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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

National Police Week runs May 9-15, 2021, and Vernon North Okanagan RCMP will be highlighting some of its great work on its social media platforms to celebrate its relationships with community groups and stakeholders. (Contribtued)
Collaboration crucial in police work: Vernon Mounties

National Police Week is a public awareness campaign encouraging new and strengthened connections

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Sharks have been around longer than trees

Your morning start for Tuesday, May 11, 2021

BC Coroners Service logo, no date, stock photo
Police probe Lake Country man’s sudden death on parkway

Pelmewash Parkway was partially closed yesterday while RCMP, Coroners investigated

Members of the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus sing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Vernon choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Splatsin First Nation concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, will struggle to recover without habitat protection and restoration action - report

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Kelowna Rockets forward Steel Quiring plays the puck against Kamloops Blazers forward Matthew Seminoff at Kelowna’s Prospera Place on Monday, May 11. (Contributed)
Kelowna Rockets burned in 10-2 loss to Kamloop Blazers

The Rockets gave up five power-play goals and were unsuccessful in their two power-play attempts

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
B.C. to provide three days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

(Pixabay)
B.C. doctors could face consequences for spreading COVID misinformation: college

College says doctors have a higher level of responsibility to not spread incorrect information

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Most Read