By Lloyd Dolha
On Saturday, September 26th, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation community in Kisega’as in northwestern BC was fatally shot by police. Rodney Shane Jackson (age 35) and his brother Sonny were seen with rifles that day, and the RCMP, an emergency response team, and a dog squad converged on the area to attempt an arrest. One of the arresting officers shot Rodney, who later died at the New Hazelton Hospital.
According to the RCMP, Rodney was wanted on five arrest warrants for minor criminal acts including relationship assault, uttering threats, obstructing a peace officer, trafficking of controlled substances, and failure to attend court, in addition to one warrant on a family court matter. “Our understanding of the grave situation is that Mr. Jackson did not fire a shot or run,” said Gitxsan treaty negotiator Bev Clifton-Percival (Gwaans). “It is public knowledge that the RCMP are far behind in executing such warrants, as they lack manpower and funds. We are concerned that the RCMP is no longer accountable to the province of British Columbia or its citizens.” She said that policing is a community matter and stated, “We are troubled that our chiefs were not contacted before this young father of four lost his life.”
Clifton-Percival said leaders are still discussing the possibility of an independent investigation with the RCMP. Grand Chief Ed John says, “First Nations confidence in the ability to provide impartial police services in the region have obviously been damaged in the past few months. The only way confidence will be restored is to have a completely impartial investigation into the shooting, without participation by any policing body.” Summit executive Doug Kelly said, “We are also extremely disappointed the RCMP chose not to invoke the BC First Nations-RCMP Safety Cooperation Protocol, which calls for full and open communications with First Nations leaders, especially in crisis situations that could lead to the personal harm of a community member.” He added, “We will be seeking a meeting with senior RCMP officials to discuss this breakdown in protocol.” Jim Angus (Simogyat Wii Elast) said, “We will not accept police investigating such police activity in our territory,” adding that professional counseling would be made available to the deceased’s family.
The RCMP E-Division Major Crimes Unit was sent to Hazelton to investigate the shooting. An inspector from the Delta police force is leading the investigation. Nelson Kalil of the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) said his organization also sent a team member to Hazelton. “Our observer oversees the impartiality of the investigation,” he said. “We will look at the appropriateness of the actions of the officer and the adequacy of the investigation.” Back in August, the CPC had urged the creation of an outside body to handle police-involved complaints. The RCMP and the BC Association of Police Chiefs (BCAPC) have also previously suggested creating a civilian-led unit to investigate cases involving in-custody deaths or serious allegations involving RCMP.