Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in September 2023
At least 8 people were killed in police actions in September 2023. This means that at least 70 people have had their lives taken through police actions so far this year. This includes people who were directly killed by police, as in police shootings, or died during police deployments or in police custody. In 2022, there were at least 117 police-involved deaths in Canada.
This follows an August in which at least 8 people were killed in police actions. At least 10 people were killed in police actions in July 2023, following a June that saw at least nine people killed. At least 12 people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in May 2023, the bloodiest month of police violence since October 2022. At least five people had their lives taken in police actions in April 2023, at least eight people in March, at least six people in February, and at least four people in January.
In September, at least two people were shot by police (one by Alberta RCMP, one by Edmonton Police Service). At least two died in police custody (Winnipeg, Lethbridge) and one during an arrest (Peel). One person died in a police pursuit. One died in a fall while in crisis. Five of the eight victims were described as being in some type of mental distress or health crisis, and/ or occurred during a so-called wellness check or arrest under the Mental Health Act. This reinforces again that policing is not care and police are not the appropriate response to health care needs.
The details below are based on police reports, reports from oversight agencies, and in some cases information from families. As always, because there are no formal, systemic mechanisms for documenting and reporting police killings publicly in Canada, all numbers presented for police-involved deaths represent an undercount. In addition to the known cases, there are likely cases of police-involved deaths that have no reporting.
September 1. Edmonton Police Service. Shooting.
An Edmonton Police Service officer shot and killed a man on the evening of September 1. It is reported that police were doing traffic and crowd control at an apartment complex fire in the area of 116 Avenue and 124 Street, northwest of the city’s core, around 9:50 PM. An officer claims he was approached by local residents regarding a man with a firearm outside a nearby home in the area of 116 Avenue and 123 Street. The officer proceeded to the rear of this residence, and claims he encountered a man with a weapon. The officer shot the man, who died at the scene.
September 2. Lethbridge Police Service. Custody.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating the death of a 31-year-old woman in Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) custody on September 2. The woman had been arrested on September 1 and taken to hospital but was returned to police custody where she died.
It is reported that the woman was arrested by LPS a bit after 11:30 PM on September 1 for an alleged aggravated assault. Police claim that the woman was, in their view, “highly impaired by unknown substances.” Based on an assessment by EMS, she was transported to Chinook Regional Hospital and remained there under the care of medical staff throughout most of September 2. That day she was returned to police custody and was detained in a holding cell. She was later found unresponsive and pronounced dead there.
August 31-September 4. Penetanguishene, Ontario.
A man has died days after suffering what has been called a self-inflicted injury on the morning of August 31. It is reported that Halton Regional Police officers went to a property in the area of Laurier Road in Penetanguishene, Ontario, to execute search warrants. A 35-year-old man allegedly barricaded himself in an RV on the property. Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Tactical Unit officers and a negotiator attended and at approximately 9:30 PM, OPP officers fired pepper spray into the RV. The man exited the RV and was seen to have suffered what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was transported to hospital.
On September 4, the man died while still in hospital. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to investigate this case. So far, one subject officer and three witness officials have been designated.
It has not been explained publicly why police stopped negotiations and deployed pepper spray at the man.
September 4. Winnipeg Police. Custody.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) is investigating the death of a man who went into medical distress following his arrest by the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) on September 2. According to the IIU, WPS officers responded to a call for service in the area of Main Street and Alexander Avenue at around 11:54 AM regarding a man walking into traffic. Upon arrival, officers put the man in handcuffs. An ambulance was called because the man appeared to be having a medical emergency. While in the ambulance, the man’s condition deteriorated, and he was transported to Health Sciences Centre in critical condition.
On September 4, the IIU was notified by WPS that the man had died. The IIU is investigating because the man was in police custody when the medical emergency occurred.
It has not been explained why police arrested someone who was in some sort of crisis and walking into traffic. It has not been explained either why police handcuffed someone in medical distress.
September 9. Niagara Parks Police. Fall.
The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the death of a 19-year-old man in distress during a police action in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the evening of September 9. They report that Niagara Parks Police officers were looking for a man in distress at around 7 PM. Officers reportedly found the man in the area of River Road and Hiram Street, and he allegedly jumped over the barrier and fell into the Niagara gorge. He was later found dead.
It has not been reported what interactions police had with the youth. One subject officer and three witness officers have been designated by the SIU at this time. They have assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the case.
Police are not care and are not the appropriate response for someone in distress. There have been numerous cases of people in distress dying in falls during police deployments.
September 23. Guelph. Police Chase.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the death of a 43-year-old man during a police pursuit by Guelph Police Service (GPS) officers on the morning of September 23. The SIU report that at approximately 9:30 AM, GPS officers were asked to check on the wellbeing of a man. Police located the man in a pickup truck in the area of Victoria Street and York Road. They claim the man fled in the truck and officers pursued him for some distance. The pickup truck collided with two civilian vehicles before rolling several times near Victoria Road South and Clair Road East. The man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The SIU has assigned three investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to examine the case.
Once again it must be said that policing is not health care. Police are not the appropriate resources to deploy for wellness checks. Police claim there was a warrant for the man. Health care should not be tied to criminalization.
September 23-25. Mississauga. Peel Regional Police. Mental Health Act Arrest.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the death of an 88-year-old man after a Mental Health Act arrest in Mississauga. They report that at approximately 1:30 PM on September 13, a Peel Regional Police officer, along with a crisis worker and mental health nurse, attended the man’s residence on Silver Creek Boulevard after a request to assess his wellbeing. Police arrested the man under the Mental Health Act and during this arrest he suffered an injury. He was taken to hospital and died on September 25.
The SIU has assigned two investigators and one forensic investigator to examine the death.
Police are not about health care and are not appropriate responses to mental health crises. This also shows that even where mental health nurses and crisis workers are present, the involvement of police leaves presents possibilities for violence.
September 27. Wood Buffalo RCMP. Shooting.
RCMP shot and killed a man in what they describe as “an altercation” after the man allegedly shot a woman. It is reported that Wood Buffalo RCMP were called for a firearms complaint in the community of Beaconwood Place in Fort McMurray, northern Alberta, at about 4 PM on September 27.
Police claim that a man had approached a woman at her residence and shot her before fleeing in his vehicle as he kept shooting. Police claim there was an undisclosed altercation between the man in which officers fired, killing the man.
The woman has since been released from hospital. No police officers were injured.
RCMP report that they have notified the director of law enforcement and started their own internal review process. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is also investigating police actions during the deployment.
None of the police claims have been independently confirmed publicly.
Jeff Shantz is a long-time anti-authoritarian organizer, researcher, and writer who lives and works on Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories (Surrey, British Columbia).