Originally published in Transition Magazine by BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Spring 2009.
Time to Enact a Wrongful Death Act
With 2009 well underway, it would be a massive understatement to say that the time has come for British Columbia to enact a Wrongful Death Act. BCCPD, along with other community partners, are continuing to advocate for a new one-to replace the current law that has existed for 162 years.
Though times have changed, citizens and families continue to suffer from a sad and frustrating reality. British Columbians do not have a proper legal remedy for families to seek justice after their loved ones have died due to the wrongful actions of others. This has been the situation for far too many families, despite proof of medical negligence, impaired driving or other forms of recklessness.
BCCPD and our partners have been leading the call for change, an effort that has been constant since 2005 and continues to build momentum. More than 100 other organizations have signed on in support of this cause.
“The law definitely needs to be changed. You can’t imagine how much more grief this causes families who are already grieving. Our questions remain: how is it possible for someone to go in for a perfectly ‘routine’ procedure and end up dead? Worse yet, why is no accountability required? What does this say about our society and the current system which we have in place?” ~ Bea Pereira, whose mother died after medical complications.
Why does BC need a new Act?
New legislation is needed because the current Family Compensation Act (modelled after Lord Campbell’s Act of 1846) fails to recognize any kind of loss other than direct financial impacts. Thismakes justice and real compensation particularly hard for people with disabilities, seniors and other citizens who do not have a regular salary or income.
The goal is to have a Wrongful Death Act that enables family members to seek compensation for bereavement, anguish and stress, as well as for their loss of companionship, comfort, love and affection. The law should also allow citizens to be compensated if they have lost guidance, protection and care.
BCCPD’s partners on this campaign are the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the Coalition Against No-Fault and the Wrongful Death Law Reform Group. The latter is an organization of representatives from families who have suffered added harm due to the failings of the Family Compensation Act.
To read the story of the Pereira family and others, visit our website at www.bccpd.bc.ca, under Community Campaigns.
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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We appreciate your support at this critical time!