Surrey RCMP Corporal Elenore Sturko says police “don’t have enough evidence” to support an assault charge in connection with an argument between a group of elderly women and other park goers that occurred at Aspen Park in Newton on July 28 that has gone viral with allegations of racism.
Still, an investigation continues. “We have done a neighbourhood canvass to see if there is any other video, surveillance video available,” Sturko said. “Of course responses change based on revolving information.”
Sturko said a “third party” called police about a disturbance at the park but no allegations of racism had originally been reported to police. “It came in as a disturbance with a group of 20-something year old men shouting at a group of elderly South Asian woman. When officer got there, there was no group of young men.
“He found there was a woman there and another man who were in a dispute over garbage with the group of South Asian women and their grandkids. He determined that some garbage was thrown in the general direction of the women and no assault had taken place, he confirmed that at the time.”
Sturko said the officer spoke to the woman who allegedly threw the garbage onto the ground, and the woman then left the park. “The officer started cleaning up the garbage and invited the young kids that were also there to assist if they wanted to,” and then concluded the file. Several days later, a social media post, posted on Instagram by a third party who Sturko said was not there at the time of the incident.
After reviewing video, RCMP decided to assign a couple of officers to “make contact if they could” with all involved and are continuing to investigate. “It’s believed that it actually was a dispute that started to emerge over a few different encounters.”
“Some of the information that we got from social media may not be accurate,” she said. “However, what can be seen was that there was some racialized language being used in that disturbance and that’s obviously concerning and so it’s something that we have been speaking about with all the parties that were involved and certainly don’t condone any of that activity.”
“Some of the allegations that were made on the social media post were not substantiated with the interviews that we did,” Sturko added. “There was allegations on there that people had dog excrement thrown at them and on them, and french fries in their faces and stuff like that but none of the women who were part of the group, they did not provide that as part of their statement.”
Sturko expressed surprise upon learning of news reports Monday that indicated the couple subsequently offered an apology through the RCMP.
“I don’t know where they get their information because that’s not a question they asked me,” she said.
Meantime, Imtiaz Popat, co-founder of the Coalition Against Bigotry-Pacific, issued a press release Aug. 3 titled “Surrey RCMP is Part of the Racist Problem.”
“Surrey RCMP dismissed the racist attack over the weekend and Aspen Park and blamed the South Asian grandmothers for littering and forced them to pick up garbage that was thrown at them by racists,” Popat claimed.
Sturko replied that is incorrect. “No one was forced, I think it’s important to note that the officer was trying to defuse a situation, a neighbourhood dispute. He was unaware of the racialized comments at that time.”