The cost of fighting for police accountability: Ruth Schaeffer
Levi Schaeffer, who suffered from schizophrenia, was killed by police in a remote camping area in 2009; Douglas Minty, a 59 year-old man with developmental disabilities, was also killed by police in 2009.
The Schaeffer and Minty families were represented by Julian Falconer, of Falconers LLP, in an Application against police officers involved in the deaths of their family members. The Application sought judicial interpretation of various provisions of the Police Services Act to determine whether the conduct of the involved police officers was consistent with the Police Services Act and the regulations passed pursuant to the Act. The Notice of Appeal from the ruling of the Divisional Court was filed with the Court of Appeal on July 19, 2010, and a hearing before the Court of Appeal was heard on September 7-9, 2011. The Court of Appeal released its ruling on November 15, 2011. On January 13, 2012, the Respondent Police Officers involved in the Schaeffer/Minty Application commenced an Application for leave to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. The appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 19, 2013, and was dismissed by the Court on December 19, 2013, confirming once and for all that officers are forbidden from communicating with lawyers until their notes are complete.
This action was costly, resulting in bankruptcy and heartbreak for Levi Schaeffer’s mother, Ruth. Julian Falconer noted that Ruth’s story is not uncommon, given that the job of pursuing police accountability often falls to families, as politicians rarely take the lead in these matters. “It is troubling, the kind of burden that members of the public should have to bear to fix what so clearly should be fixed by government, and that is a reality in the policing world,” he said. “Far from Ruth’s situation being unique, we live in a society where the police lobby is so powerful that, generally, political leaders follow. They don’t lead.” (Toronto Star, June 12, 2016)
In the News
Mother bankrupt, heartbroken after fight for police accountability in son’s death Toronto Star, June 12, 2016