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Trial begins for man accused of driving into B.C. residential school march

Click to play video: 'Trial begins for man accused of driving into B.C. residential school march'
Trial begins for man accused of driving into B.C. residential school march
The trial is underway for a man accused of driving into a group of Indigenous marchers in Mission almost two years ago. Global's Kristen Robinson was at the Abbotsford courthouse and heard from one of the alleged victims – Mar 4, 2024

A trial is underway for the man accused of driving into a group of people during a residential school march in Mission, B.C., nearly two years ago.

The incident happened on June 4, 2022, when a driver allegedly struck four people during the memorial march. Two were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Richard Manuel, who turns 79 this year, is charged with a single count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

Click to play video: 'RCMP say ‘Impatient’ driver strikes 4 bypassing residential school march in Mission'
RCMP say ‘Impatient’ driver strikes 4 bypassing residential school march in Mission

Manuel declined to comment outside the Abbotsford courthouse.

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On Monday, the court heard from its first witness, Jeremy Kaastra, who testified he was a member of the Crazy Indian Brotherhood and helped organize the second annual march for recognition for residential schools.

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Kaastra told the court about 150 people were making their way from Heritage Park to the site of the former St. Mary’s Residential School when the incident happened.

The court heard that as the group walked east on Lougheed Highway, Kaastra heard someone scream that a marcher who was acting as a flagger had been hit.

He testified he saw a blue GM or Chevy pickup speeding towards him and had to jump to avoid being run over. He landed on the vehicle’s hood, and his arm got caught in the mirror as he rolled off, Kaastra testified.

“He slowed down only briefly it looked like before continuing on and hitting me,” Kaastra told Global News outside the court.

“I’m sore. Doing alright I guess, mentally still a little messed up from it.”

Under cross-examination, he told the court he couldn’t be sure he saw a smile on the driver’s face. He added that he had never been asked to provide a police statement.

“It feels good (to testify) but it still doesn’t feel good that it took so long,” he told Global News. “I had to track the officer down to give him a statement.”

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Click to play video: 'Mission RCMP say driver has come forward in hit and run incident'
Mission RCMP say driver has come forward in hit and run incident

At the time of the incident, witnesses told Global News an impatient driver swerved to get around the crowd, which was making its way to the former residential school site.

Mission RCMP later responded to the scene and confirmed that the driver made “contact with approximately four persons.”

The driver came forward days later, according to police.

Manuel’s trial by judge alone is slated to last eight days.

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