A police chase that ended in a dramatic rollover of a tractor on a B.C. highway last year did not produce evidence suggesting officers committed an offence, a civilian oversight body has found.
The incident occurred on Nov. 25, 2023, as the tractor attempted to take an on-ramp onto Highway 1 in Surrey. In video shared to social media, RCMP officers appear to execute a PIT manoeuvre — a pursuit tactic where the pursuing vehicle hits the rear quarter panel of the fleeing vehicle, causing it to lose traction and spin to a stop.
Instead, video from the incident shows the tractor rolling over. At the time, police said a male driver sustained serious injuries after he was ejected from the vehicle.
Details of the incident later revealed the tractor was flying a protest banner against sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) programs in public schools, and was possibly involved in a protest convoy.
Within days, the incident was picked up by B.C.’s political parties.
B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Rustad said parents were "right to raise concerns" about the program, known as SOGI 123, calling it "gender ideology." Rustad said his party wanted the education system "refocused on academics and leave the social issues for families."
In response, Attorney General Niki Sharma told reporters at the legislature that the incident was "very concerning.” She accused Rustad of "stoking, fear, hatred and division" in the province and that anti-SOGI protesters had begun “targeting children."
"I want to call upon the leader of that party, John Rustad, to denounce the type of division and dangerous protests that we're seeing and to leave children alone,” Sharma said.
On Friday, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) said its chief civilian director “reviewed the evidence – civilian witness statements, forensic scene analysis, video footage, medical records, and police information — and determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe any officer may have committed an offence.”
The IIO said it was withholding its public report into the incident until “concurrent court proceedings” are concluded.
The civilian oversight agency investigates all police involved incidents where serious harm or death is involved. In recent years, it has faced allegations that its work has been hindered by a culture of police silence.
A 2023 investigation by The Globe and Mail found B.C. police officers rarely cooperate with the independent oversight body.
The embedded video includes profanity. Discretion is advised.
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With files from The Canadian Press