Friday, December 27, 2019

RCMP in British Columbia respond to Guardian article, note damage done to relations with Hereditary Chiefs

The RCMP issued a public statement on Christmas Eve to respond to a newspaper article from a British publication of last week.

Withe the national police force addressing some of the accusations in the article, while noting how they need more information related to some of the others.

 As well, the Mounties note how the report, which they describe as unsubstantiated, incomplete and inflammatory has damaged their relations with the Hereditary Chiefs in the Wet'suwet'en.

The article which we took note of at the time was published in the Guardian on December 20th. With authors Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish making a number of allegations related to the RCMP's approach to the BC Supreme Court enforcement order on the blockade in Wet'suwet'en territory in January of 2019.

The story from the British publication was referenced by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach when he issued his call for a review of a civilian panel one week ago.

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Unfortunately, as a result of the unsubstantiated, incomplete and inflammatory nature of the article published in the Guardian last week, relationships between the RCMP and all stakeholders that have been years in the making, have been damaged and now require rebuilding. The RCMP has reached out to request a meeting with Hereditary Chiefs and is hopeful this meeting will soon occur. -- RCMP response to the Guardian article of December 

In their response to the Guardian article, the RCMP observe that a number of the terms used by the Force that in their opinion have been taken out of context, something which they describe as concerning.

The reference to lethal overwatch was one of the key elements of the Guardian story which attracted the most attention and towards that term the RCMP offered the following description.

Most concerning is the reference to lethal overwatch, which from a RCMP perspective and indeed police forces around the world, relates to an observation position taken by armed police officers, to ensure police and public safety. The police officer(s) who occupy the position of lethal overwatch are tasked with observing and protecting the safety of police officers occupied with other duties such as crowd control, barrier removal or arrest and who may not be able to access their police equipment to protect themselves from any harm. This term does not indicate action other than observation with a capability to use lawful force should a threat present itself.

The information statement goes on to outline the nature of the enforcement order issued by the British Columbia Supreme Court and the RCMP's approach towards the court ordered arrest and release processes.

As well, they make note of  the hundreds of hours of meetings and consultations that were held with the Wet'suwet'en people, including cultural awareness training provided prior to the enforcement of the order.

The RCMP also provide their response to a number of the Guardian's questions, as well as a list of other  advisories that were issued during the period of the enforcement order.

You can review all those notes here.

The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley has not to this point commented further on his call for the civilian review of last week, or on the commentary that has come through his Facebook post in the follow up to his notes.

For their part, the two journalists have posted a follow up article to their December 20th work, with a December 24th story which highlights  the reaction that their original story has generated.

For more notes on Mr. Bachrach's work in Ottawa and the constituency see our archive page here.

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