'He'll never get to see me graduate': Daughter regrets stolen time as RCMP officers charged in father's death

Dale Culver was raised in Moricetown in northwestern B.C. He was 35 when he died in 2017. (Provided - image credit)
Dale Culver was raised in Moricetown in northwestern B.C. He was 35 when he died in 2017. (Provided - image credit)

The family of an Indigenous man who died after being arrested by RCMP nearly six years ago are welcoming criminal charges against five officers, but say they can't understand why it took half a decade for the charges to be laid.

Lily Speed-Namox was a teenager when her father, Dale Culver, died after having trouble breathing following his arrest in Prince George, B.C., in 2017. She's spent roughly a quarter of her life since waiting for the investigation to move forward.

"It has taken a long time to get to where we are," said Speed-Namox, now 20, in an interview Thursday.

"I don't think there should be any reason for it to take this long."

Culver, 35, was a father of three and a member of the Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan First Nations. His son and second daughter were four and six months old, respectively, when he died.

"He didn't get to see my little brother start his first day of school. He didn't get to see me graduate. He won't be able to see me get married," said Speed-Namox, who's worn a heart-shaped necklace containing her father's ashes since her 15th birthday.

"He'll never be able to see my little sister start kindergarten or graduate or anything like that ... That's a hard pill to swallow."

WATCH | Lily Speed-Namox speaks about her father:

Culver was arrested after police were called about a man allegedly casing vehicles, according to B.C.'s police watchdog. A report said he was pepper sprayed during a struggle, had trouble breathing and died.

On Wednesday, Crown prosecutors announced two Mounties had been charged with manslaughter in connection with Culver's death. Three more officers were charged with obstruction of justice in relation to events that took place immediately after Culver died.

Constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette face charges of manslaughter.

Const. Arthur Dalman, Const. Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz face the attempted obstruction charges.

All five officers are due in court on March 14.

Allegations officers told witnesses to delete video

In Canada, manslaughter is defined as homicide committed without an intent to cause death, although there may be an intention to cause bodily harm.

Obstruction is an offence that requires "a wilful attempt by an accused, in any manner, to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice."

In 2018, the BCCLA filed a formal complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, alleging Mounties had told witnesses to delete video footage of Culver's arrest.

The association also questioned whether "explicit or implicit racial bias" had played a role in the case. The complaint said the BCCLA was told there were "several hours" between the initial call to police and arrival of RCMP on the scene, raising questions about whether Culver was approached because he was Indigenous.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs told CBC he thinks "it's about bloody well time" the officers in Culver's death are being held to account.

Phillip says the five-year wait for charges the Culver family endured are an indication that racism is still present in B.C. and he wants to see major changes to policing across the country.

"There needs to be a seismic shift in the attitudes of police in Canada and certainly in B.C.," he said.

"In respect to their absolute disrespect for people of colour, Black people, Indigenous people."

Officers remain on active duty

Four of the five officers — Ste-Marie, Monette, Dalman and Cruz — remain on active duty. Macdonald is on administrative leave for reasons unrelated to Culver's death, RCMP said in an email.


Speed-Namox said she believes her dad would not have had similar freedoms if the roles had been reversed.

"If RCMP and my dad had switched roles, it wouldn't have gone this way," she said. "My dad would've been put in custody, and he would've been held in jail."

An independent review in 2019 found "reasonable grounds'' to believe two officers may have committed offences related to use of force and three others may have obstructed justice, but the Crown was not handed a final report until 2020.

Charge approval took nearly three more years.

"It has taken too long to get to this stage, and we know that we are still at the beginning of our quest for justice for Dale," read a statement from Debbie Pierre, Culver's next of kin.

Police watchdog agrees delay unreasonable

On Thursday, the head of B.C.'s police watchdog said he saw eye-to-eye with the family who said it was taking too long for justice to be served.

"To be blunt — I agree. The time it has taken to lay charges in this very serious matter is unacceptable," said Ronald MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C.

A statement issued by MacDonald said recruiting qualified investigators has been an ongoing challenge and described Culver's case as "exceptionally complex and ... extraordinarily demanding."

Charges against RCMP being considered in death of uncle

Speed-Namox said she speaks about her dad to push for change in policing.

"I don't want my dad's death to be for nothing," she said.

Culver's death led to allegations of anti-Indigenous racism in policing and was a focus during a number of protests in northern B.C. following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Submitted by Tracy Speed
Submitted by Tracy Speed

Another name shared at one of those rallies was that of Speed-Namox's uncle, Everett Patrick.

The 42-year-old member of the Lake Babine Nation died in hospital in Prince George in April 2020 after being arrested by police.

In March 2022, the Independent Investigations Office asked the Crown to consider charges against an RCMP member involved in the arrest.

Supplied by IIOBC
Supplied by IIOBC

"Upon completion of the investigation, Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald ... reviewed the evidence and determined that reasonable grounds exist to believe that an officer may have committed offences in relation to the standard of care Mr. Patrick received," a statement issued by the office said at the time.

The Crown has not released a decision on those recommendations.

Speed-Namox said these incidents have made her feel "unsafe" around police.

"I don't feel comfortable calling the RCMP for help with anything in any kind of way," she said. "It's scary."