Watch­dog asks if racism played role in abo­rig­i­nal man’s in-cus­tody death

The Miracle - - National & Int -

A com­plaint about the in-cus­tody death of a First Na­tions man in Prince Ge­orge, B.C. last sum­mer is rais­ing ques­tions about the Moun­ties’ ac­count of what hap­pened and whether racism played a role. The B.C. Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion has writ­ten to the Civil­ian Re­view and Com­plaints Com­mis­sion for the RCMP, ask­ing the agency to en­sure there’s a trans­par­ent and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death of Dale Cul­ver. “We’re hope­ful they’ll look into al­le­ga­tions of very se­ri­ous mis­con­duct against RCMP mem­bers in Prince Ge­orge,” BCCLA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Josh Pater­son told CTV News. Cul­ver, a 35-year-old Wet’suwet’en fa­ther of three, was taken down by of­fi­cers on July 18, 2017 af­ter a strug­gle. Of­fi­cers de­ployed pep­per spray and placed him in a po­lice car, where he stopped breath­ing. Cul­ver died in hospi­tal. The po­lice ac­count the next day said Prince Ge­orge RCMP re­ceived a re­port that a man was “cas­ing ve­hi­cles” in a park­ing lot that evening, and tracked Cul­ver down. But the BCCLA com­plaint says that “cas­ing ve­hi­cles” re­port may have come in long be­fore the ar­rest – rais­ing the ques­tion about whether Cul­ver was even the man of­fi­cers were look­ing for. “We un­der­stand that the call to po­lice about a sus­pect po­ten­tially “cas­ing out” ve­hi­cles may have been re­ceived sev­eral hours prior to the po­lice in­ter­ac­tion with Mr. Cul­ver that re­sulted in his death. Re­gard­less, we ques­tion on what in­for­ma­tion or ba­sis the mem­ber or mem­bers of the RCMP be­gan their in­ter­ac­tion or ques­tion­ing of Mr. Cul­ver, and/or a re­quest to iden­tify him­self in the first place,” the com­plaint reads. “This tragic in­ci­dent, as it has been de­scribed, gives rise to a ques­tion as to whether the RCMP mem­bers’ ac­tions may have been af­fected by ex­plicit or im­plicit racial bias,” the com­plaint says. The RCMP didn’t an­swer ques­tions from CTV News on the case to­day, re­fer­ring only to their pre­vi­ous press re­lease. Those who knew Cul­ver say he strug­gled with al­co­holism, but worked in the forestry in­dus­try and was try­ing to turn his life around. “I think when a per­son is ar­rested, I don’t think they should end up dead,” said Terry Teegee, a re­gional chief of the B.C. As­sem­bly of First Na­tions. Cul­ver’s death has left a 14-year-old daugh­ter, a 6-year-old son, and a baby fa­ther­less, said his cousin Deb­bie Pierre. “This is ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing to us,” she said. “How he passed has been ex­cru­ci­at­ing for his mother clan and his fa­ther clan,” she said. The pos­si­bil­ity that Cul­ver was picked up be­cause he was First Na­tions is fright­en­ing, she said. “I don’t want (Cul­ver’s) pass­ing to be in vain,” she said. “It could have been any­body. Do we want to see this hap­pen again and again? There needs to be change.” B.C.’s In­de­pen­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tions Of­fice is also look­ing into any po­ten­tial crim­i­nal con­duct by the RCMP in the case. The IIO’s Chief Civil­ian Di­rec­tor wouldn’t an­swer ques­tions about his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into time­line of the “cas­ing ve­hi­cles” re­port or what po­lice knew about Cul­ver be­fore the ar­rest.But Ron Mac­Don­ald did say that the IIO is still look­ing into al­le­ga­tions that of­fi­cers asked passersby to delete cell­phone video of the in­ci­dent. “Given the na­ture of those al­le­ga­tions, if proven, they could con­sti­tute crim­i­nal con­duct, so we’ve been in­ves­ti­gat­ing that as well,” Mac­Don­ald said. He said the agency is still hop­ing to hear from any wit­nesses who may have seen of­fi­cers delete any videos. Vic­tor Jim, a hered­i­tary and elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en, told CTV News that there has been prej­u­dice against First Na­tions peo­ple by au­thor­i­ties for “as long as they’ve ex­isted.” “I think we need to cul­tur­ally ed­u­cate the RCMP,” he said. “Lots of them aren’t cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive, or cul­tur­ally aware. Lots of racial pro­fil­ing goes on with our peo­ple.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.