The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) are in Prince Rupert today, meeting with family members of Justin Brooks, whose body was found at the waterfront on March 4.
Brooks family have publicly called into question the actions of the RCMP, saying they have been told foul play was ruled out despite being told Justin was assaulted the night he lost his life. They also say police returned their son’s bloodied clothing to the family instead of keeping it as evidence. The family also say they were denied the ability to view Justin’s body and the condition that he was in after he was found.
The two groups say they too are “deeply concerned” with how Prince Rupert RCMP have handled the investigation and that it points to a more systemic problem with policing in the province.
“The relationship between many First Nations communities and the RCMP is broken. Time and time again, RCMP action and inaction has made our people feel they cannot rely on them for help and that they will not be treated fairly. The RCMP have not paid enough attention to violent crimes against our people, whether along the infamous Highway of Tears or the many unsolved deaths of women and men throughout the north. We question why the RCMP are so quick to dismiss the suspicious death of Justin Brooks as a suicide or as an accident. We are deeply concerned as to how casually the RCMP approach their investigations when a First Nations person is killed,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the UBCIC.
“There is clearly a problem in BC when First Nations families and communities are unable to place their faith in law enforcement either to protect them, or to properly investigate crimes committed against them. Across the north we have heard from many First Nations communities that police treat them poorly compared to non-First Nations communities. The tragedy of missing and murdered women on the Highway of Tears is the most well-known example, but the problem extends well beyond that,” added Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA.
The BCCLA will be seeking a meeting with the Prince Rupert RCMP. The visit comes one day before a planned candlelight vigil in memory of Brooks.
RCMP were not immediately available for comment. Look for more on this story as it becomes available.