Is it the Red Zone or the
Last Tuesday, August 17th the BC Civil Liberties Association arrived in Terrace to discuss the activities of the RCMP. Good Bad or indifferent, they wanted to hear from the residents of the region. In fact they were on a tour throughout British Columbia as part of an effort to assess the effectiveness of the RCMP as their 20 year contract is about to come up for renewal.
Terrace presented an entirely different picture to the two BC Liberties representatives who arrived here. They were so taken by the flood of stories of police harassment and abuse they cut short their trip to Prince Rupert and returned to Terrace to further document the stack of stories they encountered. The stories were all of the same nature. Terrace RCMP targeting and singling out First Nations men and women in an attempt to intimidate and abuse, to reduce their sense of security such that many were reduced to a constant state of fear of encountering an officer.
For a number of decades Terrace has considered what can be done to reduce the chronic alcoholics and disorderly conduct of many of the residents. George Little Park has been the site of many complaints and these date back over 40 years. In 1967 the Terrace City Council engaged in a debate on what to do with the alcoholics in the Park.
Three years ago the issue came to a head once again as then Councillor Marilyn Davies took up the charge with a bold statement that they should be sent back to their home communities. It was as erroneous as it was bigoted. It is true the majority of those on the streets, homeless and alcoholic are First Nations, however many were born right here in the Terrace area. Davies soon became much more compassionate and understanding and took on the drive to provide a homeless shelter and other services to assist this segment of the Terrace population. Her loss in the next municipal election was a loss of this newly discovered compassion for the entire community.
After the last Municipal election a new direction was made for the City. Through consultations with the Chamber of Commerce, the Terrace City Administration, the newly elected Council body and Mayor, the School District and others, the Terrace RCMP formulated a new plan. They determined to set up a new Downtown patrol and developed the Crime Reduction Unit. At the same time this was being set up a new program (HOPS) was up and running to help feed and clothe the homeless and alcoholics at the old Carpenters Hall on Sparks Street and Davis Avenue. The impact of these two programs was noticed almost immediately by the local business owners and Casey Eys of the Homeless Outreach Program (HOPS) was able to describe why. He and his helpers described how the chronics would come in angry and fighting but after soup, coffee and sandwiches they would calm down and be happy. Read about the 2009 discovery HERE
. It was simply a matter of treating them with dignity and respect (along with some good food) to make the angry man a happy man.
The RCMP bike and downtown patrol continued but as Inspector Stubbs stated in 2009 their officers were having difficulty finding the drunks claiming that he didn’t think it was because they were hiding better or that his crews had changed the habits of the persistent alcoholics. Things seemed to be going fairly well and then something happened. Whether it was the arrival of the new Staff Sergeant, the arrival of a fresh set of officers or the passing of an entirely new set of restrictive bylaws we cannot be sure. One thing is certain and that is some of the native population of Terrace became frightened and mad. This came through loud and clear when the BC Civil Liberties Association came to Terrace to hear stories last week.
Likely the most important of these factors was the passing of the ‘Parks and Public Places Bylaw’ in April/May 2009. This bylaw is almost identical to bylaw 343 being proposed for Lillooet where the community and City Council has to date resisted its implementation. According to the Vancouver Sun HERE
it was the Chief Administrative Officer of Lillooet who recommended this bylaw much like what happened in Terrace. In Terrace however the Council felt the restrictions on civil liberties was just fine after the Terrace Chief Administrative Officer, Ron Poole, recommended it in 2009.
Part of this bylaw allows for the arbitrary assignment of zones to prohibit or restrict access for any number of reasons. Permits are required for any gatherings greater than 50, posting of notices such as “I lost my dog” and more importantly, “the discretionary authority to close of any part of the City (Park or Public place) if, in their opinion, such closure might prevent or assist in the prevention of a breach of the peace” etc etc. Read the entire bylaw and our article as it was being passed in Council HERE
At some point following the passage of this bylaw the Red Zone was established. Inspector Stubbs stated it was a term the RCMP came up with to describe an area bordered by Eby Street on the West, Greig South, East to Kalum Street and North to Davis. Stubbs stated that the Courts have imposed this restriction area on individuals who were charged. He also admitted his officers advise those who have been a chronic repeat problem to stay out of this ‘Red Zone’.
Many complained to the BC Civil Liberties Association that they have been picked up in this area, taken to the RCMP jail cells for the night and told when they were released, as they are shown a map, if they are seen in the Red Zone they will be picked up and taken back to jail. Many came with pictures of beatings and showed off current bruises.
In September of 2009 we wrote about the complaints the homeless were delivering to us and about the new Staff Sergeant who had recently arrived in Terrace after Stubbs was promoted to Inspector. Staff Sergeant Rob Pritchett admitted to making life difficult for ‘a few select individuals’. Our report was heavily critique by some in the RCMP and others applauded the effort to bring attention to the problem Read the report HERE
It appears however as things have gone from bad to worse. The natives straight out stated to the BC Civil Liberties Association representatives, they will not complain to the RCMP as they fear more serious repercussions. It would appear as though Ms. Davies was the only Councillor to learn empathy and consider the plight of the situation of many Terrace residents where the remaining Councillors, the new Mayor, the City Administration with direction from the Chamber of Commerce all continue down the path of alienation.
The bylaw, which was passed in Terrace, has been lampooned in various writings. MacLeans Magazine
, the Globe and Mail
, The Vancouver Sun
and even an International News site, Oped News
has compared this type of restrictive law to the open construction of a Police State. Terrace appears to have been a test Guinea Pig for the new authoritarian control and the First Nations people are the first to experience the heavy indiscriminate hand of the unrestrained law.
Terrace has long been recognized across Canada as an intolerant and bigoted City. Even the current Council refuses to acknowledge the Court challenge by the Gay community when Terrace refused to proclaim Gay Pride Day. The Legal community continues to use Terrace as an example of intolerance. Read about it HERE
. As the Natives appear to suffer, the upper ‘white’ class appear to enjoy their streets. Stubbs believes the streets are now much safer but again acknowledged the homeless and chronic alcoholics were never a concern when it came to public safety, stating it was the younger crowd that caused much of the vandalism and cause for concern.
Inspector Stubbs has clearly stated he will not tolerate any abuse of any kind. He listened to the anecdotal stories when we spoke with him and assured us he would look into the allegations raised. The problem he faces is the native population will not come to him with details of their complaints due to fear. The BC Civil Liberties however have assured the Natives they spoke with, they will take action and they will be listened too.
End note: In the Terrace RCMP Quarterly report of July 30, 2010, a reference is made to six Terrace officers attending and participating in the G8 and G20 summit in Toronto in June. A thorough report on the police actions is contained in this report by the Toronto Star
Watch a short video clip of complaints made during the BC Civil Liberties visit HERE
Watch a clip of David Eby describing citizen rights HERE
Jerry and his partner were told to leave the red zone, go straight home.
When we observed this and stopped him to ask questions the police reappeared. He quickly tried to leave but the RCMP quickly chased him down again ordering him to leave.
David Eby, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association listens intently and take notes.
Eby not credable.