Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter Tori-Anne Tweedie look on during the uplifting ceremony for Johnson and his family at the Big House in Bella Bella, B.C., on Monday, October 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter Tori-Anne Tweedie look on during the uplifting ceremony for Johnson and his family at the Big House in Bella Bella, B.C., on Monday, October 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

LETTER – The absence of the police officers at the healing ceremony was an affront to the people of Bella Bella

Dear editor,

Just 24 days after our National Day of Reconciliation, a ceremony of healing was scheduled to be held in Bella Bella.

This ceremony was part of a settlement agreement as a result of a claim of racial profiling and unlawful arrest resulting from the arrest and handcuffing of a grandfather and his young granddaughter after they had travelled to Vancouver to open a bank account for the granddaughter. Their Indigenous status was questioned and police were called. They were arrested and handcuffed by two police officers on the sidewalk outside the bank.

When the day for the ceremony of healing came, the two officers who had caused the harm to the grandfather and granddaughter failed to appear. According to Indigenous tradition, the person(s) who caused the harm must be present for the healing to take place. This failure to appear was an affront to the people of Bella Bella, indeed all Indigenous people and let alone myself (I’m not Indigenous).

When questioned, a representative of the Vancouver Police Department stated that they were the respondents. That may be true for Canadian law but it does not take into consideration the requirements of Indigenous tradition where the person(s) responsible for the harm must be present. If they want to hide behind Canadian law then they can answer to the court why they failed to meet all requirements of the settlement agreement.

In my mind, another harm has just been inflicted on Indigenous people. I don’t know if the Indigenous people can see their way forward to attempt another ceremony of healing in this matter.

Vern Hardingham,

Cumberland

Letter to the EditorTruth and Reconciliation

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