The Current

As police-involved deaths climb in Canada, mother of man shot by police says little has changed

A CBC investigation has revealed that 460 people have died in encounters with police across Canada since the year 2000, and the majority have suffered from mental health issues.
O’Brien Christopher-Reid was shot by police in Toronto in June 2004, after he was found walking shirtless through a park carrying a knife. (Jackie Christopher)

The rate at which Canadians die in encounters with police has nearly doubled in the last 20 years, while 70 per cent of those deaths are people who struggle with mental health issues, substance abuse, or both.

Those are just some of the findings of a comprehensive database compiled by CBC News.

"Police-involved deaths continue to climb in this country, but few end up in the courts," Katie Nicholson, a senior reporter with CBC's Investigative Unit, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Of the 461 deaths that we looked at, we could find only 18 cases where criminal charges were laid against an officer."

"And of those cases, there have been two convictions."

Numbers like that leave grieving families with the impression that the system is broken, Nicholson told Tremonti.

Jackie Christoper, whose son O'Brien Christopher-Reid was shot and killed in Toronto in 2004, says nothing has changed since then.

"If [his] death had caused come change, it would be easier to live with," she told Nicholson, "but when I saw Sammy Yatim, that young man who died years after O'Brien — the same behaviour from the police department."

Listen to their full conversation — about the findings and what police are doing to address them — at the top of this page.

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This segment was produced by The Current's John Chipman