• Mon. Apr 12th, 2021

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Watchdog clears Toronto police in Korchinski-Paquet death


Regis Korchinski-Paquet Image copyright Submitted
Image caption Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s family are unhappy with the watchdog’s findings

A civilian watchdog agency has cleared Toronto police of any wrongdoing in the death of a young black and indigenous woman earlier this year.

Regis Korchinski-Paquet, 29, fell to her death from her balcony after police went to her apartment on a domestic disturbance call.

Six police officers were in and around her apartment at the time of her fall.

Her death triggered large anti-police and anti-racism protests in Toronto and other parts of Canada.

On Wednesday, the Canadian province of Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) released the results of an investigation into the high-profile case, finding “no reasonable grounds to believe that any of the officers committed a criminal offence in connection with Ms Korchinski-Paquet’s death”.

It also found no indication of “overt racism” by any of the officers involved.

But in a video statement, SIU director Joseph Martino said “it must be acknowledged that Miss Korchinski-Paquet’s death and others in recent months has raised important issues of social consequence”.

Her death came shortly after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in police custody, which sparked a US, and then global, protest movement.

The family’s lawyer, Knia Singh, says the family is disappointed with the SIU report, which he says was “thorough but left out key elements”.

He added that an independent family post-mortem examination differed from the one conducted by the coroner.

Her sister, Renee Korchinski-Beals, called the SIU report’s findings “disgusting”.

What do we know about the incident?

On 27 May, police received several emergency calls from Ms Korchinski-Paquet, her mother and her brother, about a domestic disturbance at her residence, on the 24th floor of an apartment building in Toronto, according to the SIU report.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A memorial for Regis Korchinski-Paquet was held in July

Family members have said Ms Korchinski-Paquet had epileptic seizures earlier that day, and that they affected her behaviour and she often needed time to calm down after they occurred.

When police arrived, they were met by Ms Korchinski-Paquet, her mother, and brother in the apartment building’s hallway.

Police officers, later followed by paramedics, then escorted Ms Korchinski-Paquet into her unit when she said she needed to use the bathroom.

After she did so, more officers entered the apartment and urged her to speak with one of the paramedics.

Instead, she backed away from police and walked on to her unit’s balcony. At that point her mother and brother both entered the apartment.

An officer asked the young woman to come back inside and tried to open the balcony door, which Ms Korchinski-Paquet blocked. She then scaled the balcony railing.

Shortly after she fell, apparently attempting to reach the neighbouring balcony.

“There were allegations in the wake of Miss Korchinski-Paquet death that she was pushed off the balcony by police,” Mr Martino said.

“The evidence establishes that this did not occur.”

Mr Singh says the family believes the police failed in their “duty of care” once they entered her apartment.

The lawyer says he sees no reason that a situation that had apparently calmed down when police arrived turned tragic.

The family is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

Toronto police are also holding a mandatory review of the case looking at its procedures and policies during the response.

“I think we tried our best on that day, and we’ll examine everything again to see if we can do better,” Toronto’s interim police chief, James Ramer, told a news conference.