Ontario’s police watchdog has been called in to investigate the death of a 29-year-old woman who fell from the balcony of an apartment building in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood on Wednesday evening.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) stated in a news release late Wednesday night that Toronto Police had responded to an apartment building on High Park Avenue near Glenlake around 5:15 p.m. for “a domestic incident.”
Officers were inside an apartment unit on the building’s 24th floor when, according to the SIU, “they observed a woman on the balcony.”
“A short time later, the woman fell from the balcony to the ground below,” reads the SIU release. “She was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
Circumstances surrounding the woman’s death are now being probed by two investigators and two forensic specialists from the SIU, a civilian oversight agency that investigates reports involving police “where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.”
Police have yet to reveal the young woman’s identity, but family members have publicly identified her as Regis Korchinski-Paquet — and serious allegations surrounding the direct involvement of police in her death are circulating widely online this morning.
Accusations of foul play were first mounted against Toronto Police by a young man who says he is the deceased woman’s cousin.
“That’s my cousin on the floor. Police threw my cousin off the building… threw my female cousin off the building,” states the man, whose Instagram handle is @rocawrld, in one of several videos posted from the scene.
Behind him, an orange tarp can be seen in the middle of the apartment building’s courtyard, cordoned off by yellow tape with police officers stationed around the property.
“Police threw my cousin off the building. We’re done protesting…. This is in Toronto,” continues the man, identifying the building as 100 High Park.
“My cousin’s been on the floor for over an hour. Police murdered my cousin… they killed my cousin, no remorse.”
Additional videos shared by @rocawrld on Instagram show witnesses and family members sobbing, visibly distressed and furious over what they had seen.
“The police killed my daughter, came in my apartment and shoved her off the balcony, and told cp24 not to come here, that it’s a suicide,” says the woman’s mother in one heartbreaking clip. “But the police killed her.”
Another Instagram user who says he is the young woman’s brother posted a photo of the apparent victim as a child with the caption “REGIS KORCHINSKI-PAQUET.”
“The Toronto Police killed my sister,” wrote @twy902 in an Instagram stories post. “Regis Korchinski-Paquet.”
The young woman’s name is being shared widely on Twitter this morning as advocates call for justice and demand that media outlets give the story due attention.
As of 9 a.m on Thursday morning, the hashtag #JusticeForRegis had been used in nearly 30,000 tweets and was the top-trending topic in Toronto.
“Regis Korchinski-Paquet was her name. She was a 29 year old Black woman that lived in my community of #ParkHP,” wrote FoodShare Toronto Executive Director Paul Taylor in response to the SIU’s announcement of an investigation.
“Every day a Black life is taken, every day a police officer goes uninvestigated, every day family, friends, strangers are traumatized,” tweeted Bhan Gatkuoth, creator and host of the acclaimed Daughter Podcast.
“When will one of those every’s be mine and who will fight for my life, my mother’s dignity? My justice? Prove it.#JusticeForRegis“
Many online are holding up the death of Korchinski-Paquet as evidence that Canada is far from the highly-tolerant, multicultural society it is often portrayed to be.
Instances of anti-black racism and violence from police in the U.S. have been well documented in recent decades — the most-recent case involving 46-year-old George Floyd of Minneapolis, who died Monday while pleading for help as police officers pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck.
“Stop thinking Canada isn’t racist. Stop thinking police are not a racist institutionalized system. Stop erasing Black women from the narratives,” wrote one Twitter user. “Police violence towards Black women is OFTEN silenced. Speak up.”
“Just because Canada has healthcare and more gun control laws doesn’t mean we live in a utopia. We live on stolen land and continually mistreat Indigenous people and POC as our society was built on a base of systemic racism and imperialism. Canada is systematically racist,” wrote another.
“So no, Canada is not ‘better’ than America in this regard. No one is ‘better’ if we allow atrocities to continue. Indigenous women go missing and are murdered,” they continued.