Wrongful Death is a very old area of law crying out for new and vastly improved legislation. Non-income-earners – such as children, seniors and people with severe disabilities – are worthless in the eyes of the law! BC families cannot seek justice. Instead, they’re hit with the insult of BC’s dreadfully inadequate law as they try to cope with the reality of fatal injuries, i.e. the deaths of their loved ones.
Members of the Wrongful Death Law Reform Group (WDLRG) are representatives from families who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved one through wrongful circumstances, be it recklessness or negligence on the part of others.
TLABC and the WDLRG are working together to right a historical wrong. The aim is to have fair legislation established to completely replace the nearly 170-year-old law that dictates how cases of wrongful death are governed in British Columbia. Many organizations support us, some have been aligned with this cause since the summer of 2005, and collectively we continue to call for change by way of urging the government to drop the dreadful inadequacies of the existing Family Compensation Act and replace it with a piece of legislation patterned along the lines of our draft model for change, namely: the Wrongful Death Accountability Act.
United, both citizens and organizations stand together with the goal of having the archaic Family Compensation Act discarded (not merely amended) in favour of new legislation. Until this happens, children, seniors and people with disabilities (non-income earners, in general) will continue to be worthless in the eyes of the law!
We want an ACT, now! We want the BC Government to act now, to bring in new legislation to ensure: Accountability and Compassion – Today.
Few things in life are certain, but justice requires that our laws should strive to ensure that accountability, compensation and deterrence can be secured.
According to the provincial Ministry of Justice – currently under Attorney General Suzanne Anton, QC – the BC Government continues to assess the impact of potential reforms to the Family Compensation Act. The Ministry is fully aware of our position that the existing law is dehumanizing, as well as archaic (based upon British law from 1846 – Lord Campbell’s Act).
Meanwhile, we continue to assert the following:
- Justice should be the goal.
- This is about the hearts and souls of surviving family members, and what can be done in honour of their loved ones. When and where there’s a grave injustice, it must be soothed by first being acknowledged. Accountability is key.
- Bereavement is part and parcel with every death, but injustice is the hallmark of wrongful death.
- The primary legislative aim should be to emerge with a framework that empowers families to seek justice for wrongs done to them, with damages to be considered as per the facts of each case.
- An assessment of damages must be made to right a wrong, to the extent possible, bearing in mind that nothing can bring a loved one back, i.e. no family member can ever be restored to whole after a loved one’s wrongful death. Life does not allow for that. They can, however, be empowered to seek justice – but only our government and our courts can provide for that.
- Anything less than proper consideration of each family’s case is an affront to justice, as it is terribly disrespectful to the lives of real people, whether dead or among us. A lack of proper legislation encourages: bad behaviour, poor business practices and dangerous (i.e. reckless) conduct. In its starkest form – when left without checks and balances – businesses can, for example, factor the cost of killing people into the cost of doing business. Within a business culture, this can be evident in the manufacturing of products, the provision of insurance and in other ways.
- Throughout British Columbia’s history as a province, both our citizens and our courts have awaited the arrival of fair and effective legislation. Long overdue reforms, once finally made, must be comprehensive. In fact, that is the reason there has been a long history of advocacy for the creation of an entirely new piece of legislation, not merely a tinkering of the dreadful Family Compensation Act.
Appalling, sad and so unnecessary
Despite a highly compelling need for justice, it remains true that children, seniors and people with disabilities are still worthless in the eyes of the law! Therefore, we remain committed to the goal of legislative change that will empower aggrieved families to seek justice through the courts after a loved one’s wrongful death.
The case for change has been made time and time again. Even currently governing Member of the Legislative Assembly, i.e. Finance Minister Mike de Jong, QC – a former Attorney General in BC – as well as another former Attorney General, Wally Oppal, QC – are on record as agreeing with our long-held assertion that change is needed. Yet, this terrible injustice remains a cold reality for the family members left behind after a wrongful death. Other high-ranking members of the BC Liberals agree that change is needed. In fact, the BC Liberal Party itself passed a resolution at its own convention in 2008 to assert there is a need for change (see below for more info – a link to the text).
BC’s current absence of proper law leaves families cold and bewildered after a wrongful death has uprooted them. These are key reasons why a big change is necessary. The anemic and essentially ancient Family Compensation Act should be scrapped altogether.
Timeline: Samples of activity and media coverage
In February 2014, the WDLRG issued a news release to coincide with the Family Day statutory holiday in BC (just the 2nd of this now-annual holiday) and the legislature’s long-awaited return to action.
READ THE RELEASE: Rather than a holiday this week, these families want proper legislation
Media coverage in various forms followed then, like it has since the start of our effort. Stories in various media markets, including the major regions of Victoria and Vancouver, have featured quotes attributed to WDLRG family reps and others, in support. Major print pieces have been published that included favourable-to-the cause, on-point headlines and placement.
Two WDLRG representatives took the discussion about the need for new legislation to Shaw TV’s David Berner program. Family rep Catherine Adamson, along with WDLRG coordinator/liaison Margaret Birrell, provided perspective from the point of view of family members left behind after a loved one’s wrongful death. It is the families left behind who should matter most. They are the ones let down by BC’s current absence of fair, effective law. They cannot seek justice. Children, seniors and people with disabilities continue to be worthless in the eyes of the law.
It is a reality that Shaw show host David Berner found appalling. Like most people who learn the hard realities of BC’s lack of proper law – when it comes to wrongful death – disbelief is followed by disgust. Non-breadwinners are people. Their lives have value, especially to the loved ones they’ve left behind. Their lives were stolen from them, yet BC does not empower their families to seek justice.
- READ THE NEWS: Fatal hanggliding case highlights insufficient civil and wrongful death laws – Vancouver Sun
- WATCH THE SHOW: Catherine Adamson and Margaret Birrell of the Wrongful Death Law Reform Group express their frustration with current provincial law, “The Family Compensation Act,” which discriminates against children, seniors and people living with disabilities.
- Wrongful death law questioned after Pickton fund – 24 HRS
- Pickton settlement puts inadequate wrongful death law in spotlight – Vancouver Sun
- Slow response to Missing Women recommendations – Maple Ridge News
- Letter from Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe, QC – rejecting WDLRG’s requests for a meeting and for information (INSERT PDF)
- TLABC sends a 16-page Campaign Info Booklet to BC’s Legislators – it includes our draft model for change, words from impacted families and additional relevant material to provide a complete picture.
- WDLRG Writes to Attorney General Suzanne Anton, QC – requesting a meeting and requesting information
- Compensating children of missing BC women is complicated – Globe and Mail
- Letter from Minister of Justice, Attorney General Shirley Bond, confirms that a financial analysis is being done (an actuary has been hired) on the costs associated with reforming the law.
- Mayor of West Kelowna Writes to the BC Attorney General, Copies Some of the Supporting Organizations
- Group urges medical malpractice law change
- Rally demands change to wrongful death law
- Stokes Pit victim’s family in fight against wrongful death law
- Movement builds to allow wrongful death suits in BC
- Enter the “Wrongful Death Accountability Act”: In the summer of 2011, a model of new legislation was created, the Wrongful Death Accountability Act. The document provides a comprehensive solution to the weak and unfair law in place at present, the Family Compensation Act – legislation that originated in the United Kingdom 169 years ago (1846). Here is an explanatory file, a companion piece to the draft legislation.
- BC Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan introduces a Private Members Bill on the last day of the legislature, under the name of reform of the FCA – but the legislations is neither significant enough to empower families to seek justice, nor is it going anywhere (dies with that spring legislative session).
FALL 2009 – BIG BOOST FROM CABINET MINISTER (the AG at the time)
The ongoing effort to get strong new legislation implemented in the province got a boost in late November 2009, as TLABC supplied Attorney General Mike de Jong with a detailed paper on the subject, which explicitly called for new legislation and provided the Attorney General and his Ministry with important information from five US jurisdictions. Previously, Minister de Jong asked TLABC to provide information that could be counted on as a potential model for new or amended legislation in BC.
Building on that, TLABC submitted a document that outlined (and you can call it up here) six objectives for reforming the existing legislation, as well as referenced superior laws in effect in five US-based jurisdictions, plus provided a blueprint for specific wording that could be used when drafting new legislation for the Province of British Columbia.
Subsequently, while speaking at a TLABC conference (December 4, 2009), Attorney General de Jong thanked TLABC for providing the material. More important: Minister de Jong made a point of saying he agreed reform is necessary.
FAMILIES MATTER – An Anthology in Print, Video Complement 2009-2008
An anthology of real-life-and-wrongful-death stories, In Their Name, was submitted to the BC Attorney General’s Ministry in 2008, a few months after the provincial government concluded a public consultation (September 2007) regarding the laws in BC that govern cases of wrongful death and compensation of fatal injuries. A video was later created to complement the anthology. The video is unique in that it includes comments from former Attorney General Wally Oppal, QC – whose remarks were supportive of change, though also cautionary regarding the impact changes could have on governments and insurance companies.
WATCH THE VIDEO: Wrongful Death Reform
- Voices against wrongful deaths get louder
- Mother still calling for justice 11 years after her daughter was killed
- At the 2008 BC Liberals Convention, the party passes a resolution to fix the law.
- BC Law Means Hospitals Don’t Pay for Fatal Mistakes, CBC News
- A Matter of Family – BCCPD’s Transition magazine, 2007
- TLABC Family Compensation Act Submission, Sept 2007
- CANF submission of CAR process, August 29 2007
- CANF letter to Jerry McHale – Jan 16, 2007
- Reply From Asst Dep Minister Jerry McHale, Jan 25, 2007
The origin on the Wrongful Death Law Reform Group (WDLRG) dates back to the summer of 2005. Since that time, the families, representatives from families, of the WDLRG have been working in concert with one another and organizations to bring about a new wrongful death act, to ensure the lives of children, seniors and the disabled are no longer worthless in the eyes of the law! The existing law in BC only recognizes the financial losses of income-earners, rather than taking into account the loss of companionship, care, guidance and other forms of loss that occur after innocent people are killed due to the reckless, negligent actions of others.