Lillooet Speed was just 14 years old when her dad died in police custody in Prince George.
She said she remembers being woken up at 3 a.m. on a July night in 2017 to be told the news – her dad had been arrested by a group of RCMP officers, he had been pepper sprayed and he had died on the street.
Dale Culver was 35 years old, a member of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations and a father of three.
RCMP say they arrested him on the night of July 18, 2017 after they found him biking around a neighbourhood where someone had reported a man possibly checking out people’s cars. RCMP say they chased Culver down and an interaction involving pepper spray occurred.
How this resulted in her losing her dad confounds Speed.
“I was scared, angry and confused as to how people who are supposed to help and guide and keep people safe, could take those people’s lives away just as fast,” Speed said, speaking alongside fellow family members and B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee on Monday (March 13).
The group gathered in Prince George this week for what was supposed to be the start of a long-awaited criminal trial into the Mounties involved in Culver’s death.
Constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette are charged with manslaughter, while constables Arthur Dalman and Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz are accused of obstruction of justice.
They were scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Tuesday, but on Saturday night Culver’s family was told the process had been postponed to May 2.
The change is just one more painful delay for the family in what has been an excruciating five and a half years of seeking justice. They say they’ve had to work tirelessly to keep Culver’s death from being forgotten.
“If we had just let this slide, this case would never have been known. It would have just been swept under the carpet as another Indigenous person gone,” Culver’s cousin Debbie Pierre said.
The family is pushing not only for justice for Culver, but also for a greater systemic shift.
“I refuse to let my dad’s death be forgotten about without some kind of change,” Speed said. “He was a person, he wasn’t an item or a piece of paper. He was a person who, just like you or I, deserved to live.”
She wants each of the Mounties charged in her dad’s death to take accountability and apologize.
Pierre wants action on the many provincial and national inquiries and recommendations that have come out over the years with little done in response.
“I honestly believe if they had been taken seriously, Dale would be here.”
BCAFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee said B.C. needs to act faster on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In particular, he said, the province needs to give First Nations greater sovereignty over policing practices and justice.
The family said there is no excuse for what happened to Culver.
“No one deserves to die in the hands of the RCMP, and no one deserves to die alone,” Speed said.
Despite the delayed court date, they plan to gather outside the Prince George courthouse on Tuesday.