On Saturday, October 5th, the Din family called a rally in Maple Ridge and spoke to the media and a crowd of 50 people about the Ridge Meadows RCMP’s murder of their brother, Kyaw Din. Speakers demanded accountability for Kyaw’s death and also spoke to the broader problem of police violence against marginalized communities.
Kyaw’s sister Yin Yin Din described how asking for help to bring Kyaw to the hospital ended in his death, demonstrating how volatile and unpredictable police involvement is. Despite repeatedly asking RCMP officers, who did not speak Burmese and therefore couldn’t communicate with Kyaw, to wait for her elder siblings to arrive before confronting Kyaw, the officers brushed Yin Yin aside. Yin Yin said about the officer who shot and killed Kyaw, “I don’t know his name… but I know he is a murderer.”
Next, Kyaw’s brother Hla Shwe Din spoke to the structural roots of Kyaw’s death. He said, “Indigenous people, poor people, and people of colour are vulnerable to police violence. We are standing together against police brutality. Let us stand up in solidarity to get Justice for Kyaw.”
Tana, a founder of Anita Place Tent City, said, “If you are not white, employed, and a home and vehicle owner with a nuclear family, you won’t be assisted by the police…Kyaw has the empathy of all those minority groups criminalized by police. What happened to Kyaw could have happened to any of us.”
Sui Len Sung, who, along with the Dins is part of the Chin ethnic minority within Burma, connected the violence Chins experience in Burma to the systemic racism that people of colour experience in Canada. Bella, who is also a Burmese immigrant, said, “They say police serve and protect citizens, but we are not seen as citizens,” comparing the RCMP’s murder of Kyaw to Canada’s colonial occupation of Indigenous peoples’ lands, and the violence that confronts Indigenous people every day.
The rally collected 50 signatures for a petition that supports the Din family’s three demands: fire Jennifer Hyland (Ridge Meadows Officer in Charge), charge the cops responsible for Kyaw’s death with murder, and stop sending police to mental health calls. Support the Dins’ call for justice and sign the petition here.
Below is Tana’s speech, transcribed and edited by The Volcano.
What happened to Kyaw could have happened to any of us
by Tana Copperthwaite
As a member of the poor and homeless community of Maple Ridge, I’d like to extend our condolences to the Din family for the loss of Kyaw Din.
Yin Yin called the RCMP to help her get her brother to the hospital. But the RCMP did not wait for other family members to arrive and assist Kyaw, and they didn’t use Yin Yin as an interpreter, even though Kyaw could not speak English well. He was schizophrenic and had not been taking his medication, which can cause confusion and misunderstanding.
If it were me, I’d start looking for an escape route as soon as I saw a uniform with a taser in his hand. My goal would be nothing else but distance!
Regardless of what the RCMP tells us happened, Kyaw will never return to his family or home again. His family will miss him forever.
So now begins a long, drawn out cluster of bureaucratic meetings, investigations, and innuendos for or against the RCMP’s victim, Kyaw Din. Officials will bargain over what’s revealable and what isn’t and meanwhile, there will be no one who can speak for Kyaw – he’s forever beyond questioning now. But I believe his words are the ones we need to hear. I feel the outcome of his interaction with the police – his death – should speak for itself but can’t, so my response is: how fucked up is that?
If you are not white, employed, and a home and vehicle owner with a nuclear family, you won’t be assisted by the police.
Drug addicts, mentally ill and unstable people, people on bikes, with criminal records, non white Canadians and immigrants are not treated as they should be. No matter how badly you desire fair, unbiased treatment by police, it’s not likely. What passed between the police and Kyaw that they felt he needed to die for it?
By virtue of human thinking, police enter into their careers with many prejudices and biases already in place. Fair play and just treatment go out the window if you fall on a cop’s “undesirable” list. Forget about achieving fair play, even if you’re in the right.
Minority groups are persecuted by police for their own amusement. Sure, when they begin their careers it may be with the best intent, but it’s not long before they become jaded in the worst way, becoming sarcastic and derisive. What used to touch their hearts now only tickles their funny bones. They become a parody of their original selves.
The truth is, especially in Maple Ridge, many of our minority groups are well-acquainted with a lack of respect from police. People seeking help that maybe only law enforcement can give don’t get that help because the police don’t want to help them. They’re considered beneath police assistance – unworthy.
Everyone is a part of society, whether the police see it that way or not. Kyaw has the empathy of all those minority groups criminalized by police. What happened to Kyaw could have happened to any of us.
I would like to extend our condolences to the Din family for their loss of a well-loved family member. We understand.