B.C. mother begins fight for dead daughter’s Charter rights

A photograph of Lisa Dudley is held by her mother following an RCMP code of conduct hearing in Vancouver in March.

It's hard not to be outraged about what happened to Lisa Dudley but now her family worries their last apparent chance at justice slipping away.

Dudley and her boyfriend, who were allegedly involved in the drug trade, were gunned down in the kitchen of their rural home in Mission, B.C., about an hour's drive east of Vancouver, in 2008.

Dudley did not die right away. She sat in a chair, paralyzed from a neck wound.

A neighbour dialed 911 and reported hearing what sounded like a half-dozen gunshots, according to the Globe and Mail. That brought out an RCMP cruiser but the officer never got out of the car, never talked to the 911 caller. Finding the area quiet, he drove away.

Dudley would sit, paralyzed, for four days until a curious neighbour went into the house and found her, alive. She died on the way to the hospital.

[ Related: Grieving mom fights Ottawa over lawsuit for slain daughter ]

Police would later track down the alleged shooters in what was a targeted hit. One has since pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two others face trial, CTV News says.

But Dudley's mother and stepfather believe the woman might have survived if the original responding officer had not been negligent.

Const. Mike White was reprimanded and docked a day's pay for failing in his duty. The family wants more. It's suing the B.C. government and Ottawa, which oversees the Mounties, claiming the initial lack of response to the shooting report violated Dudley's Charter right to life, liberty and security of the person.

At a pre-trial hearing in B.C. Supreme Court this week, government lawyer David Quan argued the family can't sue on Dudley's behalf because her Charter rights ended with her death.

“If a victim has a right of action, it cannot be continued after they are dead,” David Quan told the court Wednesday, according to the Globe, adding it's well-established common law.

But the lawyer for Mark and Rosemary Surakka, who filed the suit on behalf of their daughter in 2011, argued it makes no sense to provide Charter protections but deny the right to sue if they're violated.

“It’s a vain thing to imagine a right without a remedy,” Monique Pongracic-Speier told Justice Heather Holmes, according to CTV News.

The Surakkas don't understand it either. Mark Surakka told said outside court he found the government lawyer's argument "disconcerting."

“When a person is alive, they do have constitutional rights and suddenly, regardless of the circumstances of their death, it’s gone," he said, according to the Globe. "It’s just dismissed. That for us is a difficult thing to adjust to here. How can it be a closed door?”

Dudley's mother said the suit is not about money.

“This is about a terrible wrong that was done here," Rosemary Surakka said. “Somebody has to do something here, and I’m her mom. We have to do this.”

The case has created a buzz in British Columbia, where the RCMP are not in good odour because of a myriad of alleged wronging over the years. Many callers to a popular radio talk show sympathized with Dudley's family but at least one suggested that because of her ties to the drug trade, she was responsible for what happened.

[ More Brew: Former advisor to Stephen Harper OK with people watching child porn ]

The judge is expected to reserve her decision to a later date but lawyer John-Paul Boyd, commenting on the case, said if she allows the suit to proceed it could set a major precedent.

“It would be significant because it would be saying you could bring a Charter challenge based on the principle at stake, not because you are representing someone who themselves were harmed,” he told CTV News.