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RCMP officer transferred out of Bella Bella after racist social media posts

The Heiltsuk Nation has been calling for the officer’s immediate suspension, removal
Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk Nation at a news conference in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Heiltsuk Nation says an RCMP officer is being transferred out of the community following claims of him making racist comments and posts on social media.

“We want to thank our community for reporting the racist Facebook posts and for raising their voices against racism and calling for accountability,” Heiltsuk Nation elected Chief Marilyn Slett said Thursday in an emailed release.

The Nation says the officer will be leaving the community this weekend, “and from now until his departure, will not be working another shift in Bella Bella.” RCMP shared the news with Heiltsuk joint leadership on Wednesday, the Nation says.

RCMP said the member was scheduled to be transferred shortly, as per his posting agreement “and their status is being continually assessed.” But a statement adds that RCMP is “mindful” that the movement or loss of a single officer in the community “will impact public safety response, service delivery and officer safety requirements.”

Slett told Black Press Media said the joint leadership was relieved to hear the news, as there was a concern in the community that he would be on shift. They were also initially told his transfer could take up to 90 days.

Asked if she has concerns about what comes next and if there would be proper vetting of whoever comes to the community, Slett said definitely.

“We have participated in some of these sergeants interviews for placements within our community. The problem there, too, is they haven’t been consistent in terms of our participation. Certainly now looking at this constable that was placed here in our community, our leadership has raised the concerns around what is the vetting process, why weren’t these posts identified and looked at during his vetting process of becoming a member of the RCMP?”

It comes less than a week after the Heiltsuk shared the posts on the officer’s personal account, and days after Heiltsuk members protested outside of the RCMP detachment in Bella Bella on May 24.

READ MORE: Heiltsuk Nation demands removal of Bella Bella RCMP officer

Hereditary Chief Hemas Harvey Humchitt said it’s unfortunate that the RCMP didn’t prevent the officer from serving in Bella Bella in the first place, “but our community’s voice is powerful and effective in pushing for change.”

The Nation had been calling for the officer’s immediate suspension and removal after community members discovered a series of racist selfies and captions online.

The social media posts – shared with media by Heiltsuk Nation – included one photo of 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…?” Another post included two selfies of him in a black afro with, with his hand raised in a fist, with the captions “Black and Proud” and “where’s my pick comb?”

Chief Supt. Brian Edmonds, North District Commander, said in a statement that RCMP was aware of the concerns raised by Heiltsuk Nation, regarding social media posts and comments made between nine and 17 years ago, before the officer joined the RCMP.

Edmonds said once RCMP became aware, it took immediate discussions with the Heiltsuk Nation to address their concerns. RCMP is taking a “non-conduct-related administrative process” as the posts were made prior to the officer’s employment with the RCMP.

“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.”

Edmonds added RCMP is aware of concerns raised “with respect to an 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.”

Slett said the email – which she called threatening – was sent to her. She said it accused her of race-baiting and it alleged the community is “full of drunks and wife beaters and sexual assaulters,” as well as referring to Slett as a derogatory word.

“This email was not only frightening, but also indicative of the racist and misogynistic attitudes … so it was distressing to receive that.”

– With files from Angie Mindus

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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