Mounties say the driver of a truck has turned himself in after allegedly hitting four people who were marching in Mission, B.C., to draw attention to residential schools over the weekend.
Garett Dan, captain of the British Columbia chapter of the Crazy Indians Brotherhood, which organized the Recognition for Residential Schools march on Saturday, said that before the incident a driver had been goading the group, yelling at them to take his picture and to make him famous.
Dan alleged the man said he could “drive through any one of them, anybody that was in his way, he would hit them”.
Mission RCMP said in a news release Monday that a 77-year-old man came forward to police after learning through news reports and social media that they wanted to speak to him.
The driver, who is not in custody and has not been charged, is co-operating with investigators, Mounties said, and his truck has been seized for examination.
Two people suffered minor injuries, police said.
The marchers had been walking to the site of the former St. Mary’s residential school and were calling for ground-penetrating radar to search for unmarked graves around the site.
Christopher Robertson was at the head of the march, drumming and singing, when he was told about an encounter involving a marcher near the back of the group and the driver of a truck.
Robertson said he started encouraging people to move more quickly to a side road to the school site.
He said when he saw the truck, it moved toward him, and he tried to get out of the way, but didn’t make it in time.
“Hit my knee and (it) spun me right around,” Robertson said.
Another marcher jumped and ended up on the hood of the truck before rolling off, while a third marcher was hit by the vehicle’s mirror, Robertson said.
Robertson said it was disappointing to see at a march about residential schools.
“We just want truth, not violence,” he said.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Dan, who said he had heard of abuse at the institution his parents attended, said the march was emotional. He drove with his grandfather in a truck following the group, carrying supplies and water.
The marchers temporarily blocked the only eastbound lane of the Lougheed Highway, Mounties said.
When marchers were nearing the turn to the residential school, Dan said the driver of a truck got out of his vehicle and started to yell at demonstrators.
Dan said the man then got back in his truck, drove forward, and hit four people.
“If he would have waited 10 minutes we would have been off the highway,” Dan said.
Const. Harrison Mohr of Mission RCMP said Monday that investigators were seeking more witnesses to what he called a “traumatizing event.”
“Like any criminal investigation, we need to let the evidence guide the investigation, and that’s why we’re continuing to ask for more witnesses to come forward,” he said.
“We want to ensure that we present the best evidence possible for charge assessment by Crown counsel.”
Mission RCMP had said in a news release on Sunday that they were called after an “impatient” driver tried to get around the march, striking four people.
It said there was “no indication that this incident was targeted, or that the driver’s actions had anything specifically to do with the people marching or their cause.”
That news release can no longer be seen on the Mission RCMP website.
In Monday’s news release, Mounties say a bystander called when it appeared as though a fight was about to break out, and police only learned upon arrival that the pickup truck had driven through the group of demonstrators.
Investigators particularly want to speak to the driver of a dump truck or semi truck that was behind the pickup involved in the incident, Mounties say.
Dan said the incident reminded him of what his parents went through when they walked similar paths to attend the residential school.
People didn’t want to be inconvenienced by the injustices at the schools, he said, and they rushed to drive by. “Everyone just wanted to see through them,” Dan said.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation records 21 student deaths at St. Mary’s residential school but Dan said elders and survivors believed there could have been more.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2022.