Indigenous boy with autism should not have been handcuffed at Vancouver hospital, says mother
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
The mother of an Indigenous boy who was handcuffed at a Vancouver hospital on Thursday says it should have been a safe place for her autistic son.
Instead, says Mia Brown, her 12-year-old was pinned to the floor and treated like an adult.
Brown began capturing video of the incident when one of the officers placed his knee on her son’s back. She later posted the video on social media.
Brown says she needed help with her son at a SkyTrain station earlier because he was “pushing”. Two officers from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police took him to BC Children’s Hospital for a Mental Health Act evaluation.
Her son has been to the same hospital before, Brown says, and he was upset because the room they’d been waiting in on a previous visit wasn’t available.
She says officers then pushed her son to the ground and handcuffed him “at the first sound of his whimpering” without first asking him to calm down.
In a statement to CBC, Transit Police said officers responded to a call for help from a SkyTrain attendant at Broadway Commercial Station just before 5 p.m. that day.
Officers found a youth who was “physically assaulting a woman who was later identified as his mother,” the statement said.
“Officials attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation, but the youths attempted to hustle their mother to the tracks, prompting even greater concern for her safety.”
A Transit Police spokesman said the mother suffered minor injuries, including a bloody face, and the boy allegedly attacked the SkyTrain attendant when they tried to intervene.
Officers handcuffed the boy on the way to the hospital, which they later removed before Brown videotaped the incident.
“The use of physical force is always a last resort,” the transit police statement said.
But in the case of Brown’s son, police said: “It was a necessary step to ensure the safety of the person in the midst of a crisis, the public and the officers involved.”
‘High Tolerance’ Required for Child with Autism: Mother
Brown said officers told her she had a “high tolerance” for her son’s behavior.
“That’s right,” she said in a phone interview on Friday.
“You have to have a high tolerance for a child with autism because they have needs. I ask him what he needs and then we will find a solution.”
Brown says she respects the police, adding that her son ran away from school a few times and appreciates the officers who helped find him.
“Some police officers know what to do with a kid who has autism,” she said.
“Some cops just treat him like an adult because he has autism and we’re indigenous,” she added, saying she felt she and her son had been “racially profiled.”
“That should not have happened”
The approximately three-minute video, which Brown posted to Facebook, begins with the boy handcuffed while the two officers pin him face down on the ground.
Brown is heard saying to officers, “That’s too much.”
One of the officers says he understood where she came from, “but because of his past violent behavior, we can’t let it go any further.”
Afterwards, Brown said her son took a moment to collect himself and then asked how she was doing.
“He said, ‘It’s okay, don’t cry,’ as if to reassure me,” Brown said.
“But I told him no, this happened to you… and it shouldn’t have happened.
“He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s trying to keep a strong front.”
Hospital launches review, UBCIC ‘appalled’
A statement from BC Children’s Hospital said, “Providing an inclusive and culturally safe healthcare environment for patients and their families is a top priority.”
The hospital says it has launched a health and safety review of the incident and its Indigenous health team has reached out to the boy’s family to offer support.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs says it is “appalled at the appalling treatment of an Indigenous boy” by transit police.
“Children deserve compassionate care,” the union said in a statement.