A Kamloops lawyer is sounding alarm bells after he was confronted in the North Thompson by a “hostile” RCMP officer wearing a “thin blue line” patch on his tactical vest — a charged political symbol the national police force has told Mounties not to wear.
Joe Killoran, a defence lawyer who represents a number of Tiny House Warriors members, said he was at an encampment in Blue River last month for a meeting with his clients when he was approached by a Mountie sporting a "thin blue line" symbol on his vest.
“This officer was aggressively asking me questions and immediately had sort of a hostile attitude,” Killoran told Castanet Kamloops.
“I didn’t want to speak to him, especially when I saw that [symbol] on him. He’s wearing that insignia and, when I asked him about it, he said he was proud to be wearing it.”
So-called “thin blue line” patches are subtle symbols worn by some police officers — typically involving a horizontal blue line bisecting a Canadian flag. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the symbol took on anti-BLM meaning and is seen by many, Killoran included, to be racist.
The symbol was addressed in detail in a recent decision from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson, who refused to extend an injunction against old-growth logging protestors in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
Thompson criticized the RCMP for not enforcing its own directive, issued a year ago, that Mounties not wear the "thin blue line" symbol. The national police force said, in a court filing, that matters relating to officer attire are up to the RCMP — not a judge.
In court, Mounties said the symbol is meant to represent the role police play in protecting social order.
According to Killoran, the issue is black and white.
“Police are choosing to ignore a directive not to wear this particular political symbol — and their willingness or eagerness to wear a racist symbol despite being told not to is indicative of some of the problems with racism in the RCMP,” he said.
“They’ve already admitted they’re a systemically racist organization. They should be working on becoming anti-racist, not wearing paraphernalia, which they’ve been instructed not to wear, which is worn by white supremacist groups.”
Castanet Kamloops asked B.C. RCMP for some clarity on the issue.
“Regarding the ‘thin blue line,’ we respect that the RCMP has issued guidance regarding the patch (it was not a specific policy) and we understand the position of the RCMP union on this matter (they support those wearing the patch),” RCMP Sgt. Chris Manseau said in an emailed statement.
Killoran complained to the detachment commander in Clearwater, who said he would look into the matter.
“This is a situation that requires sensitivity. These are Indigenous land defenders at a site where they’re occupying, and it requires police who are interested in de-escalating the situation,” Killoran said.
“I can’t think of something more incendiary than going to an Indigenous blockade with a Blue Lives Matter flag. I mean, the movement is opposed to attempts to end police brutality. It’s really a declaration that, ‘I’m your enemy.’”
According to Killoran, the fact some Mounties are wearing the “thin blue line” symbol at the Blue River encampment shows the RCMP is treating the Tiny House Warriors unfairly.
“The police are not honest brokers. When they’re dealing with Indigenous people or progressive people, they see their job as to quash dissent,” he said.
“When you’ve got a special unit like that of aggressive cops, all you’ve got is a bunch of hammers — and everybody looks like a nail.”