Bella Coola mother Kimberly Mack is suing the province for $15,000, claiming two RCMP officers threatened to seize her three children if she refused to let them search her vehicle for marijuana and crack cocaine.
Following an anonymous tip, two officers searched Mack’s vehicle outside a local grocery store after she was returning from a potlatch in Vancouver. The search failed to turn up any drugs, and Mack said she felt humiliated in front of her children.
“When I meet up with the cops now I feel a lot of anger,” said Mack in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. “When I think they can get away with so much I feel angry towards them. I would just like an apology. That’s my main thing.”
RMCP Cpl. William Wallace, Constable Nick Jenkins and B.C.’s attorney general are named in the lawsuit. The case went before the courts in Bella Coola last week, a conscious decision made by Mack’s lawyer, Doug King, who is representing her and her co-plaintiff, Demi King.
“The heart of the case is about small communities — especially aboriginal communities — and how they’re policed by the RCMP,” he said. “This is really a case about a family that was totally innocent and had their life turned upside down.”
The notice states the officers arrested Mack in front of her eight-, four-year-old and 15-month-old children and searched the entire van, even tearing off the vehicle’s panelling.
“They said, ‘Kim, if you do not let us search your van we will get the (Ministry of Children and Family Development) involved. We’ll get the dogs to search your van if you’re not going to help us,”’ said Mack in an interview. “I felt that I had to say yes to them.”
Mack said she was “scared and embarrassed” about the search and that the incident had a significant impact on her and her family’s life. She said she lost customer’s from her home-based business and kept her eldest daughter out of school for a month, saying she didn’t even want to walk to the grocery store.
Doug King also stated that the officers allegedly did not have a warrant and that Mack was not read her rights.
He said the biggest issues in the case was the officers’ threat to remove Mack’s children, especially given the fraught history that exists between the state and aboriginal communities.
“A threat to take away somebody’s children is not a minor threat,” said King. “Historically, it’s something that’s happened and is a real part of people’s lives in communities like this.”
The RCMP and the province’s Ministry of Justice and Attorney General said they couldn’t comment because the case was before the court.
The ministry also referred questions to the federal Department of Justice because the RCMP was involved in the case.
A date has not been set for the defendants to present their case, but that stage is expected to take place in Vancouver.