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First Nations Leadership Council joins call for probe into lack of police prosecutions

‘We are shocked and angered, and will not be backing down’ — FNLC
Jared Lowndes’ friend Jason Watt makes a statement at Lowndes’ memorial. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

The First Nations Leadership Council is joining a call for a public inquiry into decisions made by the B.C. Prosecution Service in cases of police violence.

In the wake of BCPS’ decision to not pursue charges against three Campbell River RCMP officers who shot and killed Jared Lowndes — a Wet’suwet’en man — in Campbell River in 2021, Independent Investigations Office chief Ron MacDonald said he would be asking the Attorney General’s office to investigate the low number of prosecutions in police violence cases. On April 29, the First Nations Leadership Council joined that call for an investigation.

“The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is outraged that the RCMP continue evading charges for killing First Nations people, and is joining calls for a public inquiry into this crisis,” a release from FNLC says.

The April 23 announcement was the second time in April that BCPS stopped or declined to pursue charges in a case like this. On April 5, they announced charges were being stayed against RCMP officers following the 2017 death of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan man Dale Culver. In October, 2023, BCPS announced no charges were approved against officers involved in the death of Everett Patrick of the Lake Babine Nation in 2020. In each of these cases, the IIO recommended charges and sent the files to BCPS.

MacDonald said that the trend is not limited to B.C.

“There does seem to be a trend with many charges laid by our types of agencies, where crown does not proceed … at a rate much higher than the norm. Those circumstances legitimately raise concerns in the minds of the public about whether police are being treated the same as other accused persons,” he said.

First Nations Summit Political Representative Hugh Braker noted how unique it is that the police watchdog question the decisions of the Crown, saying that “it is extremely rare for the police watchdog to question the decision of the BCPS, much less demand answers as the IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald did upon hearing that charges had been dropped against the RCMP officers who killed Jared Lowndes.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the B.C. Attorney General and the B.C. Solicitor General to demand answers and a public inquiry. We are shocked and angered, and will not be backing down on seeking justice,” he said.

BCPS put out a statement earlier this week, outlining reasons for its decision to not charge officers in Lowndes’ killing. In the statement BCPS said they were unable to meet their charge assessment standard, saying “the central question in this case is whether the force used by the three officers was objectively necessary, reasonable, and proportionate in the circumstances,” and that Lowndes’ use of bear spray was a “significant escalation of violence,” and officers “reasonably believed … there was a significant risk he would harm them or others.”

Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations, said “my family is still reeling with the loss of my cousin Everett Patrick at the hands of the RCMP, and knowing that his death is part of a systemic pattern of state-sponsored killing of Indigenous peoples is extremely disturbing and sickening.

“Becoming an RCMP officer is not supposed to be a license to kill, yet the statistics tell a different story, and articulate a sobering portrait of how Indigenous peoples are being treated on the ground,” Chief Teegee said.

RELATED: Crown says no charges in Lowndes shooting because of lack of evidence

Police watchdog calls for probe in wake of Lowndes no-charge decision

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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