B.C. Mounties slam Dr. Bonnie Henry over 'offensive' comments on RCMP
VANCOUVER -- The union representing thousands of RCMP officers in British Columbia is lashing out at the province’s top doctor, calling her comments about officers at a legislative committee on police reform “inaccurate and disrespectful.”
On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry had addressed the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act in Victoria, speaking about the role police play in the health and well-being of the homeless, mentally ill and people with substance use and addiction issues.
“One of the challenges that I find we have here in British Columbia with the way our police services are established is that we have municipal police forces that are — in my experience, anyway — more closely aligned with the community and the community norms and ideas and issues,” she said in her virtual statement. “We see a real difference in the culture and the understanding of the norms within British Columbia and the approaches within B.C. when we're talking with people who work with the RCMP versus a municipal police force.”
Those comments have enraged the National Police Federation, whose spokesperson wrote a scathing letter to Henry, with copies sent to the health minister, minister of public safety and the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C.
“As the Provincial Health Officer and the perceived authority on such matters, I want to first raise your frankly offensive and incorrect remarks about our Members’ interactions with the province’s most vulnerable residents experiencing mental health and/or addiction issues,” wrote NPF president Brian Sauve. “Our Members have advocated for additional funding, resources, and mental health specialists to support and complement these calls, but governments deny additional funding. This negligence is unacceptable, as is blaming our Members for government’s lack of leadership.”
In her remarks to the committee, Henry had claimed that frontline officers “refused to allow officers to carry (the overdose antidote) naloxone” due to national policy from RCMP HQ in Ottawa and that when they did start carrying it, it was only for officers to use on each other if they were exposed to opioids.
“Their concept was that it was against the RCMP policy for them to provide life-saving medication to somebody who was overdosing and dying in front of them,” she said.
CTV News obtained a memo from the officer in charge of Mounties in B.C., who told members that senior leadership in the RCMP had already sent a letter to Henry to express their disappointment and dispute her testimony to the committee.
“I clarified the BC RCMP’s leadership role in rolling out naloxone early into the Opioid Health Crisis. I also provide some background and information about our police service delivery,” wrote Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan. “Unfortunately, some of the commentary that was provided to the Special Committee was not reflective of the good work our employees perform on a daily basis across the division.”
Acknowledging that some police agencies had been reluctant to equip their officers for fear they could be investigated in the event the victim died from an overdose, B.C.’s police watchdog provided clarity in December of 2016 saying that would not happen. At that point, frontline Mounties were already using the kits and within a week of the IIO announcement, Delta police announced that they would be one of the first municipal forces to follow suit.
CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Health for Henry’s response to the letter and instead received a summary of the NDP government’s efforts to bolster supports for mental health and addictions since 2017. When pressed as to whether Henry would respond to the letter itself, a Ministry of Health spokesperson replied that she expected Henry would address it at a bi-weekly briefing on Thursday.
“As you well know, funding and resources for mental health and addiction services have been inadequate and declining for several years,” Sauve continued in his letter. “Our Members are increasingly being called to fill the gaps in these services.”