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RCMP officer's social media posts prompt calls for suspension from First Nation chief

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A British Columbia First Nation is calling for the suspension and removal of an RCMP officer from Bella Bella over social media posts he made before joining the Mounties.

Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Marilyn Slett says in a letter to the Bella Bella detachment of the RCMP that the officer posted "racist text and images."

Supt.-Cmdr. Brian Edmonds of North District RCMP says in a statement the force is aware of the concerns and a "non-conduct-related administrative process" involving the officer is underway.

Slett's letter includes images of social media posts showing a white man wearing an Afro-style wig with a caption saying "BLACK AND PROUD."

Another social media post shows a man dressed in a colonial-style uniform in front of a Union Jack, with a comment: "Now, what's to be done about these pesky natives stirring up trouble in the colonies."

Slett says Heiltsuk leaders met with RCMP officials earlier this week, but the officer remains on duty in Bella Bella.

She said RCMP officials told them a transfer process was underway for the officer but it could take 45 to 90 days to complete.

"It is unacceptable for police officers serving in Indigenous communities to have these kinds of attitudes," said Slett's letter to the detachment. "This is an urgent community safety issue. Our nation has zero tolerance towards racism in our community."

Edmonds said in his statement on Friday that the RCMP was "committed to finding the right balance between addressing the concerns through a fair process and the importance of individuals (and) community having trust and confidence in their police officers and the RCMP."

Edmonds said the social media posts were made "approximately nine to 17 years" before the officer joined the RCMP.

There have been recent tensions between the Heiltsuk and police.

Heiltsuk Nation member Maxwell Johnson was wrongly arrested and handcuffed in 2019 with his then-12-year-old granddaughter outside a Vancouver bank, triggering a human rights complaint against the Vancouver Police Board.

A trauma-healing ceremony was conducted in the community in 2022 after a settlement was reached.

But the two officers who arrested Johnson and his granddaughter did not attend, prompting a Heiltsuk chief to return a gift he received from Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer at the ceremony.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024. 

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