Steve Jules stands where he alleges four Campbell River RCMP officers attacked him on a side street.
First Nations people in this small coastal city are complaining of racial profiling, and of abuse at the hands of the local RCMP. “Even though there’s a high proportion of First Nations people here in Campbell River, it’s as if the cops think we all look the same, and if they’re after a native person, we’re all suspects,” said Steven Jules, who had a couple of run-ins with the local constabulary this past summer.
The well-known artist said he was first stopped in July, and accused of being drunk and harassing tellers in a local bank. Even though he hasn’t consumed alcohol in years, and said he was clearly sober when being questioned, Jules claims the officer continued to accuse him being drunk and disorderly. Jules later received a letter from the bank after making an inquiry, stating no such complaints had been made. The next month, Jules alleges he was beaten by four RCMP Constables after trying to sell a small 10K gold bracelet he and his son had found a year earlier.
Despite having a clean record, Jules claims he has been the victim of repeated police harassment, which has complicated his ability to find steady employment and receive social assistance for he and his wife and three children, two of whom are epileptic and require special services. “We’re not treated as equals, even though we pay taxes and are a big part of this city,” he said, adding that he has spoken with the Mayor of Campbell River, lawyers, and senior police officers, and has become frustrated by the lack of assistance.
As Jules shows the 6-month old scars on his wrists he suffered from over tightened hand-cuffs, he claims the stress has prevented him from carving, as his fingers still ache, and is unable to properly concentrate on projects. “My whole family is still in shock, and don’t want me going out to get groceries or anything. They’re really worried,” said the 44-year old Kyuquot member. Jules suffered numerous scrapes and bruises, and had to walk with crutches for weeks after because of a pair of broken toes.
As he started telling his story to more and more people, Jules said more and more First Nations people have told him similar stories of abuses they’ve suffered at the hands of the RCMP over the years.
Three years ago, a 20-year old Conrad James Swan filed a complaint against the Campbell River RCMP after he was allegedly attacked by a police dog and officers searching for someone who had been breaking in to area homes stealing Christmas presents from underneath trees. “They said I looked like the person they were chasing and the dog came over and started biting on my leg and the cops were beating me up and kicking me, and telling me to shut up,” alleges Swan, who tried to complain, but quickly became frustrated at the lack of services available. So he went to local reporter Paul Rudan, who wrote a story in the Campbell River Mirror. “Whenever I see a cop car go by, I’m afraid to look at it and make any eye contact with the cop,” said Swan. “I don’t hate them for what they are; I hate them for what they did to me,” he said.
The young man still carries the scars of that night, as does his aunt who watched her nephew beaten beneath her bedroom window. “We didn’t know what to do. You can’t call the cops because they’re the ones doing these things. So we called the news media,” said Vincent. “After repeatedly seeing all these incidents over the years, I have no faith in the Campbell River RCMP,” she said. “I’m terrified of them and I don’t trust them.”
“I’m pissed off from what they did to me,” said Leroy Jack, who still can’t raise his right arm after allegedly being kicked and kneed by a pair of constables. “I don’t like them after they beat me up,” he said. Jack claims a pair of officers held him down and kicked him even before they asked him any questions, as they suspected him of looking to break into cars last week as he and his cousin were walking to their neighbourhood 7-11 store.
By David Wiwchar