3 min

RCMP fails dyke campers

Officers leave women in unsafe situation

Credit: Photo courtesy of Romy Pritchard

What should have been a romantic camping trip took a dangerous turn in June when a group of at least 20 drunk and hostile teens allegedly invaded a lesbian couple’s campsite-and RCMP officers abandoned the women at the scene.

When Shirley Medwid and her partner Romy Pritchard pitched their tent at Meares Creek on the west coast of Vancouver Island on the weekend of Jun 7, they were hoping to quietly celebrate Pritchard’s 32nd birthday. But the quiet didn’t last long.

A group of teenagers soon set up camp next to them and tensions quickly escalated.

Medwid says the teens stole her firewood then turned belligerent when she confronted them. Soon, they were throwing beer bottles at the women and calling them dykes. Then it got even uglier.

Some of the boys said “we just needed to suck their cocks,” Pritchard recalls; as if “we just needed to have a good fuck from them.”

That’s when the women began to fear for their lives. When the teens stole the couple’s camping chair, Pritchard called the RCMP in nearby Sooke. “I was completely scared,” she says. “[The situation] felt really volatile.”

But the dispatcher told her the officers would only meet her in the parking lot; they refused to walk down the trail by themselves.

That meant Pritchard and Medwid had to walk through the teens’ campsite to reach the officers. “I was completely petrified,” Pritchard says. She didn’t know if the teens would attack them as they walked by, or steal the rest of their camping gear, or both.

She didn’t feel any safer when she finally reached the parking lot and found two RCMP officers waiting for her, arms crossed against their chests. “Their body language said they weren’t interested in hearing our concerns,” Pritchard says.

The officers’ subsequent refusal to identify themselves only bolstered that impression, Pritchard continues. It took three tries to get their ID, she says, and one officer shoved her before he finally handed over his business card. “He got in my face and told me to back off,” she says. “He was very intimidating.”

The officers seemed equally reluctant to identify the teens, Medwid says. They didn’t identify them as a group, they didn’t order them to disperse, they just left them there, she says.

Before leaving, the officers asked just one teen in the group to write his name down for the women so they could get compensation for their stolen chair. Three months later, the women have yet to see a penny.

When it became clear that the RCMP officers were going to leave the teens as they were, Pritchard and Medwid realized they couldn’t safely stay in their own site.

So they asked the RCMP officers to help them pack up their gear and bring it safely back to their truck in the parking lot. But the officers refused to help. “They wouldn’t even help us pack up our stuff,” Pritchard says. Instead, they again offered to wait in the parking lot.

Drained, scared and exhausted, Pritchard says she simply could not find the strength to pack up their site. It was 3 am by then, she adds, and it was pitch black out.

When the women did not turn up in the parking lot, the RCMP officers returned to check on them and account for the delay. Medwid says she again asked them to please help her pack everything up because they felt unsafe. Again, the RCMP officers refused. This time they left and they didn’t come back.

“They basically left us there,” in an unsafe situation, Medwid says, still shocked. “I always thought police officers were there to help but now my whole perspective has changed.”

The women eventually managed to pack up their gear and leave a few hours later. Pritchard says the teens left them alone until their second-to-last trip to the parking lot. When they returned to pick up the last of their stuff, it had been trashed, strewn around the campsite and burned.

Sooke RCMP Staff-Sgt Don Brown blames the women. They shouldn’t have been camping at Meares Creek at all, he says. “First of all, that’s not a campsite, it’s private property,” he says. The women and the teens were all trespassing.

As for the officers refusing to go directly to the scene and forcing the women to meet them in the parking lot, Brown says it’s a big area and the officers could have gotten lost on the trails.

When asked if he thinks the incident could have been a hate crime, Brown says he heard some comments were made but it’s not as clear as if a cross was burned on the lawn. His officers were unable to lay any charges, he adds, because the women couldn’t specify which teen did what.

Pritchard says the officers could have at least told the teens to leave. “There were so many ways they could have responded but they didn’t,” she says.

When asked why the officers did not help the women pack up so they could leave what they described as an unsafe situation, Brown asks: “Why would we help someone pack up their campsite?”

Helping them pack would have simply been a courtesy, he says. But it was a busy weekend. “They were probably anxious to get off to other things.

“We’re not going to sit and baby-sit all night, that’s for sure,” he says.

“They didn’t do their job at all,” Pritchard explodes. “I not only felt traumatized by the youth but by the people who were supposed to help me.”