Dear Local MLA, Attorney General Murray Rankin, Premier John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Farnworth,
I am writing to you about British Columbia’s woefully outdated wrongful death laws; which are still based on colonial-era legislation from 1846.
BC’s current “Family Compensation Act” only takes into account the direct financial losses resulting from the wrongful death of a loved one. As a result, only the families of deceased breadwinners see the inside of a courtroom in cases of wrongful death.
Children, seniors, people with disabilities, or anyone who does not meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents are classes of people whose lives are not valued or respected when they are killed in BC.
This is a human rights issue.
Investigations into the wrongful death of these classes of citizens most often do not occur because there is no ‘loss of earnings’ to cover civil trial costs.
Accordingly, families have been denied the ability to right the wrong and ensure that the same preventable actions which resulted in the wrongful death would not happen to another.
Unlike other provinces in Canada, which in most cases have modernized long ago, many of your constituents are considered “worthless” under the discriminatory law in British Columbia.
Their stories are actively being documented and published here – https://intheirname.ca/stories/
The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society is comprised of families who have been fighting for over two decades to see our laws modernized. They have drafted legislation that can solve this problem now.
These families, based on each individual personal experience of loss, have demanded that the legislation include the following tenets:
#1 The value of human life must not be based merely on whether the wrongfully killed was a breadwinner with dependants. There must be a legal recognition for the value of each life and the loss of love, guidance, care, companionship, and affection wrongfully taken from surviving family members.
#2 The value of human life must not be arbitrarily capped by legislation. Damages for the loss of life must be assessed individually by constitutionally independent superior courts, in recognition of the distinct relationship that existed between each of the surviving family members and the wrongfully killed loved one.
#3 All forms of non-pecuniary damages, including aggravated and punitive damages must be available under the legislation to be awarded in appropriate cases. Financial penalty assessed by a civil court when a wrongdoer maliciously, or recklessly kills another person is essential when criminal prosecution is not pursued or fails. General deterrence of future wrongdoing is an important objective.
#4 If an individual is not initially killed by a wrongful act, but later dies before the conclusion of litigation, this should not be a windfall for the wrongdoer. There should not be a perverse incentive for the wrongdoer to delay, or prolong litigation. Damages relating to conscious pain, suffering, and disability during the period between the wrong and the decedent’s death, including damages for loss of expectation of life, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, or loss of amenities must remain available under the legislation.
#5 Families deserve the right to have their day in court with the ability to obtain professional legal representation on a contingency basis. No other piece of legislation in the province should bar the pursuit of an at-fault wrongful death claim against a negligent party. The contingency fee system does not discriminate socioeconomically, and it ensures the family can obtain the best representation necessary to obtain truth, justice, and accountability against a wrongdoer, no matter how big and powerful that wrongdoer might be. Families also deserve the right to have the case decided by a jury of their peers. This fundamental aspect of our democracy must be preserved.
What will you do to create a fair and adequate wrongful death law in BC?
Your Full Name
cc: Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, Liberal Critic for Attorney General Mike de Jong, Liberal Critic for Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Morris, BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau