[Editor’s Note: I have known Frank Martin and Helen Michell for 22 years now and have worked with them on different issues to do with native sovereignty, Residential School abuse and basic human rights issues. Both Helen and Frank are hard core, dedicated activists who have given their adult lives to the struggles that indigenous natives face around the province. As Helen states in her article below she would need to write a book just to record all of the incidents in her and Frank’s life where they’ve been unduly stopped, pulled over, forced off the highway, accosted, harassed, beaten up, forced into courts of law and teased and terrorized by the so-called authorities whose job it is to uphold the law and treat all people equally. Their trials and tribulations epitomize what is a daily occurrence for so many indigenous natives here in ‘beautiful’ B.C. Please read Helen’s story and do what you can to pass it along in the hope that someone, somewhere, may find it in their heart to assist these folks and help them in their quest for justice.]
POLICE ABUSE, HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION & RACIAL PROFILING OF INDIGENOUS NATIVES CONTINUES
by Helen Michell
Sunday, February 27, 2011
To all who may be concerned: This letter is about the abuse, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, racial profiling that we as indigenous people of British Columbia, Canada have to put up with regards to the authorities of of this unceded province called British Columbia. Authorities such as the Vancouver City police, the Royal Canadian Mounted police and the Social Services of this province. As indigenous people, we have gone through so much discrimination and intimidation and racial profiling from these so called authorities.
I am an indigenous woman. I am also a disabled indigenous woman and an elder who has had to live in a wheel chair since 2000. In the year 2000, at the end of July, I and my husband Frank were forced off the highway by an R.C.M.P cruiser that rammed our vehicle off the highway north of Cache Creek, B.C., and left me disabled. Since than I have come a long way along the road to recovery but I’m still not fully recovered. I will always have to get around in an electric wheel chair.
I am also a witness to many of the abuses we as indigenous people have to live with on a daily basis. I am also an indigenous human rights defender and an outspoken indigenous activist who really cares about her indigenous people.
As a child, I witnessed my elders being threatened by the RCMP with prison or Esendale which was a place they put crazy people. Back then the police used ‘the mental health act’ to force indigenous people into jails or off the streets. This ‘mental health act’ was put on the shelf for most of my life time. Now this ‘Mental health act’ is being re-enacted and put back into action once again. This act has forced many of our indigenous people off the streets and many have been given huge fines which most cannot pay. Fines such as ‘jay walking’ and for ‘being drunk in a public place’. Just being seen on the streets of Commercial Drive of Vancouver, B.C. is now a crime if you are indigenous. Age does not matter but the color or your skin matters. The Vancouver city police have become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to indigenous peoples of B.C. and so has the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of B.C.
In the past few days, the indigenous youth of the Vancouver Indian Center have also come to us and asked us for help from the abuse of the Vancouver City police. They are also being chased around by the police. They are also being forced off the streets of Commercial Drive. Where are these indigenous youth going to go? There is no other place to go. Late at night we witnessed 12 and 13 years old indigenous youth at the Vancouver Indian Center being questioned by the Vancouver police. Why are they allowed to question the indigenous youth without the presence of the elders? This is abuse of their authority in attempting to scare the youth off the streets.
This is only one example of the city police abuse of their authority: On February 24, 2011, we were at the Vancouver Indian Center for a memorial for one of our elders who passed away. This memorial was held from 7 pm until 10 pm. We left the Indian Center to go to our vehicle. On our way to the car we noticed the police cars around one of the apartments near our vehicle. We didn’t think anything of it then. But when we got into our car and drove up Commercial Drive one of the police cars started to follow us for quit a few blocks before they turned the police lights onto us. We immediately pulled over our car. At first the police officer said we were being stopped for a traffic infraction where my husband, who was a passenger, was not suppose to be driving. He wasn’t as I was in the the drivers seat and was the driver with a valid drivers license. The police officer took my driver’s license and the registration papers for the car.
The police officer was gone with our papers for quit a long time before he or she came back. I say he or she because I could not tell if he or she was a male or a female. All along I thought he or she was a male but when the police officer finally gave us a card, the card said the name was Jocelyn Deziel, pin 2067. This whole incident went from a traffic matter to a drug matter within a few minutes. The police officer said that the RCMP informed her that we were busted at our house for a ‘grow op’ marijuana matter, which was false. This officer said we had a few pounds of marijuana in our car. He/she ordered us out of our car so he/she could illegally search our vehicle. I, being disabled, had to sit on the back bumper of my vehicle for the whole one hour while the car search was going on. Plus, it was 5 degrees below zero outside and freezing. I was so cold my legs practically froze by the time I was allowed to go back into my car. This treatment toward us was ‘inhumane treatment’ and was uncalled for. This police officer practically took the inside of our car apart, front to back, top to bottom, and found NOTHING. This police officer was extremely rude and discriminating.
An all too familiar scene on Vancouver’s streets with flashing police lights
This police officer has a name on the street of Commercial Drive: The Name is ‘Super Cop’, because he/she gets what he/she wants. This officer terrorizes indigenous people. I was terrorized by this officer’s abuse toward us. I am 58 years old and my husband and I are elders and we have lived through this type of abuse through out most of our lives. We are human beings, we are not animals to be pushed around nor penned up whenever the police feel we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Here are some dates of when we were stopped by the Vancouver City police and the RCMP during the past year only:
February 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm. Abbotsford police stopped us while on our way home, gave my passenger a no driving ticket, which was illegal. No business harassing my passengers.
February 10, 2011. RCMP pulled us over east of Port Mann bridge at 9:15 pm.
January 19, 2011, at 11:55 pm. Pulled over by RCMP from Hope BC, only to tell me my license was expiring at the end of this year.
January 25, 20011, 12:15 pm. I was followed for a while on a side road before I pulled onto the main highway where I was pulled over by the Agassiz Police, for nothing, then let go.
December 16, 2010 at 11:30 pm. Chilliwack, B.C., RCMP pulled us over on the Freeway in Chilliwack for no apparent reason.
December 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm. Agassiz police pulled us over on a very dark side road, off the main highway. He had no lights going, he just came out of the dark to harass me while I was at a stop sign. He scared me, as I thought he was a regular person trying to stop me. I didn’t know he was a police officer until he was at my window.
December 31, 2010. Stopped once again at 9:15 pm by Agassiz police on Evans Rd. No apparent reason.
September 8, 2010 at 12 pm. Pulled over by Agassiz police. There were two police cars for this stop. I was close to home when I was pulled over. I consider most of these stops by police as ‘racial profiling’ of me, as an indigenous person.
September 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm. Pulled over by Langley RCMP, again no apparent reason.
July 4, 2010 at 8 pm. Pulled over by Vancouver city police on Commercial Drive. Again, no reason. This occurred after attending a Jazz Festival.
June 29, 2010, at 11 pm. After attending a pow wow night at Vancouver Indian Center the Vancouver city police pulled us over only to tease me that I was wanted Canada wide for stealing chocolates!!!
May 24, 2010, at 9 am. Chilliwack Police pulled us over on Freeway in Chilliwack. Ordered us out of the car. Searched our vehicle and found nothing.
February 20, 2010 around 9:30 pm. My husband, Frank Martin, was arrested and beaten up by four Vancouver city policemen on Commercial Drive and 1st ave; beaten up with their batons and knocked unconscious. Then he was taken by ambulance to the Vancouver General Hospital where he awoke, with no clothes on, laying on a bed. He escaped from the hospital with the help of a Chinese fellow who gave him some clothes that he found. At home, I saw all the black and blue bruises that he sustained by the police beating. It was horrible. Why do we as indigenous people have to put up with this kind of abuse and inhumane treatment, and no one will help us to stand up and fight this police brutality? Are we not considered as human beings?
January 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm. We were pulled over on Commercial Drive by the Vancouver city police on our way to attend a B.C. Civil Liberties meeting on police brutality at Vancity Theatre. Scare tactic?
January 30, 2010, at 10:45 am. Two policeman, in an unmarked police car, parked outside our house for 10 min. but did not come in. Very unusual.
Now this is only one year’s span of our 58 years on this earth where we’ve been pulled over by the police. How many times in the past, that we were pulled over and our vehicles confiscated will have to be printed in a book, as it will not fit in this article and I do not have enough time to write it all down.
Now does this article prove that we are being harassed, intimidated, discriminated against and been ‘racially profiled’ merely for being indigenous people of British Columbia, Canada? You must be the judge of that.
Besides all of the police abuse of us as indigenous people of B.C., we are also being abused by the authorities that are put in place to take care of us.
During the past few years, we have been ‘kicked out’ of the welfare office in Chilliwack, B.C. for trying to stand up to a bad social worker who did not like us one bit. We have been banned from going into that welfare office for a few years now. Our welfare files were then transferred to the nearest Salvation Army social services, where they have been these past few years. I guess we are considered a ‘mental’ case for trying to get what we are entitled to from the welfare office, so that is one of the reasons for transferring our files to the Salvation Army. All we were doing was questioning the welfare worker why I cannot get them to buy me an electric wheel chair, which I still have not got yet. And why my daughter, who has been taking care of us as disabled elders, cannot get assistance from the welfare office. Instead, we were forced out of this welfare office. I have to still buy my own electric wheel chairs second hand. Whenever I have to buy another electric wheel chair it puts us in debt. I also need to buy food with what little the welfare gives us and it hurts us more if I have to buy my own electric wheel chairs. How many other indigenous families of B.C., Canada, are forced to live in poverty because of the abuse of the social workers of this province?
The Wetsuweeten First Nations band welfare worker is no different from the white social workers. My brother who lives on the reserve is suffering extreme poverty because of the abuse of the band social workers. He cannot go hunting because of the band denying him his right to have a gun to go food hunting. Yet the band gives their own families the right to carry a gun to go hunting and the right to sell the moose meat instead of giving the meat to the band members that so badly need it. Now there are no more moose to hunt.
Who in the world will stand up beside us and fight for our rights, our human rights, our indigenous rights, our disabled rights, our woman’s rights, our indigenous childrens rights? What rights do we really have? I know I have some kind of rights because I am still here, trying to tell you all what kind of abuse we as indigenous people of B.C. have to put up with.
Please send this article far and wide, to whomever you know that you think will help us in any way to put a stop to the abuse of the authorities of this only unceded province now called British Columbia, Canada.
Outspoken, indigenous, disabled and a human rights defender of indigenous peoples of B.C., Canada.
PO Box 806,
Harrison Hot Springs
B.C. Canada V0M 1K0.
Telephone: 604 796 9191
Email: Helen Michell [email protected]