Kyaw Din’s family brings their demands for justice to the office of BC’s police watchdog

On February 20th, the family of Kyaw Din held a news conference and delivered a petition calling for “Justice for Kyaw.” Kyaw Din was murdered by the Ridge Meadows RCMP in August of last year after his family called 911 to bring him to the hospital. They gathered outside BC’s police watchdog on what would have been Kyaw’s 55th birthday, after six months without any meaningful news from the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

The Dins’ two demands to the IIO are to recommend to the Crown that murder charges be laid against the officers responsible for Kyaw’s death, and to release the names of the killer cops. The petition, which has over 1300 signatures, also demands that the Ridge Meadows RCMP Officer in Charge, Jennifer Hyland, be fired; for an end to police attending mental health calls; and for a coroner’s inquest into Kyaw’s murder.

Kyaw’s sister, Yin Yin Din went over the events that led to Kyaw’s murder, describing how the RCMP refused to wait for her siblings to translate for Kyaw and instead entered his bedroom. Without warning, the RCMP officers deployed a taser and then shot Kyaw three times while she stood and watched just a few feet away. The police have stated to the IIO, according to an affidavit provided by the peace officer investigating Kyaw’s death, that Kyaw charged at them with a knife. Yin Yin said, “They are lying. I was outside the door when the police went in. He did not attack the police. Kyaw would never attack the police.”

When asked why she thinks the RCMP killed Kyaw, his sister Hla Myaing Din said, “Because we are immigrants. Because we are poor. If my brother was white and rich he would still be alive.”

Kyaw’s brother Thant Din pointed out that Kyaw’s death is part of a pattern in Canada of “mentally ill people being slaughtered by the police.” He asked why their family does not know the names of the police officers who killed Kyaw or whether or not they’re still on duty, pointing to how police remain above the law. 

When asked why she thinks the RCMP killed Kyaw, his sister Hla Myaing Din said, “Because we are immigrants. Because we are poor. If my brother was white and rich he would still be alive.” 

After the news conference, the Dins and their supporters filled the tiny lobby of the IIO office. After waiting quietly for a couple minutes, we began chanting, “Justice for Kyaw Din!” and “How do you spell racism? RCMP!” Within seconds, IIO Chief of Investigations Gayle Hogan came to the door, armed with empty, bureaucratic responses to the Din’s rightful demands for justice.

The Dins enter the IIO office (Ivan Drury/The Volcano)

When asked why, out of over 400 police-involved deaths between 2000 and 2017, only 18 resulted in charges and only 2 were convicted, Hogan said, “I can’t comment on that. It’s a case to case basis.”  British Columbia’s IIO is empowered to investigate police-involved killings and police-caused injuries that are severe enough to stop victims from working, but treats each of these instances as individual; the IIO is structurally unable to address the broader, root causes of police killings.

When Yin Yin said that the Dins have a right to know the names of the officers who killed their brother, Hogan pointed to privacy concerns. Yin Yin replied, “If it was a police officer who was killed, the killer’s name would be released right away, not covered up and kept secret.” 

The political pressure mounted by the Dins won a small concession: before receiving the petition signatures, Hogan assured them that the IIO would send them an update on their investigation by March 20th. Unsurprisingly, the IIO failed to provide an update by March 20th, and only after Yin Yin emailed them asking for one did they bother to inform the Dins that they would be unable to provide them any new information until April 15. 

Meanwhile, the two officers responsible for Kyaw’s death are back to work, patrolling the streets of Maple Ridge. Eight months months into the IIO’s investigation, the Dins don’t even know if the IIO has been able to confirm which police officer shot and killed Kyaw Din. That police are not even compelled to cooperate with IIO investigations further highlights how police killings are a structural problem.

Justice for Kyaw is justice for all criminalized communities, and the Dins’ struggle for transparency, accountability, truth, and justice has only just begun.

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