Mayor Sylvia Pranger is reinforcing the District of Kent’s commitment to cooperate with the RCMP amid renewed allegations of a cover-up surrounding the 2015 electrocution death of a Harrison Mills woman.
CTV Vancouver aired a story on Tuesday (Oct. 25) detailing a secretly recorded phone call said to be with a member of the Agassiz RCMP. In the call, the alleged officer said the downed power line that led to the death of 60-year-old Shirley Nate had been discussed in public works meeting two days before. The caller further alleged that during an emergency public works meeting on the following Monday, employees were told to keep quiet about the downed line and the incident.
In a brief statement released Wednesday (Oct. 26), Pranger, who was not mayor at the time of the electrocution, called for anyone with new evidence to provide it to investigators.
“The District of Kent takes these allegations seriously and will work and cooperate with the RCMP,” Pranger stated. “The CTV story claims that there is new evidence on the electrocution of Shirley Nate, and we strongly recommend that anyone with new evidence provide that information to the RCMP.”
Nate was walking her dogs on a path near Kilby Park in the Harrison Mills area on Oct. 18, 2015, shortly after a windstorm blew through the area. According to a lawsuit filed by Nate’s parents against the District of Kent and BC Hydro, Nate passed near a low-hanging, live hydro line reportedly hanging two feet off the ground near a harvested cornfield. Her neighbours reported she went into nearby bushes to retrieve her dogs, who might have ventured off the path.
Nate’s dogs were killed when they went into a high-voltage area. Nate was badly burned by electricity arcing from the downed line. Both her arms had to be amputated and she underwent several skin grafts and seven surgeries, enduring five weeks of treatment in the intensive care unit in Vancouver before succumbing to her injuries.
Sarah Shupe, a former district employee and advocate for the Nate family, confirmed a complaint against the Agassiz RCMP concerning this investigation has been filed with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. The CRCC is an independent agency created to impartially examine complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members.
A Change.org petition dubbed “Justice for Shirley Nate” is still open as of Wednesday. A previous version of the petition advocated for a coroner’s inquest into Nate’s death. The latest version calls for a new police investigation by “an unaffiliated municipal police agency (ie. VPD) at a level that understands the complexity of the relationship between Municipal Government and RCMP in this small community.”
The Observer has reached out to local RCMP representatives for comment.