Driver told marchers to 'get over' residential schools before plowing into crowd, witness says
Many participants of memorial march concerned justice for alleged hit-and-run driver is not being served
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Kailey Ashley says an aggressive man in a pickup truck threatened to run over her children and made racist remarks before plowing into several people during a memorial march for residential school survivors in Mission, B.C., on Saturday.
She says despite several attempts to recount her story to the police, it was days before an officer took her statement.
Witnesses say the driver of a blue Chevrolet Silverado hit at least four people near the site of the former St. Mary's Indian Residential School on Lougheed Highway, before leaving the scene.
A 77-year-old man came forward to police on Monday and his vehicle was seized. No charges have been laid.
Ashley is among many march participants and Indigenous leaders worried about whether justice is being served.
Mission RCMP initially released a statement that said the driver was "impatient" and trying to get around the group "despite the safety risk." The statement also said police didn't believe the driver targeted marchers or their cause, despite not having spoken to him.
Witnesses say they take issue with that description of events — which has since been deleted from the detachment's website — saying the man uttered blatant threats and racial slurs.
Ashley said after one marcher was hit, she walked over to the driver of the vehicle and pleaded with him to stop moving through the crowd, telling him her children were on the road.
"He told me he was going to run over my effing children," she said.
"Directly to my face, he said, 'I don't care, I'm going to run over your effing children. You're all dirty Indians.'"
LISTEN | Witness recalls alleged hit-and-run incident:
Ashley says she contacted the RCMP several times to share her story but didn't hear back from an officer until Tuesday.
"They kept saying they'll call me if my information is important, but yet they never asked me what my information was," she said, speaking Tuesday on CBC's On The Coast.
'I was scared for my life'
According to Ashley, the pickup came up behind her vehicle after she had just let her kids out to catch up with family members on the road. When she saw the pickup being driven dangerously, she called for participant Troy Ingraldi to help.
She says Ingraldi, who has a traffic control ticket and was wearing high-visibility clothing, tried to reason with the truck driver, who responded by accelerating and hitting Ingraldi.
"I was scared for my life that he would run me over when I was on the ground," Ingraldi told CBC News.
WATCH | Witnesses recount what happened during an alleged hit-and-run in Mission, B.C.:
Right after he was hit, Ingraldi got into Ashley's vehicle covered in blood.
Ashley says she got out of her vehicle and went to the truck to plead with the driver to stop because she was worried about her kids, and that's when he threatened to run them over.
Ashley says she and Ingraldi then watched as a few other men tried to stand in front of the truck and got hit.
"That truck just accelerated right through them. He didn't care," said Ashley.
Ingraldi was later taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and soft-tissue damage to his hip. One other participant in the march was taken to hospital.
Driver told marchers to 'get over' residential schools
The march was organized by the Crazy Indians Brotherhood. Member Chris Robertson figures if an Indigenous person had acted as the white driver did, they would "still be in cells right now."
Garett Dan, captain of the Brotherhood's British Columbia chapter, says marchers were already emotional because participants were calling for ground-penetrating radar to search the St. Mary's site for possible unmarked graves of children who did not survive their forced attendance at the former residential school.
Dan says the driver told marchers to "get over'' residential schools, which he likened to telling a traumatized vet to get over a war.
He says he is very upset with how RCMP have dealt with the driver so far, and that he and others expressed that sentiment at a follow-up meeting held with police at the Cheam First Nation band office in Chilliwack, B.C.
"They are holding his truck more accountable than him. They kept his truck but they let him go home,'' said Dan.
Leaders call for accountability
Mounties said they do not want to rush the investigation.
"Making an arrest too soon can actually detriment the court process further down the road," Const. Harrison Mohr said at a press conference Monday, telling reporters he anticipates charge recommendations in the "coming weeks."
Kúkpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the situation could have escalated and police are dismissing atrocious behaviour.
FNLC statement on the troubling incident that occurred during the March for Recognition for Residential Schools in Mission, BC over the weekend: <a href="https://t.co/MfJerda8y9">https://t.co/MfJerda8y9</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#bcpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/7a1UaSsU9E">pic.twitter.com/7a1UaSsU9E</a>—@FNSummit
"They're doing some procedural delays and also downplaying and that's really unacceptable," said Wilson, speaking on The Early Edition on Tuesday.
Wilson said people evade accountability far too often because of racial discrimination against Indigenous people.
LISTEN | RCMP response to alleged hit-and-run prompts questions:
Mission Mayor Paul Horn said trust needs to be re-established with Indigenous people in the community and his role is to make sure the RCMP make the investigation a serious priority.
"I want to stand with them out there [at next year's march] and make it really clear to people that this is not something that is owned by just Indigenous people, it's work that's owned by all of us," said Horn.
Police say they are still working to piece together Saturday's events. In a Monday news release, Mission RCMP said it specifically wants to speak with the driver of a single-unit dump truck or semi-truck that was behind the pickup as it passed marchers, who they believe has key details about what happened.
Anyone with more information is asked to call Mission RCMP at 604-826-7161.
WATCH | March organizers say RCMP left them vulnerable after alleged hit-and-run:
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected.
Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
KUU-US Crisis Line Society (B.C.): A First Nations- and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, toll-free from anywhere in British Columbia. KUU-US Crisis Line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-588-8717. Alternatively, individuals can directly call the Youth Line at 250-723-2040 or the Adult Line at 250-723-4050.
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line (National): The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to all Indigenous peoples across Canada and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers both counselling and crisis intervention. Call 1-855-242-3310.
Kids Help Phone (ages 5-20, French and English): Call 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.
With files from Joel Ballard, On The Coast, The Early Edition and The Canadian Press