The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is calling foul on an RCMP investigation into an incident in which a homophobic slur was painted on an openly gay Lake Cowichan resident’s fence.
Bill Hanson alleges an off-duty RCMP auxiliary officer and a Lake Cowichan town employee are responsible for the blue-painted slur, says a BCCLA release. Hanson has video he believes supports that claim.
The auxiliary officer is also a town employee, the release notes.
But the RCMP says the BCCLA’s allegations are “misguided” and “misinformed.”
“These public assertions concern the RCMP deeply, as they are not based on any apparent evidence,” says Cpl Darren Lagan in a statement.
The allegations arise from video taken by Hanson in March showing two Lake Cowichan employees with the blue spray paint used for painting town well heads near the fence around the time of the tag’s appearance.
“The RCMP investigation has shown that there is no evidence to link the two men in any way to this act of graffiti. The video evidence submitted by the victim in no way shows any criminal acts being committed by the town employees,” Lagan says.
He says the video does not show the workers stopping near where the slur appeared.
The controversial tag — which Lagan says was “turd tamper” -— was painted in blue paint on a fence atop a rock wall next to a road.
Hanson could not be reached for comment.
“Defacing property with discriminatory slurs is unwelcome in any community. It should be investigated no matter who may have done it,” says BCCLA president Robert Holmes.
“Where allegations of such conduct involve law enforcement personnel, including when they are off-duty, public concern is heightened,” Holmes adds.
Lagan says the RCMP takes incidents involving hate motivations seriously.
“Given the belief that the graffiti was directed towards sexual orientation, this higher level of attention and effort was warranted,” he says.
Though the names of the individuals accused of painting the slurs were left out of the BCCLA release, their identities are known in the community, Lagan says.
And that, he says, is cause for concern.
“To publicly accuse them of a hate-motivated crime, absent of any evidence, is blatantly irresponsible and reckless,” Lagan says. “We understand that victims of crime feel passionate about what has occurred, especially when it attacks gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. However, if there is no clear evidence linking a specific person to a crime, they cannot be charged and should not be publicly accused of that crime. This is the right of all Canadians.”
Holmes is concerned the officer and the other employee have been cleared by RCMP despite the fact that paint samples have not yet come back from the lab to indicate whether the graffiti paint matches the paint used by the town.
Lagan confirms the paint is still in a lab with results expected later this year. He says it is not a high priority given other investigations.
Holmes maintains a thorough investigation of the incident is needed.
“The public expects the RCMP to show that it has been as thorough and complete in dealing with this investigation as it would with one involving a private citizen,” says Holmes.