tragic death."

The province says it's waiting for a report from Ontario's attorney general's office, which is reviewing the case on the province's behalf. That report is not expected until the spring.

Henderson described relations between the city's aboriginal population and police as poor and in need of improvement.