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Indigenous activists file complaint, allege Victoria police caused 'multiple' injuries at protest
VICTORIA -- A group of Indigenous activists who were arrested during a protest at B.C. government offices in Victoria last week have filed an official complaint about their arrests with the province's police complaint commissioner.
About a dozen protesters were arrested last Tuesday at the offices of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The group was protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northern B.C., which has run counter to the wishes of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation hereditary chiefs in the area.
The activists say "multiple protesters" sustained injuries during the arrests at the ministry office, saying one activist may even require surgery as a result.
Victoria police have disputed the group's claims, saying in a statement last week that there were no injuries during the overnight arrests.
According to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), which is supporting the activists with their complaint, letters have been sent not just to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), but to Victoria's mayor and council, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the province's attorney general and public safety minister, informing them of the complaint.
"The response of the police toward peaceful Indigenous youth is concerning given recent reports on the over-representation of Indigenous individuals within the Canadian justice system," said UBCIC vice-president Chief Don Tom in a statement Wednesday.
"We are completely disappointed that rather than come and meet with the Indigenous youth standing in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en, the province decided to arrest them. We continue to call for peace and non-violence."
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps confirmed she has been notified about the complaint Wednesday but said all queries about it would be directed to the OPCC.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt attended the scene of the arrests the following day to lend his support to the cause of the protesters. He said he believes Victoria police did use excessive force in their arrests.
"I think police used excessive force, to be honest" Isitt told CFAX 1070 on Jan. 22, the day after the arrests. "I think it was an unnecessary use of tax dollars – our finite resources – on policing."
The OPCC confirmed to CTV News that it is reviewing several complaints about use of force by Victoria police. Once the commissioner reviews the claims, a determination will be made whether or not to launch a formal investigation.