“The IIO is blocking our access to justice”: Din family speaks out against BC’s sham police oversight
In August 2019, Ridge Meadows RCMP officers responded to a call for an ambulance to bring Kyaw Din to the hospital. His sister, Yin Yin, had called 911 because Kyaw was experiencing mild mental confusion and she wanted help. Instead, the police refused to wait for her elder siblings to arrive, barged into Kyaw’s bedroom unannounced and without a Burmese translator, and shot him three times, in the face, chest, and neck, killing him.
Like all cases where a civilian dies from police contact, BC’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, investigated the case. It took Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald over a year to come out with a decision: that the police did nothing wrong.
MacDonald’s report does not bother to ask whether or not racism shaped the police’s murderous behaviour, let alone investigate how. Additionally, it contains conflicting narratives of what happened the night the Dins lost their beloved brother: the testimonies of Yin Yin and her brother Min are at odds with the testimonies of the police and paramedics.
“The family was shocked by his decision. It immensely aggravated and compounded our trauma, grief, and sorrow we’re suffering from Kyaw’s horrendous death.”
After spending months reviewing the report, the Dins sent a letter to Ronald MacDonald asking him to overturn his decision and refer Kyaw’s case to the Crown. MacDonald replied last week reiterating that he believes the police over Yin Yin and Min and refusing to refer Kyaw’s file to the Crown.
In response to MacDonald’s judgement that the RCMP did not commit any wrongdoing in murdering Kyaw, Yin Yin said, “The family was shocked by his decision. It immensely aggravated and compounded our trauma, grief, and sorrow we’re suffering from Kyaw’s horrendous death.”
Yin Yin explained the Dins’ objections to MacDonald’s exoneration of police wrongdoing: “[MacDonald’s] analysis is entirely based on inconsistent, contrived evidence of the police officers and paramedics.” The police, she continued, “are just making up a story. They want to discredit my truthful evidence to mislead the IIO.”
Police lies and MacDonald’s collusion
Yin Yin and her younger brother Min were both in the house when Kyaw was killed. Yin Yin was standing a few feet from Kyaw’s bedroom door, and Min was in his room beside Kyaw’s. Of the many competing accounts of the evening, Yin Yin and Min pointed out three important discrepancies in the IIO report that they argue indicate that the case should be referred to the courts to discover the truth of how Kyaw died.
First, the IIO report states that police forced their way into Kyaw’s bedroom because an officer had been told he was suicidal. Instead of waiting ten minutes for Kyaw’s elder siblings to arrive and provide Burmese interpretation, the police entered Kyaw’s room without saying anything aside from “Are you okay?” and then killed him. Yin Yin explains that she never told police Kyaw was suicidal and there was no reason for them to assume he was.
Secondly, Yin Yin was a few feet from Kyaw’s door, but a paramedic claims that she was up to 15 feet away, standing not in the hallway leading to Kyaw’s room but the living room. Yin Yin insists this is untrue. It’s an important contention because the police claim that Kyaw threw a heavy weight at them – if he did, Yin Yin would have witnessed it. But she did not.
Thirdly, both Min and Yin Yin did not hear the police utter anything aside from “Are you okay?” before deploying a taser and shooting Kyaw. But the RCMP and paramedics claim that officers yelled “taser,” “knife,” “drop it,” and “he’s holding the door from the other side.”
Referring the case to the Crown would provide another opportunity for the Dins to push for truth and justice against the police and IIO lies.
The Dins want the IIO to refer the case to the Crown to lay charges on the RCMP so that all witnesses, including the officer who shot Kyaw, will be forced to testify under oath and be subject to cross examination. IIO inquiries do not have the power to force police to testify or even provide evidence, and the officers who killed Kyaw did not cooperate with MacDonald’s investigation. Referring the case to the Crown would provide another opportunity for the Dins to push for truth and justice against the police and IIO lies.
“We will never stop fighting”
The Dins are discouraged by the sham of police accountability put on by Ronald MacDonald’s IIO and have written a letter to Attorney General David Eby urging him to join their fight for justice for Kyaw. They are also hopeful that a Coroner’s Inquest will be announced. But they say that even if Eby and the IIO continue to defend the police’s power to murder poor, racialized, and/or mentally ill migrants like Kyaw, they will never give up because in Yin Yin’s words, “We live to fight for justice for Kyaw.”