The First Nations Leadership Council is joining the call for justice, an inquiry and accountability in the police shooting death of a Wet’suwet’en man in Campbell River last week.
On July 8, Jared Lowndes of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Laksilyu (Small Frog) house was killed in a police-involved altercation in the parking lot of the Tim Hortons restaurant in Willow Point. During the incident, a police dog was also killed and the dog’s RCMP handler was injured.
According to the National Police Federation, Lowndes had an outstanding warrant for weapons offences.
The community of Campbell River rallied around the RCMP, holding a parade through town to commemorate the police dog. Lowndes’ family, meanwhile, have called for an inquiry into the incident.
“In the aftermath of the shooting, the dehumanizing treatment of Jared by the police and media is profoundly disturbing and indicative of deeply entrenched racism and discrimination,” says a release from the leadership council.
“Jared’s life – his past experiences with the police and institutions, his fatherhood and involvement in his Indigenous community – has been completely excised from the narrative and replaced with news coverage of the police service dog, including a publicly funded memorial parade for the police dog.
“While grieving and in unimaginable pain, Jared’s family have had to face the defacement and desecration of Jared’s memorial and racist, hateful online comments that are intensifying in a community divided by the RCMP’s colonial actions.”
Now the council, made up of representatives from the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, are echoing that call for an inquiry and for more accountability.
“The incident, which saw no attempt at de-escalation from the RCMP, left the 38-year-old father dead, his family seeking answers, and a community divided, as racist, hateful sentiments begin to rise,” the joint statement reads.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC, said the group is calling for an Indigenous investigator and civillian monitor to be appointed by the police watchdog, which is investigating the incident to determine if police action or inaction played a role in Lowndes’ death.
“First Nations keep demanding transformation and institutional change, including changes within the deeply flawed and infected policing, court system and jails, but all we see are nodding heads and token actions,” said B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
“Enough is enough! If we are to make any significant progress toward true reconciliation, we must shed old colonial beliefs and attitudes and come to terms with the full extent of wrongdoings. Act now to end the deaths of our family and community members.”