Vancouver Police Department. (Black Press Media files)

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

The Vancouver Police Board has been ordered to pay an Indigenous mother $20,000 for discriminating against her when she witnessed officer’s arresting her son, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

The 52-page decision by the tribunal, released Thursday, stems from an incident in the late evening of July 15, 2016, when Deborah Campbell saw police arresting her 19-year-old son while she was walking her two dogs near her Vancouver home.

The officers accused her son, as well as a female friend with him, that they had been involved in an assault earlier that night.

But when Campbell tried to find out why the officers were arresting her son she was ignored, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau ruled, and treated as “an annoyance and an ‘erratic, uncooperative’ woman rather than a mother with legitimate concerns about her son.”

A neighbour who spoke as a witness during the four-day tribunal hearing described the scene as chaotic and loud. At one point, officers threatened to arrest Campbell for obstruction and told her to go home. She was also physically separated from her son and blocked from witnessing his arrest.

READ MORE: Report about violence against Downtown Eastside women calls for change

Police released Campbell’s son a few hours later because they had no basis to hold him, the tribunal heard.

In her claim, Campbell called the treatment by police traumatic and accused the officers of discriminating against her on the basis of her race, colour and ancestry.

The Vancouver Police Board, which handles claims made against the police detachment, denied that the actions of the three officers involved in the arrest were discriminatory and instead measured and appropriate.

But Cousineau disagreed and instead ruled that the officers held a subconscious bias based on stereotypes associated with Campbell being Indigenous, including that she was “suspicious [and] possibly criminal.”

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which acted as an intervenor in the case, presented evidence which provided context on the historic mistreatment of Indigenous people by authorities, according to the tribunal decision.

In the ruling, Cousineau said that many Indigenous parents have cause to fear any authority, including police, when it involves their children.

“In short, the Canadian state has historically, and persistently, interfered with the ability of Indigenous parents to ensure their children’s safety,” Cousineau said. “Indigenous parents have good reason to be fearful when they perceive their children at risk of harm at the hands of the state.”

The tribunal heard that the three officers had little knowledge of issues faced by Indigenous people, including that they did not know what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was and had very little knowledge about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls report.

The officers also told the tribunal that the only Indigenous-related training they had was a half-day workshop on cultural awareness in 2015.

READ MORE: Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Cousineau called this “insufficient,” adding that the lack of preparedness and training laid the groundwork for the discrimination Campbell faced.

In addition to paying damages, the tribunal also ordered for the Vancouver Police Department to design new training within the next year that has a focus on minimizing the impacts of Indigenous stereotypes through policing. The training must recur annually for five years.

Campbell v. Vancouver Police Board (No. 4), 2019 BCHRT 275 by Ashley Wadhwani on Scribd


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait was elected president of the Union of B.C. Municipalitiesin September 2019. She helped guide the 190-member organization through the coronavirus pandemic. (UBCM photo)
Sooke mayor front-line commander of the coronavirus pandemic

Maja Tait played pivotal role during COVID-19 crisis

Victoria police are searching for a suspect after a stabbing Monday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police searching for suspect in late-night stabbing

Victim taken to hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries

The drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island Health opens COVID-19 testing site at UVic

As with all other sites, an appointment is needed to receive a test

Black Press Media took to the streets of Colwood to find houses decorated for Halloween. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Check out these Colwood homes ready for Halloween

Halloween takes place on Saturday, Oct. 31

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.
Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

The ‘new normal’ for hockey parents in Chilliwack and elsewhere in B.C., watching their kids from outside of the arena due to COVID-19 protocols. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hockey parents petition to be let back in the arena

Refused access due to pandemic protocols, parents are now applying pressure to loosen the rules

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of B.C. girl, 7, by accused mother was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Most Read