Death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet

The death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Indigenous-Ukrainian-Black Canadian woman, occurred in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 27, 2020. Responding to multiple 911 calls from Korchinski-Paquet, her mother, and her brother, for a domestic disturbance involving punches, thrown bottles, and knives, police attended her apartment. Subsequent to the arrival of police, Korchinski-Paquet fell to the ground 24 storeys below, and died at the scene.[3] Her family accused the Toronto Police Service of having played a role in her death, which led to a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation. The SIU announced in late August 2020 it had cleared all police officers of wrongdoing and found no evidence of police involvement in her death.[4]

Death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet
DateMay 27, 2020
Timeafter 5:00 pm
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
CauseAccident
ParticipantsToronto Police
Claudette Beals-Clayton
Reece Korchinski-Beals
DeathsRegis Korchinski-Paquet
InquiriesSpecial Investigations Unit
CoronerProvincial Forensics Pathology Unit, Toronto
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador[1][2]

Korchinski-Paquet's death inspired a number of protests in Canada against police involvement in her death and other issues of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. These protests occurred at the same time as the George Floyd protests.[5][6]

Background

Five years prior to the incident, Korchinski-Paquet was diagnosed with epilepsy and mental health concerns that had sometimes resulted in calls to the police for assistance.[5]

Incident

Around 5:15 pm, Korchinski-Paquet's mother called police to their 24th story apartment in High Park North after a domestic conflict. Her mother wanted officers to take Korchinski-Paquet to CAMH, in an effort to deescalate the situation so it would not become unsafe. Six officers attended the scene. However, officers were confused as to whether epilepsy was justifiable reasoning for taking her into custody under the Mental Health Act.[7] In a call to 911 by Korchinski-Paquet herself, she claimed that both her mother and brother had been drinking since 10am that morning.[8][9]

The Toronto Police Service's Chief at the time, Mark Saunders, clarified that the call was for an assault, stating that three separate people had called in and that knives were being drawn at the scene,[10] limiting the responding teams that could be sent to assist the situation.[11]

When police arrived at the apartment, they were met by Korchinski-Paquet, her mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, and brother, Reece Korchinski-Beals, in the hallway and exchanged a few words with the officers as they walked down the hall.[5] Shortly after, Korchinski-Paquet told officers she needed to use the bathroom and was followed into the apartment by multiple officers, who would not allow entry by other family members.[12]

Korchinski-Paquet proceeded to walk out onto the 24th-floor balcony and prevented officers from joining her by holding the door closed.[13] She began to scale the balcony in an attempt to cross to the adjacent balcony, which was blocked off by netting. She lost her balance on the railing and fell to her death.[13][7][14]

One officer congruently knocked on the neighbour's door to attend to the second balcony, only to find it was blocked off by netting. He looked down and noticed Korchinski-Paquet's body on the ground, immediately calling for an ambulance.[13] Korchinski-Paquet's mother was then heard telling a neighbour that her daughter jumped.[13]

Korchinski-Paquet was pronounced dead at the scene.[13]

Investigation

An investigation was conducted by the Special Investigations Unit. On June 1, investigators announced that they had conducted interviews with six officers and four civilian witnesses and obtained video surveillance footage from the apartment complex.[15]

On June 3, the Toronto Sun reported that Korchinski-Paquet blockaded the balcony door before falling to her death, citing unnamed sources.[16] In response to the Sun reporting an apparent leak by police sources, the family of Korchinski-Paquet cancelled their scheduled police interviews with the Special Investigations Unit.[17][18]

On August 26, the SIU cleared all officers of wrongdoing.[19]

Findings in the SIU report declared no indication of "overt racism", and that "There were allegations in the wake of Miss Korchinski-Paquet's death that she was pushed off the balcony by police..." further adding "The evidence establishes that this did not occur."[4]

The family, unhappy with the result of the investigation, are continuing their own private investigation.[4] On March 30, 2021, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director announced it had opened a new investigation on the police's conduct.[20]

Aftermath

 
Protest in Toronto on May 30, 2020

Shortly after Korchinski-Paquet's death, her mother Beals-Clayton was recorded in a video stating that responding officers had shoved her daughter off the apartment balcony.[21] Her cousin claimed that it was not possible that she decided to take her own life, stating "Exactly, my cousin’s not jumping. She’s a Christian woman, she’s not doing suicide, that ain’t what we do, we don’t do that, we ain’t killing ourselves, that’s number one, 100 per cent."[22]

The Toronto Police Services Board announced that they agree that "everyone wants and deserves answers" and that they investigate the matter "as expeditiously as possible". The head of the union representing Toronto police stated that everyone should withhold judgement until all facts and evidence are available.[11]

A protest organized by the group Not Another Black Life occurred on May 30. Thousands of people gathered to protest Korchinski-Paquet's death and other issues of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Police officers estimated the protest was attended by 3,500 to 4,000 people at the Toronto rally, with a few hundred at a separate rally in Halifax.[21] Due to the size of the crowd, many protesters were unable to maintain 2 metres (6.6 ft) of physical distance, which had been mandated by the province in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[23] A further protest in Toronto occurred on June 5.[6]

The rallies took place at the same time as rallies, protests and riots in the United States and elsewhere in reaction to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.[21][6]

Further reading

  • Joseph Martino - Director, Special Investigations Unit (August 21, 2020). SIU Director's Report - Case # 20-TCD-124 (Report). Retrieved November 26, 2020.

References

  1. ^ https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/regis-korchinski-paquet-public-memorial-siu-1.5650182
  2. ^ "Special Investigations Unit -- Director's Report Details, Case Number: 20-TCD-124". www.siu.on.ca.
  3. ^ "Ontario police watchdog clears Toronto officers in death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet" – via The Globe and Mail.
  4. ^ a b c "Police cleared in Toronto woman's balcony death". BBC News. August 26, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Yuen, Jenny (May 29, 2020). "Family of woman who died in Toronto balcony fall want answers from police | Toronto Sun". Toronto Sun. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "Anti-black racism protesters fill streets at Toronto rally". CBC News. June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Nicole. "No grounds to charge officers in death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet:SIU". Kamloops This Week.
  8. ^ torontosun.com/news/crime/no-charges-for-police-in-regis-korchinski-paquet-death-siu/wcm/a86a398a-58e9-469b-989e-08d0a52e62df/amp/
  9. ^ "Special Investigations Unit -- Director's Report Details, Case Number: 20-TCD-124". www.siu.on.ca.
  10. ^ Herhalt, Chris Fox And Chris (May 29, 2020). "'There's a whole lot that I want to say,' Saunders says of Toronto woman's fatal fall". CP24.
  11. ^ a b Fox, Chris; Herhalt, Chris (May 29, 2020). "'There's a whole lot that I want to say,' Saunders says of Toronto woman's fatal fall". CP24. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  12. ^ Doradea, Karen (May 29, 2020). "Regis Korchinski-Paquet Screamed For Help Before She Died Says Her Family's Lawyer". www.narcity.com. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e "What happened the night Regis Korchinski-Paquet died, according to Ontario's police watchdog". thestar.com. August 26, 2020.
  14. ^ "Police watchdog clears Toronto cops in death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet". Toronto. August 26, 2020.
  15. ^ Nasser, Shanifa (June 1, 2020). "Security footage retrieved from highrise where Toronto woman fell to her death". CBC News. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  16. ^ Pazzano, Sam (June 3, 2020). "Woman blockaded balcony door before deadly fall: Sources". Toronto Sun. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  17. ^ "Family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet puts interview with police watchdog 'on hold' after leak by 'sources'". CBC News. June 3, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  18. ^ Patton, Jessica (June 3, 2020). "Regis Korchinski-Paquet's family's interview with SIU on hold after concerns over leaked information". Global News. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  19. ^ Ward, Rachel; Syed, Ronna; Kelley, Mark (August 26, 2020). "SIU clears all police officers in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet". CBC News. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  20. ^ "OIPRD to review police conduct in Regis Korchinski-Paquet death - Video - CityNews Toronto". toronto.citynews.ca.
  21. ^ a b c Westroll, Nick; Rocca, Ryan (May 30, 2020). "Thousands rally in Toronto after death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet". Global News. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  22. ^ Herhalt, Chris (May 28, 2020). "Toronto family questions police involvement in woman's fatal fall from balcony". CTV News. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  23. ^ "Justice for Regis rally held in Halifax". CBC News. May 30, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.