B.C. church collecting donations for constables who continue to be barred from leaving Cuba
Two Vancouver-area police officers continue to be held in Cuba for over an alleged sexual assault after six months, as reported earlier this month by the CBC, and one British Columbia congregation is doing what it can to help support them.
Vancouver Const. Mark Simms, 29, and Port Moody Const. Jordan Long, 31, have reportedly been barred from leaving Cuba since mid-March, when they were arrested while on vacation in Varadero.
The Vancouver-based Wilson Heights United Church, attended by the Simms family, set up a GoFundMe page entitled “Support for Mark and Jordan” in August and it raised $10,000 of its $150,000 goal in four days before the page was pulled down by the crowdfunding site, and contributors were issued refunds.
The church has since started its own fundraising drive on its website and told CBC it has raised thousands of dollars to date.
According to the CBC article:
“The arrests came after a fellow tourist, a 17-year-old from Ontario, reported she had been sexually assaulted. Few details of the case have been released, but in April, Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay said Simms was accused of the sexual assault while Long was being held as a material witness.
Both men maintain their innocence, according to their families. And it’s unclear whether they’ve been formally charged with any crime.
The Cuban government has released no information about the case. The 17-year-old, who can’t be identified under laws protecting underage individuals, returned to Canada shortly after the alleged incident.
The CBC has been unable to verify further details.”
The government of Canada’s travel advisory page for Cuba says that the criminal justice system in the country “differs significantly” from that of Canada.
“Charges are not laid until the investigations are complete, and the accused may be jailed during the entire period of the investigation,” it reads. “Canadians who have been arrested, even for a minor incident, should expect long delays to resolve their cases and may not be allowed to leave the country.”
According to the CBC, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner of British Columbia (OPCC) said the case will be reviewed here in Canada, even if they’re cleared by Cuban investigators, “because the province’s police officers must adhere to professional standards even when on vacation.”
Blue Line has reached out to the minister of the church, Rev. Blake Field, who is fluent in Spanish and has flown to Cuba twice to visit the two officers. Stay tuned for more.