Three separate cases that left first nations people injured after RCMP were called indicate an institutional flaw that could deter aboriginal families from seeking police help, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
“The RCMP needs to look very carefully at its 911 response in domestic situations and fix it,” association executive director David Eby told a Vancouver news conference Tuesday.
“People shouldn’t be afraid that when they call the RCMP for help, a family member will be seriously injured. And unfortunately, that is what is happening.”
The cases, which occurred between April 4 and May 15 of this year, all in northern B.C., sent two men and a 15-year-old girl to hospital after Mounties responded to calls for help.
Holmes said the girl, a single mother from Prince Rupert whose identity cannot be revealed under the Privacy Act, suffered a broken arm.
Two Terrace men, Robert Wright, 47, and William Watts, 36, suffered head injuries during altercations with police.
Municipal police departments are doing external investigations into the case of the girl and Wright.
The Watts case is the subject of an internal investigation by an RCMP detachment following a complaint to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
Citing privacy concerns, the RCMP said the identity of the officers under investigation will not be released unless charges are laid. Until then, said Supt. Ray Bernoties, allegations of misconduct and assault are unsubstantiated and amount to grandstanding by the BCCLA.
Delta police, who are investigating both the 15-year-old and an RCMP officer for assault, said Prince Rupert Mounties responded on April 4 to a call warning the girl was upset and threatening to kill herself.
Police apprehended her under the Mental Health Act, then arrested her for allegedly assaulting an officer. She was injured and taken to a local hospital, where staff confirmed she had a broken arm and sent her to Kitimat for surgery.
The 15-year-old told the news conference that she would remember the traumatic experience for the rest of her life, and said she doubted she would ever trust RCMP again.
The Wright case occurred after Terrace RCMP responded to his wife’s 911 call about Wright driving drunk, according to an April 23 news release from New Westminster police, who are handling the investigation into Wright’s head trauma.
It says Wright was non-compliant in cells after his arrest, had to be physically restrained and
“subsequently suffered a head injury and was taken to the local hospital three times through-out the night.”
After receiving 12 stitches, he was transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster for further care. Wright remains in hospital following the stroke sustained in RCMP custody, according to a statement released by his wife Heather Prisk on Tuesday. She said he has had difficulty walking, speaking and comprehending his environment since the April 21 incident, which has deeply affected her life as well.
William Watts called 911 on May 15, after a family member who appeared drunk arrived outside his house. He told the news conference by speakerphone that an RCMP supervisor came to his house, forced him outside, placed his head in a bag and punched him repeatedly without apparent cause. “He called me a dirty f——Indian, he grabbed me by the shirt in front of my children, in front of my whole neighbourhood, he started punching me numerous times,” Watts said. “I felt almost 10 punches on my face and then blacked out.”
He awoke in hospital, and said he still feels pain around his face, which remains scarred.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, attributed the incidents in northern B.C. to endemic problems embedded in provincial institutions and national attitudes.”It is something that Canadians need to wake up to. It’s time that we stop pretending that Canada does not have racist attitudes found within the RCMP, within the judiciary, within society as a whole,” he said.