News

Surviving Family Members Call for a Wrongful Death Act

The following post is a News Release from the Coalition Against No-Fault in BC, on June 19, 2008.

Surviving Family Members Call for a Wrongful Death Act
Second Anniversary Today of Beloved Family Member’s Death

Family members of wrongful death victims continue to call for a Wrongful Death Act in British Columbia, an effort that is especially moving today for Beatrice Pereira, whose mother Theresa died exactly two years ago after being victimized by a devastating medical error.

Despite the personal loss and anguish suffered by Beatrice Pereira and her family, she has been volunteering time and a great degree of energy as a representative of the Wrongful Death Law Reform Group (WDLRG), one of four organizations leading a call for legislative change. The other groups working in partnership with the WDLRG are the Coalition Against No-Fault, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities and the Trial Lawyers Association of BC. As well, more than 90 organizations have signed on to support the collective call for a Wrongful Death Act to be implemented in this province.

“The law definitely needs to be changed,” says Beatrice Pereira. “You can’t imagine — how much more pain is caused for grieving family members when they find out that BC’s current legislation fails to provide them with help and, instead, leaves them hopeless.”

Ms. Pereira’s comments are echoed by Burnaby-based lawyer Don Renaud, who voluntarily devotes his time to the cause of the WDLRG members and the supporting organizations. “The state of things is tragic and it has been this way for far too long,” says Mr. Renaud. “For wrongdoers – the people who cause fatal incidents to occur – it isfar cheaper to kill than to injure. We need a Wrongful Death Act that will end this dreadful situation. Too many families have been let down and harmed further by BC’s lack of fair and effective legislation.”

Until new law is brought in, BC’s legislation governing wrongful death remains modelled after the archaic Lord Campbell’s Act of 1846, legislation that utterly fails to recognize or appreciate loss beyond its direct financial impact. The consequence of this – failure has barred a countless number of families from seeking justice for their losses after the wrongful death of their loved ones. And nothing has changed throughout BC’s history as a province. Together, the groups are calling on the BC Government to right this wrong, to scrap BC’s Family Compensation Act and thereby empower innocent families to seek justice.

The groups initiated a dialogue with the BC Ministry of Attorney General two years ago and their efforts are ongoing. Representatives from all four groups met in late May with key representatives of the BC Attorney General’s Ministry. Last summer, the Ministry embarked upon a consultation process on the topic of Reforming British Columbia’s Family Compensation Act. Though the process indicates the government is considering change in this regard, neither a timeline nor details of developments are known by the groups calling for a fair and effective Wrongful Death Act.

The Pereira family’s tragedy is one of four personal stories chronicled in an anthology entitled: in their name – the call for a wrongful death act in BC, a special publication produced by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD), which was funded through a grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia. The lack of proper law at present is particularly hard on people with disabilities, seniors and other citizens who are often not able to rely on a regular wage-earning income. As well, the four stories are highlighted in the current edition of BCCPD’s Transition magazine. Both documents can be accessed from BCCPD’s website – www.becepd.be.ca . The anthology is also available at the Coalition Against No-Fault’s website – www.canf.bc.ca.

The groups propose that new legislation should include the following provisions:
A. The court, notwithstanding any other damages that may be awarded, may award damages generally to the decedent’s estate and /or survivors for:

  1. solace and bereavement
  2. personal anguish
  3. emotional stress
  4. loss of companionship, comfort, love and affection
  5. loss of advice, counsel, guidance, protection and care
  6. the decedent’s mental anguish, pain and suffering from the date of injury to death

B. The court may also award punitive damages to the decedent’s estate for wilful, wanton or reckless conduct shown by a preponderance of evidence.

PDF – CBABC: Surviving Families Call for Wrongful Death Act



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 Attorney General of British Columbia, Murray Rankin, 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 Rankin receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby (the former Attorney General who is also very familiar with this issue).

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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