Almost 15 years after the death of her father, Cloverdale’s Rita McDonnell (right) can be seen along side her daughter (left) presenting a speech at the Mothers for Justice Memorial Walk, continuing to fight towards changing the wrongful death legislation in B.C. (Rita McDonnell/Contributed to Black Press Media)
Cloverdale woman hopes to change B.C.’s 177-year-old wrongful death law
Almost 15 years after the death of her father, Rita McDonnell is still looking to change the law
Cloverdale’s Rita McDonnell is continuing to fight towards changing the wrongful death legislation in B.C., almost 15 years after her father died.
On May 13, the second annual Mother for Justice Memorial Walk took place, with hopes that B.C. would modernize its 177-year-old law.
“The walk went well,” McDonnell said. “We’re going to have a zoom meeting about the effects of the walk, but I’m just hoping that people will understand what’s really happening. Unfortunately, a lot of B.C. residents don’t unless it happens to them.”
McDonnell’s father, Gary Davis, was a retired postal worker. He was 68 when he died in 2009, after developing bedsores and hospital infections in a long-term care facility in Langley. He had initially been hospitalized due to an aneurysm in his groin.
She said that Premier David Eby claimed he’d love to talk to the families being affected, but has yet to do so.
“He pretty much became the head honcho and still hasn’t changed anything.”
McDonnell is a founding member of the B.C. Wrongful Death Law Reform Society. The society consists of volunteer staff, with each member experiencing a wrongful death in the family.
According to the B.C. Wrongful Death Law Reform Society, B.C. is the last remaining province in Canada to modernize its wrongful death legislation. With this, the campaign is hoping to provide a modern standard of human value, dignity and protection under the law.
The walk, which was organized by “in their name,” a non-profit campaign of the society, saw about 100 people attend, and wanted to spread a very important message.
“We just want help. We just want change. We want people to realize that it can happen to you too,” McDonnell said.
The walk was rounded off with a speech presented by McDonnell and her daughter.
“We are ‘in their name’ and growing because the government is not listening. We are Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, brothers, sister, partners, we are B.C. families listen to us and change it,” she said, to a crowd at the walk.
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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