First Nation wants RCMP officer suspended for social media posts

A British Columbia First Nation is calling for the suspension and dismissal of a Bella Bella RCMP officer for social media posts he made before joining the Mounties.

Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Marilyn Slett says in a letter to the RCMP’s Bella Bella detachment that the officer posted “racist texts and images.”

Superintendent-Cmdr. Brian Edmonds of the Northern District RCMP says in a statement that the force is aware of the concerns and that a “non-conduct administrative process” involving the officer is underway.

Slett’s letter includes images of social media posts showing a white man wearing an afro-style wig with a caption that reads “BLACK AND PROUD.”

Another social media post shows a man dressed in a colonial-style uniform in front of a Union Jack, with one comment: “Now what can be done about these pesky natives causing trouble in the colonies?”

Slett says Heiltsuk leaders met with RCMP officials earlier this week, but the officer remains on duty in Bella Bella.

He said RCMP officials told them a transfer process was underway for the officer, but it could take 45 to 90 days to complete.

“It is unacceptable that police officers serving in Indigenous communities have these types of attitudes,” Slett’s letter to the detachment said. “This is an urgent community safety issue. Our nation has zero tolerance for racism in our community.”

Edmonds said in his statement Friday that the RCMP was “committed to finding the right balance between addressing concerns through a fair process and the importance of individuals (and) the community having confidence in their police officers and the RCMP.”

Edmonds said the social media posts were made “approximately nine to 17 years” before the officer joined the RCMP.

There have been recent tensions between Heiltsuk and the police.

Heiltsuk Nation member Maxwell Johnson was wrongfully arrested and handcuffed in 2019 along with his then-12-year-old granddaughter outside a Vancouver bank, triggering a human rights complaint against the Vancouver Police Board.

A trauma healing ceremony was held in the community in 2022 after a settlement was reached.

But the two officers who arrested Johnson and his granddaughter did not attend, prompting a Heiltsuk chief to return a gift he received from Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer at the ceremony.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024.