WHITEHORSE, June 16, 2011 /CNW/ - The Commission for Public Complaints
Against the RCMP has released its report into the in-custody death of
Mr. Raymond Silverfox, which took place in Whitehorse, Yukon, on
December 2, 2008.
The troubling circumstances of Mr. Silverfox's death are already well
known to many Yukon residents as a result of an April 2010 coroner's
inquest. The impact on the Territory was understandably emotional. Mr.
Silverfox's death played a large role in propelling the Government of
Yukon, Yukon RCMP and Council of Yukon First Nations to initiate a
comprehensive review of policing in the Yukon which culminated in the
January 2011 release of Sharing Common Ground - Review of Yukon's Police Force.
Simply stated, the case of Raymond Silverfox represented a failure on
the part of RCMP members to provide reasonable care to an individual
who was clearly in a state of physical distress.
Mr. Silverfox's interactions with the RCMP began with compassion on the
part of the RCMP members who arrested him for public intoxication (to
avoid his potential exposure to the elements). However, the 13 hours
Mr. Silverfox subsequently spent in the Whitehorse RCMP cells—in what
is colloquially called the "drunk tank"—descended into callousness and
Mr. Silverfox endured deplorable cell conditions caused by continual
bouts of vomiting. He was treated dismissively despite the fact that he
was clearly in distress. The severity of Mr. Silverfox's condition did
not diminish during his time in the cells.
The contents of the guardroom audio tapes, which captured the comments
of several guards and RCMP members, clearly demonstrate that certain
individuals failed to meet the standards expected of the RCMP, namely
that members ". . . act in a courteous, respectful and honourable
manner." In fact, the treatment of Mr. Silverfox lacked common decency.
In the early hours of December 2, 2008, Whitehorse RCMP members
responded to a complaint from the Salvation Army shelter. The RCMP
members arrived at the shelter and arrested Raymond Silverfox for
public intoxication and causing a disturbance. After being medically
cleared for incarceration, Mr. Silverfox was transported to the RCMP's
Whitehorse Detachment and held in custody. During that time he went
into medical distress and stopped breathing. He was taken to hospital
where medical staff was unable to revive him and he died shortly
The Commission initiated a complaint into Mr. Silverfox's death on
December 12, 2008. The Commission examined all conduct by RCMP members
involved in the arrest and subsequent detention of Mr. Silverfox in
In its final report released today, the Commission found that while the
initial RCMP response and detention of Mr. Silverfox were reasonable,
members failed to properly document and assess Mr. Silverfox throughout
his arrest and subsequent detention. In addition, the Commission went
on to identify several shortfalls with respect to the monitoring of the
cell block and prisoners, as well as the supervision of the guards who
were charged with the care of Mr. Silverfox while in cells.
In particular, even though medical assistance was immediately requested
once Mr. Silverfox was found to be unresponsive, the Commission
determined that the members and guards on duty failed to properly
assess and seek medical assistance for Mr. Silverfox as his illness
progressed throughout his time in cells.
Among others, the Commission found that certain RCMP members and guards
failed to comply with detachment policy requiring that intoxicated
prisoners be asked to provide a breath sample prior to incarceration;
failed to ensure that Mr. Silverfox's cell was safe and habitable;
failed to provide and/or were not provided with adequate supervision;
performed an insufficient number of physical checks in respect of Mr.
did not properly communicate information about Mr. Silverfox amongst
One area of public concern is the duty of care owed to persons in RCMP
custody. Comments made in respect of Mr. Silverfox by members on duty
and captured on guardroom audiotape illustrate the dangers of
classifying someone as just a drunk.
The Commission recommended that all members of the Whitehorse RCMP
Detachment, as well as guards and matrons employed by the Detachment,
be provided with training or further guidance:
on creating a respectful environment and interacting in a manner
consistent with the RCMP's core values;
regarding signs and symptoms of impairment, and medical conditions that
may arise therefrom;
related to the importance of and the need for meaningful, thorough and
consistent communication with respect to persons in custody at the
Whitehorse RCMP Detachment; and
by local medical professionals addressing the recognition of medical
issues arising from alcohol or drug consumption.
The public expects a certain standard of behaviour from its police
officers. In the case of Mr. Silverfox's tragic death, the Commission
found that those standards were not met. Although compassion motivated
the initial decision to jail Mr. Silverfox, complacency and callousness
characterized the remainder of his stay at the Whitehorse Detachment.
The report makes 17 separate recommendations and 39 findings—all of
which have been accepted by the RCMP Commissioner.
"Mr. Silverfox's death was a catalyzing event which incited great public
concern. However, the RCMP's response to the Commission's report
reflects its commitment to positive changes in Yukon policing and
should represent a model for other jurisdictions. It is my hope that
this improvement will be the enduring legacy of Mr. Silverfox's tragic
death", said Commission Interim Chair Ian McPhail.
SOURCE Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP
For further information:
Jamie Robertson, Director of Communications
By phone: 613-875-0676
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org