A shocking online comment about Colten Boushie by an RCMP officer has the force investigating one of its own and others saying scrap the service altogether.
“Disband the RCMP,” tweeted retired Vancouver police officer Lorimer Shenher with a link to Wednesday’s APTN story.
“She is not the only one with that attitude,” Shenher added in a telephone interview Friday.
“In Saskatchewan and Alberta – let’s face it – and in B.C. too, these kind of sentiments are pretty common among law enforcement.”
APTN reported a female Mountie in Alberta posted Boushie “got what he deserved” on a private Facebook page called ‘News Stories that Matter to or May Impact RCMP’.
The shooting death of Boushie, from Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant First Nation, and subsequent acquittal of farmer Gerald Stanley revealed a racial divide across Canada.
“I’m not on Facebook myself but I would imagine these kinds of things have been going definitely since Colten was shot,” said Shenher, who worked with Indigenous people and members of the RCMP as lead investigator on the missing women investigation that eventually led to serial killer Robert Pickton.
Shenher, who has since written a book about that case and blogs about reforming police culture, says the comment was “horrifying.”
“This obviously affects the public’s trust in the RCMP and it affects Indigenous peoples’, I would venture to say, hope for any reconciliation.”
The force has told APTN it is investigating the private page with 1,200 members that admitted an APTN reporter as a member who screen-grabbed
the shocking post and others. But it won’t comment further.
Shenher thinks that’s a mistake. He says now would be a good time to do things differently – more transparently, for example – to rebuild relationships.
“And, to show the RCMP are even sensitive to these issues.”
Vice-chief Kimberly Jonathan says the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan has been assured the RCMP are taking this latest scandal seriously.
“Despite the challenges, I can assure you that we’ve been in close contact with the RCMP,” she said Friday in Saskatoon, “and we’re working towards resolve and accountability for people who write and incite hate.”
Although she didn’t know what the end result would be.
“What that looks like, I guess, is dependent on the community. There’s so much that needs to be said.”
The Boushie family and its supporters have been bombarded with hate speech since the not-guilty verdict came down Feb. 9.
Rallies in their name are being held across Canada and politicians are promising to reform the justice system. Again.
But only they can say how this latest attack feels on top of all the other discrimination they say they have had to deal with. Although they weren’t available for comment Friday.
“We’re very aware of the effects,” Jonathan added. “We’re very aware of how huge and troubled this could be.”
APTN has made numerous attempts to contact the officer who made the controversial post on Facebook. But she was not the only person to make questionable comments on the page.
An APTN reporter took screen captures of numerous conversations about the trial, defence and verdict. Officers appear to use their real names, describe their detachment areas, name the provinces they work in, and complain about issues of under-staffing and Indigenous communities.
“If there was a failing in this trial, it was with the law as it currently stands, not the jury or verdict,” said a male in a post on Feb. 14.
“It’s not about race,” a female posted a few hours later. “I don’t care if someone is green or has a tail, if you trespass with intent to harm, steal or cause damage, how can you expect bad things not to happen?”
There are links to media stories on the trial. And debate about the issue of the lack of visibly Indigenous members of the jury.
“So the family and friends are now going to drive the karma bus and become vigilantes for justice? That’s the sentiment I’m getting from this…as if the people from that area haven’t been terrorized by these upstanding model citizens off the Rez?” added the female APTN has confirmed works at a rural Alberta detachment.
Shenher says the officer may find sympathetic ears among her peers but to him it sounds like she should leave the field.
Although he knows that’s likely to backfire.
“I know that firing them probably isn’t going to decrease the world’s population of racists by one or two because then they’re just going to be bitter, fired racists,’ he said.
“But they’re still going to be racists and they’re just going to be bitter because they’re going to say, ‘Oh, somebody played the race card …and now I don’t have a job.’”