Here is what BC’s current Family Compensation Act allows for:
1. All reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by any survivor for medical services, nursing services, hospital services, burial & memorial services, as well as travel & accommodation expenses rendered for the decedent as a result of the wrong;
2. The present value of future income, benefits or other pecuniary support owing to or anticipated to have been received by a survivor from a decedent, including but not limited to:
a. The loss of financial support reasonably expected to have been provided had the decedent lived;
b. The loss of household services reasonably expected to have been provided had the decedent lived;
c. The loss of child support, spousal support, alimony or any other financial obligations owing from the decedent to the survivor, whether embodied in an order of court or otherwise; and/or
d. The loss of reasonable contributions to the future educational expenses of any survivor;
e. All other reasonable pecuniary losses incurred by the survivor arising from the wrongful death;
^As you can see from the above, the discriminatory criteria for valuing human life in British Columbia only applies to those who have both an income and dependents.
Here is what the other provinces allow for, which is missing from British Columbia’s wrongful death legislation and what we have proposed in the Wrongful Death Accountability Act:
3. Reasonable non-pecuniary losses arising from the survivor’s loss of the decedent’s love, guidance, care, companionship and affection, proportional to the relationship that existed between the survivor and the decedent prior to the decedent’s death. A close relationship is presumed for spouse, parents, children, and siblings.
^This is the class of damages that enshrines a foundation of human value equally under the law, based on the surviving family members who were wrongfully deprived of their love one’s life.
4. Punitive damages may be awarded in appropriate cases of egregious misconduct, but if the damages are awarded, they are for the benefit of the estate of the deceased.
^This is a financial penalty for when a wrongdoer maliciously, or recklessly kills another person and insults the courts’ general sense of decency.
5. If a cause of action survives, damages that resulted in actual financial loss to the deceased or the deceased’s estate are recoverable. All reasonable losses arising from the decedent’s 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.
^This is so that when for example a senior is a victim of a wrongful act, and initially survives the event, that there is no perverse incentive for the wrongdoer to delay, or prolong litigation, waiting for the senior to perhaps die of related, or other causes, which would otherwise result in expungement of non-pecuniary damages from the claim. The death of a claimant should not be a windfall for wrongdoers.
6. There should be no legislated caps on compensation and it should be left to the discretion of the courts based on case law.
^We believe caps on compensation become entitlement windfalls, rather than discretionary recognition of the distinct value of the individual life wrongfully taken. Further, when caps are implemented, then the legislation must continually be revisited to account for inflation, adding a further unnecessary legislative burden. This can be handled at the discretion of the courts, just as inflation increased the rough upper limit on non-pecuniary damages set by the Supreme Court of Canada several decades ago.
For all of the above tenets, we have incorporated these into the Wrongful Death Accountability Act
About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society
‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of the ‘BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – an organization comprised of 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, 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 careless or intentional acts of another.
BC is presently the last of all the provinces, including the Yukon, 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 innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.
Here’s How You Can Get Involved…
The Attorney General of British Columbia, David Eby, is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Eby receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, John Horgan.
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 media and the public 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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