James Butters, who was also known as James Hayward, is seen in an undated handout photo. Butters was fatally shot by police who responded to reports of a man making threats in July 2015. The British Columbia government says it has implemented all seven recommendations made by a coroner’s jury at the inquest into the killing of a man by police in Port Hardy five years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nora Hayward

James Butters, who was also known as James Hayward, is seen in an undated handout photo. Butters was fatally shot by police who responded to reports of a man making threats in July 2015. The British Columbia government says it has implemented all seven recommendations made by a coroner’s jury at the inquest into the killing of a man by police in Port Hardy five years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nora Hayward

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

The British Columbia government says it has implemented all seven recommendations made by a coroner’s jury at the inquest into the killing of a man by police in Port Hardy five years ago.

While the purpose of a coroner’s inquest is to identify systemic gaps to prevent similar deaths in the future, the province also says many of the recommended actions were already in place.

James Butters, also known as James Hayward, was fatally shot by police that responded to reports of a man making threats in July 2015.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing, finding in 2017 that Butters advanced toward them with a knife after the officers told him to drop it.

A coroner’s inquest in August 2019 heard that in the weeks before and months after his release from prison, Butters had asked to see a doctor, wanting psychiatric help that he never received.

A member of Butters’ family said they were hoping police and the government could learn lessons from the death but worry policies will continue to be ignored or breached.

The inquest heard the officer who shot Butters had not completed all of his mandatory de-escalation training either at the time of the shooting or by the time of the inquest four years later, although he remained on duty.

The jury made seven recommendations, including ensuring that anyone released from correctional facilities is provided with the medication they need and that the province enforce the required de-escalation training for police officers.

READ MORE: Police should ensure officers have taken mandatory incident de-escalation training, inquest jury says

The presiding coroner is expected to release her comments on the recommendations imminently. They will then officially be forwarded to the Public Safety Ministry. However, the ministry said the recommended changes are already in place.

“The province has implemented all of the recommendations,” the ministry said in an email reply.

Several of the recommendations are part of existing policy, the government said. They include the provision of forensic psychiatric assessments, communication between parole officers when a client transfers between jurisdictions and training to help parole officers recognize and respond to mental health symptoms.

The Provincial Health Services Authority took jurisdiction over correctional health services in 2017 and its policy ensures those with known release dates are provided with up to a 14-day supply of medications for continuity of therapy, the ministry says.

One action taken this year since the inquest is an evaluation by the ministry to assess police agency compliance with crisis intervention de-escalation training and other use-of-force training requirements, such as annual firearm certifications.

“Ministry staff have observed high rates of compliance with (crisis intervention de-escalation) and other training requirements at police agencies visited to date. The evaluation will be completed in fall 2020.”

Butters’ aunt Nora Hayward said she’s happy to know the recommendations are in place. However, the entire process of trying to get justice for her nephew has been frustratingly slow and difficult to navigate, she said.

“We didn’t even learn what had happened, because James couldn’t tell us, until four years later,” Hayward said.

The family only heard the names of the officers involved at the inquest, she said. They were shocked to learn the officer who shot him still hadn’t completed all of his training.

The RCMP says his training is now up to date.

The family is concerned that the problems weren’t a lack of policy, but that many policies weren’t followed, Hayward said. But lodging complaints five years after the shooting is daunting, she said.

Butters had trouble accessing treatment for his mental health issues, Hayward said. Without the psychiatric assessment he requested, Butters didn’t qualify for the cost of his medication to be covered.

While 14 days of medications would have helped, it wouldn’t have saved her nephew, Hayward said.

“James suffered from mental health issues and he was trying to get better,” she said.

Hayward said she hopes what happened to Butters won’t happen to anyone else.

“I want his life to make a difference,” she said.

Mark Miller, executive director of the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland, couldn’t speak to Butters’ case directly but said there’s always a need for more rigorous support for people with complex mental health needs.

“There have been some good strides made in that area, but it continues to be an area that requires more,” he said.

Parole officers tend to be well trained in both mental health and addictions, Miller said, but it’s always a good idea to offer more training as those needs can become more complex and evolve.

Miller also noted there may be good reasons to limit the distribution of medication to 14 days, as the risk of overdoses and other types of crises are magnified during the transition out of prison.

One of the biggest challenges facing people transitioning out of institutions can be identifying and accessing the services available to them, and the society tries to offer support, he said.

Services are often divvied up between multiple authorities under umbrellas like corrections, housing and health. Add to that the experience of a mental health crisis, and things that many of us take for granted like the ability to fill out an application form can be compromised, he said.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

RCMPRCMP shooting

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Surrey RCMP in the 4900-block of 148th Street, a short road just off of King George Boulevard, on May 15, 2021 after a male was allegedly assaulted with a “pipe-like” weapon that morning. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey RCMP investigating after person reportedly injured with ‘pipe-like’ weapon

Police investigating incident in the 4900-block of 148th Street

Surrey Fire Service battled a fire at an apartment building in Fleetwood late Friday night (May 14), near 84th Avenue and 160th Street. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Surrey firefighters continue to work to put out ‘stubborn’ fire

Four-storey building located at 84th Avenue near 160th Street; crews on scene for nearly 12 hours

The leadership team at Johnston Heights Secondary is looking to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society through the Relay for Life, planned as an online and in-person event (following COVID-19 restrictions) for the week of June 1 to 7.
Pushed back a year, Surrey students well on their way to Relay for Life fundraising goal

Johnston Heights Leadership Team aims to raise $6,500 for Canadian Cancer Society

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read