Ici Radio Canada: Grieving families seek compensation after wrongful loss of loved one

As seen on Ici Radio Canada by William Burr, 13th May 2023.

Original article in French
English translation

Ammar Sedghi holds a picture of his brother Amir, who died in a plane crash.

Ammar Sedghi lost his brother, Amir, who was then 26, in a plane crash in 2019. He claims the Family Compensation Act prevents his family from suing the company responsible for the plane, because Amir had no dependents. Photo: Radio-Canada / William Burr

About 50 people marched in Vancouver on Saturday to demand compensation after the loss of a family member. They are asking the Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, to modernize the law called the Family Compensation Act, which governs compensation after a death deemed wrongful.

The organization that initiated the protest, the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society , claims that this law does not consider losses other than those resulting from financial damages, which results in the death of financial dependents, such as children, retired parents, or disabled persons, cannot be compensated.

The law also limits compensation claims to dependents of the deceased.

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society brings together relatives of victims of various tragedies, such as car accidents, medical errors, or situations that occurred in centers for the elderly.

Portrait of Amir Sedghi.

Amir Sedghi died in a plane crash on May 4, 2019, near Smithers. As a data analyst, he had to undertake infrared exploration of forests in order to detect fires. Photo: BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

Ammar Sedghi lost his brother, Amir, in a plane crash four years ago in the north of the province. His family contacted several lawyers for compensation, but all said the case was unlikely to succeed.

“As soon as someone has no dependants, the family loses the right to complain, and to investigate in order to know who is responsible for the death. The door is completely closed,” says Ammar Sedghi.

“Some people say we should erect a statue to remember him. Well, yes, we will remember him, we can’t forget him. We will talk about him as long as we live. But I don’t want this to happen to another family. I don’t want other people to feel hopeless like we feel today.”
— Ammar Sedghi

Four women hold signs in memory of their loved one, Theresa Pereira, demanding a change to the Family Compensation Act in British Columbia.

Relatives of Theresa Pereira, who died in 2006 when an infection developed in her eye after cataract surgery. Photo: Radio-Canada / William Burr

Beatrice Pereira, who lost her mother in 2006, also shared her story. Her mother, who was then in her 70s, developed a fatal infection when she was receiving “routine” cataract surgery .

“We met several lawyers who all told us that legal action was not worthwhile unless she was still alive,” says Beatrice Pereira.

Repeated NDP government commitments

In an email on Saturday, a spokesperson for current Attorney General Niki Sharma wrote that “grieving families need more support when a wrongful death takes place. For this reason, our ministry is working to update the Family Compensation Act, so families can address the injustices they face.”

The NDP government has repeatedly stated that it wants to modernize this law during its mandate. In December 2020, when he was Attorney General, David Eby had already said that it was a priority under the current mandate of the provincial government.

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society states that all other provinces have modernized their wrongful death compensation legislation.

“David Eby must finish the job he started”, says its president, Michael-James Pennie.


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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