Family of the woman involved in a police custody death says they "will be demanding answers and reform to ensure no other family ever has to suffer through a preventable death like this again."
Regis Korchinski-Paquet was laid to rest today.
The family of the 29-year-old woman, who fell to her death from the 24th-floor of a High Park apartment building on May 27 during an incident involving Toronto police, held a private funeral this afternoon. Part of a viewing held for Korchinski-Paquet was streamed live via video link.
In a statement and brief obituary released late yesterday through lawyer Knia Singh, the family said that “Regis loved her family immensely and they loved her the same.” And that “Regis started every day by texting her siblings ‘Good Morning, I love you!’
“An avid gymnast since childhood, Regis continued her passion for dancing, music and singing throughout her short life. Her beautiful, infectious smile and unique laugh will be missed, and her absence felt in our hearts forever.”
The statement also notes that the family is making arrangements to speak with investigators with the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the police watchdog probing the circumstances surrounding her death. The unit has interviewed five witness officers and one subject officer in the apartment at the time of Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
The family had announced last week that it would not be participating in the SIU’s investigation after details surrounding the moments just before Korchinski-Paquet’s death were leaked to the Sun in what Singh described as an attempt by police to change the public narrative surrounding the case.
The family says that it will be scheduling another date to speak with investigators “as soon as possible” in recognition of “the importance of providing a statement to ensure justice for Regis. The family will be demanding answers and reform to ensure no other family ever has to suffer through a preventable death like this again.”
But the family continues to call for an outside investigator to take over the case or for the SIU to hand over evidence collected so far. The SIU, meanwhile, confirmed to the CBC today that it has struck a committee to set up protocols for the collection of race-based data in incidents it investigates involving police beginning in October.
As well as raising questions of transparency and accountability in SIU probes, her death has reopened long-standing wounds in relations between Toronto police and the city’s Black communities – Korschinski-Paquet identified as Black and Indigenous – and has led to protests that have attracted thousands into the streets over the last two weekends.
The events surrounding her death – Korchinski-Paquet’s mother had called police to take her to CAMH – have also re-ignited calls for policing reform in the handling of people in emotional distress.
The family says a public memorial will be held for Korchinski-Paquet with a time, date and location to be released once preliminary preparations have been completed. The family has asked that any donations be sent to Peace Community Church (firstname.lastname@example.org).