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RCMP officer working in Bella Bella transferred after 'racist' posts

Heiltsuk Nation Chief: "This was really hard on our community."

A Mountie who was working in a remote B.C. First Nation has been transferred following controversial social media posts.

The Heiltsuk Nation announced the news about RCMP Const. Adrian Robinson, who has been stationed in Bella Bella, Thursday morning via a press release. 

Controversy sparked May 16 when a member of the nation saw "racist" Facebook posts and brought it to leadership’s attention. The posts, allegedly made before Robinson joined the RCMP, were made under the name Adrian Rubenstein but the nation quickly determined it was Robinson.

“We're hearing from members that were really fearful of someone in his position that holds that authority,” said Heiltsuk Nation Chief Marilyn Slett.

“Our community has to have a level of trust in the RCMP and the longer they took to deal with it, the bigger issue, this was going to become,” says Slett. “It's concerning and it just underlies the work that needs to be done."

The RCMP says the "member was scheduled to be transferred shortly as per their posting agreement" and their status is being "continually assessed."

North District Commander Supt. Brian Edmonds says he is aware of the concerns raised by Heiltsuk Nation. 

"Upon the RCMP first becoming aware of this matter we undertook immediate discussions with the Heiltsuk Nation in an effort to address their concerns,” says Edmonds. 

The news of Robinson's departure was shared with the nation on Wednesday.

Concerning posts made to Facebook 

A profile picture posted in 2014 shows Robinson sitting in front of a Union Jack flag in a colonial outfit.

In his own comment section, he wrote: “Now, whats [sic] to be done about these pesky natives stirring up trouble in the colonies…?”

Another photo shows Robinson in camouflage, holding a rifle with the caption “This’l [sic] teach those jehovah’s witnesses to come in to [sic] my yard.””

Robinson’s profile also had two photographs where he was wearing a curly wig and a fist raised with the caption: “Black and Proud” and “where’s my pick comb?”

Nation wants more involvement in RCMP hiring 

On May 24, dozens of Heiltsuk members protested at the Bella Bella RCMP detachment.

Leadership demanded the removal of the officer but claimed he was not immediately removed.

“We are glad that the RCMP officer is being transferred, he is leaving, and he’s not going to be on on any more shifts here in our community,” says Slett. 

When Glacier Media asked the RCMP where Robinson was going to be transferred, a location was not provided.

“We are mindful that the movement or loss of a single officer in that community will impact public safety response, service delivery and officer safety requirements,” says Edmonds.

Slett, meanwhile, feels like the issue is being dodged.

“Their silence is indicating and telling Indigenous communities that they condone these types of racist posts and they'll move them to another community,” she says. “That community may not have knowledge of this person's postings.”

The RCMP said it advised Heiltsuk Nation that it was "looking at a non-conduct-related administrative process, as the time frame for posts were prior to the individual’s employment with our organization."

Slett says it should not matter when the posts were made. 

“They were racist posts,” she says. “Why did he make it through?”

Going forward, Slett wants the nation to be more involved in the vetting process of officers. 

“Indigenous communities need to be a part of that, that hiring process... We need to ensure that anti-racist measures are taken during the recruitment process.”

Being allowed to ask incoming officers questions is one request she’d like the see honoured. 

“We're a progressive community, we work hard, and we're very welcoming. So this was really hard in our community to do this,” she says. “We’re willing to do our part and we’ll always work to better that relationship.” 

Slett says there have been conversations around considering tribal policing but they need more research and information on such a large undertaking. 

Edmonds says the RCMP is committed to finding the right balance between addressing the concerns through a fair process and the importance of individuals/community having trust and confidence in their police officers and the RCMP.

"We are also aware of the concerns raised with respect to an inappropriate anonymous email received by a local leader and can confirm that an investigation is underway as we take the safety of all persons seriously,” says Edmonds.

RCMP asks that all incidents be brought to their attention immediately to be investigated. 

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