Five months after the police shooting death of Jared Lowndes in Campbell River, advocates are hoping to keep his memory from becoming another statistic.
Every month on the 8th, Lowndes’ family and supporters are posting an action item to justiceforjared.org to advocate for stopping police killings, disarming police, “always on” body cams, ending the use of police dogs and transforming the IIO (Independent Investigations Office).
The website is being supported by Pivot Legal Society, a Vancouver-based legal advocacy group that works with marginalized people to “challenge legislation, policies, and practices that undermine human rights, intensify poverty, and perpetuate stigma.” The website was set up to help keep Lowndes’ name from becoming another statistic.
“Once people are lost to police violence, often the story disappears into government or IIO bureaucracy where people aren’t able to get regular updates and a lot of information is embargoed,” said Meenakshi Mannoe, criminalization and policing campaigner for Pivot. “For Laura (Holland, Lowndes’ mother), I think it’s important that the name Jared Lowndes stays out there, that people don’t forget and so that he doesn’t become a statistic.”
Actions posted so far on the website include a letter writing campaign to the Attorney General and the IIO asking for Indigenous involvement in the investigation, asking to stop the use of police dogs, and a campaign to hang banners at various locations around the province.
The Mirror spoke to the IIO in October for a response to the letter writing campaign. At the time, IIO head Ronald MacDonald said that while some of the requests were beyond the scope of the IIO, “there are still lessons to be learned and things to be changed. Of course as society changes, all institutions need to change. These kinds of recommendations are helpful for those reasons.”
However, Lowndes’ family and supporters believe more should be done.
“I have a lot of cynicism about the involvement of the IIO because… they almost want to be rewarded for doing what is effectively the minimum to expect from an oversight body that’s tasked with investigating police-involved incidents and harm reduction. A public report?” said Mannoe.
A letter was written in October to draw attention to the use of police dogs in these situations. Mannoe said that “effectively, these dogs are trained to be used as weapons.”
“If you are actually concerned about animal wellfare, the continuous use of dogs this way is at odds with that,” she said. “Following Jared’s death, it has become clear that dogs shouldn’t be used as weapons in this way. It’s a risk to the animal as well as the people involved.”
Jan. 8 will mark six months since Lowndes’ death. While Mannoe did not know what was planned for the January action item, she did say that the actions would persist to ensure that victims of police violence are not forgotten.
“There are disproportionate rates of Indigenous people being killed by police across Canada. Even within the last year, there have been a number of Indigenous people killed on Vancouver Island alone,” Mannoe said. “What (Holland has) often said to me is that this isn’t just about Jared, but all of the Jareds, all of the people who have been lost… by police violence.”