A Matter of Family – The call for a Wrongful Death Act in BC

The Call for a Wrongful Death Act in BC

By Bentley Doyle, edited for BC Family Day 2016

A grieving family (Stock image, Unsplash)

If killed by wrongful death in BC, the lives of many British Columbians are considered “worthless” under the current Family Compensation Act.

For most people, family is at the heart of what matters most in life. Losing a loved one – a sibling, spouse, child, grandchild, parent or grandparent – can be a devastating and life-altering experience. Imagine adding to this grief by way of learning that your loved one’s death was the result of another person behaving harmfully or recklessly.

A wrongful death can be caused by reckless driving, poor medical care, negligent use of equipment or other irresponsible actions. When these preventable circumstances cause or contribute to the death of a person, their family’s grief and suffering are compounded by outrage.

For families thrust into dealing with a wrongful death in British Columbia, matters become even more painful and frustrating if they seek advice on legal avenues to find justice. They discover that current legislation fails to provide for all the losses – emotional, financial and beyond – resulting from the wrongful death of their child, parent, sibling, spouse or another relative.

BC’s current Family Compensation Act (FCA) governs in cases of wrongful death. The Act takes into account the direct financial losses resulting from death. However, it fails to acknowledge the multi-layered collective experience of effected families. Children, seniors and people with disabilities who may not represent a measurable financial loss, for example, are among the classes of people whose lives are not fully valued or respected after they die.

BC’s laws make a further unfair and unjustified distinction between wrongful acts that lead to injury and wrongful acts that lead to death: The injured and their families can seek justice and compensation, but many families of people who were killed are not permitted to do so.

Striving to Make Things Right

For these reasons, the family members of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society and their supporters are seeking a wrongful death accountability act in British Columbia. A new act is needed to enable family members, who suffer the loss of a loved one due to the harmful actions of others, to obtain a full measure of justice.

By bringing in a proper wrongful death legislation, the BC Government would become a leader among Canadian provinces and territories.


About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.

As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.

BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.

When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.

Here’s How You Can Get Involved…

The Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, is responsible for the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws. Our Society provided David Eby with the drafted ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act’ when he was acting as the Attorney General for British Columbia for 6 years between 2017-2022. The new Attorney General, Niki Sharma, also shares responsibility as she is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the current guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Sharma receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby, who is ultimately responsible for modernization.

Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.

The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.

How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?

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