Frank Paul, a chance to make a difference

Picture the actions of a civil servant, a collection of civil servants in fact, that fail to protect the very public they are charged with protecting.   Actions that have the effect of hunkering down and protecting the status quo from an early start.   I draw to your attention the near murder of Frank Paul.

Frank was an alcoholic.  Frank was a mess most of the time it would seem.  He’d get messed up, sleep where he shouldn’t (and probably would rather not have) and would be a bit of a pain in the a**.   Frank got scooped one night by a couple of City of Vancouver Police Officers, who took him to the local lock up in Vancouver British Columbia.   After some time, it was determined that he’d be more trouble than he was worth, and so the decision was made to take him out of the local lock up.  Frank was really a mess that night, barely conscious.   The cops had to drag him out, and they did, and they dropped him back on the street.  Frank was dragged out of the lockup, clearly not aware of much of anything around him. Frank died of exposure a while later after he was left in a back alley.

Everyone denies responsibility, heck, no one today is really responsible for much of anything at all these days, but the matter just won’t go away.  The native contingent is asking something in the nature of  “what the heck, how could you drag him unconscious out of your cell block and leave him to die”.   Frank Paul was a human being.  A troubled human being to be sure, but a human being nonetheless.

The matter goes before the courts in a review, because the native contingent, and more and more of the public activist contingent, just won’t go away. In part, the review considers a background like:

“Although she had just arrived on the job, Crown prosecutor Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said she was asked to review the file in 2001, but told the inquiry she didn’t even view the video until after she had handed in her legal opinion. She expected her boss, Gregory Fitch, to also review the file and add his opinion to her recommendation, which she completed in three days.  Understandably, DeWitt-Van Oosten didn’t expect to be the final word since she had just arrived on the job in Victoria and acknowledged her first assignment was to pass judgment on three of her superiors who had backed the no-charge stand.   “Everyone was more senior than I,” she said.  Yet Fitch, then director of legal services, rubber-stamped her report, adding none of his own thoughts or independent research.  Do I close my eyes and see Mr. Paul?” DeWitt-Van Oosten asked at one point during the trying interrogation she was put through.  “Yes. It was sad, absolutely, but my role was to engage in a legal analysis and I did that to the best of my ability, and ultimately reached the decision I did.”  Gillen acknowledged Fitch took far too long to finish his review of the file — dragging his feet for seven months after receiving Van Oosten’s report.  “You don’t have many cases like this,” Gillen said. “It’s an unusual case.””

These quotes are all drawn from an article on at

There’s a lot of dressing up in this case, and the quotes above give a good feel to it.  You don’t have too many cases like this”  or “my role was to engage in a legal analysis….”   at the end of the day everyone in the Attorney Generals department for B.C. decided that nothing criminal had been done.   I’ve thought about this for some time, I’ve read the articles, and it’s time someone just said it.  What was criminal here was the absolute failure of the lawyers in the AG’s department in assessing this matter.  The police, well…. frankly it’s not real surprising they are a  bit dodgy, they have a culture that is all about the thin blue line and similar crap, but the AG’s department is the backstop, the office that is supposed to stop and set  a standard,  a place where someone says no, it’s not right.    This time, the entire thing went through hearings, and lo and behold, it would seem that everyone did their best.   Yep, no wrong doing here, good intentions and good faith and all that.  And…. at the end of the day, the police dragged Frank Paul out of the lockup in an unconscious state and left him to die on the cold and wet streets of Vancouver, and those responsible for review of that conduct… well, their role was to engage in a legal analysis, and that’s just what they did, completely divorced from any of the human condition that was Frank Paul.

Update January 2017.   In a bizarre turn of events, both of the crown officers cited above were elevated to the position of Justice (that’s a judge) in our superior courts.   Mr. Gregory Fitch sat on on the British Columbia Supreme Court from 2011 to 2015 at which time he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.   Ms. Dewitt-Van Oosten was elevated to the British Columbia Supreme Court in November of 2016.    In light of the foregoing rather surprising appointments, well, rather than making unpleasant observations, I will just hope that both can do a little more looking out for guys like Frank Paul this time around.   Don’t stand up for the status quo, stand up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *