The coroner’s inquest into the 2015 RCMP shooting death of James Hayward in Port Hardy has been rescheduled for Aug. 20, in a courtroom almost three hours away from where the shooting occurred.
According to the BC Coroner’s Service, the change in venue is due to the fact that they needed a courtroom equipped for a jury that would be able to accommodate the inquest.
James’ aunt, Nora Hayward, said the family is “a bit disappointed that it’s going to be held in Campbell River — if they had to change the venue why couldn’t they do it to Victoria where family and friends live?”
She added that she asked if they could postpone it so that it could still be held in Port Hardy, but was told by the coroner’s service they “can’t do that.”
Regardless of the change in venue, Nora stated she is “glad that it’s finally happening and that James’ voice can be heard and hopefully some recommendations will be made to change the way the police deal with people suffering from mental health issues.”
The inquest will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Campbell River, where the presiding coroner and a jury will hear the evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts about James’ death.
Coroner’s inquests are formal court proceedings, with a five- to seven-person jury, held to publicly review the circumstances of a death. The jury hears evidence from witnesses under summons (same as a subpoena) in order to determine the facts of a death. The presiding coroner ensures the jury maintains the goal of fact-finding, not fault-finding. Upon conclusion of the inquest, a written report known as a Verdict is prepared. It includes the classification of the death and any jury recommendations on how to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.
It was back in 2015 when James moved towards the Port Hardy RCMP with a large knife in his hand and was shot to the ground. Witnesses said he then got up and continued toward the police and was shot again and again fell, this time not getting back up.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
After a two-year investigation into the shooting, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) declined to press charges against the RCMP officer, as they felt there was a clear action from James that was creating a threat.