The Vancouver Police Board has voted to defer for further study a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) report on a now-notorious 2018 incident at Lord Byng Secondary School, where a student made a racist video talking about his apparent desire to physically harm Black people, and used racist slurs and obscenities.
The VPD presented the report at a board meeting earlier this week after the Office of Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) asked for further clarity on how the VPD had handled the case. That request came after a complaint from the BC Community Alliance, on how the VPD and the Vancouver School Board (VSB) had handled the investigation.
After the incident, the VPD declined to recommend hate crime-related charges against the student under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The alliance said authorities took no measures to protect racialized students at Lord Byng Secondary in the wake of the video, and that the only consequences on the boy were self-imposed and “not meaningful.”
“They’re willing to leave the sanctions up to a 15-year-old adolescent, and I think that’s extremely troubling. It’s telling of the systemic failures within the police department,” spokesperson Markiel Simpson told Global News.
The VPD’s report said there are no formal programs in place in the VSB to deal with such scenarios. But it doesn’t recommend that formal programs be created, because they would have to be tailored to meet the needs of each circumstance.
The report claimed, however, that the incident had been thoroughly investigated, and the student held accountable through several sanctions.
Vancouver Police Supt. Michelle Davey told the board she couldn’t reveal all the sanctions imposed on the student, citing his privacy — but said the student himself had a hand in coming up with some of the consequences he would face for his actions.
“In the absence of formal programs, the youth learned about how his actions affected others through counselling and self-directed cultural education, which involved travelling to the United States and living with a person of colour for two weeks,” Davey’s report to the board reads.
Simpson called that particular sanction “ridiculous”.
“This is somebody who made a racist bomb threat — (they’re) now going to educate themselves on that group. And then a person of colour in the U.S.? That could be anybody.”
Markiel pointed out no information was given about who the person was, or what kind of expertise they had in educating others on racism.
“Just because I’m a person of colour doesn’t mean I’m necessarily an expert,” he said.
“Who knows what he was doing with a person of colour for two weeks? Maybe he was on vacation.”
The student was also suspended for five days and transferred to another school, where he had to have weekly meetings with an SLO. Davey said she couldn’t reveal other sanctions imposed on the student.
Davey’s report recommended that the board accept the results of the investigation and conclude its review of the complaint. But one board member said he wasn’t sure he was prepared to accept the report and asked if there were any further sanctions or consequences that could be imposed on the student.
Davey told the board that because the criminal investigation had been exhausted and the student had graduated, there wasn’t much more that could be done.
But Simpson points out that as far as his organization is aware, the student will be going into Grade 12 this fall.
“She said multiple times to the board that he has graduated, and I believe that she was using that as a reason why there were no alternatives to the investigation and why it would be difficult to continue the investigation.”
Nobody on the board seconded a motion to accept Davey’s report on the incident, meaning it will be deferred to a future meeting for further study.
Simpson called that a win — he hopes there’s more investigation going forward, along with consultation with community groups, to create a formal program to deal with incidents like this.
“This is an unprecedented event and that’s why there were no programs available,” he said.
“Now we have — OK, a student at a Vancouver school committed a hate crime — how are we going to deal with this?'”
The VPD couldn’t comment on the board’s decision to defer the report for further study.
— With files from Nadia Stewart