Coroner's inquest recommends more support for rural, remote communities to deal with crises

·2 min read
The village of Granisle, about 150 kilometres east of Smithers in B.C.'s northern Interior, has a population of just over 300.   (investnorthwestbc.ca/George Rhoades - image credit)
The village of Granisle, about 150 kilometres east of Smithers in B.C.'s northern Interior, has a population of just over 300. (investnorthwestbc.ca/George Rhoades - image credit)

A coroner's inquest into the shooting deaths of Shirley Williams and her son Jovan in 2016 by the RCMP has laid out six recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

The recommendations address limitations in services for people living in rural and remote communities, like Granisle, B.C., where Shirley, 77, and Jovan, 39, lived. The village, about 150 kilometres east of Smithers in B.C.'s northern Interior, has a population of just over 300.

The recommendations include better coordination between emergency responders, First Nations representatives, community health workers, and RCMP in isolated communities.

The jury also called on the Northern Health authority to ensure "appropriate follow-up" for clients with mental health issues in rural and remote places — a step that was missed for Shirley Williams.

The jury and presiding coroner heard five days of testimony from health-care professionals, community members, family, and RCMP officers. Evidence suggested that Shirley's mental health concerns were known by her doctors, community nurses, and friends as early as 2014.

According to testimony from the inquest, RCMP officers were called out to Granisle on April 21, 2016, following an altercation between Jovan and one of his neighbours. Jovan allegedly pulled a gun and tried to shoot the neighbour, but the gun did not fire.

According to the RCMP, Jovan exited his mother's house, where he had been living for about a year, holding a gun, a knife, and a molotov cocktail. Shortly after Jovan was shot, Shirley exited the house wearing body armour and holding a shotgun.

The RCMP watchdog concluded the officers acted in self-defence.

The deaths sent shock waves through the community, with hundreds attending the funeral of the mother and son, including the chief of the Cheslatta Nation, Corinna Leween, and prominent union leaders.

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