“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

George Santayana, philosopher and poet

Sunday, November 28, 1971; Fred Quilt, an obscure aboriginal person living in the Chilcotin region of British Columbia, somehow sustains a fatal blunt force injury to his abdomen as he is being taken from his vehicle to a police vehicle by two members of the RCMP. Other RCMP members investigated the death, and no criminal charges were laid.

Sunday, December 6, 1998; Frank Joseph Paul, an obscure homeless alcoholic aboriginal person living in Vancouver, is found dead of hypothermia in the remote eastside alley where he had been driven and left, in a totally incapacitated state, a few hours earlier by a Vancouver police officer. Other VPD members investigated the death, and no criminal charges were laid.

Both cases resulted in widespread public outrage and political pressure. In the 1970’s, Clarence Dennis was an outspoken First Nations leader who, along with feisty lawyer Harry Rankin, called for criminal charges to be laid. The Attorney General appointed lawyer David Hinds to investigate, a second coroner’s inquest was held, and no charges resulted. Now, David Dennis, Clarence Dennis’ son, is the Vice President of our client, United Native Nations Society. The current Attorney General has caused a Commission of Inquiry to be held under the direction of William Davies, QC., deflecting calls for criminal charges.

Dozens of aboriginals have died at the hands of the police between 1971 and the present, but no police officer has ever been charged, let alone convicted, in any of the cases.

Here’s what Harry Rankin said in 1972: “This Quilt case is not an instance of isolated police violence. It is a symbol that has brought Indians together to fight for something better. We want a law in this country that will give each and every person the same rights. A law that says that when an Indian is lying dead on the road, and two policemen are involved, another policeman isn’t sent out to investigate.”

Will aboriginal persons in BC ever achieve equality and justice?