A review has been launched after police officers were recorded restraining a handcuffed Indigenous child on the floor of a Vancouver hospital – an incident the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has denounced as “horrendous.”
The video shows two officers from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police holding the 12-year-old boy face-down in the BC Children’s Hospital emergency department Thursday as his mother repeatedly asks them to remove the handcuffs.
“You’re too much. You’re a little too much. This is too much,” she tells them off camera.
The mother shared the video on social media on Thursday night, writing that her son has behavioural issues related to a number of medical conditions, and had become upset while they were waiting to see a doctor.
“My son started whining, and a moment later he was pushed to the ground and handcuffed. My son was crying while the officer … had his knee on my kid’s back,” she wrote. “I told the officer that what they just did to my kid was not right.”
The hospital’s chief operating officer told CTV News that staff have launched a health and safety review of the incident, and that an Indigenous health team has reached out to the family to offer support.
“Providing an inclusive and culturally safe health-care environment for patients and their families is a top priority for BC Children’s Hospital,” COO Sarah Bell said in an email. “Due to patient confidentiality, we won’t be providing additional details.”
On Twitter, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs described the officers’ treatment of the young patient as “callous violence.”
“Children deserve to be cared for with compassion,” the UBCIC wrote. “Our hands go up to the mother who acted bravely in such a horrific situation.”
In a statement, Metro Vancouver Transit Police defended the officers’ use of force as “a necessary step” to ensure their own safety and the safety of the young patient.
“The youth became combative while being admitted for assessment. Once he had calmed down, the handcuffs were removed and the youth was admitted to hospital under the care of a physician,” Const. Amanda Steed wrote.
Authorities said they initially encountered the family earlier on Thursday at the Broadway-Commercial SkyTrain Station, and had handcuffed the 12-year-old then as well while arresting him under the Mental Health Act.
The officers were responding to a request for help from a SkyTrain attendant who had tried to intervene in an altercation between the boy and his mother, Steed said.
“The youth began to assault the attendant, and tried to grab their radio and other equipment,” she wrote.
“Officers attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation, but the youth began trying to push their mother towards the tracks, causing an even greater concern for her safety. Officers had to physically restrain the youth using handcuffs as a safety precaution in order to prevent further injuries to everyone involved.”
In her Facebook post, the child’s mother said she does her best to manage her son’s behaviour. She also told the officers involved in Thursday’s incident they were the first ones the family has dealt with who deemed it necessary to restrain her son in that way.
CTV News has reached out to the family for more information.
Despite defending the officers’ actions, Steed said the Metro Vancouver Transit Police has reached out to a partner agency for “support and guidance to better deal with neurodivergent individuals.”
“It is unfortunate that police officers need to respond to on-going mental health issues and it is our hope that more resources become available for families in order to find the support they need without involving law enforcement,” Steed said.