The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is calling for a police review after the B.C. Independent Investigations Office cleared Port Alberni RCMP of any involvement in the death of Jocelyn George.
On Monday, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) released its report, which cleared the Port Alberni RCMP of any wrongdoing in George’s death in June 2016. George was in custody when she was found in medical distress on June 24, 2016. The 18-year-old mother of two toddlers died of heart failure in hospital at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital.
George was put into one of the detachment’s cells on the morning of June 23, 2016 and was released that afternoon. She was later taken into custody again that evening after a relative called the police.
Before she was taken into custody the second time, paramedics assessed George and determined she had no obvious trauma or distress, good blood pressure and a strong pulse.
Early the next morning, George required assistance to drink some water and paramedics were called. She was taken to a local hospital and later flown to Victoria.
According to the IIO report, the cause of death was drug-induced myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, due to the toxic effects of methamphetamine and cocaine. “[George’s] minimal food and water intake was specifically ruled out as a contributing factor in the death,” the report said.
George was a member of the Ahousaht and Hesquiaht First Nations The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which supports fourteen Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations including Ahousaht and Hesquiaht, said it is “deeply disappointed in the outcome.”
“The details outlined in this report underscore an urgent need for the RCMP to re-evaluate their internal policies regarding the monitoring of persons in custody who are deemed intoxicated. Despite the IIO concluding that there was no criminal wrongdoing, stricter protocols need to be implemented for the prevention of incidents such as this in the future,” the tribal council said.
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council said it would like to see comprehensive procedures to perform regular personal checks on individuals taken into custody that are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs to ensure their condition is not deteriorating.
“The lack of a personal check on Jocelyn may not have been critical as outlined in the report but may have been helpful or preventative. This case shows that a person just moving around did not mean they were in good health,” the tribal council said.
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council also said police services across Canada need a thorough review of policies and procedures as George is not the first Indigenous person to die in custody.
“This report has not only failed to bring closure to the family of Jocelyn George who have been left with unanswered questions but has highlighted a reoccurring issue present in many Indigenous communities across Canada – the unfair and unbalanced treatment of our people by police,” the tribal council said.
Hesquiaht First Nation’s Chief Councillor Richard Lucas said Jocelyn George’s family is very upset with the findings of the report and feel that her treatment while in police custody was discriminatory and unfair.