Canada: refugee's death may lead to policy change

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jun 1 14:00:38 UTC 2007

Refugee death report urges police to change policy

Last Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2007 | 5:35 PM MT
CBC News

The judge who conducted an inquiry into the drowning of a refugee fleeing
from Edmonton police is recommending police do more to help suspects who
might not speak English. Officers chased Charles Wula, 38, from his wife's
apartment to the North Saskatchewan River on July 27, 2005. His body was
found a week later. A three-day fatality inquiry into his death, held in
an Edmonton provincial court, wrapped up in February. In a report, dated
earlier this month, Judge James Wheatley made five recommendations. Police
have already complied with the recommendations that deal with the use of
police dogs, said Jeff Wuite, a spokesman for the Edmonton Police Service,
on Wednesday.

More difficult to tackle, said Wuite, is Wheatley's recommendation that
police "ensure that they have a policy in place to identify appropriate
procedures to be followed in arrest and pursuit of non-English speaking
persons." "It might not be as simple a solution as being able to
automatically identify what language someone is speaking," said Wuite.
"Obviously it's going to present some challenges, but we need to put our
brain power toward either mitigating that risk, or certainly reduce it."

Wuite told the Edmonton Sun that the service already has a list of police
and civilian translators for more than 120 languages

Husband under a restraining order

Wula had been living in Edmonton for only a few months when police were
dispatched to his wife's home near Rundle Park to answer a call of a
family dispute with violence. Wula was under a restraining order
preventing him from contacting his wife, an order which dated back more
than a year to their time together in a Ugandan refugee camp. After
realizing police were after him, Wula ran to the river, with officers and
a police dog in pursuit. Const. Scott Abbot testified that he ran along
the shoreline for up to 45 minutes trying to convince Wula to give up. He
didn't seem to be in danger. Abbot testified the chase ended when he lost
sight of Wula, who was alive and floating down the river.


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