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Defending the rights of the dead

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Do your charter rights die when you do?

That’s the argument as the Justice Department tries to have a lawsuit filed by the family of Lisa Dudley tossed out in a hearing that starts today at BC Supreme Court in Vancouver.

In 2008, Dudley and her boyfriend, Guthrie McKay were gunned down in their home in Mission. An RCMP officer responding to a call from a neighbour who heard gunfire did not even get out of his car to check, reporting everything looked normal. McKay died right away but Dudley sat slowly dying for four days before she was found in a dried pool of blood.

Dudley’s family has filed suit against the federal and provincial governments and the RCMP, saying her charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person were violated.

The federal and provincial  governments have applied to have the suit dismissed, stating a deceased person’s rights can not be taken up by others, even close family members.

The family’s lawyer, Monique Pongracic-Speier, argues they can. “And that is based on the fact that the wrong is a wrong not only on Lisa Cheryl Dudley but against the public of Canada as a whole,” she tells News1130.

Dudley’s family will be at the hearing. Her stepfather Mark Surakka says the circumstances surrounding her death were abhorrent and the system failed her terribly.

“How could we not speak on Lisa’s behalf? It’s just the right thing, ” he tells News1130.

“I know the government is arguing that Charter rights are just personal, that no one can claim another’s rights and that rights do not continue after death. I’m not a legal person but I would argue there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of people who’ve been caught in a situation where they’ve grieved and then realized there are issues that their loved ones weren’t granted under the Charter. I think it’s time to examine that.”

Arguments will be heard at BC Supreme Court in Vancouver today and tomorrow.