The mother of a 12-year-old Indigenous boy who was handcuffed by police at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver says it should have been a safe place for her son, who has autism, but he was pinned to the floor and treated like an adult.
Mia Brown says she needed help with her son at a SkyTrain station Thursday because he was “pushing,” and two officers with Metro Vancouver Transit Police brought him to the hospital for assessment under B.C.’s Mental Health Act.
She says her son has been taken to the hospital before and he became upset because the room they had waited in previously wasn’t free.
Brown says officers pinned her son to the floor and handcuffed him at “the first sound of his whining,” without first asking him to calm down.
She says she started recording a video, which she posted to social media, when one of the officers put his knee on her son’s back.
A statement from Metro Vancouver Transit Police says officers called to a SkyTrain station Thursday afternoon found “a youth who was physically assaulting a woman, later identified as his mother, who had minor injuries, including a bloody face.”
It says the boy allegedly assaulted a SkyTrain attendant who tried to intervene.
Officers used handcuffs to restrain the boy on the way to the hospital, where they were initially removed before the incident Brown recorded on video.
“The use of physical force is always a last resort,” the police statement says.
But in the case of Brown’s son, police say, “it was a necessary step to ensure the safety of the person in the midst of a crisis, the general public and the officers involved.”
Brown says the officers told her she had a “high tolerance” for her son’s behaviour.
“That is true,” she said in a phone interview on Friday.
“You have to have a high tolerance for a kid who has autism, because they have needs. I ask him what he needs and then we find a solution.”
Brown says she respects the police, adding her son has run away from school a few times and she appreciates the officers who have helped find him.
“Some police know what to do with a kid who has autism, some police just treat him like an adult, because, I guess, he has autism, and we’re Indigenous,” she said, adding that she felt she and her son had been “racially profiled.”
A statement from B.C. Children’s Hospital says “providing an inclusive and culturally safe health-care environment for patients and their families is a top priority.”
The hospital says it has started a health and safety review into what happened, and its Indigenous health team has reached out to the boy’s family.
The roughly three-minute video Brown posted on Facebook starts with the boy handcuffed as the two police officers hold him face down on the floor.
Brown can be heard telling the officers “this is too much.”
One of the officers says he understood where she was coming from, “but based on his violent behaviour in the past, we can’t let it progress further.”
Afterward, Brown says her son took a moment to collect himself and then asked how she was doing.
“He said, ‘It’s OK, don’t cry,’ like he was calming me down. But I told him, no this happened to you … and this should not have happened,” she said.
“He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s trying to keep a strong front.”
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says it was “appalled by the horrendous treatment of an Indigenous boy” by transit police.
“Children deserve to be cared for with compassion,” the union says in a statement.