British Columbia

VPD officer's conduct under review after anti-pipeline demonstration

An investigation into the conduct of VPD officers is underway following an altercation during an anti-pipeline protest by Indigenous youth.

Indigenous youth called Braided Warriors occupied insurance companies in downtown Vancouver for 3 days

Video posted to social media showing protesters clashing with VPD officers has led to a review of the officers' actions by the department's professional standards section. (Kanahus Manuel)

Vancouver police say the actions of officers involved in an anti-pipeline demonstration Friday are under review.

In an emailed statement, VPD spokesperson Tania Visintin said police received multiple complaints from occupants and businesses in the Bentall Centre Friday, regarding safety concerns and access in and out of the tower.

The building's management asked police to move the protestors out by end of day, but protestors resisted and fought with police, said Visintin.

The Braided Warriors however, say protesters were peacefully occupying the offices of AIG Insurance, calling on the company to stop backing the pipeline project and "stop insuring genocide against Indigenous peoples" — when VPD officers moved in.

Video posted online appears to show an officer pulling a protester out of the building by the hair and throwing them to the ground. 

"We were violently thrown to the ground, dragged across floors and down stairways, pulled by the hair and braid, thrown to a surface covered in glass, strangled in a chokehold, or dragged face down on concrete," according to the group's statement.

For three days, Indigenous youth with a group from the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories called Braided Warriors occupied insurance companies in downtown Vancouver, demanding they stop backing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The VPD says the melee prompted requests for police emergency backup from across the city. Four protesters were arrested. 

The video was forwarded to the VPD's professional standards section for review, according to Visintin.

"All police incidents are subject to multiple layers of oversight including civilian police oversight from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner," according to the statement.

Visintin added the video clip does not provide complete context of what happened, because it fails to show the events before and after the altercation.

"Horrifying" treatment

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called the treatment of the protesters "horrifying"  and demanded a review of the officers actions.

"Indigenous youth must not be criminalized and targeted for peacefully standing with Indigenous nations asserting their Title and Rights," said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Kanahus Manuel, a high profile Secwepemc land defender and spokesperson for the Tiny House Warriors says the group supports the actions of the Braided Warriors.

"Neither the federal nor the provincial government has secured our consent for the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has signed," she said.

The Tiny House Warriors have taken up residence in tiny homes built and placed strategically along the route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, in an effort to block access to pipeline construction in Secwepemc territory.