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Heiltsuk Nation demands removal of Bella Bella RCMP officer

A protest is planned for noon Friday, May 24 in front of the RCMP office in Bella Bella
Heiltsuk Nation Chief Marilyn Slett at a news conference on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Jane Skrypnek/Black Press Media)

Members of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella are calling for the immediate suspension and removal of an RCMP officer stationed in the remote coastal community for reportedly making racist comments on social media.

A protest was planned for noon Friday (May 24) in front of the RCMP office in Bella Bella, which is located on the central coast.

According to a press release issued Friday by the Heiltsuk Nation, the protest follows a meeting between Heiltsuk and RCMP leadership on Wednesday, during which the Heiltsuk learned RCMP have initiated a transfer for the officer in question. However, in the meantime, they have been told the officer will remain on active duty in Bella Bella for up to 90 days, during which time he is supposed to be accompanied by another officer when responding to calls.

The Heiltsuk Nation said the officer posted a series of racist and intolerant selfies and captions that were discovered by Heiltsuk community members.

One screenshot shows the officer posing in front of the Union Jack in colonial regalia with the comment, “Now, whats [sic] to be done about these pesky natives stirring up trouble in the colonies…?”

“Our community members have seen these postings, which are discriminatory against Indigenous people, and show intolerance against people of colour and different faiths,” said Marilyn Slett, elected Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “These are connected to a much deeper pattern of colonial violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people … all trust has been lost …”

The RCMP declined an interview request with Black Press Media, however, they did provide an emailed response on behalf of C/Supt. Brian Edmonds, North District Commander.

Edmonds said the RCMP are aware of concerns raised by the Heiltsuk Nation regarding the social media posts/comments made approximately nine to 17 years before the individual joined the RCMP.

“Upon the RCMP first becoming aware of this matter we undertook immediate discussions with the Heiltsuk Nation in an effort to address their concerns. The Heiltsuk Nation were advised that we are looking at a non-conduct-related administrative process, as the time frame for posts were prior to the individual’s employment with our organization,” noted Edmunds. “We are committed to finding the right balance between addressing the concerns through a fair process and the importance of individuals/community having trust and confidence in their police officers and the RCMP.”

Though the posts are several years old, the Heiltsuk leadership believe they show evidence of bad character and contravene the RCMP’s code of conduct.

“We have been asking RCMP to work with our joint leadership in the hiring, recruiting and vetting process for officers stationed in our community for years now,” said Hemas Harvey Humchitt, a Hereditary Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “It is outrageous that an officer with [this] social media history could be stationed in an Indigenous community, and it underscores the urgent need to work together to ensure this never happens again.”

Since sending private letters to the RCMP to request the officer’s removal, Chief Slett said she has received anonymous and vulgar hate mail accusing her of being a “race baitor.”

Edmunds said police are aware of the concerns raised regarding the “inappropriate anonymous email received by a local leader and can confirm that an investigation is underway as we take the safety of all persons seriously.”

READ MORE: Heiltsuk man, granddaughter still await full apology from Vancouver officers

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

I began my journalism career in daily and weekly newspapers in Alberta.
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