The sister of a Vancouver police officer who died by suicide told a coroner’s inquest Monday that she believed Const. Nicole Chan was being blackmailed to have sex with another officer in the department.
Jennifer Chan told the inquest she believed her sister’s mental health problems stemmed from sexual assault and extortion by her co-worker, culminating in her death by suicide in January 2019.
“I might be paraphrasing but in my mind I thought an officer was blackmailing her to have sex with her basically, and I knew that the officer was in HR,” she said.
Chan said her sister Nicole struggled with anxiety and depression after she complained to the police chief in 2017 about inappropriate relationships that she had with two senior officers.
“She really wanted to get back to work and get healthy again, into a mental state where she could go back to work,” Chan told the inquest Monday.
Chan described her sister as “very ambitious” and said she joined the Vancouver Police Department in 2011 to “speak up for victims,” but that she felt other officers may no longer want to work with her after she made the claim.
She said her sister felt aimless about where her life was headed before her death, that her career had stalled and she had no other job prospects. She added that her sister was hired by the department when she was “just 19 years old.”
“She felt that she couldn’t do anything else because she stopped schooling soon as she got hired by the VPD,” Chan said.
Nicole Chan was on stress leave from the Vancouver Police Department when she died by suicide.
A civil lawsuit filed on behalf of her family last year claims she died during a severe mental health crisis after being “extorted” by an officer to continue a sexual relationship.
The action was filed against the B.C. government, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board, the police department, its union and four officers. However, a notice of discontinuance was filed in the case in September relating to one of the officers.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The statement of claim says B.C.’s police complaints commissioner asked the New Westminster Police Department to investigate the claims and it recommended charges against Sgt. David Van Patten, who was alleged to have extorted Chan.
The lawsuit says the Crown prosecution service later said it wouldn’t pursue a charge.
The lawsuit, filed last January, also says Chan provided an impact statement to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner just three weeks before she died.
“She’s really just kind of pleading for justice,” Jennifer Chan told the inquest, summarizing the statement.
“It outlines that she was suffering from mental health challenges, and (it) basically changed her as a person,” Chan said. “She believes it stems from sexual assault inside (David Van Patten’s) apartment, and she’s unable to develop and maintain personal relationships because of that.”
She said her sister was “very disappointed with the whole process” and had been actively seeking mental health treatment.
“The conclusion wasn’t what she had hoped for, so she was feeling very defeated and did not have much to look forward to in the future,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.