A prominent First Nations activist is claiming she was injured by an officer with the Vancouver Police Department.
Audrey Siegl is a member of the Musqueam First Nation and a 2014 COPE candidate for city council who received more than 19,000 votes in last November’s civic election.
In a telephone interview, she told the Straight she plans on filing a complaint and is speaking with lawyers about what additional legal options she might be able to pursue.
According to Siegl, the incident occurred during a “Shutdown Canada” protest that was held the afternoon of Friday, February 13. She said she was standing with other demonstrators near the intersection of Clark Drive and East Hastings Street when, at approximately 4:15 p.m., a VPD officer stepped from behind a sawhorse barricade and began moving towards her.
“And then he walked literally right into me,” Siegl continued. “Making eye contact with me, he used his shoulder to shove my drum into my face, and then kept walking.”
Siegl said the drum cut her lip and left a bruise. Photographs confirm those injuries did occur, and a video posted on Facebook shows Siegl in close contact with a VPD officer during the February 13 protest.
In an email to the Straight, VPD Const. Brian Montague, a spokesperson for the force, emphasized that the VPD attends hundreds of protests every year without incident.
"Our officers are held accountable for everything they do and Ms. Siegl does have many options available to her if she is unhappy with the VPD or one of our officers," he wrote. "We would encourage Ms. Siegl to contact us directly to see if we can determine exactly how she received a cut lip and resolve or address any concerns or questions she may have. A more formal complaint process through our Professional Standards Section or the OPCC [Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner] is of course also available to her."
Montague noted that there were four arrests made for breaches of the peace during the February 13 protest. He noted that Siegl was not one of those apprehended.
In a subsequent interview, Montague said the VPD is “looking into” Siegl’s claims.
"It is unfortunate if she was injured during the protest," he added.
Siegl went on to argue that after she was allegedly injured by the constable, that he and other officers monitoring the protest failed to take her complaints seriously.
“I was showing my lip to the other officers, saying ‘Look at what your buddy did,’” Siegl recounted. “Most of them wouldn’t make eye contact, a couple of them laughed and made jokes, and two of them told me that I deserved it.”
Speaking more generally, Siegl suggested that the incident fits into a pattern of marginalization that has allowed for so many indigenous women to go missing or be murdered in the Downtown Eastside.
“I don’t like that this happened, but this is a really public example of what happens every day in these streets so quietly,” she explained. “A lot of the police, a lot of people in society, still don’t see us as human beings. They are sure that when they brutalize an Indian woman, that not only is she not going to be taken seriously, but that nobody will care what happened to her.”