Saskatoon·CBC Investigates

Family of man shot by police calls for better oversight in Saskatchewan

Barbara Lord had nightmares for months. She would wake up screaming, reliving her son's death.

Sask. one of the only provinces where police shootings aren't investigated by independent body

Gerald Lord pictured with his mother Barbara. Gerald was shot dead by an RCMP officer in Holdfast, Saskatchewan in 2013 (Submitted )

This story is part of Deadly Force, a CBC News investigation into police-involved fatalities in Canada.

Barbara Lord had nightmares for months. She would wake up screaming, reliving her son's death.  

Now she says she is living a second, waking nightmare, haunted by the belief that her son's death was entirely preventable.

"Gerry was my only child and I was devastated," Lord said from her home in Collingwood, Ont. "It's hard to believe. You have a whole piece of you ripped out of your body."

Gerald Lord was shot four times in Holdfast, Sask. on Sept. 11, 2013. An RCMP officer pulled the trigger. 

A provincial breakdown of people who died during police encounters from 2000-2017 (CBC News )

Deadly Force: 16 people died in police encounters in Sask. since 2000

A team of CBC researchers spent six months assembling the first Canada-wide database of every person who died or was killed during a police intervention.

Of the 461 deaths in the database, which captures the years 2000 to 2017, 16 happened in Saskatchewan. 

Of those 16, 12 died from gunshot wounds. All but one were men.  

Gerald Lord pictured with his father Richard. Gerald was shot dead by an RCMP officer in Holdfast, Saskatchewan in 2013.

Family says shooting should have had independent investigation

Lord's family is still hoping for systematic change years after his death.

Not only do they think the officer who was called to his house that night should have simply walked away from the situation — that their son's alleged crime was not equal to the response — they believe their son's shooting and others like it should be investigated by an independent body.

Lord was killed after RCMP were called to his small rural home because Lord apparently been sending threatening messages to a former friend.

The lone RCMP officer arrived at Lord's home and tried to arrest him. Lord was drunk. The officer tried to arrest him. Lord resisted and a struggle ensued. The officer, whose identity is still protected under a publication ban, shot Lord four times. One of those shots shattered Lord's spine and he was killed. 

"We feel very strongly that it was a wrongful death. But they weren't having any of that. So basically we have to live with the fact that we don't have him here anymore," Barbra Lord said. 

More than four years after Lord's death no charges have been laid, even though an inquest determined it was a homicide.

Lord's parents say it is difficult to accept, especially given the fact the case was overseen by the Regina Police Service, not an independent investigative agency. 

"When (police) do something wrong in the States or most of Canada you have to have the big shots coming after you. Saskatchewan doesn't have anybody to police them," Barbra said. 

No stand-alone agency in the province

Saskatchewan is one of the few provinces that doesn't have some sort of civilian agency providing independent oversight of police.

Experts say that needs to change. 

Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia all have stand-alone groups who investigate any deaths or serious incidents involving police. 

"I think it's important as a matter of public confidence," said Josh Paterson, the Executive Director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

"The public needs to see it's not police officers investigating other police officers when someone has died in an involvement with police."

B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson at CBC Vancouver. (CBC)

In Saskatchewan, there is an independent public complaints commission that deals with complaints made against police officers in the province, but it's reactive. It does not step into things like police shooting investigations unless a complaint is made. 

The Chair of Saskatchewan's Public Complaints Commission has previously told CBC News he hopes the province changes it's model. 

Police shootings in Saskatchewan are often investigated or overseen by a different police service. In Lord's case, that oversight came from the Regina Police Service. 

A breakdown of how people who died in police encounters died in Canada (CBC News )

Robert Gordon is a Professor of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. He said Saskatchewan needs to get up to speed. 

"It is frankly foolish not to be moving in that direction. There is public demand for greater independent scrutiny for any death involving police officers," he said. 

Justice ministry says there are independent observers

In a written statement, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice said there is an independent process in the province. While there is no outside agency, the province does appoint an independent observer — often from another police agency. 

The statement also said the ministry's office is actively monitoring what other province's are doing. 

Lord's mother said she doesn't know if the findings in her son's case would have been any different had it been independently investigated.

She says, however, that it's unfair the blame for Gerald's death seemed to be placed entirely on his shoulders, not the officer who shot him.

"What it all boils down is they blamed it on alcohol and they blamed on him and he's dead no matter what," Barbra said. 

About the Author

Charles Hamilton is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.