British Columbia

A girl, 14, was allegedly assaulted. Her mother says Coquitlam RCMP pressured her not to pursue charges

The mother of a 14-year-old Port Coquitlam girl who was allegedly punched in the face by a 13-year-old boy says an officer repeatedly encouraged her not to pursue charges. And when she didn’t agree, she says he threatened to arrest her daughter, as well.

Coquitlam RCMP says it is working directly with the victim's family to address concerns

A mother claims an RCMP officer threatened to arrest her 14-year-old daughter if she pursued assault charges against the boy who allegedly punched her. (Submitted)

The mother of a 14-year-old Port Coquitlam girl who was allegedly punched in the face by a 13-year-old boy says a Coquitlam RCMP officer repeatedly encouraged her not to pursue charges. And when she didn't agree, she says he threatened to arrest her daughter, as well.

The mother, who can't be named to protect the identities of the youths involved, recorded the 33-minute meeting with the officer in her home without his knowledge. She is biologically the girl's aunt but has been her legal guardian for the past six years and considers herself her mother.

She also recorded a 45-minute meeting with the officer the following day, of which he was aware. 

CBC News received and reviewed copies of the recordings.

Coquitlam RCMP declined an interview, but said Monday in a statement it is working directly with the victim's family to address concerns about the investigation.

"Any kind of public statement from the police about the family's concerns would likely be taken the wrong way and contribute to the intense pressure that is already being placed on all the families involved," Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said in the statement.

The first incident

On Jan. 21, Coquitlam RCMP announced a 13-year-old boy had been arrested for assault causing injury and uttering threats when he allegedly used "an inappropriate level of force" on a 14-year-old girl after she used a "low level of physical force" on a boy.

Police say it started as a verbal confrontation between the girl and a group of four boys, and later turned physical.

In the recording, the officer is heard saying the girl pushed a boy, and a second boy then came in and punched the girl, knocking her to the ground.

It happened on January 10 outside of Citadel Middle School in Port Coquitlam, but it wasn't made public until 11 days later, after the mother posted about it on Facebook.

The 13-year-old Maple Ridge boy has not yet been charged, but is expected to appear in court at a later date, according to a police.

The recorded meetings with the officer

The mother says she recorded the first conversation because it took police more than a week to come and speak with her following the alleged assault.

During the 33-minute video from January 19, a male RCMP officer is heard repeatedly encouraging the mother to sign a form that would require her daughter and the boy to participate in a community restorative justice program together, called Communities Embracing Restorative Action (CERA), rather than pushing for the Crown to press charges.

"I don't think it's OK, what he did. And if I didn't record it, it would be my word against his," she said.

"That's the scariest part."

In B.C., a person does not press charges against another individual. Instead, police recommend charges to the Crown, which then decides whether to approve them.

CERA was started in 1999 as an alternative to the criminal system. It provides an opportunity for the person who caused harm and those harmed to resolve conflict by involving all in a safe and respectful dialogue and has a completion rate of 96 per cent, according to its website.

The officer says in the video if she's "not willing to participate" in CERA, he will be forced to arrest and charge her 14-year-old daughter with assault, as well, because she was the "aggressor" in the situation for pushing a boy.

"One way or another I'm resolving this. Either I put them both in court or I put them both in the CERA program. But by the end of this shift, I will have made my decision, if no decision is made."

Throughout both conversations, she felt the officer was intimidating them.

"I was mortified. [My daughter] has been through so much trauma and now you're telling her that she's going to be arrested," she remembers thinking.

It was not his job or position, she says, to tell her whether to push for charges.

"It crossed a line," she said.

A Coquitlam RCMP officer can be heard repeatedly encouraging the mother to sign a form that would require the daughter to enter a restorative justice program, rather than pursue charges. (CBC)

Throughout the video, the officer expresses concern for the daughter.

"I don't want to ever see you get hurt like that again. That actually hit me in the chest when I saw your eye like that," he says. "It still bothers me that someone laid a hand on you."

Near the end of the recording, he starts to amplify the suggestion that the mother sign the form. CBC News counted the officer saying a variation of the same thing more than 10 times.

The initial incident took place at Citadel middle school in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia on January 10, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In the second video, recorded January 20, he says he thinks the Crown would eventually send the case to CERA anyway, if police were to recommend charges.

The mother says her daughter was absolutely terrified by the conversations with the officer and she has barely left the house since the alleged assault.

Police have never taken her daughter's statement or talked to her 11-year-old daughter, who was present during the incident, she says.

Lack of criminal history

The officer told the mother at one point that the boy's lack of history with the police and his age are reasons why charges would never be laid.

The officer says the boy and his family are distraught over what happened, adding the boy is remorseful and going through counselling.

He comes from a good family, the officer tells them at one point.

"It was upsetting," said the mother.

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