BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

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Heidi’s Story

Told by her mother, Catherine

“Heidi and her friends, along with at least a hundred other teenagers from a variety of high schools, congregated in South Langley. And then, around 12:30, one of the friends from high school ended up driving his car at quite a speed through the crowd of teenagers. He struck about 17 or 18 teens, killed Ashley Reber instantly, and Heidi and a number of her friends were laying on the road with a variety of broken bones.

So Heidi had her shin bones shattered in both legs, but she didn’t have any other injuries. It was just her shin bones that were broken.

Heidi ended up being taken to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock. They called the orthopaedic surgeon, who was on-call and should have come in, but he kept delaying and they kept calling him again and again throughout the night. And then finally he arrived at about 9 or 9:30 in the morning and then looked at Heidi’s x-rays and legs—and by this time they were very badly swollen—and ordered more x-rays. When she was taken for the second set of x-rays at about 9:30, 10 o’clock, I was in a waiting room and then all of a sudden all these emergency personnel were running into the x-ray room and something had happened. So she had a seizure—she had a brain seizure.

So then they determined that this was a higher emergency than they wanted to handle and sent her by ambulance to Royal Columbian [Hospital]. She was then taken in, within hours, to have her legs surgically repaired. But they fixed the legs and gave her medication to bring down the swelling in her brain and then they put her in a drug-induced coma, so that she would not have any brain activity that would cause any more swellings.

So, in the end, they inserted a tracheostomy and the surgeon didn’t want it as high as they normally have it because he said ‘she’s a beautiful girl and she won’t want that scar.’ So he put it a little lower than normal. She ended up with a really bad infection in her trachea that ended up eating through the innominate artery wall and then she had a massive bleed and bled out, and then lost her heart rate for a good thirty minutes before they could get it going again. But by that time that was it for her brain.

So she was rendered brain dead within three days after that and we lost her.

A sense of justice is proof that someone did something wrong causing a death—and somebody either admitting and apologizing for it or a judge saying you are guilty of, you know, negligence causing death. And we had nothing of that sort. I had correspondence back and forward with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and they just denied there was any wrongdoing, even though the coroner’s report and the Children’s Commission report clearly showed that doctors had made errors, there was no admittance of guilt and there was certainly no apology.

So that put us talking to lawyers. What do we do now? And we were told basically that because she is a child her life is worthless in the eyes of the law and there’s nothing we can do. There is no one we can sue. Our law is not structured that way.

So the doctors who made the mistakes that led to her death had no repercussions. There was no suspensions, there was no firings, there was no re-trainings—there was nothing that is done. And I think that’s the part that I find so frustrating. Certainly the deep grief over losing my daughter, but to think that this can happen again and again and again because the doctors aren’t learning from their mistakes.

There must be some kind of mechanism put in place, some legal mechanism, that would enforce, I think, re-training and some kind of penalty for them for being negligent causing the death of a child.”

Media Coverage

Times Colonist: Mom fights for parents’ right to sue

PDF: Mother Still Calling for Justice 11 Years after Her Daughter was Killed


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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Petition Your MLA Now

Unlike other Canadian provinces, BC has not made any significant amendments to its wrongful death legislation—ever. The current BC Family Compensation Act only values the lives of income-earners. This neglect must stop. Petitioning your local MLA, the Attorney General, and Premier with our automated tool can make a lasting difference to the lives of British Columbians for generations to come.

Dear Local MLA, Attorney General Niki Sharma, Premier David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Farnworth,

I am writing to you about the preventable death of 17-year-old Heidi Klompas and British Columbia’s woefully outdated wrongful death laws; which are still based on colonial era legislation from 1846.

BC’s current Family Compensation Act only takes into account the direct financial losses resulting from the wrongful death of a loved one. As a result, only the families of deceased breadwinners see the inside of a courtroom in cases of wrongful death.

Children, seniors, people with disabilities, or anyone who does not meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents are classes of people whose lives are not valued or respected when they are killed in BC.

This is a human rights issue.

Investigations into the wrongful death of these classes of citizens most often do not occur because there is no ‘loss of earnings’ to cover civil trial costs.

Accordingly, families have been denied the ability to right the wrong and ensure that the same preventable actions which resulted in the wrongful death would not happen to another.

Unlike other provinces in Canada, which in most cases have modernized long ago, many of your constituents are considered “worthless” under the discriminatory law in British Columbia.

Heidi Klompas, sadly, is one of these cases where no accountability can be brought against wrongdoers who failed in their duty of care. Her story can be read here –

Sadly, without the incentive for retraining of medical staff, the exact same preventable medical error happened 19 years later to 16-year-old Lindsey Kean, which can be read here –

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society is comprised of families who have been fighting for over two decades to see our laws modernized. They have drafted legislation that can solve this problem now.

These families, based on each individual personal experience of loss, have demanded that the legislation include the following tenets:

#1 The value of human life must not be based merely on whether the wrongfully killed was a breadwinner with dependants. There must be a legal recognition for the value of each life and the loss of love, guidance, care, companionship, and affection wrongfully taken from surviving family members.

#2 The value of human life must not be arbitrarily capped by legislation. Damages for the loss of life must be assessed individually by constitutionally independent superior courts, in recognition of the distinct relationship that existed between each of the surviving family members and the wrongfully killed loved one.

#3 All forms of non-pecuniary damages, including aggravated and punitive damages must be available under the legislation to be awarded in appropriate cases. Financial penalty assessed by a civil court when a wrongdoer maliciously, or recklessly kills another person is essential when criminal prosecution is not pursued or fails. General deterrence of future wrongdoing is an important objective.

#4 If an individual is not initially killed by a wrongful act, but later dies before the conclusion of litigation, this should not be a windfall for the wrongdoer. There should not be a perverse incentive for the wrongdoer to delay, or prolong litigation. Damages relating to 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 must remain available under the legislation.

#5 Families deserve the right to have their day in court with the ability to obtain professional legal representation on a contingency basis. No other piece of legislation in the province should bar the pursuit of an at-fault wrongful death claim against a negligent party. The contingency fee system does not discriminate socioeconomically, and it ensures the family can obtain the best representation necessary to obtain truth, justice, and accountability against a wrongdoer, no matter how big and powerful that wrongdoer might be. Families also deserve the right to have the case decided by a jury of their peers. This fundamental aspect of our democracy must be preserved.

What will you do to create a fair and adequate wrongful death law in BC?

Yours Truly,

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cc: Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, Liberal Critic for Attorney General Mike de Jong, Liberal Critic for Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Morris, BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau

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