Five Canadian officers charged in Indigenous man's death

OTTAWA, Canada -- Five Canadian police officers have been charged with offenses related to an Indigenous man's death, which occurred shortly after his arrest in 2017.

Prosecutors in British Columbia province announced late Wednesday manslaughter charges against two Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables in Prince George, where the death occurred, about 700 kilometers (450 miles) north of Vancouver.

Three other officers have been charged with subsequently attempting to obstruct justice in connection to the case.

A father of three and a member of the Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan First Nations, 35-year-old Dale Culver died shortly after being arrested in July 2017.

Police had responded to a call about a male suspiciously "casing vehicles" in downtown Prince George, according to the province's Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which probed the circumstances of Culver's death.

Police said Culver had resisted arrest and tried to flee on a bicycle.

During a struggle he was pepper sprayed, and soon afterward "appeared to be having trouble breathing," the IIO said in a report.

Culver collapsed and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour and a half later, just after midnight.

Virginia Pierre, Culver's aunt who raised him, said in a statement Thursday: "We cannot shake off the devastation until justice is done."

"This is hard on every single one of us. And we hurt each time we see police involved deaths in the news. It happens way too much. Too many have died in the hands of the RCMP. The police are supposed to protect us, not kill us," she said.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the RCMP watchdog in 2018 alleging that Mounties had told witnesses to delete video footage of his arrest.

Indigenous relations with police in Canada have long been strained, and Culver's death further fuelled allegations of anti-Indigenous racism in policing.

The accused are scheduled to appear in court on March 14.