The lawyer representing the family of a Black woman who fell to her death after an interaction with Toronto police has criticized an investigation into the situation, after police sources seemingly leaked details to the Toronto Sun.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet, 29, died on May 27 after she fell 24-storeys from the balcony of her High Park apartment.
Toronto human rights attorney Knia Singh, who is representing her family, said Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton had called the police to de-escalate a family fight. Singh told reporters six officers showed up and went into the apartment with Korchinski-Paquet, but stopped family members from going in. He said Korchinski-Paquet yelled, “Mom, help,” from inside the unit, before it went silent and police later revealed she was on the ground.
In a press conference following Korchinski-Paquet’s death, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders stressed that police couldn’t legally comment on the case because it is being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit, an arms-length watchdog agency. Yet, Saunders has continued to comment on the case, telling Global News that there were three 911 calls from the apartment, including two involving weapons. He has also categorized a lot of the commentary surrounding the case as “lies.”
Singh told Global News there were no weapons when officers arrived on scene.
Initially, Korchinski-Paquet’s mother said police had pushed her daughter, but Singh has since clarified that she was not a witness and is looking for answers.
A recently published Toronto Sun article cited “sources” who claimed Korchinski-Paquet had barricaded herself on the balcony alone before she died while trying to jump from her balcony to a neighbouring unit.
In a statement, Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the service has launched a professional standards investigation “to look into the unauthorized release of information and determine if it was done by a member of the TPS.”
She said in addition to Toronto police officers there were others on scene that day.
Singh told Now Magazine that the comments leaked in the Sun could only have come from police or someone speaking on behalf of police because the officers were the only ones in the unit when Korchinski-Paquet died.
He said that the comments are an attempt to “shape the narrative.”
“The SIU is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation, but the way this is unfolding is making me believe that it’s not,” he told Now.
Singh said he needs access to information being provided to the SIU, including statements by police officers, so that he and the family can ask questions. He also said the investigation should be handed off to an independent investigator.
After assessing evidence, the SIU will either lay a criminal charge against a police officer or file a report with the Attorney General about the results of the investigation. The process has been heavily criticized for being overly secretive.
Ahead of a committee meeting Friday, Toronto’s only Black councillor, Michael Thompson, said he was deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
“How could someone in distress fall from an apartment balcony under the supervision of police officers?” he asked, going on to question whether or not Korchinski-Paquet’s race had anything to do with the outcome.
“The answers we need to bring public closure to the racially and emotionally charged incident has not been made public by the SIU or the police,” Thompson said. He said he will continue to apply pressure in order to get answers about “yet another police intervention gone wrong.”
Between 2013-2017, Black people were 20 times more likely than white people to be shot dead by Toronto police, according to a 2018 report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.