Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says Canada needs a reckoning over a repeated and disgusting pattern of police violence against Indigenous people.

Miller says he “watched in disgust” video and reports this week of violence against a 22-year-old Inuk man in Nunavut and a 26-year-old First Nations woman in New Brunswick.

In the first, a graphic video shows an RCMP officer in Nunavut ramming the door of his car into the man walking along the road in Kinngait Monday evening. In the second, police went to check on the well-being of 26-year-old mother Chantel Moore in Edmundston, N.B., Thursday evening, and ended up shooting and killing her.

“A car door is not a proper police tactic, it’s a disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act,” Miller said, at a news conference on Parliament Hill Friday morning. “I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check. When I first saw the report I thought it was some morbid joke.”

Miller was there to provide an update on the status of COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities, but spent most of the nearly hour-long event answering questions about police violence and racism in Canada.

“Frankly along with many Canadians, Indigenous Peoples living in Canada, politicians in Canada, I’m pissed, I’m outraged. There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on. This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed him in a separate appearance Friday, saying he would be discussing the issue with the federal cabinet and the commissioner of the RCMP.

Late in the day, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki released a statement saying the force “is taking a clear stand against all forms of racism and discrimination.”

Lucki focused on anti-black racism, amid protests over the death in American police custody of a black man, George Floyd, but wrote that all forms of bias are pernicious.

“If we uphold fairness and justice, it’s for everyone who has suffered injustices — both in our communities and in our workplaces — especially, Black Canadians and racialized Canadians and Indigenous persons, who have endured many wrongs throughout our shared history,” she wrote, and called on Mounties and others to speak out if they see somebody doing wrong.

She closed by quoting Audre Lorde, a black American lesbian poet and activist: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.”

Earlier in the day, Trudeau refused to say specifically what the federal government might do about racism and needless violence in policing.

“We have, continue to have, systemic racism in this country, systemic discrimination, that means racialized Canadians are vulnerable in these situations.”

This isn’t new, he said, but recent events have illuminated it, including for people who had not really seen it before.

The man who was struck by the officer’s car in Nunavut was arrested and later beaten by another man also in the holding cell he was placed in, requiring him to be airlifted to Iqaluit for treatment. The 22-year-old, whose identity has not been made public, told CBC News in Nunavut that he wants the police officers involved in his arrest to be charged.

The Ottawa Police Service, which does independent investigations of police in Nunavut, has sent a team there but the officer who arrested the man has not been charged or suspended. He was flown out of the community and is on administrative leave.

Quebec’s independent police investigation agency is going to help with the Edmundston shooting at the request of the RCMP, which is providing forensic support.

Moore was killed overnight Thursday after police were asked to do a wellness check. Edmundston police say their officer encountered a woman with a knife making threats. She was shot and killed at the scene.

Miller said he wants answers, and the family deserves answers, quickly.

“It was a wellness check and someone died,” he said. “I can’t process that.”

Miller spoke of how horrified he was to see the physical fear in some of his staff when they visited Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in February, during rail blockades protesting in solidarity with B.C. First Nations over the building of a natural gas pipeline through their territory.

“I felt safe around police forces and they didn’t. I can’t speak for them. But I can see it. It’s palpable. It’s painful.”

Miller said as Canadians look south to the police violence against black Americans they need to be seeing and thinking more about what is happening in our own country.

“It is something we need to reckon as a society,” he said.

Miller said he is open to the idea of adding body cameras to all police though he said videos coming from the United States prove they have not stopped the violence there. He also said police forces need to do better with both recruitment and training. It’s not just rank-and-file officers but the senior leadership of police forces who need to do it, said Miller.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

New owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire looking to be big part of the community

Randy and Alison Patton are the new owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire

Alberta shifting to ‘targeted approach’ to asymptomatic COVID-19 testing

Alberta’s central zone down to 29 active cases

Notley to stay on as Alberta NDP leader for 2023 provincial election

The NDP took almost all of Edmonton but few seats outside of the city

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Death of mother grizzly a ‘big loss’ for bear population in Banff park: experts

The bear, known as No. 143, spent most of her time in the backcountry of Banff

U.S.-Canadian border closure reportedly could extend through November

The border between the two countries has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21

Threat of fall federal election eases as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Congeniality emerged as fears of second wave of COVID-19 were heightened after another case increase

Intoxicated male arrested by Ponoka RCMP passes away after fall

Incident remains under investigation by ASIRT

Most Read