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Conflict between RCMP and aboriginal community in Williams Lake must be investigated and resolved, says BCCLA

Vancouver – The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is pointing to three videos of problematic encounters between aboriginal people and Williams Lake RCMP, a local business owner’s complaint about racism that was apparently never investigated, and the actions of the detachment head in cutting off a local media outlet that tried to tell a story about the issue as evidence of a major problem in the community.

“We’re seeing video of aboriginal people tied to a chair for hours, tackled when sitting on a bench by multiple RCMP officers, including the head of the detachment, and being punched for refusing to immediately respond to commands. We’re hearing that media outlets that try to report on RCMP and aboriginal relationships are being cut off from receiving press releases. A business owner said RCMP officers were harassing his aboriginal customers and apparently nobody investigated that allegation. Something is really, really wrong in Williams Lake,” says Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA.

The BCCLA has written a letter to the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, the Solicitor General of B.C. and the head of the RCMP in B.C., Gary Bass to ask them to act immediately to replace the detachment head in Williams Lake and begin repairing community relations there. Williams Lake was the subject of a provincial inquiry called the Cariboo-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry in 1993 that made extensive recommendations around reforming policing and police/aboriginal relationships in the area.

“In 1993, Judge Anthony Sarich presented his final report of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry. The Inquiry explored the relationship with Indigenous Peoples of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the B.C. justice system. Judge Sarich noted that at the first meeting with Chiefs and community members, he was challenged with the question ‘Why should we trust you?’ All these years later, the question still resonates,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “When officers entrusted with the safety of all conduct themselves in the manner displayed in the Gilbert and Billy videos, the work of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry did not change the justice system in Williams Lake. The Indigenous leadership will not stand idly by and watch justice be denied.”

BCCLA letter to Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and Deputy Commissioner Bass

MEDIA CONTACTS
Robert Holmes, President, BCCLA – (604) 681-1310
David Eby, Executive Director, BCCLA – (778) 865-7997
Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief, UBCIC – (250) 490-5314

BACKGROUNDER

Lloyd Gilbert (Jan 21, 2010) Arrest reports said that RCMP attended Gilbert’s home after Gilbert called police to report an assault.

Gilbert’s door had been smashed in. He was, according to the police reports “highly intoxicated” and was “belligerent” and “pointing his finger in Cst. Butler’s face”. The report says Gilbert was arrested to be “lodged until sober”. Gilbert is a Shuswap man who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from unrelated events.

Gilbert said he was initially lodged in the drunk tank with two other men and alleges he was assaulted by RCMP in that cell. Gilbert was then lodged in a cell with a sink and toilet. A video shows Gilbert climbing on the bench and sink and refusing directions to stop doing so. There is no indication from the video that Gilbert is violent, and he appears compliant. Gilbert is then tied to a chair by Williams Lake RCMP, putting him at significant risk of aspirating on his vomit. The video shows him being physically checked on only once, and he was kept tied to the chair for three hours and twenty minutes, and forced to urinate on himself.

Detachment Head Warren Brown told the Williams Lake Tribune in an article published August 12, 2010 that Gilbert was not arrested for being intoxicated.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_cariboo/williamslaketribune/news/100562854.html Brown justified tying up Gilbert and not physically monitoring him in part because Gilbert was using abusive language.

“I don’t care who you are, how you’re trained or what background you come from, there comes a point where you can no longer take threatening and abusive language, and this is what this man had coming from his mouth. It was belligerent venom.” He also suggested that Gilbert was physically checked every 15 minutes, but the video shows the cell door opening only once during the entire 3 hours and 20 minutes Gilbert was in the chair, and shows Gilbert urinating on himself which indicates Gilbert was not given an opportunity to use the washroom or to request washroom access.

Click here to see the BCCLA’s complaint and the arrest record in the Gilbert case.
http://bccla.org/pressreleases/10RCMP_restraint.html

Lloyd Gilbert’s number is available through the BCCLA. Call David Eby to arrange interview.
Lloyd Gilbert video >>

Curtis Billy (August 27, 2010)

A robbery took place at a local convenience store where two masked men held up the store and drove away. The driver was described as 6’ tall and wearing a black hoodie. The robbers ran across the central park in Williams Lake. Hours later, the RCMP attended the park and saw Curtis Billy and two friends on a park bench. Billy ran, and was caught with a hash pipe. Billy, who is aboriginal, 5’7 and was wearing a light blue jacket, was charged with being the driver in the robbery.

While in cells in Williams Lake awaiting trial, video captures Billy covering up the camera that monitors his cell. He then removes the covering. Five officers then respond to the cell, and in the lead is Detachment head Warren Brown. Billy sits down on the bench in the cell, and officers pull the sleeping mat out, indicating a decision had been made to physically remove Billy from the cell independent of the circumstances faced by officers. Brown grabs Billy who is seated and complaint and forces him to the ground, injuring Billy’s head. Brown stands on Billy’s back. After the incident, Billy requests medical attention five times when he has trouble breathing, but medical attention is allegedly denied and he says he is not seen by a nurse or doctor until he is returned to Prince George cells hours later.

RCMP detachment head Warren Brown is scheduled to testify about the Billy incident on September 30th in Williams Lake according to Billy’s lawyer George Wool. Wool has made an application that the case against Curtis Billy be thrown out based on the alleged assault of Billy in the Williams Lake cells and lack of medical attention provided to Billy in Williams Lake following the assault. The RCMP has advised the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs that there is a code of conduct investigation into the incident.

Curtis Billy is available for interview. Call George Wool, lawyer for Curtis Billy: (250) 791-9295 Curtis Billy video >>

Oren Mostad (May, 2010)

Mr. Mostad attended the RCMP station in Williams Lake to ask about police entry into his home and the seizure of his hunting rifles. He was placed under arrest and brought to the booking area where the video starts. He says he was not told why he was under arrest, and he was never charged with any offence in relation to the seizure of the rifles. The video shows Mr. Mostad talking with a Williams Lake officer who reaches out to grab Mr. Mostad’s arm. Mr. Mostad pulls back, and the officer radios for assistance.

Mr. Mostad says that during this time, he is asking “What did I do wrong?” Rather than waiting for assistance, the officer attempts to grab Mr. Mostad’s arm again and Mr. Mostad pulls back again. This time the officer tackles Mr. Mostad to the ground and punches him repeatedly. A civilian staff member holds Mr. Mostad’s feet. Four backup officers then arrive and Mr. Mostad is searched and taken to cells without further incident. No complaint has been filed and no investigation of the incident is underway to the knowledge of the BCCLA. Mr. Mostad was charged with assaulting a peace officer as a result of this incident.

Oren Mostad is available for interview. Call George Wool, lawyer for Mr. Mostad: (250) 791-9295

Oren Mostad video >>

Nick Weekes and the Boot Cabaret (2009-2010) Bar owner Nick Weekes sold his bar called the Boot Cabaret in July of this year after extensive problems with local RCMP and their interactions with his primarily aboriginal clientele. He told WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca in an article published July 14, 2010: “They harassed my clients almost as if they were trying to pick a fight with them. Sometimes they said things to my customers on a very personal level, getting them upset. That means they’d mouth off and react, and the next thing you know they’re in a cop car and I’m the bad guy. . . From what I’ve seen, they’re going after the native community, saying that crime here is caused by the natives.” Although local RCMP were aware of the article and the allegations, Mr. Weekes advises that he was never questioned as part of any code of conduct investigation. Nick Weekes, former owner of the Boot Cabaret: (250) 267-6437 WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca (July, 2010)

The local news website Welcome to Williams Lake was initially welcomed by RCMP, who provided the website with news and traffic updates as well as press releases and interviews. When the website reported Nick Weekes’ allegations that RCMP officers were antagonizing his aboriginal patrons, the outlet stopped getting press releases. An e-mail from Warren Brown to the Editor of WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca dated July 28, 2010, with underline added, reads “LeRae, yes you are officially removed from the Williams Lake RCMP media list. The Nick Weekes interview has some part to play. Again to reiterate, I am not going to use you as a venue to debate. I find that to be poor reporting . . . I provide this communication with the expectation that it will not find its way into a news release in the Welcome to Williams Lake publication.”

The local RCMP have since given a series of exclusive stories to the competing news outlet and refuse to provide interviews or press releases to WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca under the direction of the Detachment Head. The website has been in contact with the RCMP independently and through the BCCLA. The RCMP has required Williams Lake to post their news releases to the E-Division website and acknowledges that failing to do so was a breach of policy. Despite the detachment head being aware of the article and the allegations of racism involving RCMP officers, the BCCLA is not aware of any investigation of the allegations.

Cailin Cousins, Publisher of WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca: (250) 398-0508
LeRae Haynes, Editor of WelcomeToWilliamsLake.ca: (250) 267-2648
Williams Lake Detachment Head Warren Brown (1997 and 2001)

Brown is a former police officer with the Delta police department who was investigated after a use of force incident in 1997 that involved him allegedly hitting a suspect with a hammer. Brown was charged with assault but acquitted. He was simultaneously investigated by Chief Sessford of the Delta Police Department in relation to the incident and, following that investigation, was ordered by the Chief to attend a discipline hearing. The discipline hearing was scheduled, but Brown challenged the jurisdiction of the Chief to hold the hearing. Brown then lost his challenge in B.C. Supreme Court. At some point later Brown left the Delta Police Department to join the RCMP. The BCCLA is unable to determine whether a discipline hearing was ever held.

Click here to read the Supreme Court of B.C. decision in Brown v. Police Complaint Commissioner.