McDougall inquest delayed after witness changes account of police shooting
Craig McDougall was shot and killed by police in August 2008
By Jillian Taylor, CBC News, August 8, 2016
The family of a man shot and killed by police will have to keep waiting for answers.
The inquest into his death was delayed after one of the witnesses dramatically changed their story.
“The nature of the evidence we’ve been given throws a very big wrench into what we had expected to happen,” said Corey Shefman, who is the McDougall family’s lawyer.
Shefman said this new evidence came to light on Friday when the witness was being prepped to take the stand.
The inquest was set for three weeks in August, but now Judge Anne Krahn has delayed it until August 15 in order for the witness to be re-interviewed. This witness cannot be interviewed by Winnipeg police because it has standing at the inquest.
A third party will have to be brought up to speed first before getting the witnesses’ new account of events. It is not clear when the inquest will resume, but lawyers will check in with the judge on Aug. 15.
“What I can tell you is if this inquest proceeds with this new evidence, the questions which I will be asking, and certainly which the inquest counsel, the Crown will be asking will be different,” said Shefman. “This new evidence potentially brings to light [police] conduct that needs to be investigated.”
Craig McDougall was shot and killed by Winnipeg police in the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2008. Police were already at the Simcoe Street home dealing with a disturbance when the 26-year-old arrived.
At the time, police said McDougall had refused repeated demands to drop a knife, and officers had to use a firearm after they could not subdue him with a Taser stun gun.
Family members, however, have refuted that claim, saying he was holding a cellphone and was talking to his girlfriend as the situation unfolded.
Outrageous amount of time
It took five years various police organizations and justice departments to investigate the fatal shooting.
According to the inquest counsel, Crown attorney David Gray, the delay was caused by a “perfect storm’ situation. He said it was not one thing, but a series of events.
He said it took the Winnipeg Police Service two years to investigate, the Ontario Provincial Police then did an external review which took 15 months, then Ontario Justice looked at it and finally an internal review in Manitoba.
That process wrapped up in November 2012 and Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner was notified. The inquest was called in August 2013.
“Eight years is an outrageous amount of time for this to take place,” said Shefman. “To be honest every single step in this process has been an outrageous delay.”
Systemic racism as a factor
Shefman questions if systemic racism played a role in the delay of the inquest.
“I think that if it took eight years to call an inquest for someone who didn’t look like Craig, I think there would have been a lot more outrage,” said the lawyer.
In March, Judge Krahn said she would hear evidence on how systemic racism may have played a role in McDougall’s death.
“To be very clear, I am not suggesting that there are individuals bearing ill will towards people of one race or another, shouting slurs or making derogatory comments, that is not what systemic racism is,” said Shefman.
“Systemic racism is about the policies and practices which are in place, which discriminate against one group or another, in this case Indigenous peoples, in this case Craig, because he was a First Nations person,” he added.
“Yes I do think systemic racism played a role in that, the judge will make a decision at the end of this if she thinks it did.”
McDougall’s uncle was J.J. Harper, an Indigenous leader who was shot dead by Winnipeg police in March 1988 after he was stopped by officers who were investigating a car theft.
Harper’s death sparked outrage and helped prompt Manitoba’s Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which looked at how the province’s justice system treats Indigenous people.
The report, which looked at Harper’s case and the death of Helen Betty Osborne in 1971, concluded that race was a factor in the way they died and how their deaths were investigated.
Read a statement from the McDougall family here: