PEMBERTON (NEWS 1130) — An Indigenous woman sat on her front step in Pemberton last Monday to pray for and mourn the 215 children whose remains were found in Kamloops, when two men driving by interrupted her — laughing and shouting racial slurs. When she tried to report the incident to the RCMP, they closed the file without ever taking her statement.
Tara Aleck (Nyce) is a member of the Ts’kw’waylaxw First Nation. Both of her parents are survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential school where the bodies of the children were found in unmarked graves last month.
“Basically, I’m the first generation in my family that hasn’t been taken away,” she says.
On May 31, she went outside with a small stuffed animal, candles, and her smudge bowl.
“I filled it right up just because I wanted to be able to pray as long as I needed to and to acknowledge all of the 215 children found,” she explains.
“I just started to light it and I was just getting into a really good prayer, and I could hear a vehicle go by and I could hear some laughing.”
When she looked up she saw a truck with two men in it had just passed her by. Then, the driver reversed.
“I did hear of these guys laughing, and they started to taunt me and call me derogatory names,” she says, adding the men shouted two racist insults at her, including a particularly ugly slur used to denigrate Indigenous women.
“I looked over and was pretty much my mouth was wide open, and it took me a bit to stand up because I was emotional and. When I got up and looked I saw them backing out — still laughing. I put my hands up like, ‘What is going on?’ I was pretty, pretty dumbfounded, really shocked. I was so emotional, just at how disheartening and disgusting that was — especially during a traditional prayer. I was talking in my prayer about how if it wasn’t for the resilience of my ancestors or even my parents I would not be here. Being interrupted like that — it just makes you feel like nothing’s changed. The systemic racism is very much alive.”
‘I waited, he never came’
Over the next several days, family and friends encouraged her to make a report to the RCMP. She phoned the local detachment on June 3.
“I made the call after I had processed because I was almost going to just sweep it under the rug and not make an issue of it,” she explains.
“He said he was going to be over in a little bit and phone me beforehand, and we were going to do a statement. He never came. I waited, I put everything on hold. I never left the house, I didn’t do very much outside of the house; for two or three days I waited. I was so frustrated. I’m basically being treated like I am nothing like this isn’t a big deal.”
On June 5 when Aleck followed up she was told the file was “concluded,” she questioned the officer about how this could be the case when no one had followed up with her or taken her statement.
“Our phone conversation ended badly. Basically, he said it was over and done with.”
A friend of Aleck’s posted about the experience on Facebook later that night.
Editor’s note: This post contains the racial slurs used in the incident, language that may be upsetting for some readers.
On June 7, the RCMP issued a statement saying supervising officers were made aware of the incident through this post.
The Mounties confirmed they did receive a report “alleging two suspects had directed unprovoked racial slurs at a complainant while she was outside her private residence on May 31.” Police also acknowledged that “regretfully, the file was concluded without obtaining a statement from the complainant,” adding the officer did speak to the suspects.
The file is now being reviewed, the original complaint is being “thoroughly” investigated, and supervising officers have contacted the complainant.
“We shared our concerns with her about the way the file was handled and we assured her that a complete review of the file will occur and will be shared with the complainant to discuss next step,” writes Insp. Robert Dykstra, the Officer in Charge of the RCMP Sea to Sky Detachment.
‘I, as an Indigenous woman, have to jump through all these millions of hoops’
Aleck says she enlisted the help of advocates from a women’s group to follow up with the police, in addition to writing the statement that ended up being widely shared on social media.
“I do understand that they’re finally addressing it and they’re going to start doing their job and investigating, but at the same time for me — it’s kind of a little too late,” she says.
“It’s so unfortunate that I, as an Indigenous woman, have to jump through all of these millions of hoops when it could have been really simple, and that’s basically systemic racism at its finest, and the systemic negligence of the RCMP. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised.”
Aleck says being the target of this racist attack, and having to fight so hard to get the police to take her complaint seriously, are both stark examples of the racism Indigenous people continue to face.
“There’s just so much systemic negligence here. How we as Indigenous people are being treated just absolutely needs to stop,” she says.
“I’m tired of living in this Canada where my people are being treated consistently for decades like we’re less than human beings. We’re human beings too.”
With her mourning and prayer interrupted, she plans to create time and space to resume her prayers for the children.
“How dare anybody of any race make fun of anybody who’s praying or healing. We’re all in mourning, all of us all of Canada, not just Indigenous people, it’s everybody,” she says.
“I have to redo my vigil just because I don’t want to have this ugly trauma that happened to me ruin that.”