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Will Natasha Forry’s MLA Bowinn Ma Really Help Modernize BC’s Wrongful Death Laws? Our Letter to MLA Ma.

Dear MLA Ma,

This is a follow-up email to the previous meetings and calls with you by myself and other member families of The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society.

These meetings and calls have included, but are not limited to the following:

-My presentation to the NDP Caucus on October 23, 2019 in which I discussed the impact of BC’s colonial era wrongful death laws on families and the province.

-Marzieh Beihaghi’s participation and question for you in the Saraye Iran’s BC Election Townhall for North Shore Candidates on October 6, 2020, regarding the death of her son Amir Sedghi and BC’s antiquated wrongful death laws.

-Ann Forry’s call with you today, January 22, 2021 regarding the wrongful death of her daughter Natasha.

As I presented to you in person, as I watched the video of Marzieh’s question to you on the townhall, and as I received a report on Ann’s call with you today, I’m getting the distinct impression that you perhaps do not fully recognize the impact of BC’s wrongful death laws on families, the community, and our safety standards and protocols in this province to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.

I understand that it may appear to be a complicated issue, an issue only those who’ve lost a loved one to wrongful death can ever truly be fully acquainted with. Notwithstanding, I hope that the points below can better illustrate the problem and why we need this critical legislative modernization as soon as possible.

#1 Our Society was founded and is operated by families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. We’ve been working on this issue for over two decades. We rely upon our 100% volunteer team, significant financial contributions from our own board members, and individual donations from members of the public.

#2 In BC, only people who meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents have worth under the law. Everyone else is ‘free to kill’ with no financial accountability. This has especially affected children, seniors, the disabled, and vulnerable ethnic populations, such as our first nations.

#3 BC is the last province in Canada, including the Yukon yet to modernize these colonial era laws that have had no significant, or meaningful updates in this province since adoption from the UK’s Lord Campbell’s Act in 1846. Most of the provinces have modernized long ago, but even they do not do nearly as good a job as many developed countries around the world in regards to protecting and dignifying human life under their respective legislation.

#4 When a human life is considered “worthless” under the law you cannot sue a wrongdoer when they have negligently, or intentionally caused or contributed to a loss of life. There are simply no damages to collect that would otherwise finance the pursuit of truth and justice through a litigation process.

#5 The ability for surviving family members of a victim of wrongful death to get their day in court is a fundamental aspect of a democracy. Nothing gets the truth out like the court procedural process on the public record. The government self-investigation offices, bureaus, boards, tribunals, and commissions at best are incomplete and flawed, and are at worst, investigation theatre by design. When a human life has worth under the law, and an incident of wrongful act causing death has been recognized as having merit, a lawyer is able to take the case on a contingency basis. This allows access to justice regardless of the family’s socio-economic status. Presently, legal professionals do not have the legislative framework to help these families and fight to enforce these critical human rights.

#6 Human rights in this province simply DO NOT exist when human life is worth nothing. Any claim of protecting human rights by the government under this current legislative framework is at best an illusion and at worst a fraud.

#7 The only reason the population consents to government existing, is for said government to protect the life, liberty, and property of the individual in a geographical area. The BC provincial government is failing the public in one of its primary core functions.

#8 The BC NDP has released a statement that there are “diverging views” with respect to the value of human life in this province. We understand that many of these archaic and perverse diverging views come from ICBC and the Healthcare Protection Program/Risk Management Branch/Ministry of Finance. However, we would point out that insurance is supposed to be for the benefit of victims. It is not supposed to be a government make-work program. It is also the duty of the insurer to prevent injury and wrongful death in the first place, by weeding out bad apples, and preventing human factors that contribute to negligence and wrongful acts.

#9 In BC, our insurers are not only denying damages for surviving family members of wrongful death, but they are also doing a TERRIBLE job at promoting safety standards and protocols. When it’s free to kill, there is no financial incentive for root cause prevention. This is basic economics that every other provincial jurisdiction in Canada and most developed nations around the world have already figured out.

#10 If we do not modernize these laws to allow for access to justice for families, and incentivize safer systems through financial accountability and root cause prevention, this province is doomed to be recognized as an international failed jurisdiction for human rights, safety, and standards of care. The question shouldn’t be, how much might it cost the government to modernize these colonial era laws, but how much will it cost the government NOT to modernize?

#11 BC taxpayers subsidize physicians’ Canadian Medical Protective Association insurance fees to the tune of at least 50%, yet we are not afforded the same legislative protections and access to justice as all of the other provinces are. How is this fair to the public?

#12 The citizens of BC have been paying the highest in automotive insurance in the country to a crown corporate monopoly that has nearly double the workforce as any private insurer of the same customer base size. Yet we are not afforded the same legislated protections, and access to justice and damages when our loved ones are wrongfully killed on the roads in this province. How is this fair to the public?

#13 I have attached the latest version of the Wrongful Death Accountability Act Briefing Note, which contains our Society’s proposed legislation. This legislation has cherry picked the best aspects from each of the provinces across Canada. It is legislation that favours the victim and not the wrongdoer, as our current primitive legislation does now. It closes all of the loopholes for wrongdoers to escape accountability. It is legislation that could allow us to set an example in Canada for human rights, rather than merely playing a pathetic game of catchup. It will finally ensure that the government provides legislative protections, value, and dignity for its citizens under the law. It will incentivize our insurers to promote higher standards and stricter protocols for safety across both the public and private sectors. It will actually provide financial deterrence to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place. It will save lives.

#14 This legislation is ready to go and can be tabled in the next legislative session. We can get this critical human rights work done right now, instead of waiting yet another 4 more years, as your government has done in their past term, and previous governments have failed to undertake in their respective terms.

MLA Ma, what are you personally going to do, to make sure that BC is a province where human life is protected and dignified under the law, instead of cast aside as worthless?

MLA Ma, what are you going to do to save lives in this province, so your constituents like Natasha Forry, and many others who’ve fallen through the cracks like her won’t need to be needlessly killed?

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Michael-James Pennie
President – BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

Attachment: The Wrongful Death Accountability Act Briefing Note January 20 2021


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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