WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
A man has been criminally charged after the vehicle he was driving plowed into several people during a memorial march for residential school survivors in Mission, B.C., earlier this year.
Richard Albert Manuel, 77, was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle on Tuesday.
Dozens of people were marching down Lougheed Highway near the site of the former St. Mary's Indian Residential School on June 4 when the incident occurred.
Witnesses said the driver of a blue Chevrolet Silverado made racist comments and blatant threats before plowing into at least four people. They said he then left the scene.
One victim suffered a concussion and soft-tissue damage to his hip. Another was taken to hospital.
In a statement days after the incident, RCMP initially said the driver was "impatient" and had been trying to get around the group "despite the safety risk." The statement also said police didn't believe the driver targeted marchers or their cause, despite not having spoken to him.
WATCH | Witnesses recount what happened during an alleged hit-and-run in Mission, B.C.:
The characterization was widely condemned by those who were at the march, as well as community leaders. It was later deleted from the RCMP's website.
System 'not doing anything': march participant
Kailey Ashley, who was at the march that day, said she is disappointed in the charge, and that her community doesn't understand why Manuel didn't receive multiple charges or something more severe.
"I literally watched my friend end up on the roof of his truck. I watched my friend underneath the tires of his truck," she told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.
"We literally were giving all of our faith into the system and it's yet again just seems like the system's not doing anything."
Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee says that if convicted, the penalty for dangerous driving is broad — ranging from essentially no consequences to jail time.
"Another charge that might have been appropriate in this case could have been uttering threats," she said.
"Even an assault with a weapon, the vehicle being the weapon could have been a charge that could have been laid."
WATCH | March organizers claimed RCMP left them vulnerable:
In a statement on Wednesday, RCMP thanked "the victims and witnesses who came forward and helped to get the investigation to this stage."
St. Mary's operated at two different sites in Mission for more than a century before it was shut down in 1984.
The march was organized by the Crazy Indians Brotherhood after the discovery of potential burial sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021 sparked a national moment of reckoning.
Participants near St. Mary's were calling for ground-penetrating radar to search the St. Mary's site for the possible burial sites of children who did not survive after being forced into the institution.
Manuel is set to appear in court on Jan. 9.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected.
Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
KUU-US Crisis Line Society (B.C.): A First Nations- and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, toll-free from anywhere in British Columbia. KUU-US Crisis Line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-588-8717. Alternatively, individuals can directly call the Youth Line at 250-723-2040 or the Adult Line at 250-723-4050.
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line (National): The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to all Indigenous peoples across Canada and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers both counselling and crisis intervention. Call 1-855-242-3310.
Kids Help Phone (ages 5-20, French and English): Call 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.