Dying from Improvement

Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody

By (author) Sherene Razack
Categories: Sociology, Sociology and anthropology, Society and Social Sciences
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Paperback : 9781442628915, 328 pages, May 2015

Table of contents

Introduction. Boot Print on the Chest: Disappearing “Indians” in Life and Law
1. The Body as Placeless: Memorializing Colonial Power
2. Dying from Improvement
3. The Body as Frontier
4. “People Die”: A Killing Indifference
5. The Medico-Legal Alliance: Anthany Dawson and the Diagnosis of Excited Delirium
6. “It happened more than once”: Freezing Deaths in Saskatchewan
Conclusion. Tombstone Data
Appendix. Deaths in Custody: Saskatchewan 1995–2013


Dying from Improvement is a major contribution to the issues of Indigenous disposability, suffering, and struggles for justice within a settler state that is dedicated to their disappearance. ” –Audra Simpson, Columbia University

In Dying from Improvement, Sherene H. Razack argues that, amidst systematic state violence against Indigenous people, inquiries and inquests serve to obscure the violence of ongoing settler colonialism under the guise of benevolent concern. Razack’s powerful critique of the Canadian settler state and its legal system speaks to many of today’s most pressing issues of social justice: the treatment of Indigenous people, the unparalleled authority of the police and the justice system, and their systematic inhumanity towards those whose lives they perceive as insignificant.


‘Razack’s arguments are provocative. She has constructed a compelling and disturbing analysis which will challenge readers at many levels… It is impossible not to be moved by the evidence and analysis, and what these say about contemporary Indigenous life and death in Canada. ’

- Jane Dickson

Dying From Improvement is vivid and disturbing. Professor Razack draws readers with an electric narrative and police reporter’s eye for detail. ”

- Holy Doan

Dying from Improvement is a courageous, confrontational analysis into the roots of indigenous injustice and deaths. ’

- Megan Siu

"This a difficult but important book to read. Razack balances her analysis of state violence with the agency of Indigenous family members, but she deals with a topic few Canadians want to acknowledge. "

- Lianne C. Leddy

"While Razack does not offer explicit remedies for the crisis in accountability of the Canadian police forces, the importance of this book lies in its use as a critical tool in locating colonialism in the modern Canadian narrative, especially in the upcoming inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women. DYING FROM IMPROVEMENT is an important read for all those who will be paying close attention to the process as it unfolds, and a call-to-arms to ensure that its outcomes, conclusions and remedies are, indeed, just. "

- Kimberly Wilson

‘This is a passionate, thought-provoking, and disconcerting book… A milestone in the study of deaths of Aboriginal people in Canada. ’

- Liqun Cao