Journalists, Activists, and Land Defenders Speak Out Against C-IRG RCMP Police Brutality
On January 23, 2023, the CBC’s Brett Forester reported on the RCMP’s federal watchdog contemplating an investigative probe on the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).
The potential systemic investigation comes after over 500 complaints were put forth to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC).
Among the complaints, over 100 grievances allege excessive force, illegal tactics, unprofessional behavior, racism, discrimination, and charter violations by the RCMP’s C-IRG.
In the article, the CBC reports a statement made by CRCC communications director Kate McDerby, who confirmed the severity of these allegations against the RCMP.
“The CRCC is aware of the systemic issues raised by many of these complaints and is exploring options to determine how best to address these issues within our mandate,”
The CRCC’s comment to the CBC was in response to RCMP Chief Supt. John Brewer told CBC News he was satisfied with how his unit investigates complaints.
In the article, Brewer is highlighted as suggesting that the allegations against the RCMP are from upset activists making the complaints in defiance of their arrests.
In 2021, the C-IRG was deployed to the Fairy Creek old-growth logging protests on Vancouver Island, which took place on unceded Pacheedaht territory. The resistance action is known to be one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, with over 1,000 protestors arrested on the site as of February 2022.
In one of the CRCC complaints highlighted in the CBC article, a complainant alleges Mounties, with their name tags and regimental numbers removed, broke their thumb during an arrest at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island on September 9, 2021.
“He twisted, and I felt the bones snap. I was in extreme pain,” wrote the complainant, who provided X-rays from their hospital visit, redacted for privacy reasons.
“I was told I had an extreme fracture of the bones in between my thumb knuckles. The bone was broken into three wedge-shaped pieces.”
These allegations of C-IRG officers breaking bones are a common thread among many who have told their stories of police interaction publicly over the last few years. However, according to the Mountie in charge of the C-IRG, those allegations are often understood as ‘false,’ according to comments made to the CBC.
“I’m aware of allegations made against C-IRG of breaking legs, breaking bones, and when we do the follow-up on that, it turns out to be false,” Chief Supt. John Brewer said.
A few weeks after the CBC article was published, a Fairy Creek land defender became aware of their complaint being highlighted in the news story and wished to set the record straight.
Courtney Chapman, a 38-year-old activist living in Toronto, has faced numerous stalls in resolving her complaint with the CCRC about her treatment at the hands of the C-IRG, which resulted in her broken thumb.
“I submitted a request to obtain the footage of my arrest to the privacy commissioner back last summer, following radio silence on an [Access to Information and Privacy] request, which was long expired, with no reply from the CRCC,” said Ms. Chapman.
Like many complaints made to the CRCC involving the 2021 Fairy Creek protests, Chapman’s case is currently being delayed due to the commission claiming to be actively investigating.
“I’ve been getting stonewalled because the investigation is ‘still ongoing,’ despite the fact that I haven’t seen any movement in the last ten months and keep receiving identical form letters.”
According to Chapman, the C-IRG pushed numerous news media members away from the September 9 arrests, so photography or video of the police interaction remains scarce. However, Ms. Chapman says she and other land defenders have managed to identify the brutalizing officer.
“The Staff Sergeant investigating my complaint has confirmed the officer who broke my thumb is identified/badge number is known,” Ms. Chapman said. “I also have a friend from the blockade who has photos of the individual from a separate interaction.”
Despite attempts at concealing their identity, the officer in Chapman’s complaint may face disciplinary action, but only once the CCRC wraps up their investigation. Until then, she looks to set the record straight about the brutalization she and many other activists endured.
“At the time of my arrest, I was a 36-year-old healthcare worker helping defend the land from resource extraction,” Chapman said. “I have no reason to embellish or exaggerate the fact that they broke my thumb.”
When asked about the comments made by the C-IRG Chief Brewer, suggesting complaints and allegations of officers breaking bones at Fairy Creek were false, Chapman responded to those sentiments as unsurprised.
“We have seen this repeatedly with police officers, and the fact is that cops lie. It’s common knowledge: they hide evidence to obscure their abuse of the public, they act on corporate interests, and unnecessarily escalate legitimate conflict,”
Chapman’s complaint was published just a few weeks before the Canadian investigative online magazine the Narwhal announced legal action against the RCMP.
RCMP Police Brutality Highlighted In Latest Legal Action
Photojournalist Amber Bracken was arrested by RCMP in November of 2021 while covering resistance to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. This week, the Narwhal and Bracken announced a lawsuit filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court against the RCMP for wrongful arrest, wrongful detention and violation of charter rights.
Bracken was arrested along with independent documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, who was on site for nearly a year before his arrest.
Both journalists were detained for days before being released on bail in Prince George, B.C.
The RCMP has been known to target journalists covering environmental resistance and land defense actions in Canada over the last few years.
In May 2021, the RCMP arrested a journalist for allegedly obstructing the work of the logging company. However, video later surfaced of the journalist in question repeatedly asking what they were blocking, with police failing to respond adequately before the arrest.
Besides further allegations of RCMP police brutality, the RCMP came under further scrutiny when several officers were seen wearing ‘thin blue line’ patches while on duty at the Fairy Creek site, despite RCMP guidelines forbidding the symbol.
According to CBC News, since its inception in 2017, the RCMP’s C-IRG has spent nearly $50 million on its operations, which continue on Indigenous territory throughout so-called British Columbia to the present day.
More to come on this story…
If you have recently been a victim of RCMP police brutality and would like to tell your story, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
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