'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 28, 2011

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

Chain The Dogma

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

She was handcuffed at the time, photos show her bruised and swollen face

by Perry Bulwer

I am being facetious with that title, of course, but this is no laughing matter. A 17 year old Aboriginal teen in Williams Lake, British Columbia who alleges, with supporting evidence and in the context of racist police misconduct in that town, that she was punched at least 6 times while handcuffed in the back of a police car, may be the one to face criminal assault charges rather than the police officer who committed the brutal assault.

 Jamie Haller

She had turned to the police for protection, but instead needed protection from the police. So far, we have photos showing how the police protected her by beating her, (see the video)  but no photos or any other evidence that has been made public of the harm or potential harm caused to the police officer she allegedly assaulted by force or threat. For all we know, she may have been merely blowing bubbles his way, which in Canada is enough to get you arrested for assault. Or the police could be lying, which wouldn't be the first time.

British Columbia differs from other jurisdictions in Canada in that it is not the police who formally lay criminal charges.  Instead, the police provide a report of the alleged crime to Crown council (prosecutors) who review the case and decide whether charges are warranted. Thus the title to this post, since as far as I know there have not yet been assault charges laid against anyone involved. But there should be and they should not be against Jamie but the police officer, unless he was acting in self defense. However, it is difficult at this point to see how punching a girl in the face several times could be an appropriate self defense response when she was handcuffed in the back of a police car and posing no danger to anyone in that situation.  But as usual in cases of police misconduct, it is the police who are investigating the police, whereas it ought to be an independent agency that investigates crimes allegedly committed by police officers, as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association calls for.

In the same news feed that alerted me to this case was another news report on the RCMP, this one concerning their soon to expire contract for services in British Columbia. The Federal government has given the Province an ultimatum to settle the negotiations and renew the contract or else it will withdraw the RCMP services. Perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad thing, given the attitude many RCMP officers seem to have towards the very citizens they are supposed to serve and protect. The only problem is that there is no guarantee any replacement force would be any better, because the problem with most police forces is not a few bad apples, but with systemic problems related to police recruitment, training, culture and oversight.

UPDATE  October 6, 2011

News stories of police brutality often turn out worse than first reported after a bit of investigating. The CBC reported yesterday that the RCMP officer who assaulted Jamie Haller, the aboriginal teen in the article above, had previously faced a disciplinary hearing for disgraceful conduct. He was reprimanded and fined five days' pay, so you might assume the incident was not too serious. You would be wrong.

Three years ago, Const. Andy Yung was part of a security detail at an international summit meeting of defence ministers in Banff, Alberta. While off duty Yung got drunk, got into a phone argument with an ex-girlfriend, and fired his gun into the ceiling of his hotel room. No one was killed or injured, but they easily could have been. Yung carelessly endangered the lives of others, yet his punishment was the equivalent of telling him what a bad boy he was and denying him his allowance for a week. Boys will boys, after all.

If that had been anyone other than a police officer, however, there almost certainly would have been criminal charges laid for reckless use of a firearm. Section 86 of the Criminal Code of Canada sets out the crime of careless use of a firearm and the prescribed punishment. Last I checked, the Criminal Code still applies to the police. While police officers ought to be held to a higher standard than other citizens, because of the special powers they have, they are often not even held up to the same standard as regular citizens, but are able to skirt the law through internal disciplinary processes. Recklessly firing his gun through a hotel room ceiling into the room above, especially considering he was drunk, ought to have been a massive red flag for Const. Yung's superiors and enough to have him removed from the RCMP,  or at the very least put him behind a desk for the rest of his career. He obviously had substance abuse and anger management problems, and a seriously bad attitude towards women. The RCMP brass failed in their duty to protect the public from an unstable constable, and Jamie Haller had to suffer as a result of their neglectful oversight, which supports the original conclusion I made in this post:  the problem with most police forces is not a few bad apples, but with systemic problems related to police recruitment, training, culture and oversight.

Criminal Code

Careless use of firearm, etc.

 (1) Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, uses, carries, handles, ships, transports or stores a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.

Contravention of storage regulations, etc.
(2) Every person commits an offence who contravenes a regulation made under paragraph 117(h) of the Firearms Actrespecting the storage, handling, transportation, shipping, display, advertising and mail-order sales of firearms and restricted weapons.

(3) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment
(i) in the case of a first offence, for a term not exceeding two years, and
(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

UPDATE  MAY 12 2012

<b>Williams Lake mountie pleads not guilty to assault</b>

By Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune
Published: May 02, 2012

Const. Andy Yung has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault, following a Sept. 10, 2011 incident when 17-year-old Jamie Haller was alleged to have sustained injuries while in Williams Lake RCMP custody.

The plea was entered this morning, May 2, in Williams Lake Provincial Court.

The next court date is set for May 16 at 1:30 p.m., at which time trial dates are expected to be fixed.

Both Crown and defence have requested a trial time of five days.


<b>Week-long trial dates set for court case involving Williams Lake mountie</b>

By Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune

Published: May 17, 2012

The trial dates have been set for the assault case involving Const. Andy Yung, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault, following a Sept. 10, 2011 incident when 17-year-old Jamie Haller was alleged to have sustained injuries while in the custody of Williams Lake RCMP.

Yung will appear in court on Nov. 7 for a pre-trial conference with a judge regarding the confirmed trial dates of Jan. 21-25, 2013.


UPDATE: APRIL 22,  2013

[note: this result is typical of the kind of systemic injustice Indigenous people in Canada face everyday]

B.C. Mountie cleared of assault of First Nations teen

Const. Andy Yung acted reasonably during arrest of Jamie Haller: judge

CBC News April 22, 2013

A Williams Lake RCMP officer who punched a First Nations teen in the face has been acquitted of an assault charge.

On Monday, the judge ruled Const. Andy Yung acted reasonably during the arrest of 18-year-old Jamie Haller in 2011.

Haller's mother, Martina Jeff, was expecting a different result.

"It's been a hard, long, year and a half. We thought we were going to get justice. And everything just didn't go the way we thought it was going to go. It affected Jamie, it took a lot out of her," Jeff said.

During the trial, Yung admitted that he punched Haller in the face while she was handcuffed in the back seat of his police cruiser, but said he did so because she was drunk and agitated and had wrapped her legs around his head.

Haller testified that the officer punched her more than six times, but the judge found her testimony to be inconsistent and evasive.

"What means most to me at the end of the day here is that the judge, in his careful deliberation, chose to accept the evidence of constable Yung,” said Insp. Warren Brown, head of the Williams Lake RCMP detachment.

“And that tells me that the evidence provided by Const. Yung was truthful, and regardless of the decision, that would be my biggest concern."

Yung has been on desk-duty since the charges were laid.

Brown says it is too soon to say whether or not the RCMP will conduct an internal review, or if Yung will return to active duty in Williams Lake.

Const. Yung has been in trouble before.

In 2008, while providing security at an international summit in Banff, he was involved in a drunken telephone conversation with his ex-girlfriend when he fired his service gun into the ceiling of his hotel room.

Yung was later cited for disgraceful conduct and docked five days pay.


UPDATE: August 27, 2014 

Jamie Haller has now filed a civil suit against the city and three RCMP officers, including one who was acquitted of an assault charge. See the report posted August 27 2014 in the Comments Section below.

Related Articles On This Blog:

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel?

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid


  1. B.C. officer accused of beating previously disciplined

    CBC News October 5, 2011

    The Williams Lake, B.C., RCMP officer accused of assaulting a teenage girl last month had been disciplined by the force for disgraceful conduct in the past, a report says.

    Const. Andy Yung underwent an internal RCMP investigation in 2008 after he fired his RCMP-issued handgun in his hotel room in a drunken rage, The Ottawa Citizen reports.

    Yung is currently under investigation after a complaint from a 17-year-old Williams Lake girl in September.

    Jamie Haller said she was punched in the face at least six times after Yung and another officer put her in the back of a patrol car.

    The incident was alleged to have occurred after police had been called by a passerby, who reported that Haller was being pursued by members of a native gang in the city, about 325 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

    Haller and her mother identified Yung as the officer who hit her.

    The Abbotsford, B.C., police department has been called in as an outside force to investigate the complaint.

    The newspaper reports that while Yung was stationed in Alberta three years ago, he had been assigned to provide security at an international meeting of defence ministers at the Banff Springs Hotel.

    Disgraceful conduct
    Just before the summit got underway, Yung was off duty when he became intoxicated, had an argument with his ex-girlfriend on the phone and then fired his sidearm into the ceiling of his hotel room, the report said.

    There were no injuries.

    A disciplinary hearing cited Yung for disgraceful conduct, reprimanded him and docked him five days’ pay.

    The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which helped Haller file her assault complaint, said Yung should have been drummed out of the force.

    “We hold police officers to a higher standard. It’s a huge trust position,” said BCCLA executive director David Eby. “So, if an officer has pled guilty to a criminal offence, we really should be asking whether or not they should remain police officers at all."

    Yung was transferred to Williams Lake last April.


  2. Shocking Video: Cop Tasers 14-Year-Old Girl In the Groin for Cursing and Resisting Arrest

    By Rania Khalek, AlterNet December 15, 2011

    On September 29, Keshana Wilson, 14, was tasered in the groin while shoved against a parked car by Allentown, Pennsylvania police officer Jason Ammary, just outside her high school.

    Wilson’s mother has filed a lawsuit against the officer in U.S. District Court for using excessive force. The incident was captured in surveillance footage, which can be seen here. NBC10 Philadelphia gives a detailed description of the confrontation:

    The video first shows Keshana Wilson, 14, walking towards a car on the street with two friends on the 800 block of Washington Street before turning to talk to another group of students, according to the Morning Call.

    The video then abruptly cuts to Allentown Police Officer Jason Ammary struggling with Wilson on the side of a parked car. Ammary appears to be shoving Wilson against the car. She then appears to push her forearm against his face.

    Ammary then steps back and fires his Taser at Wilson’s groin, causing her to collapse to the ground. Several security officers then arrive. One can be seen leading a teen boy away in handcuffs.

    The Morning Call reports Wilson was taken to the hospital to have probes from the Taser removed.

    As if electric shock weren’t enough to traumatize the young girl, Wilson was then arrested and detained for weeks.

    The teen then spent 21 days in juvenile detention charged with aggravated assault on the officer, simple assault, riot charges and resisting arrest. In juvenile court she was found not guilty of the most serious assault and riot charges but was found guilty of disorderly conduct and being a pedestrian on the highway.

    Of course the police have offered a much different account and defend Ammary’s actions as completely justified.

    Allentown Police claim Wilson was cursing and inciting a group of people. They say that she then twisted away from the officer when he went in to arrest her for disorderly conduct. Ammary leaned her against the trunk of the car to place handcuffs on her but she continued to resist and elbowed him in the chin, according to police.”

    According to the lawsuit, the police report claims Ammary aimed his weapon lower because Wilson was using her backpack to block the Taser. The video shows Wilson’s upper body exposed however. The suit also says the police report claims hundreds of students were blocking traffic at the time of the incident. The video only shows a small number of students on the street however.”

    While defending his fellow officer, Allentown Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna argued that “officers are trained to use the justified amount of force dictated by the actions of the resister, not their age or gender.”


  3. Charges against woman for assaulting mall guards with jacket dropped after video shows guards assaulted her

    VIDEO | Edmonton woman alleges assault by mall guards

    CBC News December 19, 2011

    A young Edmonton woman alleges she was assaulted by security guards at West Edmonton Mall last year in a case in which she was initially charged with assault with a weapon — her jacket.

    Larissa Sharphead, 20, was taken to a holding cell by guards on Oct. 25, 2010, after she and her sister had too much to drink at the Empire Ballroom, a nightclub inside the massive shopping centre.

    Sharphead, who was under a 10-year ban from mall premises, was picked up by the guards just outside the Bourbon Street entrance. Surveillance video of what transpired inside the cell afterwards was obtained by CBC News.

    The video shows a male guard pushing Sharphead against a cement wall. He kicks her feet from underneath her and she falls to the floor, and then he folds Sharphead's legs up behind her and sits on them.

    The guard subsequently performs an extensive patdown while another male guard holds her down.

    "It was outrageous, on many levels," Sharphead's lawyer, Akram Attia, told CBC News last week. "I was troubled by the force used. She was clearly not resisting."

    Sharphead is seen talking to two guards on the soundless tape as she removes her jacket. As one guard holds out his arm to grab it, she swings the coat towards him, prompting him to push her down again.

    "I was sore," Sharphead told the CBC. "My face was sore and it's all bruised. My lip was cut."

    Although Sharphead was injured in the altercation, she was charged with assault with a weapon, with her jacket considered the weapon.

    The charge was dismissed after the surveillance video was entered as an exhibit in court earlier this month.

    Sharphead says she was kicked out of the mall when she was 12. West Edmonton Mall says that ban was why she was arrested and charged for trespassing that night.

    "Our goal is to protect the safety and experience of our mall guests and to ensure those who have caused problems in the past are not allowed on our property," the statement says.

    "West Edmonton Mall expects our entire staff to act with the utmost integrity and professionalism, making safety our No. 1 priority."

    Sharphead hopes police will take action against the security guards. However, Edmonton police say the file is closed .

    Two officers have viewed the video and neither recommended an investigation, said spokesperson David Schneider.

    "That would indicate to me that there are no plans to revisit the file," he said.


    1. Do you know what eventually happened with this case? Were any of the guards charged? Was there a civil lawsuit?

  4. Aboriginal ex-Mountie recalls racism, harassment

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    Transformed, triumphant and determined are all words that could be used to describe Marge Hudson, a former RCMP officer who said she faced racism and discrimination in the force.

    Hudson was the first aboriginal female RCMP officer in Manitoba. So she had to break two barriers.

    "I represented the RCMP and served Canada…. I'm proud to do that," she told CBC News in an interview.

    After she joined in 1979, Hudson became the poster girl for in the male-dominated institution.

    But she said during her 30 years on the force, she experienced harassment and watched others get promoted over her.

    The RCMP's commanding officer in Manitoba, Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, said he has only ever heard good things about Hudson.

    "The communities, quite frankly, loved her. They loved her approach, they liked the way she handled herself," he said.

    But it was what Hudson heard that tainted her early experience in the RCMP.

    "I could hear the male members talking about me, you know, like, saying, 'Well, I would do her.' 'Why don't you go ahead and do her?'" she said, tearing up while recalling it.

    Hudson said she started out as a special native constable and eventually moved up to regular constable, but she never moved beyond that position, while fellow non-aboriginal officers climbed the ranks.

    "Am I brown, is that the reason? Am I female, is that the reason? I had two shots against me right there — being aboriginal, being female," she said.

    "We were the ones out there to serve and protect, and faithfully, that's what I did. But where was my protection? The RCMP eat their own."

    Once, she was encouraged to drop a complaint so that she would not be transferred.

    The stress manifested itself in her weight gain, and Hudson said her heaviest weight was 330 pounds by 2003.

    She hit her breaking point in 2009.

    "I had it with this organization, this outfit and the bullying and all this sh-t. I don't need this," she said.

    She says she quit but the RCMP classified her departure as a retirement.

    Robinson, who said he is not aware of racism being a problem in the RCMP, said this is the first time he has ever heard of Hudson's allegations against the force.

    "I would have seen her in a minute" to talk about the issues, he told CBC News.

    But when he was told that Hudson was denied an exit interview when she left the force, Robinson said, "I can't comment on that. I don't know who would've denied her that."

    While racism might be an issue that has not hit the headlines in recent years, the claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct have recently become well documented even being raised in the House of Commons.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years — announcing the arrest of Robert William Pickton and revealing charges laid in the Air India bombing — has filed an internal complaint that makes serious allegations about misconduct inside the RCMP.

    Since Galliford spoke out, more members of the RCMP have come forward with serious allegations of harassment.

    And it's not only female members. Alberta RCMP Sgt. Jerry Hoyland has complained about 26 separate incidents of alleged harassment, but said he got only grief for his trouble.

    As for Hudson, she has tried to move on from her Mountie days. She has burned most of the photos and other remnants of that time.

    "I burnt it because, like, it's not who I am. I got rid of the extra baggage that I was carrying," she said.

    Not only has she relieved herself of both the weight of that career, but also her physical weight, dumping 200 pounds in four years.

    "I love me. I like who I am," she said.


  5. Assault charge recommended against Williams Lake Mountie

    CBC News March 7, 2012

    Abbotsford police are recommending an assault charge against a Williams Lake, B.C., RCMP officer after a 17-year-old girl was allegedly injured while in police custody.

    The girl's mother, Martina Jeff, told CBC News her daughter was punched in the face by an RCMP officer while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car in September 2011.

    Abbotsford police Const. Ian MacDonald announced the charge recommendation Wednesday.

    He said the investigation was challenging because few people were paying attention to what was happening in the cruiser.

    "The incident, ultimately, took place in the back seat of a police car and that back seat was in darkness and even though there were people around that police vehicle, not everyone's eyes were on that back seat and what was transpiring there."

    At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Warren Brown called the news disappointing.

    He said the constable is on administrative duties until Crown counsel decides whether to lay charges.

    An internal RCMP code of conduct investigation is also underway.


  6. B.C. Mountie charged after shots fired in home

    No one was hurt when shots allegedly fired into wall

    The Canadian Press March 29, 2012

    An RCMP officer in Langley, B.C., has been charged after he allegedly fired his police-issued gun inside his home Wednesday night.

    Michael Roe has also been suspended from duty with the federal drug enforcement branch, but no decision has been made on whether his pay will also be stopped.

    The RCMP say Roe, 46, was off duty when he fired multiple shots into a wall in his home. Roe's wife and children were in the home at the time but no one was hurt.

    He was arrested at the scene and his gun was seized.

    Roe, who has 24 years of service with the RCMP, is facing one charge of the careless use of a firearm and will also face an internal review of his conduct.

    There's no official word on what led to the shooting, and the RCMP say their investigation is continuing.


  7. Attorney general seeks to halt Mountie's human rights hearing

    By Jason Proctor, CBC News May 22, 2012

    Canada's attorney general is trying to stop the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal from hearing a long-serving aboriginal B.C. Mountie's complaints of discrimination within the RCMP.

    Attorney General Rob Nicholson has applied to Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision to refer Cpl. Greg Morrison Blain's complaint to the tribunal. Blain left the RCMP in January after nearly two decades on the force.

    "I have suffered grave harm to my dignity and self-respect as a result of the RCMP's callous treatment of me since I became a member," he writes in the complaint.

    "I am proud of my aboriginal identity and I feel that the RCMP has devalued this identity. The RCMP's demeaning conduct is particularly hurtful to me as I have grown up with the burden of hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination by Canadian police forces."

    Blain currently serves as chief of the Ashcroft Indian Band in B.C.'s Interior. He approached the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2008, and an investigator was assigned to determine if the complaint merited a tribunal.

    The commissioner wrote to the RCMP at the end of March to say the evidence indicates the force may have discriminated against Blain.

    The attorney general, however, now claims that decision was made in error.

    Both the complaint and the RCMP's response are contained in Federal Court documents.

    Blain alleges supervisors discriminated against him both on the basis of his ancestry and a psychological condition he developed after a posting with the Canadian Civilian Policing Contingent in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    His first job was in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, in 1992. He says he was asked to take a full-time aboriginal officer posting even though he wasn't interested in the position and couldn't speak Coast Salish, the local native language.

    But a superior ultimately ordered him into the position, saying "staffing at Depot had informed him that they had 'found him an Indian.'"

    Blain claims supervisors in Nanaimo and his next posting in Bella Bella treated him differently because of what he felt were "underlying racist attitudes." He was posted to New Aiyansh, in northern B.C., in 1999.

    "New Aiyansh is a remote community and the RCMP provided housing for the five members stationed there. However, myself and the other aboriginal member were told we had to live in cramped 800-square-foot trailers on the reserve, though we each had families of four," he writes.

    "The non-aboriginal members lived in [two-storey] houses off the reserve."

    A large portion of Blain's complaint and the commission's investigation concerns the Afghanistan posting and his subsequent return to Canada. Blain was a member of one of two groups of four police officers in Kandahar.

    One consisted of three white RCMP officers and a Métis member of the Medicine Hat, Alta., police force. The "second group" included Blain, a Métis, an Inuit and a black officer.

    Blain says the "second group" members were given inferior living quarters, heavier weapons and menial tasks.

    "The complainant states that the 'second group' did the vast majority of the training of Afghan police cadets. Training took place in temperatures of up to 50 C in a tent with no air-conditioning," the investigator writes.

    "During the training, the complainant states that to his knowledge, the 'first group' members were working in air-conditioned offices or out on missions. However if camera crews or dignitaries were attending training on a particular day, the 'first group' would announce that they were conducting training that day."

    continued in next comment...

  8. continued from previous comment:

    On his return to Canada after the posting in 2007, Blain went on sick leave. He claims his doctor and clinical psychologist said he was not fit for duty, but supervisors ordered him to attend a medical assessment regardless. He refused and claims the RCMP then brought a barrage of Code of Conduct charges against him concerning the dispute over his medical condition and his role as the chief of the Ashcroft band, to which he says supervisors had given prior approval.

    The commission's investigator recommends a tribunal limit itself only to the complaints that begin with Blain's posting to Afghanistan, because the prior complaints of racism involved different people and don't span all the parts of his career.

    But the investigator's report concludes evidence exists to suggest the RCMP may have discriminated against Blain and the other members of the "second group" of officers. The investigator also suggests the tribunal try to "determine whether the respondent's apparent frustration with the complainant's being on sick leave was a factor in its decision to pursue any or all Code of Conduct allegations against him."

    The RCMP responded to the commission's investigation by saying Blain failed to make use of internal grievance mechanisms. The force says his "troubles in Afghanistan resulted primarily from interpersonal conflicts and his resistance to operational requirements, not his aboriginal ancestry."

    The RCMP also says the commission isn't equipped to evaluate its internal disciplinary mechanisms. The force takes issue with the report's findings that Blain may have been treated differently from other employees.

    "No evidence is provided on which this conclusion is based, nor are the 'employees' referred to identified. It is not adequate to compare the complainant to an undefined and large group of employees," counsel for the RCMP writes. "The complainant must specify the comparator group against whom he is evaluating his treatment."

    Blain is also pursuing a separate civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court that covers many of the same allegations.

    His lawyer, Marjorie Brown, says the human rights tribunal is the proper place to hear his allegations of discrimination, especially in light of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's recent decision to request an investigation into allegations of systemic sexual harassment.

    "Allegations of sexual harassment and allegations of racial harassment both tend to demonstrate that the business as usual, the manner of operating within the RCMP — at least for these members that have made the allegations — just isn't adequate to protect against that kind of behaviour," Brown says.

    "A full hearing into Cpl. Blain's allegations would provide exactly the sort of mechanism for accountability that we understand the RCMP is claiming it is seeking to institute. So, the RCMP says that it now wishes to hold those accountable that have committed harassment or discrimination. This is how you do that."

    The RCMP would not comment on the Federal Court case.


  9. BCCLA alleges 3 people injured by RCMP

    CBC News June 12, 2012

    The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling for an investigation after they say three First Nations people who called the RCMP for assistance were injured by police.

    According to the BCCLA, an RCMP officer broke a 15-year-old Prince Rupert girl's arm while arresting her on Apr. 4 after her family called 911 for assistance. The Delta Police Department is investigating.

    The group also alleges two men — Robert Wright, 47, and William Watts, 36 — were injured by Mounties in Terrace, B.C.

    Wright apparently suffered a serious head and brain injury while in police custody after his wife called police out of concern for his safety on Apr. 21. The New Westminster Police Department is investigating.

    Watts allegedly received multiple head injuries and says he was punched after he was handcuffed, subjected to racial taunts, and had his head put in a bag by police after he called 911 for assistance with his sister on May 15.

    "We are deeply concerned that one incident requiring independent investigation by an outside police force would take place in a five-week period in this sparsely populated area, let alone three," BCCLA president Robert Holmes.

    "All of the incidents involve families of Aboriginal descent, all called the RCMP for help with a family member, each case resulted in serious injury, and each took place in a specific geographic area over a short period of time. These factors suggest to us that there is a serious systemic problem."

    Mounties allege grandstanding

    RCMP Supt. Ray Bernoties issued a statement in response, saying the BCCLA press conference went ahead even though they had a meeting scheduled with the RCMP to address the concerns on Tuesday afternoon.

    "I am disappointed that the BCCLA would grandstand on these files when they know full well that there are independent external investigations ongoing by the New Westminster Police, Delta Police and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP," he said.

    "The BCCLA would be the first to criticize the police, and has in the past, for speaking publicly about a complaint while it is still under investigation. If nothing else, they should hold themselves to their own standard. In light of the ongoing [investigations] I question their objective."

    Bernoties went on to say the allegations are unsubstantiated at this point.

    "If charges are laid against an RCMP member in any of these matters, we will proactively inform the public, as we do in every case of an RCMP member being charged," he said.


  10. RCMP should release data on injuries, death: BCCLA

    By Colleen Kimmett, The Tyee June 19, 2012

    The BC Civil Liberties Association wants the RCMP to release data on serious injuries and deaths caused by its officers.

    The call comes on the heels of a June 12 press conference that the BCCLA held last week to draw attention to three serious injury incidents that occurred in the past five weeks. Two of the incidents happened in Terrace, and the third, in which a 15-year-old girl suffered a broken arm, happened in Prince Rupert.

    "All of the incidents involve families of Aboriginal descent, all called the RCMP for help with a family member, each case resulted in serious injury, and each took place in a specific geographic area over a short period of time," stated BCCLA president Robert Holmes in a press release. "These factors suggest to us that there is a serious systemic problem."

    In response to the press conference, RCMP Superintendent Ray Bernoties issued a statement saying the BCCLA was "grandstanding" because it knows that the incidents are being investigated externally (by the New Westminster Police, Delta Police, and Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP) and that it would be inappropriate to comment on the incidents while they were under investigation.

    "The RCMP has chosen to focus solely on whether criminal charges will ensue against RCMP officers. That is only part of the concern here," stated Holmes. "The RCMP should focus not just on whether its members may be charged criminally, but also whether they are properly and professionally doing the job of policing in and enjoy the trust of the communities they are to serve."

    Municipal police departments in B.C. are required to report injuries which require medical treatment to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which are publicly available. According to the BCCLA, in 2012, they reported 263 incidents, or once incident per 4,900 people annually.

    The BCCLA wants the RCMP to release similar data so it can conduct a Canada-wide comparison with municipal forces.

    Superintendent Ray Bernoties told The Tyee that the RCMP does keep track of this type of data, "in a much more meaningful way" through a self-reporting system called Subject Behaviour Officer Response Reports. Since 2010, anytime an RCMP officer uses any type of force, they are required to file such a report whether or not injury or death results.

    When asked if, in light of the BCCLA's request, the RCMP would make these reports publicly available on its own website, Bernoties said that "I feel we do made it available to those we are accountable to." Bernoties said that these reports are provided to the BC government's police services division (within the Ministry of Justice).

    David Eby told The Tyee that the BCCLA could go through the Freedom of Information process to request these reports from the ministry, "but that takes years."

    "And frankly, I don't think our organization should be the one responsible for doing that," he added. "I think it should be the RCMP's duty as part of its transparent law enforcement operation."


  11. Investigation urged after man disabled in RCMP custody

    CBC News November 2, 2012

    The BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are demanding a special prosecutor investigate why charges were not laid when a Terrace man was permanently disabled in RCMP custody.

    The BCCLA says Robert Wright, 47, was taken into custody by Terrace RCMP in apparent good health, after his wife called police out of concern for his safety on Apr. 21.

    He was later sent from RCMP custody by air ambulance to New Westminster for emergency brain surgery. He survived, but suffered a major and disabling brain injury and is now permanently disabled.

    New Westminster Police investigated Wright's case and recommended charges. But then the case came to a halt when the Crown prosecutor decided not to lay charges, according to BCCLA executive director David Eby.

    Eby says the Crown needs to explain that decision, and why they felt the charges did not have a reasonable chance of success in court.

    "When the charges recommended involve a police officer and a public duty that comes with policing, the Crown must be extra transparent about its decision not to recommend charges," he said.

    Failing that, he is demanding the government appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case. Eby is also calling for the release of any of the cell room video and the full investigation report.

    Fed up with RCMP's 'cowboy culture'
    Wright's case first came to light in June when the B.C. Civil Liberties Association called for an investigation into three cases in which First Nations people in Terrace and Prince Rupert were seriously injured while in RCMP custody within the space of one month.

    Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says First Nations are fed up with the cowboy culture within the RCMP.

    "Our question is what happened, because when the charges were recommended, we were told that the regional Crown in New Westminster refused to approve those charges."

    "The Criminal Justice Branch is failing First Nations people, and we deserve an explanation."

    Wright's wife's Heather Prisk-Wright says RCMP officers told her that her husband was sleeping in a cell when she asked about him, but the next morning she learned that he had actually been hospitalized several times.

    "At no time was I informed that Robert had been taken to hospital three times....or that he had suffered a brain injury as well from an internal brain hemorrhage."

    By the time she learned the truth about her husband's condition, Wright had already been moved down to New Westminster hospital.

    "This is absolutely unacceptable to our people," said Phillip.


  12. Advocates call for arrest footage after suspect injured

    The Canadian Press November 6, 2012

    Rights advocates say the release of a five-page report from the Crown isn't enough to explain how a First Nations man from Terrace, B.C., emerged from a confrontation with RCMP with severe brain damage.

    The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are questioning the credibility of the report released by the Criminal Justice Branch Friday which explains why no charges were laid against the officers involved.

    Robert Wright was arrested for suspected drunk driving in April and hit his head twice while in custody.

    He was taken to hospital and required emergency brain surgery.

    A six-month investigation by another police force recommended an assault charge against an officer, but only weeks later the Crown ruled out charges, saying the use of force was reasonable and the man's condition may have been medical.

    Civil liberties president Lindsay Lyster says the groups want the entire file released for their review, arguing the testimony relied on by the Crown was made by secret experts and behind closed doors.


  13. B.C. teen who claims RCMP assault to testify

    CBC News January 23, 2013

    A Williams Lake, B.C., teen who claims she was punched in the face by an RCMP officer during a September 2011 arrest is expected to testify at his trial today.

    Jamie Haller was 17 at the time of the incident.

    The First Nations teen claimed she was fleeing a gang when police were called to respond. She was arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser.

    Haller alleges it was at that time she was punched repeatedly in the face by Const. Andy Yung, who is facing a charge of assault.

    “This whole issue in the trial is what happens when a First Nations person in the Interior of this province calls 911 for help,” said Joshua Patterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

    Patterson says there are systemic issues around how RCMP deal with native people.

    "This isn't just something we've seen happen in Williams Lake. We've seen incidents of police violence against aboriginal people right across the north. There have been several other cases of concern."

    The incident was investigated by Abbotsford police, who recommended to the Crown that Yung be charged.


  14. Teen says he saw First Nations woman dragged into vehicle

    Witness comes forward in alleged Thunder Bay hate crime

    by Jody Porter CBC News January 29, 2013

    A teenager tells CBC News he witnessed an alleged hate crime in Thunder Bay but says said he doesn’t trust police enough to share his story with them.

    The 19-year-old Oji-Cree youth said he was walking back home from getting a slice of pizza on Dec. 27 when two men in a van tried to run over him as they yelled racial slurs and threw things at him.

    "All I saw was lights, these blinding lights," he said. "And these blunt objects were being thrown at me, like pieces of chain, a bottle of anti-freeze …."

    The teen said he managed to run away and hide from the men, but said he sometimes wishes he had confronted them.

    “If I knew what they were gonna do to that lady afterwards, I would have done something,” he said, referring to the alleged abduction and sexual assault of a First Nations woman on Dec. 27. Thunder Bay police are investigating that case.

    The woman who filed the complaint told police that her alleged attackers yelled racist remarks at her, so police are calling it a "possible hate crime."

    But the Thunder Bay Police Service has come under scrutiny for the way it is handling the case.

    The victim’s mother is calling for an inquiry into the way police and other institutions in Thunder Bay handle sex crimes against First Nations women.

    The online hacker group Anonymous criticized the Thunder Bay police in a video that went viral last week.
    The teen said it was that video which inspired him to speak to CBC News.

    “[Anonymous] wanted people to come forward,” he said. “They wanted people to speak and that's what I wanted to do. I just want an alternative choice to policemen. I’m paranoid of police, I don’t trust police. I feel like they’ll turn the case against me.”

    CBC News agreed not to identify the teen for his safety.

    His story cannot be independently verified, but details are factually similar to what the victim reported to police.

    “They started throwing stuff at her, hit her, then pulled her into the van, drove off towards County Park,” the teen said, pointing out the spot in the bushes where he hid and watched.

    Thunder Bay police are encouraging anyone with information about the crime to speak to them directly.

    But police say potential witnesses could speak to a First Nations police service or an aboriginal lawyer if that makes them more comfortable.

    The teen said he’s doing his part by talking to the media.

    “I'd rather look like a fool for 15 minutes than feel like a fool forever for not saying anything.”


  15. RCMP accused of rape in report on B.C. aboriginal women

    Force takes claims 'very seriously,' but stresses complainants must come forward

    CBC News February 13, 2013

    The RCMP says it wants to get to the bottom of abuse allegations against its officers in British Columbia involving aboriginal women and girls, but says individuals making the claims must come forward to allow police to conduct a proper investigation.

    Those comments followed the release Wednesday of a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch detailing the claims — which include police threats, torture and sexual assault. The report calls on the federal government to launch a national inquiry.

    Two researchers — one from Canada and one from the U.S. — spent five weeks last summer in the province’s north, visiting 10 communities between Prince George to Prince Rupert and hearing accounts from aboriginal women of alleged mistreatment at the hands of police.

    First Nations communities they visited are all linked to B.C.'s so-called "Highway of Tears,"where 18 women have disappeared over the past several decades.

    Meghan Rhoad, a U.S. researcher with Human Rights Watch, told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday she is hopeful the RCMP will take the recommendations seriously.

    "We met with the RCMP yesterday, and I am encouraged by the level of seriousness in how they are reviewing this report," Rhoad said.

    RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong said in a statement released Wednesday the force is taking the allegations "very seriously," but added it needs more help to investigate further.

    "In a written response to a series of questions posed by Human Rights Watch in fall 2012, the RCMP emphasized the seriousness of allegations of police misconduct and that these allegations must be brought forward for proper investigation.

    "We also explained that complaints could be made to the RCMP directly, to the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP or to other independent investigative bodies without fear of retaliation."

    The researchers interviewed 50 aboriginal women and girls, plus family members and service providers in northern B.C. They heard stories of police pepper-spraying and using Tasers on young aboriginal girls, and of women being strip-searched by male officers.

    “It was very moving to sit across from these women and girls and hear them tell their stories,” Rhoad told CBC News.

    However, she told reporters that researchers found levels of fear among aboriginal women with negative stories about police "comparable to post-conflict situations, like post-war Iraq."

    "We look to the police for protection, and our girls and women have not been able to trust them to protect them," said Sharon McIvor, who is with the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and is a longtime advocate for aboriginal women.

    "Not only are they not protecting them adequately, but they are perpetrating offences against them — criminal offences," she said.

    "[The report] is not about painting all members of the RCMP as abusers," Rhoad said. "We know that the great majority of members serve honorably, devoting their lives to the protection of their communities.

    "It is about the fact that those good officers deserve better than to see those tarnishing their reputation not be held accountable."

    The report suggests some of the accounts of harm done to women and girls appear to be the result of poor policing tactics, over aggressive policing and insensitivity to victims.

    continued in next comment...

  16. Human Rights watch documented eight incidents of police physically assaulting or using "questionable" force against girls under 18.

    The report also contains troubling and graphic allegations of physical and sexual abuse, including from a woman, identified as homeless, who describes how police took her outside of town and raped her.

    Rhoad said the woman told her the officers then, "threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me and make it look like an accident."

    Human Rights Watch said none of the complainants are named in the report because they feared retribution. The alleged perpetrators also are not named.

    "What's important to know is that often the first response from the police to aboriginal girls is to treat them as criminals, whether they're calling for help, or whether they're just approached on the streets by police," said Annabel Webb, founder of the Vancouver group Justice for Girls.

    Despite the RCMP's repeated requests, the group did not release the allegations to the Mounties until this week, CBC News has learned.

    The disturbing report does bear some important disclaimers.

    "Human Rights Watch does not contend that this information proves a pattern of routine systemic abuse," it says. "But when such incidents take place in the context of an already deeply fractured relationship with the police, they have a particularly harmful, negative impact."

    The report also notes that, "the testimonies that Human Rights Watch gathered do not establish the prevalence of abuse."

    The organization said it will suggest the RCMP expand cross-cultural training for its officers and eliminate strip-searches by officers not of the same gender.

    Full RCMP statement

    The RCMP takes the allegations enclosed in the Human Rights Watch Report very seriously.

    The unimaginable loss and pain felt by families and loved ones of missing and murdered persons is also felt across our communities. The RCMP looks forward to working with our government and non-government partners, as well the communities we serve to provide Canadians with the professional and accountable police service they expect and deserve.

    In a written response to a series of questions posed by Human Rights Watch in fall 2012, the RCMP emphasized the seriousness of allegations of police misconduct and that these allegations must be brought forward for proper investigation. We also explained that complaints could be made to the RCMP directly, to the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP or to other independent investigative bodies without fear of retaliation.

    Unfortunately, five months later and none of these allegations have been brought forward for investigation. It is impossible to deal with such public and serious complaints when we have no method to determine who the victims or the accused are.

    British Columbians know and have seen that police officers are being held accountable for their actions and are being charged and even dismissed for clearly breaching their authorities and our expectations.

    Since a final copy of the completed report was only provided to the RCMP on Tuesday February 12, 2013, we will need to take the necessary time to review it in its entirety in order to provide any additional information, facts or context.

    With files from the CBC's Duncan McCue and Curt Petrovich


  17. Canada: Abusive Policing, Neglect Along Highway of Tears

    Set Up National Inquiry Into Murders, Disappearances of Indigenous Women, Girls

    Human Rights Watch February 13, 2013

    (Ottawa) – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in northern British Columbia has failed to protect indigenous women and girls from violence, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Women and girls Human Rights Watch interviewed also described abusive treatment by police officers, including excessive use of force, and physical and sexual assault.

    The 89-page report, “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada,” documents both ongoing police failures to protect indigenous women and girls in the north from violence and violent behavior by police officers against women and girls. Police failures and abuses add to longstanding tensions between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and indigenous communities in the region, Human Rights Watch said. The Canadian government should establish a national commission of inquiry into the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and girls, including the impact of police mistreatment on their vulnerability to violence in communities along Highway 16, which has come to be called northern British Columbia’s “Highway of Tears.”

    “The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity,” said Meghan Rhoad, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive.”

    Human Rights Watch conducted research along Highway 97 and along the 724-kilometer stretch of Highway 16 that has become infamous for the dozens of women and girls who have been reported missing or were found dead in its vicinity since the late 1960s. In July and August 2012, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 50 indigenous women and girls, and conducted an additional 37 interviews with families of murdered and missing women, indigenous leaders, community service providers, and others across 10 communities.

    Indigenous women and girls told Human Rights Watch that the RCMP has failed to protect them. They also described instances of abusive policing, including excessive use of force against girls, strip searches of women by male officers, and physical and sexual abuse. One woman said that in July, four police officers took her to a remote location, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

    Women who call the police for help have been blamed for the abuse, shamed over alcohol or substance use, and have found themselves at risk of arrest for actions taken in self-defense, women and community service providers told Human Rights Watch.

    “I will never forget that day,” said “Lena G.,” whose 15-year-old daughter’s arm was broken by a police officer after the mother called the police for help during an argument between her daughter and her daughter’s abusive boyfriend. “It’s the worst thing I ever did. I wish I didn’t call.”

    continued in next comment...

  18. Despite policies requiring active investigation of all reports of missing persons, some family members and service providers who made calls to police to report missing women or girls said the police failed to investigate the disappearances promptly.

    Women and girls have limited recourse when they experience police abuse or when police fail to provide adequate protection, Human Rights Watch said. They can lodge a complaint against the police with the Commission for Public Complaints. But the process is time consuming and the investigation of the complaint is likely to fall to the RCMP itself or to another police force.

    Human Rights Watch researchers were struck by the fear expressed by women they interviewed. The women’s reactions were comparable to those Human Rights Watch has found in post-conflict or post-transition countries, where security forces have played an integral role in government abuses and enforcement of authoritarian policies.

    In September 2012, Human Rights Watch wrote to the RCMP to advise the national headquarters and the “E” Division in British Columbia of the results of the research and seek information about questions raised by the research. The RCMP responded in November. Human Rights Watch did not include details of specific incidents of abuse in the September 2012 letter because of victims’ fears of retaliation if the officers they accused were able to identify them.

    British Columbia’s legislature recently established the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) to provide independent civilian “criminal investigations regarding police-related incidents involving death or serious harm.” The law’s definition of “serious harm” would exclude most cases of police rape and other forms of sexual assault, however, sending a strong message that assaults on women and girls are not important, Human Rights Watch said.

    “The lack of a reliable, independent mechanism to investigate allegations of police misconduct is unfair to everyone involved,” Rhoad said. “It is unfair to the officers who serve honorably. It is unfair to the northern communities that deserve to have confidence in their police forces. And it is especially unfair to the indigenous women and girls, whose safety is at stake.”

    United Nations human rights bodies have criticized Canada for the inadequate government response to violence against indigenous women and girls. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women announced in December 2011 that it was opening an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. In 2008, the committee called on the government “to examine the reasons for the failure to investigate the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and to take the necessary steps to remedy the deficiencies in the system.”

    The government of Canada has taken some steps to address the murders and disappearances, Human Rights Watch said, but the persistence of the violence indicates a need for a national public commission of inquiry.

    continued in next comment...

  19. “The high rate of violence against indigenous women and girls has caused widespread alarm for many years,” Rhoad said. “The eyes of the world are on Canada to see how many more victims it takes before the government addresses this issue in a comprehensive and coordinated way.”

    Additional recommendations

    The Canadian government should develop and put into operation a national action plan in cooperation with indigenous communities to address the violence against indigenous women and girls, with attention to the current and historical discrimination and the economic and social inequalities that increase their vulnerability to violence, as well as the need for accountability for government bodies charged with preventing and responding to violence;

    The British Columbia provincial government should expand the mandate of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) to include authority to investigate allegations of sexual assault by police;

    The RCMP, in cooperation with indigenous communities, should expand training and monitoring of training for police officers to counter racism and sexism in the treatment of indigenous women and girls in custody and to improve police response to violence against women and girls in indigenous communities; and

    The RCMP should eliminate searches and monitoring of women and girls by male police officers in all but extraordinary circumstances and require documentation and review of any such searches by supervisors and commanders. It should prohibit cross-gender strip-searches under all circumstances.

    Statements about police abuse

    “I feel so dirty….They threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me, and make it look like an accident.” – Gabriella P. (pseudonym), who told Human Rights Watch that in July 2012 four police officers took her to a remote location and raped her. She said that police officers had raped her in similar circumstances on previous occasions.

    “‘Here’s your choice, you either get charged with assaulting an officer or you take the beating,’ [said one of the officers.] Stupid me I said, ‘I’ll take the beating.’ She grabbed me, slammed me up on the wall and I hit my head. Then she slammed me on the ground. A male cop drove his knee into my back while she stripped earrings out of my ears and elastics out of my hair. ‘Have you had enough?’ ‘Yes, I’ve had enough. I’m sorry.’ ” – Anna T. (pseudonym) who spat on a police officer when she was arrested.

    “I had a woman about two years ago who decided to report [a sexual assault] to the RCMP – very rare. I have worked with many women sexually assaulted and only a handful go forward with charges. She was made to feel that she was to blame….You have a system of authority that puts the blame on the victim.” – Community service provider in northern British Columbia

    to view the links embedded in this article and to download the report go to:


  20. RCMP has a bullying problem, watchdog says

    Complaints commission probe began after female Mounties alleged sexual harassment

    CBC News February 14, 2013

    The RCMP has a bullying problem that needs to be countered by better training and record-keeping, the force's watchdog says in a long-awaited report released today.

    The RCMP public complaints commission launched its investigation in November 2011 in reaction to widespread reports from female Mounties about systemic sexual harassment.

    The report released Thursday looks at 718 harassment complaints filed between 2005 and 2011, representing about 2.5 per cent of all employees at the RCMP.

    Commission chairman Ian McPhail said about 90 per cent of the complaints involved bullying. Only four per cent of the complaints dealt with sexual harassment.

    "Yes, there's a problem of harassment, but overwhelmingly the problem was abuse of authority," McPhail told CBC News.

    In the highest-profile cases of sexual harassment, he said the commission found no bias or negligence.

    McPhail's recommendations include that the RCMP:

    --Improve its record-keeping by tracking all complaints.

    --Improve its definition of harassment.

    --Provide specialized training to investigators and managers.

    --Set deadlines for the treatment of allegations about workplace conflict.

    The commission says its investigation didn't point to a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the police force, despite intense publicity about difficulties and grievances.

    However, the report said the simple perception of a pattern of poor treatment of employees is enough to rattle public confidence and tarnish the force's reputation.

    Public complaints from officers

    Several female RCMP officers have come forward with complaints since Cpl. Catherine Galliford went public in 2011 with allegations of harassment. Male officers have also cited abusive behaviour and intimidation.

    The commission found the complex system for dealing with complaints meant some took as long as four years to process.

    "That's clearly unacceptable," McPhail said. "No one can fairly be expected to have their lives and their careers on hold for up to four years while a complaint is resolved. People see that sort of thing happening, and even if they have a legitimate complaint, they're not going to step forward."

    Also Thursday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced a "gender and respect" action plan that sets out 37 measures he says will improve the culture and the composition of the force.

    The report comes a day after the RCMP in British Columbia was accused of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women. The accusations, which include police threats, torture and sexual assault, were detailed by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called on the federal government to launch a national inquiry.

    The complaints commission report dealt solely with complaints within the RCMP, not those involving civilians.


  21. Thunder Bays aboriginal population fears racism and violence

    CBC News February 20, 2013

    Aboriginal people in the northern Ontario community of Thunder Bay continue to live in fear of racism and violence almost two months after a First Nations woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by two men claiming to be serial attackers.

    Adding to a long history of unsolved sex crimes against aboriginal women in the city, the 36-year-old woman was strangled, beaten and raped in a wooded area of a park after being kidnapped off the streets.

    "[They] told her that they had done this before, and native people don't deserve your treaty rights," said Theresa Trudeau, a cultural support worker, and friend of the woman.

    Those within the aboriginal community say police are part of the problem, and accuse them of abuse and racial profiling.

    Thunder Bay Police Chief J.P. Levesque rejects claims there is any type of profiling on the force.

    He said his force deals with more than 50,000 incidents a year, and higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse than anywhere else in Ontario.

    Trudeau has lived in Thunder Bay for 30 years, but said she still doesn't trust the police.

    "Not with my life will I trust a police officer in this city," she said.

    The CBC's Reg Sherren reports on the divided community desperate to find solutions.



    Report alleges Thunder Bay police drop charges for sex

    Sex assault victim told ‘they’re gonna do it again’

    Witness comes forward in alleged Thunder Bay hate crime

    Thunder Bay police chief responds to First Nations' concerns

    3 new allegations of misconduct against Thunder Bay police

  22. NOTE: Another Indigenous woman goes to the police for help and ends up being arrested and traumatized.

    Bloodied First Nation woman claims she was raped but Edmonton police arrest her instead

    By Kenneth Jackson and Keith Laboucan, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network February 23, 2013

    Edmonton – A startling revelation came out in an Edmonton courtroom Thursday when an 18-year-old First Nation girl said she had been raped five days earlier but when police were called she was the one who got arrested.

    On top of that, no rape kit was performed until three days later.

    It’s not immediately known where her alleged attackers are. The young woman can’t file a criminal complaint with police until she is released from custody.

    The bombshell was dropped in Youth Court when the young woman, who APTN National News is not naming as of now, said she’d been raped at a west end motel on Sunday. She was bloodied, bruised and had a front tooth knocked out in the attack according to both her lawyer and a youth court worker.

    She said she called her mom after the assault. Her mother called police who ran the girls name in their computer.

    They discovered she had an outstanding warrant for an arrest on an old outstanding breach as a minor. As part of her conditional discharge she was to write an apology letter and do 40 hours of community service.

    She never did for some reason so the police arrested her.

    They put her in jail.

    When contacted, the Edmonton police said they couldn’t comment.

    Mark Cherrington works in youth and family court as a youth worker. He said he was blown away by what he heard in court.

    “She’s just hysterical and in tears. She’s just been totally traumatized,” said Cherrington, describing the young woman in court.

    Cherrington said she told police she had been raped but officers are alleged to have said that she could file a complaint after being released.

    The remand centre was tripled-bunked so she ended up sleeping on the floor with two other women in a holding cell.

    No rape kit was performed Sunday. On Monday nothing was done.

    Finally, on Tuesday a rape kit was taken. She couldn’t bathe for three days for fear she’d wash away the evidence but also because prisoners in holding cells aren’t able to shower.

    “She understands she can’t have a shower or bath Monday (or Sunday) because she needs to get a rape kit. Tuesday comes along and they bring her for a rape kit which [was] way beyond the recommended time,” said Cherrington.

    Her lawyer is going to be filing a complaint with police.

    “This young woman told me that she had been sexually assaulted, did not have a rape kit done on her immediately, waited until Tuesday for the rape kit and, on top of that, five days she went without a shower,” said Parm Johal.

    Cherrington said the test came back positive she had been raped.

    Johal said her client was at the motel with her boyfriend and they got into an argument and he left. She was befriended by two men and woman who were staying there. They invited her in to their room and she alleges they attacked her. She alleges that both men sexually attacked her and the woman physically assaulted her.

    Johal said it wouldn’t be hard for police to track them down because they would have had to give identification to get the room.

    The young woman’s troubles don’t end there.

    She was kept in the remand centre Thursday and was supposed to be released Friday evening, said Cherrington.

    “I would go on the record that there are two levels of justice in this city. There’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal justice,” he said.


  23. Vancouver woman says police broke her wrist

    CBC News April 18, 2013

    Vancouver police are looking into allegations that an officer broke a woman's wrist during an arrest earlier this week.

    "As of yet, the woman involved has made no complaint to the VPD Professional Standards, but investigators will be reaching out to the woman to help determine exactly what happened," the VPD said in a statement on Friday.

    The statement comes a day after Tanya Belleau, 26, told local media that she was walking home alone when police stopped her at the corner of Hastings and Carrall streets for no apparent reason.

    "Two of them were talking to me at the same time, one asked me my name, one asked me where I'm going," said Belleau, an Aboriginal woman who works at a convenience store.

    Belleau says she was then handcuffed and her wrist started to hurt, but she was ignored when she told officers the cuffs were on too tight.

    Belleau was held in jail overnight, and received no medical attention until she was released and driven to hospital on Thursday.

    Tanya Belleau, 26, now wears a temporary cast and says the x-rays show a broken wrist. (CBC)
    She now wears a temporary cast and says the x-rays show a broken wrist.

    "I don't trust any police officers anymore," said Belleau, adding that this was her first time in custody.

    According to the police statement, officers responded to a report of a woman causing a disturbance at the West Hotel in the Downtown Eastside on Wednesday night.

    A woman was arrested for breach of the peace, taken to jail and released the following morning, the statement added.

    The VPD said it had notified the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner and the Independent Investigation Office, which has declined to investigate.


  24. RCMP watchdog to investigate torture, rape allegations

    Human Rights Watch report co-author worries commission won't do an adequate job

    CBC News May 16, 2013

    The civilian watchdog that oversees Canada’s national police force says it will investigate allegations of abuse against the RCMP in northern B.C.

    The complaints — in the report released earlier this year by New York-based Human Rights Watch — include police threats, torture and sexual assault.

    In a statement posted on the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP’s website, interim chair Ian McPhail said he has reasonable grounds to begin an investigation.

    According to the statement, the commission’s investigation will include cross-gender police searches, the handling of missing persons reports and use of force.

    Richard Evans, the commission's director of operations, said there will be a thorough review of the cases.

    "When it comes to looking at some of the issues raised in the Human Rights Watch report, we don't have to just rely on what people are telling us," he said. "We'll be able to go into the RCMP files and examine them as well."

    But Meghan Rhoad, who co-authored the Human Rights Watch report, said the commission is in a conflict of interest.

    "A big piece of the report is looking at the access that victims of abuses have to a remedy when things do go wrong,” she said.

    “So some of the women and girls we spoke with actually talked about problems they had with the commission."

    Rhoad also said the scope of the complaints commission's investigation doesn't allow it to look into criminal allegations.

    "The recommendations that come out of them — assuming that the investigation itself is effective — the recommendations that come out of such an investigation will not be binding under the RCMP."

    'Questionable' force
    The Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 50 aboriginal women and girls, plus family members and service providers in northern B.C. They heard stories of police pepper-spraying and using Tasers on young aboriginal girls, and of women being strip-searched by male officers.

    The report suggests some of the accounts of harm done to women and girls appear to be the result of poor policing tactics, over-aggressive policing and insensitivity to victims.

    Human Rights Watch documented eight incidents of police physically assaulting or using "questionable" force against girls under 18.

    The report also contains troubling and graphic allegations of physical and sexual abuse, including from a woman, identified as homeless, who describes how police took her outside of town and raped her.

    The RCMP has said it is taking the allegations in the report seriously, but needs to investigate further.


  25. Aboriginal woman settles lawsuit over 3½ years solitary confinement

    CBC News May 21, 2013

    The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it has resolved a lawsuit against the government of Canada filed on behalf of a 26-year-old aboriginal woman from Saskatchewan who was held in solitary confinement in a federal prison for more than 3½ years.

    More information on the resolution is expected to be released by the BCCLA on Wednesday morning, when the woman and her mother are expected to speak publicly about her ordeal and the effect the incident had on their family.

    The BCCLA filed the lawsuit in March 2011, on behalf of BobbyLee Worm, who was 24 years old at the time, saying it was seeking to end the practice of holding women in solitary confinement for months and years at a time in federal prisons.

    "Since the start of her incarceration in 2006, Ms. Worm, who suffered extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence, has been subjected to extensive periods of solitary confinement, much of it while on a program called the management protocol," said a statement issued by the BCCLA in 2011.

    Worm was held at the Fraser Valley Institution, east of Vancouver, where she was serving a six-year sentence for several offences including robbery.

    The lawsuit alleged that while in solitary confinement, also known as segregation, Worm spent 23 hours a day confined to her cell, deprived of meaningful human contact, for months at a time.

    BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said at the time that seven women have been on the management protocol since it was first created in 2005, and all the women on the protocol at that time were aboriginal.

    "The devastating psychological and physiological effects of solitary confinement, particularly for women who have previously been abused, are well-documented. Human rights bodies have found the practice of prolonged solitary confinement to be either torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

    The BCCLA said Worm suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of extreme sexual, physical and emotional abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence.


    Saskatchewan woman sues over solitary confinement

    The Canadian Press March 8, 2011

    A Saskatchewan woman serving time in a B.C. prison has filed a lawsuit, supported by a civil liberties group, over her continued segregation in solitary confinement.

    BobbyLee Worm, also known as Bobbi Lee Worm, is one of several female prison inmates spending years in solitary confinement at the discretion of prison authorities, a situation the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says is unconstitutional.

    Worm's lawsuit alleges she has been kept in solitary confinement at the Fraser Valley Correctional Institution for a total of almost four years. Worm is serving a six-year, four-month sentence for robbery and assault.

    continued in next comment...

  26. Grace Pastine, a lawyer with the association, said Worm's case is being used to reform what she calls an "extremely problematic" system that's increasingly used as a means to maintain order in correctional facilities.

    "She has been confined to approximately a seven by ten-foot concrete cell. She's been deprived of most meaningful human contact for up to 23 hours a day," Pastine told CBC News on Tuesday.

    "We don't think solitary confinement should be used as a tool for housing prisoners long-term at all," she said, adding the current system violates human rights and does not encourage rehabilitation.

    The association is targeting the so-called management protocol system, which gives prison authorities the discretion to impose segregation indefinitely.

    Pastine noted there are no limits on how long a prisoner can be kept in solitude under the protocol. While there are reviews of the segregation every two to three months, there isn't independent or judicial oversight.

    According to a Correctional Service of Canada policy report, administrative segregation should be used as a last resort. The report cited less-restrictive alternatives such as voluntary lock-up, conflict resolution or counselling as options to be considered before implementing long-term segregation.

    Pastine said currently, female prisoners are expected to "earn" their way out of long-term solitary confinement, but there is no objective criteria for determining when segregation must end.

    The management protocol is different than disciplinary segregation laws, which permit inmates to be isolated for up to 45 days. Pastine said the association wants that limit applied to all cases of solitary confinement.

    "We are asking the courts for a lot," she said. "Ideally, what we hope the court will do is find that no one — no man, no woman — should be subject to these lengthy periods of solitary confinement with no limitations and no judicial oversight."

    Worm, 24, began serving her time in June 2006.

    She committed several gas-station robberies with an accomplice, using a butcher knife, a metal bar and a shank to threaten the employees.

    Worm's application for parole was denied.

    According to Parole Board documents, Worm has not shown any remorse toward her victims. The documents also note she was persistently violent while in prison.

    She has been involved in a number of altercations with both inmates and staff, stabbing another prisoner in the face with a pen, threatening to slit a correctional officer's throat and throwing a television on another victim's chest, and later kicking and stomping on her.

    Pastine said that while there were some instances when it was beneficial for Worm to be removed from the general prison population, there needs to be a time-limit for segregation.

    Worm has a history of extreme physical and sexual abuse, a history of gang ties and was addicted to drugs at an early age, but she is eager to be involved in more education and rehabilitation programs, Pastine said.

    "She has told us that being in solitary confinement was deeply traumatic. She told us on more than one occasion she completely lost hope."

    Worm is scheduled to be released in October 2012 but is eligible for another release review this May.


  27. Crises in First Nations communities leave legacy of pain, fear

    Post-traumatic stress and its effects linger years after conflict

    By Martha Troian, CBC News January 20, 2014

    Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Burnt Church, Ipperwash and Elsipogtog are just a few of the communities where often violent conflicts have taken place between Indigenous people, law enforcement agencies and government.

    Whether over land, water or a livelihood, indigenous people have faced off with Canada, sometimes against hundreds of heavily armed police officers or even military.

    But while the police, media and supporters may be long gone, the psychological effects of those conflicts are still felt in those communities today.

    And often, the psychological scars are left untreated.

    Remembering Oka

    When clashes unfold today, it's not uncommon for people to compare the situation to Oka and the summer of 1990, according to Myrna Gabriel of Kanesatake, Que.

    Gabriel was just 15 years old when gunfire erupted while Mohawks were protecting a graveyard against the expansion of a golf course.

    The firefight left one police officer dead and sparked a months long standoff that only ended when thousands of Canadian military intervened.

    The aftershock of Burnt Church

    Leo Bartibogue is still haunted by the memory of gunshots fired in the water, just inches away from him.

    Bartibogue is from the Esgenoopetitj First Nation in New Brunswick, a community formerly known as Burnt Church. The waters in his community became a battleground in a fight over Mi'kmaq fishing rights.

    During 1999-2001, violent clashes took place between Mi'kmaq fishers, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Coast Guard, RCMP and non-native fishers who feared First Nations would decimate the lobster.

    “That's what it's all about to begin with, they [government] control everything, and they control the resources,” said Bartibogue.

    But Bartibogue said it is First Nation communities who are left with the full impact of these conflicts, long after they happen.

    He said as soon as you begin the healing process within your community, members see it happen all over again in another First Nation community.

    “It's like an abusive relationship, 'I'll change honey.' 'Yes, I know you will,' but it never happens, right?” said Bartibogue.

    He said it was difficult for him to go and support Elsipogtog when the community was in strife.

    He admits he is still healing today from the conflict his community went through 15 years ago.

    For instance, if Bartibogue sees a helicopter flying around today, memories are easily triggered.

    continued below

  28. Fresh psychological wounds for Elsipogtog

    “It's dragged out a lot of my past,” said Lorraine Clair from Elsipogtog First Nation. Clair was arrested several times and injured during her arrests.

    On Nov. 14 she was allegedly thrown to the ground by RCMP officers who started beating on her.

    As a sexual abuse survivor from an incident involving two men when she was a child, Clair said the latest arrest left her suffering from severe anxiety.

    “I thought that part of my life was already gone, but it basically brought it all back,” she said.

    Today, she has a difficult time watching movies with violence and even limits her time on social media because she says it's too hard to read about Elsipogtog's conflict.

    Shortly after that conflict ended in the late fall of 2013, counsellors were flown in to help community members deal with the aftermath. But for Clair, the mental and spiritual wounds were far too fresh.

    A long road of healing for Kanesatake

    Myrna Gabriel also said the people of Kanesatake were provided with counsellors and workshops shortly after the conflict, but she said many people were not ready and when they were, the service was no longer available.

    For many First Nation people involved in conflict, part of the healing process involves coming to terms with how they now feel about police.

    “There is a lack of trust towards 'the uniform' because of what they stand for,” said Bartibogue. “I don't trust them, and I never will because of what I saw and what they're capable of.”

    He said trust is the biggest scar for him. Gabriel agreed.

    Lorraine Clair even asked her lawyer to try dropping the condition of her release that required her to report to the RCMP twice a week.

    She said she suffers an anxiety attack the night before.

    Community trauma after a conflict

    Leo Bartibogue worries about the effect trauma in adults is having on the children of these communities.

    “They are the ones that have to bear this burden,” said Bartibogue.

    And Bartibogue said even though the government will extend an olive branch to a community after a conflict is over, the people only see a dysfunctional relationship between First Nations and government.

    Gabriel said it may take years for communities to heal. She hopes First Nation people there have the patience and strength to work through the process.

    “We have to work on our own and know how to mend our own pain," said Gabriel.


  29. Jamie Haller Files Civil Suit Against 3 Mounties And City Of Williams Lake, B.C.

    By Camille Bains, The Canadian Press August 26, 2014

    VANCOUVER - A woman who alleges she was beaten by a Mountie in Williams Lake, B.C., when she was 17 has now filed a civil suit against the city and three RCMP officers, including one who was acquitted of an assault charge.

    Jamie Haller, who will turn 20 next week, filed the lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday.

    She said in her notice of civil claim that she was walking alone on the evening of Sept. 10, 2011, when five or six men began chasing her, prompting her to run and yell for help until a homeowner called police.

    She said Const. Andy Yung arrived and found her hiding behind a fence. But instead of providing assistance, the lawsuit alleges, he tackled her, dragged her to a more open area and pressed her face down into the ground.

    The notice, which contains allegations that haven't been tested in court, says Haller was scared and confused and initially believed that she was being attacked by one of the young men who was running after her.

    "When she realized that the person who had grabbed her was a police officer, the plaintiff protested and advised the defendant, Andy Yung, in clear terms that she was the person who had asked for the police to be called and that she had committed no crime," the document says.

    The lawsuit says Cpl. Jason Pole then arrived, and then Haller was handcuffed while she demanded to be released. The notice alleges the officers refused to stop treating her as a suspect.

    The document says Yung told her to shut up and locked her in the police cruiser as she kicked the inside door of the vehicle to protest her arrest.

    The notice alleges Const. Daniel Hay, the third officer Haller named in the lawsuit, held her legs while Yung repeatedly struck her in the face with his fist.

    The document says the bruises on Haller's face and eyes left her unable to work for a week at a fast-food outlet or go to school during that time because her vision was blurred.

    Yung was found not guilty of assault last August, but Haller is suing him and the other two Mounties for civil damages.

    Yung's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. None of the officers have had the opportunity to file a statement of defence.

    Haller's lawyer, Jason Gratl, said his client is seeking unspecified financial compensation and that her distrust of law enforcement means she is now afraid to call police.

    "It is an example of how First Nations are treated," said Gratl.

    Yung told the trial that he was defending himself when he punched Haller, said Gratl.

    Gratl said Haller was initially charged with assaulting Yung, but the Crown dropped those charges.

    He said the City of Williams Lake is named in the lawsuit because it has a contract with the RCMP to provide municipal police officers.

    RCMP Sgt. Rick Lebeuf of Williams Lake said he could not comment on Haller's civil suit. He said Yung has transferred to another detachment in the Vancouver area for reasons unrelated to the case.

    Josh Patterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Haller's arrest and treatment are an example of how First Nations people are overpoliced and underprotected by law enforcement.

    "In many First Nations communities, sadly, people don't feel that police are there as their protectors and as their allies," said Patterson.

    "We did a whole report on 2011, we toured around most of the province and this is something we heard over and over again. And this case is a perfect example of that. It's a sad example of a First Nations person seeking help from law enforcement but instead being injured by law enforcement, having to fear law enforcement."


  30. Injuries happened at the hands of Winnipeg police, woman alleges

    CBC News November 07, 2014

    Lana Sinclair can't hide the violence she alleges police inflicted upon her on Oct. 31 — it's written all over her face.

    Officers showed up at Sinclair's home on Halloween after someone called to report yelling, but Sinclair says she was only trying to hurry her son to go trick-or-treating.

    When the officers came inside, one checked on her son and the other talked to her.

    "He came up to me and poked me," Sinclair said. "I was sitting on a chair in the kitchen and I jumped up and said you don't need to touch me."

    Sinclair says the officer then pulled out his baton.

    "He hit me here," Sinclair said, referring to her forearms, which she said she held up to defend herself. "And he hit me here and then I fell on the floor," she said, pointing to her knees.

    Sinclair said that bout of violence took place when her son was upstairs with the other officer, but her 8-year-old son saw everything that happened next.

    "He had my arm behind me and he smashed my face right here," Sinclair said, pointing to the sewing table she keeps in her living room.

    That's when she says she was handcuffed, stood up and her feet were kicked out from underneath her. She fell and landed on her face.

    "We [my son and I] were both traumatized," she said. "I just hug him and kiss him and tell him it's okay."

    But Sinclair worries that the incident will negatively affect her son's perception of police.

    "All I was thinking of was his safety, and how he was going to be traumatized and how he is going to see the police now," she said.

    An ambulance was called and after paramedics evaluated her injuries. Sinclair says they told police to take her to Victoria Hospital for treatment. Police drove her there and then to the police station on Dugald Road.

    Sinclair says the sergeant on duty was furious at his officers after she told him what happened.

    Sinclair is facing charges related to assaulting and resisting a peace officer and has filed a complaint with LERA, the Law Enforcement Review Agency. She has also hired a lawyer.

    Winnipeg police were not available for comment on the allegations or on whether they're looking into her complaint.

    see photos of Lana Sinclair's bruised face at:


  31. Irene Josephs takedown by Smithers RCMP captured in photo

    61-year-old woman alleges excessive force after she was thrown to the ground for refusing to answer questions

    CBC News December 13, 2014

    A 61-year-old Smithers Wet'suwet'en elder is filing a formal complaint claiming police used excessive force when an officer shoved her to the ground for refusing to answer questions about an alleged theft.

    Jospeh said she visited a store last weekend where she talked to someone inside. Outside she said she was met by an RCMP officer who said he was investigating an alleged theft.

    She said the police officer wanted to know her name and the name of the person to whom she had been talking.

    "I forgot her name," she said. "And then he was asking me for my name. And I said, 'I'm not going to give it to you. Why should I give it to you? What did I do wrong? I never did anything wrong.'"

    Joseph said she became upset and confused about why she was being questioned and tried to get away. She said she was knocked down while trying to reach for her walker. The incident, captured in a photograph that appeared in the Smithers Interior News, shows Joseph's walker to the right.​

    "And he was just on my back," she said. "He had his leg on my back and he had the other leg in my side where he was trying to reach my arm."

    Detained for ignoring verbal directions

    Joseph said the officer eventually got her ID.

    "He went into my bag, himself," she said, "and got my ID, wallet and cell phone, took out of my purse and got all of my ID off of that."

    Smithers RCMP confirm an incident did take place and told CBC News they were called to the scene of a theft in progress.

    "Police detained an individual who did not comply with verbal direction," said police in a statement. "The police officer restrained the person when they resisted and called for a second officer."

    B.C. Civil Liberties Association Policy Director Micheal Vonn said as far as she can tell, there was no legal basis for an arrest.

    "As far as we know there was no compulsion for her to remain," she said. "She herself was not under arrest. The statement by the RCMP seems to indicate an attempt to resist a kind of arrest. We cannot understand the legal basis for the arrest in the first place."

    RCMP said no criminal charges have been laid, but its investigation is ongoing.

    see photos and video at:


  32. I was racially profiled roughed up & detained by police for being Indigenous


    DECEMBER 17, 2014

    Simon Ash-Moccasin is a proud Nehiyawak (Plains Cree) from Saulteaux First Nation and an actor, playwright, storyteller, activist, and father.

    Tansi, here’s the lowdown on something that happened to me on Wednesday, December 10 in Oskana (Pile of Bones), or Regina, Saskatchewan. But first, let me introduce myself.

    My name is Simon Ash-Moccasin (Thomas). I am a proud Nehiyiwak (Cree person) from Saulteaux First Nation, formerly called Little Jack/ Fish Lake Reserve, in Treaty 6 territory, Turtle Island. I assist in keeping two wonderful gifts form the Creator, my daughters Sage and Maija. I have a degree in education. I’ve been an actor, playwright, and slam poet, as well as a community volunteer and a board member for various organizations in the settler region called Saskatchewan. I also have some invisible disabilities. And I am a survivor of the attempted assimilation process called the ’60s Scoop.

    The ’60s Scoop was the federal settler-colonial government’s attempt to assimilate Indians (I use this word for historical purposes). Basically, the government of the day noticed that the residential school process was becoming ineffective at assimilating us Indians. So, they devised a plan to go onto reserves, with the assistance of Social Services, and through the provinces, to “scoop” Indian babies off of these reserves and place them into non-Indigenous, mostly “white” (Caucasian) families. Social Services generally gave the Indian families some cockamamie excuse to take these children and babies away from their communities.

    My mom was told that “They” (Social Services and the police) would hurt my father if she didn’t sign the release papers. A couple of years later, “They” (the S.S. and the police) abducted my brother right off of the street in broad daylight. My mom was pushing him in a stroller down the sidewalk and all of a sudden, two cars came out of nowhere and took my younger brother. Yet another dark stain in Canada’s history. Some estimate that half of the Scoopees have committed suicide.

    It is true, that we First Peoples of this land have endured much pain and suffering in the past and it still continues today. It seems to me that the Conservative government has an unwritten policy to eradicate us, First People. Canada’s first prime minister John A. MacDonald said, “The great aim of our civilization has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the Dominion.” What has changed today? How does one break the backbone of a deranged, backward system? How can an Indigenous man like me push back against the oppression and systemic racism that plagues this land that my ancestors kept and that my great-great grandchildren will keep in the future?

    When the storm troopers of the colonial mindset commit acts of assault, insult, and injury against the original keepers of the land, my blood boils. I am still deeply affected by what happened to me last Wednesday. Here’s how it went.

    continued below

  33. Walking while Indigenous

    I was walking home from supper when I decided to cut through Casino Regina and the Cornwall Centre mall because the sidewalks were really icy. As I was walking toward the Casino parkade door, I noticed a police officer driving toward me. I waved him on and kept walking. Another police car came by and this time the officer slowed down and drove beside me as I walked. I felt like I was being harassed and that I was being racially profiled. I waved him on and he left too. I walked on and was coming up to the parkade door when a third car circled, stopped, and the officer rolled down his window and asked where I was going. Now this has happened many times in my past when I lived in North Central (aka The Hood). And I used the same technique as then: I said I didn’t have to tell him where I was going because I know my rights. I kept walking. I got close to opening the parkade door when the officer, who was now out of his cruiser and halfway between it and me, repeated his question: where are you going?

    And then things happened fast. I said, what is this about, and he said that I fit a description. I looked at what I was wearing, a green camouflage army jacket, and I thought, I bet this jacket is not part of the description. I said to him, a little louder, I know my rights. And, because I’ve recently worked with the Regina Police College as an actor in their police scenarios, I also told him he was not following proper police protocols, and I asked him what the description of the perpetrator was. By this time, in the corner of my eye, I spotted another officer. This second officer said there was a report of a stolen TV, and lightning fast he had me pressed up against the wall and it took these two cops to handcuff me. The second cop had my face pinned to the wall and I could feel his rage. The wall left a mark on my face that I have documented. It took two of them to handcuff me because in a way I needed these ones to know that they were not doing the procedures correctly.

    None of my rights were stated throughout the incident, and as I was wrestling with them, I said, what the hell are you two doing? This is prejudiced and it looks like it’s racist as well. And you haven’t read me my rights. The second officer didn’t like that, and I think the first officer was taken aback by all of this, and he said he was going to go look for the TV. Crap, I thought, left alone with this mean officer and no witnesses. Officer two threw me face-first into the back of the cruiser and the right side of my body hit the car going in and my face hit the plastic seats. I said, what the hell are you doing? My legs were dangling outside the car and I was on my belly. He grabbed my legs and shoved me into the car like I was a piece of meat. I told him this is police brutality and I know my rights. Still no rights were read at this point. So, I sat in the back cursing.

    He was outside pacing back and forth and I could feel pain in my left shoulder. This injury was also documented in the doctor’s report that I got the next day. As he was trying to ask me questions I didn’t respond at first, because I didn’t have to. Again, I know my rights. Plus, I thought my silence might make him realize what he’d done. Another police officer drove by and stopped to talk to the second officer who had thrown me into the cruiser. The second officer told the new officer that I wasn’t cooperating. I finally gave him my info, even though they had no right to detain me. I believe the second officer was banking on the fact that I would have arrest warrants and in his mind this would justify his behaviour. Suddenly, officer one returned and said, OK you are free to go. And I said, what, after all of that?

    continued below

  34. And I started to tell them how they handled the situation was wrong and that my rights were never read and therefore, I wasn’t even supposed to be in the back of the cruiser. And I went on telling them how my rights were violated. And officer two said, you know you are being recorded. And I said, good, and I’m not leaving until you tell your partner what you did to me. And he lied to the second officer about how he’d put me in the cruiser. And again I said, I’m not leaving. You know what you did.

    Officer two was getting worked up and officer one told him to stand on the other side of the car, like they had been through this before. Officer one said he was losing his patience. Good, I said. Now you know how I feel. I also said, this is bad timing, because of what happened in Ferguson and other parts of Turtle Island. This story is not done yet. I got their names and ID numbers before I left and I went to try to make a complaint at the police station. When you make a general complaint at the police station, you’re suppose to go and talk with an officer and they will write down the complaint. Not this scenario. A superior officer who didn’t give me his name (I have his badge number) came to the lobby and escorted me to his back room.

    I thought, great, I know where this is going. And he said come in and sit down, and I said, can I get a paper and pen so I can write this down as we speak because it is fresh in my mind. He said no. Have a seat. And I said again, can I write this down as we speak, and the officer then ordered me to get out and he closed the door hard. I thought, so this is how the superiors handle complaints about their own. I know this would have played out differently if I were a different skin colour.

    They think they can treat us like animals and get away with it. I simply ask to be treated as a human being. On the way out I asked the officers who take common complaints what to do and finally one guy helped me out. He said, yeah, I heard everything that happened. He wants you to leave. And I said, what do I do? He told me to contact the Public Complaints office. I asked if he had the number. He told me to Google it. As I was leaving the police station, I thought, no more being a second-rate citizen on the land that myself and my ancestors keep. It is time to fight back. I have been doing that since that evening.

    I went to the media right away. I sent a message to the police college. I contacted some newspapers and the radio and CBC television covered the story. I went to my doctor, got treated, and documented my injuries. I went up to Saskatoon to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and lodged a complaint in their complaints department. I filed a complaint at the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission as well. And I’ve listened to countless similar stories about those same cops, and other cops too, that have gone against protocols.

    The police think they can pick any First Nation person off the street, question them, rough them up, and send them on their way, without ever reading them their rights. Well, no more. Things are changing. There are new social movements emerging like Idle No More and an Indigenous population explosion is underway. The time for a new way is coming. I’d like to be one of those First People to push for the good. I want to encourage other Indigenous people to report their treatment by police. There are many people willing to help you through the process. We must refuse to be treated like second-class citizens in the lands of our ancestors.


  35. Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths echo aboriginal experience in Canada

    Doug White says racism experienced by aboriginal people highlighted by protests in U.S.

    By CBC News, On The Island January 08, 2015

    A First Nations lawyer said the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in the United States — and subsequent protests — highlight the ongoing racial tensions between police and aboriginal people in Canada.

    Both Brown and Garner were black men who died at the hands of police.

    In Canada, aboriginal people face the same kind of profiling, according to Doug White, the director of Vancouver Island University's Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation.

    "There's no doubt it takes place and we experience it through all aspects of our lives," he told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

    "It's a daily experience in Canada."

    White — who is a lawyer and the former chief of the the Snuneymuxw First Nation — describes the relationship between police and aboriginal people as "complex."

    "[It's] one with a very long history and a negative history in a lot of different regards. I think that there's obviously work taking place to try to make things better, but there's no doubt that there are serious issues that continue to plague the relationship."

    On December 28th, transit police shot 23-year old Naverone Woods in a Surrey Safeway. He later died.

    Woods was a 23-year old aboriginal man originally from Hazelton, B.C., and had stabbed himself with a knife he had taken off the shelf of the store.

    His death is now being investigated by B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office.

    White said while he doesn't know the details of Woods' death, the story raises a number of concerns for him.

    "When you just look at the face of it all it really echoes what happened with Eric Garner and Michael Brown in the United States. It's yet another example or manifestation, I think, of underlying issues that we need to really address."

    According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, aboriginal people account for four per cent of the population, but make up 22.8 per cent of Canada's prison population.

    White said there needs to be more of an effort to understand the underlying issues that "continue to plague the relationship" between aboriginal people and police.

    He points to B.C.'s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, where he claims aboriginal interests didn't receive as much funding for legal representation as police did.

    "We were trying to put forward more of a discussion in society of systemic racism and discrimination against aboriginal women in particular, and we didn't get a lot of pick-up from the commission on that issue," he said.

    Hear the full interview with Doug White at:


  36. Teen girl says Mountie punched her twice during Alert Bay arrest, but RCMP disputes her account

    by Nick Eagland, The Province

    Police are disputing allegations made by a teenager who claims she was a victim of brutality while resisting arrest in Alert Bay.

    The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, told The Province she was walking home with her boyfriend Thursday when two RCMP officers stopped them because they were drinking.

    The couple were under a court order not to contact each other.

    The boyfriend was taken into custody, but when the girl resisted arrest, one of the officers punched her twice, she said.

    “(The officer) had me on the ground and I managed to stand up and get him off me and run with one handcuff. Then he tackled me again. He bent my arm back first, and I looked at him and I bit his hand. Then he punched me and then I bit him again and he punched me again.”

    The girl said she “blacked out” after the second punch and woke up struggling with police in a jail cell.

    After she was released from custody Friday evening, she posted photos of her injuries to Facebook, which have since been shared thousands of times. In the photos, she appears to have a black eye, a swollen nose, scrapes on her legs, and bruises on both wrists.

    Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said RCMP are prohibited from identifying youth who are alleged to have been involved in crime, but he said an Alert Bay RCMP officer was dispatched to a violent domestic incident Thursday involving two people well known to police.

    Vermeulen said several charges are being recommended to the Crown.

    “My understanding is both are known to be violent and both were allegedly intoxicated and fighting,” Vermeulen said.

    “The police officer was allegedly bitten three times by one individual, which broke the skin. He was also kicked in the head. Another member arrived and both young people were ultimately arrested and held in cells for bail hearings. While in cells the other police officer was allegedly kicked in the groin by one of the suspects.

    Vermeulen said the officer who was bitten was taken to hospital and will be fine, while the other officer was not injured.

    The girl said she is in contact with a Vancouver lawyer and is pursuing charges against the constable she alleges injured her.

    “I was just really mad,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right.”

    The girl’s stepfather said police told him his stepdaughter had kicked an officer in the groin, kicked an officer in the head and bit an officer twice.

    When the stepfather went to get her at the police station, she had a black eye and swollen nose, he said.

    “She looks a lot better now,” he said, “but still, what the hell’s acceptable for an officer to do to a young girl? She’s about 120 pounds, soaking wet — pretty easy to handle.”

    The stepfather said her behaviour is “a new thing” that came on following the death of a close family member three years ago.

    “Since then, things have just, you know … gotten a little out of control,” the stepfather said. “But still there’s no reason to beat up a girl, as far as I’m concerned. That’s unacceptable.”

    He said he hopes the officer will be disciplined for his handling of the arrest.

    Vermeulen recommended that anyone who feels they have been mistreated by an RCMP member call the detachment and the RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

    see photos at:


  37. First Nations student deaths treated woefully inadequately, lawyer says

    Coroner to decide whether Thunder Bay police investigation will be examined at inquest

    By Jody Porter, CBC News April 15, 2015

    An inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay must examine the actions of the city's police service, says a lawyer representing the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

    "On anybody's analysis, these cases were treated in a woefully inadequate way," Julian Falconer said outside the Thunder Bay courthouse on Tuesday where he was making arguments about the scope of the upcoming inquest.

    The seven First Nation students — Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 19, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17 and Jordan Wabasse, 15 — all died in Thunder Bay. Anderson was the first to die in 2000. Wabasse died in 2011.

    Presiding coroner Dr. David Eden said the inquest is about safety and "prevention of deaths of First Nations youth who must live off reserve to attend high school."

    The lawyer representing Thunder Bay police and the police services board argued that singling out police for additional scrutiny during the inquest would be unfair.

    "The reality here is that on a repeated basis these youth were not reported missing in a timely way," Brian Gover said.

    If the police investigations are up for questioning at the inquest it also "ought to include steps taken by others to investigate and their decisions to delay reporting to police," Gover said.

    One of the students, Kyle Morriseau, was missing for 13 days before he was found dead, Falconer said in his submissions. Gover countered by saying police were not notified of his disappearance for two days.

    "It may be determined that Kyle Morriseau died before police even knew he was missing," Gover said. "It's a familiar theme."

    Falconer told the coroner he was offended by that argument.

    "When Kyle Morriseau was reported missing [police] had a real obligation to hunt for that child," Falconer said. "Telling us later that he might have died already is offensive."

    The lawyer representing the families of the students who died said they are expecting a full examination of the police actions as well as the role that racism played in the deaths of their children. If those issues aren't addressed, Christa Big Canoe said families will question the value of an inquest.

    "There is a genuine fear of future loss," Big Canoe said of families who are keeping their teens at home, instead of sending them to the city for high school.

    After a full day of submissions from all seven parties with standing at the inquest, Eden reserved his decision on the scope. He's expected to make it soon.

    The inquest is expected to begin in the fall.


  38. RCMP pays out undisclosed amount for horrifying treatment of First Nations woman in Saskatchewan

    by Larissa Burnouf, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network News July 28, 2015

    YORKTON, SASK — A First Nations woman has won an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount of money against the Yorkton RCMP for mistreatment following her arrest more than three years ago.

    Ethel Pelly, 42, was arrested and charged with a drug offence in February 2012 and taken to the Yorkton holding cells.

    In an interview with APTN National News, Pelly said that’s where her “horrifying” treatment at the hands of the RCMP began that started with being stripped of her underwear.

    “Is this the way you guys operate?” Pelly remembers asking the officers. “You let the women come take your underwear while the men come and look at you?”

    Pelly said she explained to the police that she was having her period and bleeding profusely at the time. She told APTN that a female officer stripped her of her underwear anyway, leaving her locked in her cell in pants and a see-through tank top, bleeding through her clothes.

    “The man wasn’t even looking at my eyes when he was talking to me,” said said. “He was just looking at my chest” said Pelly fighting back tears.

    According to RCMP records, Pelly was locked in her cell for nearly 15 hours and “miscommunication” resulted in her not having access to water for her entire stay.

    “My pants were soaked in blood, the sink was full of blood, the toilet was full of blood. The stench in there was terrible. I couldn’t flush the toilet and I told them and they wouldn’t help me. Nobody would help me.”

    Pelly’s lawyer Tom Campbell said he received the police video taken the next morning.

    “The investigating officer attempted to take a statement from her later the next day and she’s soaked in blood. She’s clearly distraught,” said Campbell. “And the officer clearly ignores her distress.”

    When Campbell contacted the RCMP, Pelly was sent a letter of apology explaining that detainees are stripped of underwear to prevent them from self-harm and from damaging cells. The letter went on to explain that the water was turned off so she couldn’t destroy any evidence that may have been on or in her body.

    The RCMP acknowledged miscommunication on their behalf, which left Pelly without water for a total of 14 hours, agreeing that was unacceptable.

    “That apology letter is not good enough, not in the least. It is not good enough at all,” said Pelly. “I would like actually like to see his resignation because he knew… he gave the orders to lock me in there. And he left me in there for that long”

    Pelly did not receive the officers resignation but she did receive an out-of-court, undisclosed settlement from the RCMP for her treatment within the Yorkton RCMP holding cells.

    “I’m Glad it is over with but not too pleased they still have their jobs” said Pelly. “They were disciplined and I requested they go back to school and educate themselves in Native Studies and learn the importance of the women and their Moon Time. I also requested they go to First Nation schools and talk to them about their procedures and what their policies are.”

    Pelly said it’s a small victory as her trust and faith in policing has completely changed.

    “My feeling towards the so called ‘serve and protect’ is lost. I have no trust in the RCMP and look at them in a negative way now. I will never look at them the same.” \

    Pelly is glad to put the whole ordeal behind her and pleased that the police acknowledged her terrible treatment and hopes her fight will help others who faced similar experiences to come forward and bring change to the RCMP.

    Read the Yorkton RCMP letter of apology at:


  39. Bob Paulson says he doesn't want racists inside RCMP ranks

    Tackling racism key to inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, First Nations say

    By Susana Mas, CBC News December 09, 2015

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson conceded before a group of First Nations leaders on Wednesday that there are racists inside his police force, a surprising admission welcomed by indigenous people, who say it is key to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don't want them to be in my police force," Paulson said to chiefs and other First Nations delegates gathered in Gatineau, Que., for an annual three-day meeting organized by the Assembly of First Nations.

    Paulson's candid response came after a First Nations chief confronted the top Mountie publicly, urging him to address racism within the force.

    "We encounter racism every single day," said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, leader of the Sto:lo Tribal Council in British Columbia. "Some of the worst racists carry a gun and they carry a badge authorized by you, Commissioner Paulson, to do the work."

    "We need you to confront racism in the ranks," Kelly said.

    The exchange between the two men came a day after the federal government announced the first phase in a process that would see a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women launched by next spring.

    Paulson said the RCMP Act, which was updated for the first time in 30 years during the last Parliament, gives him and other commanding officers the authority to handle matters of discipline in a "very decisive" manner.

    Canada's top Mountie said First Nations communities, many of which are policed by the RCMP, could even call him directly to report racist officers.

    "I would encourage you all, though, to have confidence in the processes that exist, up to and including calling me if you are having a problem with a racist in your jurisdiction or any other problem.

    "We have elaborate systems to bring accountability to those people that are trusted, and in some cases not trusted but who are in power to deliver policing services," Paulson said.

    Tackling racism key to a public inquiry

    Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said Paulson's admission is key to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I think it's about time. This is a problem that we, at the grassroots level, have known this for a very long time," Lavell-Harvard said in an interview.

    Lavell-Harvard said while stories of indigenous women being the targets of abuse at the hands of police have recently come to light in Val-d'Or, Que., indigenous women have been reporting incidents of abuse inside police ranks for years, only to be "brushed off."

    "If they are going to stand at the top brass and say that they are committed to addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, then they need to make sure that they're owning that.

    "If we're going to be able to implement real change … to make our women and girls safe, then it has to be a significant part of the inquiry because it is right now a significant part of the problem," Harvard said.

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  40. AFN Special Chiefs Assembly

    AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said it was the first time Paulson had attended the assembly of chiefs and gave him credit not just for showing up but also for staying to address some of the concerns expressed by First Nations leaders such as Kelly.

    "The mere fact that he was there is a positive, positive statement — that he wants to rebuild and repair any kind of damaged relationship that's there between the RCMP and First Nations people," said Bellegarde on CBC New Network's Power & Politics.

    Bellegarde told CBC host Rosemary Barton that Paulson's admission was a first step in confronting racism head-on.

    "It takes a very big man to do that," said the national chief.

    Indigenous women 'shockingly' over-represented

    Earlier, in his speech to the group, Paulson updated First Nations on the RCMP's efforts to address the crisis of murdered and missing indigenous women.

    "Of course this is nothing short of a national tragedy. The problem is clear and it's settled," Paulson said. "Indigenous women and girls in this country are shockingly over-represented in those classes of Canadians who experience violence, go missing or are murdered."

    Paulson said the RCMP would listen to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women as the process to launch an inquiry officially gets underway.

    "As we enter this first phase of the inquiry, we will listen to what you say and to what family members say and to what communities say need to be done."

    "Until you can — as an investigator, as a police officer responding to a case — until you can understand the humanity and the hurt and the emotions that are tied up in these cases, you will not be able to bring justice."

    "We can do better... and we will do better," Paulson said.

    Paulson said since the RCMP's last report into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, the RCMP has undertaken a number of new initiatives, including:

    --Developing a "comprehensive strategy" around missing persons investigations, including providing "supervisory oversight" along the way.

    --Ensuring greater compliance with a policy that requires investigators to treat every complaint of missing persons as though foul play was involved "until it can be objectively demonstrated that there is not."

    --Requiring that investigators engage with the victims' families.

    --Reviewing and revamping all RCMP policies to ensure greater accountability.

    That same RCMP report found that indigenous women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or a member of their community.

    The chief from British Columbia disagreed with those findings and reserved some of his strongest criticism for Paulson, who had acknowledged earlier in his remarks that not everyone agreed with the data or the RCMP's interpretation of it.

    "I don't like the fact that aboriginal men were blamed. We were blamed for all the violence against our women.

    "We knew that wasn't the case, but somebody informed the government of the day that we were responsible. That was you or somebody in your employ that did that," said Kelly.

    "Shame on you Mr. Paulson."


  41. RCMP officer sued by brain-injured man for jail cell takedown faces new allegations

    2 other aboriginal men subject to similar violent treatment, court documents say

    By Eric Rankin, Yvette Brend, CBC News Posted: Dec 16, 2015


    An RCMP officer who was involved in a 2012 jail cell takedown that left a B.C. man with permanent brain damage, is now facing allegations of using excessive force in the arrests of two other First Nations men.

    Documents filed in a civil suit against Const. Brian Heideman allege the incidents took place in April and May 2012 — weeks after his confrontation with Robert Wright, who is also aboriginal.

    None of the three cases resulted in criminal charges against Heideman.

    The court documents also say Heideman admitted he lost a bag of cocaine, a crucial part of a separate drug investigation, and used steroids on the job.

    "Most Canadians, if they found out a member of the RCMP had lost a bag of cocaine, had been using steroids illegally, and had used excessive force on three First Nations persons — and those allegations were all true, and I don't know if they are — probably wouldn't want that person remaining as a member of the RCMP," Wright's lawyer, J. Scott Stanley told CBC News.

    Wright is suing for damages in civil court.

    The new information about Heideman emerged in affidavits filed by Stanley on Dec. 9 in B.C. Supreme Court.

    The documents quote testimony, given under oath, by both the constable and his former supervisor, Terrace RCMP Inspector John Dana Hart, during their examinations for discovery — a disclosure of facts to Wright's lawyer before the civil case is heard.

    Stanley has asked the court to force Heideman to answer additional questions he refused to answer during the closed-door examination for discovery earlier this year.

    There were two internal police hearings into claims of excessive force against Heideman in the cases of Wright and a second First Nations man, but the outcomes are unknown as information about internal discipline is protected under the Privacy Act, according to the RCMP.

    CBC News obtained a video of the incident between Wright and Heideman in 2014.

    The video shows then 48-year-old Wright being taken to the ground in a concrete jail cell. Wright was thrown backwards as he knelt on a bench in a cell. Heideman was accused of taking steroids around the same time in 2012.

    Heideman was censured for involvement with steroids and docked eight days pay in 2014. He is now stationed in Vernon, B.C. The RCMP said it was inappropriate for them to comment on Heideman's status since the matter is before the courts.

    Heideman has been cleared of other complaints in the past, including one from Edmonton where he was involved in a high-speed car chase that left two teens, who fled police, dead.

    Neither Heideman, nor his lawyer, have responded to the new allegations, which have yet to be proven in court.


  42. Canada’s prisons are the new residential schools,

    A months-long investigation reveals that at every step, Canada’s justice system is set against Indigenous people

    by Nancy Macdonald, Maclean's February 18, 2016

    Canada’s crime rate just hit a 45-year low. It’s been dropping for years—down by half since peaking in 1991. Bizarrely, the country recently cleared another benchmark, when the number of people incarcerated hit an all-time high. Dig a little further into the data, and an even more disquieting picture emerges.

    While admissions of white adults to Canadian prisons declined through the last decade, Indigenous incarceration rates were surging: Up 112 per cent for women. Already, 36 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of men sentenced to provincial and territorial custody in Canada are Indigenous—a group that makes up just four per cent of the national population. Add in federal prisons, and Indigenous inmates account for 22.8 per cent of the total incarcerated population.

    In the U.S., the go-to example for the asymmetric jailing of minority populations, black men are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white men. In Canada, the Indigenous incarceration rate is 10 times higher than the non-Indigenous population—higher even than South Africa at the height of apartheid. In Saskatchewan, if you’re Indigenous, you’re 33 times more likely to be incarcerated, according to a 1999 report, the most recent available.

    This helps explain why prison guard is among the fastest-growing public sector occupations on the Prairies. And why criminologists have begun quietly referring to Canada’s prisons and jails as the country’s “new residential schools.”

    In some Prairie courtrooms, Indigenous defendants now make up 85 per cent of criminal caseloads, defence lawyers say. At Manitoba’s Women’s Correctional Centre in Headingley, as many as nine in 10 women were Indigenous, according to one recent count. At nearby Stony Mountain Institution, Indigenous men make up 65 per cent of the inmate population. Often, they’re there because they failed to comply with a curfew or condition of bail. Or they’re a low-level drug offender, caught up in Canada’s harsh new mandatory-minimum sentences.

    That’s one reason for the upsurge. In the past decade, Stephen Harper’s government passed more than 30 new crime laws, hiking punishment for a wide range of crimes, limiting parole opportunities and also broadening the grounds used to send young offenders to jail.

    But the problem isn’t just new laws. Although police “carding” in Toronto has put street checks, which disproportionately target minority populations, under the microscope, neither is racial profiling alone to blame. At every step, discriminatory practices and a biased system work against an Indigenous accused, from the moment a person is first identified by police, to their appearance before a judge, to their hearing before a parole board. The evidence is unambiguous: If you happen to be Indigenous, justice in Canada is not blind.

    Chapter 1 – The street check
    On Dec. 10, 2014, Simon Ash-Moccasin, a Regina teacher, actor and playwright, was walking to a holiday party for Briarpatch magazine, where he sits as a board member. He says officers began tailing him as he approached Casino Regina in the city’s downtown core. Ash-Moccasin “fit a description,” he was told after asking why he was being stopped. “I know which one that is,” the Cree-Saulteaux 41-year-old later told Maclean’s. “There’s only one.”

    Ash-Moccasin has a good understanding of arrest protocol thanks to an acting gig with the Saskatchewan Police College, teaching trainee officers how not to collar a suspect. He plays the bad guy.

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  43. In real life, Ash-Moccasin initially refused to give his name. An officer threw him against a wall, he says. One attempted to cuff him without reading him his rights. He says he was shoved, headfirst, into the backseat. He was briefly detained until his record check came back clean. Before being released, officers told Ash-Moccasin, who was wearing a distinctive green camouflage jacket, that they were looking for an Indigenous man dressed all in black, with no front teeth, trying to hawk a TV.

    Ash-Moccasin is among several Indigenous men and women in Prairie cities who allege they are being unfairly, and illegally, singled out. In June 2015, Maclean’s (working with Vancouver’s Discourse Media) attempted to figure out whether their experiences are indicative of a larger issue. Eight Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were filed with major Western Canadian police agencies, looking for race-specific data on discretionary police stops for jaywalking and arrests for drug possession. In the end, they didn’t supply any data. The Edmonton Police Service estimated that producing one set of data—for instance, race-specific data on arrests for drug possession—would cost Maclean’s $7,693. In Saskatchewan, municipal police are exempted from Freedom of Information laws, and the Regina Police Service instructed their legal counsel to refuse the request.

    To approach the issue from a different perspective, Maclean’s and Discourse Media (with the support of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression) surveyed more than 850 post-secondary students in Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, to see whether there was any difference in the likelihood of being stopped for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

    Survey results show the odds of an Indigenous student from the sampled population being stopped by police were 1.6 times higher than a non-Indigenous student, holding all other explanatory variables (like gender and age) fixed. Indigenous students will be stopped more frequently, the study indicates; whether or not they were engaged in or close to an illegal activity when stopped by police had little influence in explaining the results. This suggests staying out of trouble does not shield Indigenous student from unwanted police attention.

    The survey produced other unsettling data. Indigenous students were more likely to “disagree” or “strongly disagree” that their racial group is viewed positively by police. An Indigenous student had a 69 to 84 per cent chance of “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing,” depending on their age; a non-Indigenous student had a 10 to 21 per cent chance of responding the same way. Students were also asked to share three words that they feel describe police officers. The most common words non-Indigenous students associate with police—“helpful,” “authority”—differed dramatically from those chosen by Indigenous students: “racist,” “scary.”

    When asked for three words that describe police, Indigenous post-secondary students responded with words like 'racist' and 'scary' while others viewed police more positively

    In September, three reporters from Maclean’s and Discourse Media spent two days in downtown and North Central Regina—at the Cornwall Centre mall, at Victoria Park, in churches, and in residents’ homes—speaking with dozens of Indigenous residents about police interactions. Half spoke of unwanted contact with police. Of them, a majority felt they were stopped because of the colour of their skin. Two people alleged they were detained when it was determined they had unpaid fines relating to animal bylaw infractions. Others said they were found to be in breach of a condition of bail or a release program during a random stop.

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  44. Criminals, meanwhile, have learned to exploit biases. In Saskatchewan, non-Indigenous men and women are recruited to carry drugs and weapons for Indigenous gangs, says Robert Henry, a Saskatoon academic whose Ph.D. research focused on Indigenous street gangs. “They use their whiteness to move around police stop checks.”

    With frustration rising, some Indigenous citizens have begun filming what they believe are incidents of racial profiling. In a video recently uploaded to Facebook, Andre Bear, a clean-cut, 20-year-old aspiring teacher, is stopped by police in Saskatoon while returning from baseball practice with his 18-year-old friend. When Bear asks why they were pulled over, an officer tells him: “Shut up, passenger.” “We have a reason,” another says: “Licence and registration.” Eventually, they’re allowed to go. No reason is given for the stop.

    Police say complaints of racial profiling are without substance. The Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission, which investigates complaints against municipal police, says not a single allegation of racism by a civilian against an officer with any municipal police force in the province has ever been substantiated. Police say random street checks are necessary, acting as deterrents, helping solve crime and keeping the public safe.

    One Indigenous officer in Western Canada, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, told Maclean’s he was stopped “again and again” growing up; but he argued that proactive policing, focusing on hot spots, helped bring down violent crime across the West—by fully 61 per cent in Winnipeg in the last five years. Indigenous people, who are three times more likely to be victimized, are primary beneficiaries, he added.

    There are signs tactics may be changing. The Winnipeg Police Service, under Chief Devon Clunis, who was raised in the city’s troubled North End, is testing a new approach to policing in that neighbourhood. Dubbed the “Block-by-Block” program, it zeroes attention on a 21-block area, and brings families concentrated help from social service and health agencies, community groups and schools to try to tackle problems—like substance abuse or domestic violence—before police need to be called. “From day one, I said, ‘We are going to dramatically change the way we police in this city,’ ” Clunis told Maclean’s. He calls it “crime prevention through social development.” Results are due in spring.

    But for those repeatedly targeted by police attention, the impact can be profound. “It makes you feel like you’re less human, like your life is worth less,” says Bear, who was nine the first time he was first stopped, walking home from school in downtown Saskatoon. He’s stopped every few months, he says: “When I was younger it made me ashamed—of having brown skin, of growing up where I did.”

    Peter Daniels, a soft-spoken Cree father of two from Regina, began crying when voicing fears his young sons might soon become targets of police attention, the way he once was. Like him, both boys wear their long, brown hair in braids. His eldest, now 10, was relentlessly teased in school last year because of it, and told his father he’d thought of harming himself. “You wish that police, that people, could look beyond the stereotype, and see you for who you are.”

    In Regina last month, the SPCC conceded that video and audio recordings did not “contradict” Simon Ash-Moccasin’s account of his unlawful detention; and the ministry of justice determined there was “no lawful justification for the use of force.” But the SPCC refused to say Ash-Moccasin was racially profiled. He was “by unfortunate coincidence,” the “only person observed in the immediate vicinity,” SPCC chair Brent Cotter found. No police will be disciplined.

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  45. Chapter 2 – Bail denied
    On a recent day, some 70 per cent of defendants who parade past a judge via video link from the Winnipeg Remand Centre are Indigenous, many dressed in jail-issue, baggy, grey sweatsuits. It is a grim cattle call: The Indigenous 18-year-old female accused of stealing meat from a Superstore, the 19-year-old man from Shamattawa, Man., given 25 days for missing a parole check-in. He’s been homeless since aging out of foster care, where he was abused and repeatedly left out in the cold. When they pleaded out, their cases often wrapped up in under five minutes, sentencing included. This is bail court, and it is here, at this early stage ahead of trial—with its rigorous standards of due process and proof—that a criminal defendant is most vulnerable. For a majority of Indigenous accused, their case ends here, multiple front-line lawyers told Maclean’s.

    Maclean’s spent two days observing the scene. Duty counsel lawyers in Toronto and Winnipeg admit they rarely spend more than 10 minutes with a defendant. Sometimes, it’s as little as five. In Winnipeg, some met them in court: In hushed, hurried phone calls—their hands over their mouths to muffle their words—these lawyers rushed through the deal on offer from the Crown. It was unclear whether some of the accused, with intellectual disabilities and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder were equipped to understand proceedings. Repeated interruptions hammered home the point: “Miss, when can I go home?” a 53-year-old Cree man, who pleaded guilty to public intoxication, asked the judge immediately after his sentence was read out.

    No province except P.E.I. denies bail more frequently than Manitoba: Just three of 10 inmates in the province’s overcrowded jails have been sentenced to a crime; the rest are in remand custody, awaiting trial.

    Though Canada’s bail laws were reformed four decades ago, grounded in the notion that someone accused of a crime should be released on bail to await trial unless they are a threat, spooked judges are making it increasingly hard to obtain bail, especially for Indigenous defendants, criminal lawyers say. The number of Indigenous people denied bail jumped 92 per cent in the 15 years leading up to 2009, according to federal data.

    In Winnipeg, many were appearing at bail court because they’d missed a court appearance or curfew. Some were homeless, and told the court they’d missed a summons as a result. Some had trouble remembering the many conditions of their release, which can now number as many as 34.

    Charges for violating conditions like these are soaring. In B.C., fully 40 per cent of criminal court matters are now “administration of justice” offences, which include breaching conditions of bail or probation, according to a recent study. Alberta found that 52 per cent of Indigenous prisoners had been incarcerated for a breach, almost twice the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners, according to a 2011 report by the province’s justice branch.

    Two years ago, 19-year-old Jonathan Champagne (his name was changed because he was a minor at the time of his arrest) was granted bail after an arrest on a charge of sexual assault. He claims it never happened. A few months later, while walking down Portage Avenue in a favourite red T-shirt, police stopped him on suspicion he was wearing gang colours. Champagne has never been in a gang. He doesn’t use drugs. Police searched him, finding a paring knife in his shorts pocket. He was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. This time, the judge refused to let him out on bail. The 17-year-old, who was shuttled between 10 homes in four cities growing up, was devastated: A few months earlier, he’d been placed in a tough, but loving home with a corrections officer. He’s come to trust the family, a first. But the nine-month wait to trial meant losing that placement.

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  46. His lawyer, Billy Marks, appealed the judge’s decision. His foster parents were so convinced of Champagne’s innocence they agreed to foot the $500 monthly cost of an ankle monitoring system to strengthen his case. But the judge refused to budge.

    Behind bars, Champagne was vilified and targeted. After admitting to wanting to end his life, he was placed in segregation. He spent 23 hours a day in a tiny cell, fed through the door and released to “the cage,” a tiny, enclosed exercise yard for an hour. He’d walk in circles until his time was up. “It got to the point where I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” he says.

    These were his options: Spend nine months in jail and fight the charges, or plead out. The Crown had approached Marks to say they would agree to jointly recommend time served if his client pleaded guilty to sexual assault. The guilty plea broke Marks’s heart. “But at the same time, I could see what was happening to him.”

    He is hardly alone. Many plead out, even when they’re innocent, because they can’t make bail, putting them at risk of losing jobs, housing, and custody of their children, defence lawyers told Maclean’s. The simple act of having an Indigenous lawyer, meanwhile, can almost double the number of “not guilty” pleas at first appearance to 49 per cent, according to one federal study.

    Eddy Cobiness, a 49-year-old member of the Buffalo Point First Nation in Manitoba, told Maclean’s he pleads guilty every time he’s charged, even when he didn’t commit the crime he is accused of: “I just say: ‘Okay, yeah’—just to get out. Every day away from your kids is another day of making memories you lose.”

    Denied bail and faced with the prospect of a lengthy stay in an overcrowded jail, more and more are pushed into perverse choices in this era of mandatory minimums. “What would you do?” says Winnipeg criminal lawyer Greg Brodsky. “Do you want to lose your kids? Your job? Or do you [take the plea, and] just go home?” Increasingly, he says, justice resembles a “rush to resolve cases by the best bargain you can make.”

    Chapter 3 – Sentencing
    Two years ago, Jim Scott, a soft-spoken Saskatoon defence lawyer, grew so troubled by the harsh sentences he was seeing handed out to Indigenous offenders that he set out to study all publicly available, online criminal decisions in Saskatchewan, starting in 1996; there, 81 per cent of adults sentenced to provincial custody are Indigenous, more than anywhere else in the country. 1996 was the year the Criminal Code was amended to push judges to consider conditional and restorative sentences, particularly when sentencing Indigenous offenders. Three years later, in R. v. Gladue, the Supreme Court was even more explicit: Sentencing judges must recognize an Indigenous offender’s history of dislocation, disadvantage, addiction and abuse.

    Still, Scott felt that judges in the province mostly “tuned out” whenever he presented a Gladue submission. This wasn’t just frustrating; the resulting sentences were “unlawful” in his mind: “The Supreme Court wasn’t making a suggestion, the law requires it.”

    So he analyzed sentences for all crimes in Saskatchewan; Gladue reforms, his data showed, have failed miserably. Indigenous offenders were sentenced to more than twice as much jail time as those where there was no indication the offender was Indigenous. It was three times higher for hazardous driving and 10 times higher for assault with a weapon. The problem is, on the Prairies, where Gladue is most “desperately needed,” it’s been “virtually ignored,” says Jonathan Rudin, with Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.

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  47. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal (SKCA) has been called out by legal scholars, including the University of Toronto’s Kent Roach, who in 2010 wrote that the SKCA has made clear “in a number of cases,” that Gladue will “make little, if any, difference in the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders in serious cases.” In 2012, the Supreme Court was forced to reiterate its stance in R. v. Ipeelee, calling out lower courts by noting that Gladue applies in all contexts, and that failing to apply the principle is sufficient grounds on its own for appeal.

    Like Scott, retired B.C. judge Cunliffe Barnett was perturbed by rulings he saw emerging from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. Two years ago, he reviewed all the court’s publicly available criminal cases involving Indigenous offenders in Saskatchewan, from 1999 on. His data showed an eight per cent application rate for Gladue in cases with an Indigenous defendant. In some cases, Barnett felt the Conservative-appointed appeals court was “actively avoiding stating the person was Indigenous at all.”

    “Too many judges will say: ‘I understand Aboriginal people,’ but they don’t have a clue,” says Barnett, who sat on the bench for 38 years, first in B.C.’s Interior, then in the territorial courts in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. “They’ve made judgments on Aboriginal people for years. But they’ve never set foot on a reserve. They’ve never talked with ordinary, Indigenous people.”

    Scorching judicial criticism like this is almost unprecedented. The SKCA, bound by principles of judicial restraint, could not issue a response; but one came via retired SKCA Justice W.J. Vancise, who vigorously disputed Barnett’s findings. The SKCA has “written extensively on this subject,” he wrote in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

    One of the most troubling examples of disparity in the courts—and a reason for the sentencing imbalances Scott found in Saskatchewan—is the country’s increasing use of the dangerous offender designation. It was designed for irredeemable monsters like serial rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo. More than 80 per cent have convictions for sex offences. Some call it Canada’s death penalty. Just 3.7 per cent of “DOs” ever leave prison, according to the latest corrections’ data.

    But a growing number of Indigenous offenders are being jailed for life this way. The number of annual dangerous-offender designations has doubled in the last decade, to an average of 40 per year. The proportion of Indigenous designations recently hit 29 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2007. In Saskatchewan, which has the highest number of dangerous offenders per capita in the country, 80 per cent are Indigenous, according to Scott’s data. Some are there for “really ludicrous offences,” says a doctor who acts across Canada as a witness in such cases. “There is a good reason they call Saskatchewan ‘Alabama north,’ ” the doctor adds. Scott’s data shows the provincial Crown’s office logging a 98 per cent success rate in these cases. Only two of the 98 dangerous and long-term offender applications Scott reviewed were dismissed.

    In one 2014 dismissal, a judge ruled against the Crown’s application for a mentally ill Indigenous woman who had spent the previous five years tied to a bed and could no longer stand or walk.

    In 2005, Andy Peekeekoot, a 25-year-old man from central Saskatchewan’s Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, was charged for his role in a bar fight with two Caucasian men in Shell Lake, Sask. No one was seriously hurt; one of the men involved ordered another beer when the 90-second fight ended. But Peekeekoot waved a knife with a four-inch blade he said he’d found at a nearby lake. That incident would lead to his dangerous-offender designation, even though he’d never even served serious time—a penitentiary term of two years or more.

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  48. As a young man, Peekeekoot racked up a list of offences, many for fighting or spitting at guards in jail; on all but one occasion, lawyers pleaded him out. He was, undeniably, violent. His most serious conviction was for stomping a man in a brawl when he was 22, causing the victim brain damage.

    In court, Peekeekoot didn’t help himself. During his dangerous-offender hearing, he fired one lawyer; another quit at the most critical phase for the defence, concluding his client had lost confidence in him. The judge ordered Peekeekoot, with a Grade 6 education, to continue. He was barred from making copies of court documents, barred from bringing court documents to his cell to study. In any event, he couldn’t “make heads or tails of [them],” as he told Judge Lloyd Deshaye.

    He’d been forced to appear in a heavy, anti-suicide smock, after an undisclosed incident, and was naked underneath. His hands were cuffed. He was being held in segregation.

    At one point, a concerned Indigenous court worker stood: “Do you know about his childhood?” Eric Ahenakew asked the court. He urged the judge to consider the systems that had failed to protect Peekeekoot as a boy, to consider why he was lashing out, to “get a view of this man as an Aboriginal person.” He “wasn’t born to be violent,” Ahenakew told the court.

    Before he turned two, Peekeekoot was made a ward of the state, after being found starving and neglected. Both parents were violent alcoholics and drug users, among many who serially abused him throughout his youth. When he was nine, his mom, who once attempted to stab him, convinced a group of male friends to beat him so badly he was hospitalized. By 10 he was drinking. He was 12 the first time he attempted suicide, after being sexually abused. When he was 13, his father made him watch as he raped a child. He was 14 when he did his first stint in juvenile detention. From then on, he was in and out of jail.

    “I can’t do this by myself,” Peekeekoot kept telling Judge Deshaye. “I’ve not the means nor the education to do so. There’s no way I can continue.” The judge concluded Peekeekoot would not be calling any evidence in his defence: “If people cannot or will not work with you I don’t have a magic wand that can cure that situation,” the judge said.

    Barnett, who served 38 years on the bench, believes the judge was “flat-out wrong”: He could have appointed counsel. A Gladue report to be used in sentencing could have been ordered. “A judge has a duty to make very certain the information Peekeekoot wanted before the court gets there. It is unconscionable that a court in Canada can think it acceptable that a person be declared a dangerous offender and locked up—almost certainly for the rest of his life—when he has not been heard, and his story has not been told,” Barnett says. Peekeekoot understood so little that on Jan. 15, 2010, the day Deshaye was delivering his ruling, he thought court had convened so he could begin the process of finding a new lawyer.

    He appealed, but Saskatchewan’s high court ruled that it was “not clear the sentencing judge failed to consider so-called Gladue factors.” The judge “didn’t even describe Andy as Aboriginal,” says Bob Hrycan, Peekeekoot’s lawyer on appeal. “There was no meaningful analysis of background factors. And in the end, he had no lawyer. That was enough?”

    For Peekeekoot, it was also the end of the line. Last May, the Supreme Court declined his application for leave to appeal (the high court approves roughly five per cent of applications, Barnett notes). Hrycan believes Peekeekoot is a changed man. He’s 36 now, married, and hasn’t had a charge for violence in nine years. Peekeekoot, who is currently housed in a federal prison in Alberta, says he’s been clean of drugs and alcohol for 11 years.

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  49. As a young man he was almost mute. These days, he’ll spend hours on the phone, opening up about the darkest chapters of his life, or the tiny fox he watches out in the prison yard. He’s come to see that in the warped environment of youth, the men around him earned respect through anger and hostility. In response, he always tried to be “twice as tough.”

    None of this, Hrycan says, will do him any good: “He’ll never get out. We’ve put someone in jail for the rest of his life for waving a four-inch knife.”

    Chapter 4 – Segregation
    In prison, Indigenous offenders serve much harder time than anyone else. Indigenous inmates are placed in minimum-security institutions at just half the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts. They are more likely to be placed in segregation, accounting for 31 per cent of cases; and, once in isolation, they’ll spend 16 per cent more time there. They account for 45 per cent of all self-harm incidents. Nine in 10 are held to the expiry of their sentence, versus two-thirds of the non-Indigenous inmate population. They are more likely to be restrained in prison, to be involved in use-of-force incidents, to receive institutional charges, to die there.

    Many of these disparities are known because Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada, made a point of tracking race-specific corrections data. Two years ago, troubled by the surging growth of the Indigenous inmate population, he issued a special report on it in Parliament, blaming systemic racism and cultural bias. It was one of only two the office has ever issued, to “signal this was a very important matter requiring urgent action.” It received “anything but,” Sapers says now, bitterly. Last year, the federal government announced he was being replaced (a process interrupted by the election, which left him on the job).

    An Indigenous offender’s problems begin with intake, Sapers says, where their risk level is often consistently over-classified by the Custody Rating Scale; it determines whether they belong in minimum, medium or maximum security (and almost everything else about their time behind bars). For years, the federal government has been ignoring repeated demands to reform these and other assessment tools used on the Indigenous inmate population. The latest, in September, came in a blistering Federal Court ruling. Justice Michael Phelan ordered Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to stop using them on Indigenous offenders, arguing they are “susceptible to cultural bias,” and can produce “junk” data.

    “This is not an issue the CSC missed inadvertently,” Justice Phelan wrote, noting the U.K., Australia and the U.S. have all studied such assessments to ensure they are reliable for cultural minorities. “It has been a live issue since 2000, on the CSC’s ‘radar screen,’ and the subject of past court decisions. It is time for the matter to be resolved.” CSC immediately appealed.

    Part of the problem is that the marginalization experienced by some Indigenous peoples gets turned into “risk”: intergenerational trauma, alcoholism, a history of abuse, a lack of education, employment, a bank account or even hobbies make it more likely an inmate will be housed in maximum, and classed “high risk.”

    Cruelties are built into the system. The main reason Indigenous women—who account for 78 per cent of all self-harm incidents in prison—are moved to higher security levels is due to self-harm, including suicide attempts, according to a 2008 report by the Ontario Women’s Justice Network.

    Kinew James, who died months before the end of a 15-year sentence while incarcerated in Saskatchewan, is frequently compared to Ashley Smith, who strangled herself to death at Grand Valley Institution for Women in 2007 as guards watched.

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  50. Both were incarcerated as teens. They struggled with mental illness and self-harm, were frequently moved, and spent long stretches in segregation in a system that didn’t know how to deal with them. But James had a resilient streak. She believed she was stronger: “I’m not Ashley Smith,” she said at a Kitchener court appearance in 2011, when a judge noted the likeness. “I have a lot more strength. I got my Grade 12. I want out of jail,” she told him. “I know I will get out.”

    She never did. The 35-year-old Anishinaabe Native, a member of the Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba, died Jan. 20, 2013, while incarcerated at Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre. All day, she’d been complaining of being unwell. By night, she was moaning and crying, pressing the distress button in her cell. According to one media report, corrections officers responded by muting or shutting it off. Other inmates reportedly began calling for help. When it did come, just before midnight, James was unresponsive.

    James was then transferred to hospital where she was declared dead, apparently from heart failure.

    She was then a few months shy of being released. She’d been incarcerated at 18, initially sentenced to six years, for manslaughter; but inside, her mental health spiralled downward, she lashed out, and her sentence doubled. She was known to take blame for others, and had been charged with assaulting guards, sometimes when they tried to stop her from harming herself. She cut herself, and self-strangled. Her Ojibwe name, Keshebawnodinnuke Kinew, means “eagle in the whirlwind.”

    The data on Indigenous female offenders are grim: 91 per cent admit to having been sexually or physically abused; and nine in 10 report using drugs or alcohol the day they offended, according to the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. Many enter the prison system with a host of mental health needs requiring services and programming. Some instead end up in segregation.

    Despite a host of severe mental health diagnoses, including borderline personality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, manic type, fully six of James’s 15 years in prison were spent in isolation. Sometimes she was held in barren cells so small she could touch opposite walls at once. She was there 23 hours a day, “let out for a half-hour in the yard,” says her sister, Cheryl Smith, of Winnipeg. At one point she spent almost two years straight in segregation. She was then under “management protocol,” a super maximum designation allowing inmates to be held indefinitely in segregation; when it was quietly ended in 2011, 100 per cent of inmates so designated were Indigenous. James was sometimes so starved for human contact she would lie against her cell floor, her face pressed against the crack beneath the door, to hear voices.

    After prolonged stays in segregation James would sometimes “see things, hear things,” and get lost in fantasies, says Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, who knew James well. In 2013, Colorado barred inmates with serious mental health issues from being held in segregation. “There is ample evidence Kinew’s death was preventable,” says Pate. “It screams out the need for oversight and accountability for corrections.”

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  51. James was told she would never reach Grade 4, but managed to earn her high school equivalency certificate behind bars. She was fully shackled and carrying a body chain at her graduation. No one was permitted to attend. These were among privileges James had to earn, to work her way out of segregation and management protocol, says Pate. At times, she was barred from keeping photos of her family, from having crayons. An overheard swear word was evidence of non-conforming behaviour, a higher standard than anything demanded of male inmates, says Pate.

    Before she died, she’d begun post-secondary coursework for Athabasca University. She wrote poetry. “Six months later, she would have been home,” says Cecil, her brother, a band counsellor at Roseau River. Her death will be the subject of a public inquiry in Saskatchewan in April. Last week, a judge denied a request to seal a report into her death.

    “There is a group in Canada that keeps mysteriously dying,’” says University of Toronto sociology professor Sherene Razack. “We have convinced ourselves that we are improving. The reality is systems are in place to keep reproducing this.”

    Since no data on the race of those dying in prison in Canada exists, Razack undertook a study of in-custody deaths in Saskatchewan; her study found that Indigenous men account for roughly 50 per cent of all male deaths, many from suicide, head-injury or fatal encounters with police. Many of these deaths occur because officials “will not touch, examine, or closely monitor Indigenous people in their care,” Razack says. “This indifference kills.”

    Chapter 5 — A new start
    “Courtroom’s open,” Judge Marion Buller-Bennett says with a wide smile, ushering everyone waiting in the corridor into the second-floor courtroom at the New Westminster Provincial Courthouse. As the gallery fills, Buller-Bennett, a member of the Mistawasis First Nation in Saskatchewan, leaves the judge’s dais, pulls up a plastic chair, and asks everyone to introduce themselves. Several she greets with a few words in their language, thus opening B.C.’s First Nations Courts, which operates unlike any other courtroom in the country.

    Legal jargon is barred. Formalities are not observed. There is no prisoner’s dock, no microphones. Babies, noisy kids, coffee, laughter—all are welcome. Elsewhere, a judge might threaten sanction after an interruption or outburst. Buller-Bennett encourages them.

    During a hearing for a 28-year-old Cree man who pleaded guilty to a drug offence, a recovering crystal meth addict stood up to commend his progress. Someone else suggested he consider Warriors Against Violence, an anger management program geared to Indigenous men. Another piped up with the number of a bus that will take him directly to it. Before he left, the Sandy Lake First Nation man, choking back tears, thanked the judge for acknowledging him—a “first,” he said. As he was leaving, someone grabbed him in a bear hug. “You’re doing great man,” he said. “Stick with it.”

    Indigenous offenders can only appear before B.C.’s First Nations Court if they are entering guilty pleas (and their charges must be minor, and without a mandatory minimum sentence). They then work with the judge and two courtroom elders to come up with a “healing plan,” a 12-month suspended sentence, which generally includes a stay in a residential treatment facility, anger management and parenting classes, addictions and cultural programming.

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  52. Most appearing before Buller Bennett on that day were intergenerational survivors of residential schools. Their stories rarely deviated from a grim narrative: harrowing childhood, substance abuse, incarceration—almost always for crimes fuelled by or to feed their addictions.

    “Rather than apply another Band-Aid,” Buller-Bennett explained to the court, the point is to “help deal with what’s causing the problem, often addiction.” To monitor progress, the offender is required to return every two months. A missed appearance triggers a bench warrant, as in regular court.

    At the completion of sentences, Buller-Bennett holds “graduation ceremonies.” Two elders blanket graduates in red and black fleece, among the highest honours in Coastal First Nations culture. Not one got through it dry-eyed.

    Buller-Bennett has said recidivism rates in the eight-year-old court, based on Cree teachings, beliefs and values, are low. Similar courts in Australia have more than halved recidivism rates. As in the Australian courts, elders tend to say things a judge might not. “It’s like being publicly scolded by your grandma,” Rose Falla, an Indigenous magistrate who helped establish Koori Courts in Australia’s Victoria state told Maclean’s.

    But Jonathan Rudin sums up the problem: Where these innovations are most needed—Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta—is exactly where you see the “most intransigence, the fewest innovations.”

    These same critiques could also be levelled at Ottawa, which, for a decade, has been ignoring calls to reform biased correctional admissions tests, bail and other laws disproportionately impacting Indigenous offenders. Instead, it appears to be incarcerating as many Indigenous people as possible, for as long as legally possible, with far-reaching consequences for Indigenous families. “[Indigenous people] are not there because of a crime spree,” says Sapers. “They’re there because of the impact of social factors, government policy and mandatory minimum sentences.”

    This situation does not help increase public safety: incarceration has almost no effect on bringing down crime, and it increases the likelihood of reoffending, as any criminologist will argue. Indigenous communities complain offenders are being returned more hardened, hopeless, violent and angry.

    “What we are doing is using our criminal justice system to defend ourselves from the consequence of our own racism,” says Toronto criminal lawyer John Struthers, who cut his legal teeth as a Crown attorney in remote, northern communities. “Rather than treat alcoholism, addiction, trauma, we keep the doors closed.”

    “Once you’re in the system, you never get out,” says Dwight Monkman. Three of his four brothers have been incarcerated. The 26-year-old Winnipegger, a member of the Lake Manitoba First Nation, spoke to Maclean’s late last summer from the Headingley Correctional Institution, where he was incarcerated for a weapons charge and breaching a condition of his release. Since turning 18, the longest stretch Monkman says he’s spent on the outside was 15 months. “I’m actually scared to get out,” he says, clutching the battered, black phone under his chin. “Because I know I’ll end up right back here.”

    Indigenous post-secondary students surveyed are 1.6 times more likely to be stopped by police than non-Indigenous students — and they believe their race is a factor


    ALSO SEE: "Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations"


  53. Police altercation with First Nations girl in Kenora caught on video weeks before her death

    Coroner's office is continuing its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kokopenace's death

    By Jody Porter, CBC News May 13, 2016

    The parents of a 14-year-old from Grassy Narrows First Nation are releasing a video of an altercation between provincial police and their daughter in the weeks before her death.

    Azraya Kokopenace disappeared on April 15 after provincial police dropped her off at the hospital in Kenora, Ont. Police won't say why they picked her up. The teen was last seen leaving the hospital, alone, late at night, according to police. She was found dead two days later in the woods nearby.

    The coroner's office is continuing its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kokopenace's death.

    The Grassy Narrows Youth Organization obtained the video. The group said it was taken by a bystander on March 26 or 27.

    It shows a male police officer struggling with Kokopenace on the ground. At one point he puts his knee to the girl's back.

    Kokopenace is heard shouting "let go of me, stop" and "I want to go home." An unidentified male yells "she's just a kid" and "why don't you get a hold of her parents."

    An expert in police use of force said it appears the police officer in the video showed restraint by opting not to use some of the tactics police are trained to use to gain compliance.

    "I saw no blows, I saw no use of force application, in other words, no punches, no kicks, strikes," said Steve Summerville a retired Toronto police officer who often testifies in court as an expert witness.

    But Summerville said it is hard to tell exactly what is going on because of the quality of the video and the lack of context.

    "Wow, there's some questions to be answered," he said. "You need to know what brought the officer there. What was the outcome? Was this young lady under arrest, was she under arrest for mental health, a crime?"

    It's typical for police to issue a news release immediately after a public interaction such as this one, he added.

    A spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police told CBC News that it is "not appropriate for OPP to respond" to questions about the video "because we're not sure where the case is going to go."

    The Kokopenace family is asking for an inquest into Azraya's death to deal with the many outstanding questions.

    Her aunt, Lorenda Kokopenace worries that young people from Grassy Narrows can't trust the police.

    "Stuff like this goes on and I think our youth are scared when they're out there hurting," she said. "There's no one really to turn to when [police] are doing this to us, Indigeneous people."


  54. Court hears BC Mountie twice convicted of punching Indigenous suspects

    Veteran RCMP constable likely won't serve jail time for punching handcuffed teen in Terrace

    By Betsy Trumpener, George Baker, CBC News October 21, 2016

    A veteran RCMP officer convicted of punching a handcuffed Indigenous teenager was previously convicted of assaulting an Indigenous man in a jail cell more than a decade ago.

    The earlier assault was revealed during a sentencing hearing for Terrace, B.C. Const. Bruce Lofroth.

    Lofroth has worked as a police officer for almost 30 years, first with the Victoria Police and then as an RCMP officer and member of the Emergency Response Team in northern B.C.

    Lofroth, 53, pleaded guilty this year to a 2014 assault during a violent arrest.

    He was charged after a video of the incident was made public.

    The video was shown twice during Lofroth's four- hour sentencing hearing in B.C. provincial court in Terrace.

    Lofroth punched handcuffed teen in face

    The video shows a subdued teenager lying on the sidewalk in handcuffs offering no resistance, just before Lofroth punches him in the face.

    The "depth of recoil of Lofroth's punching arm is indicative of the force used," said Crown prosecutor Michael van Klaveren.

    Thirteen years prior to that sidewalk punch, in 2001, Lofroth was convicted of punching a man in a Prince Rupert jail cellblock.

    At his sentencing hearing this week, the Crown stated the man, who Lofroth had arrested, kicked and spat at the officer.

    Lofroth unlocked the cell door and punched the prisoner, according to the Crown. The man fell to the floor and suffered a cut lip that required stitches.

    Court heard Lofroth was under emotional stress at the time because of the death of his brother.

    He was found guilty of the 2001 assault, but the judge granted him a conditional discharge and told him he expected this would never happen again.

    But, now, it has.

    At Friday's sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Brad Smith argued the two incidents were unrelated, separated by a period of 13 years.

    'He has accepted responsibility'

    Smith described Lofroth as a quiet family man, a father of two teenagers and a veteran Mountie "who doesn't hesitate to do the jobs others do not intend to do."

    "He's the sort of man you'd like to have in your corner in a crisis."

    "He has accepted responsibility for what he has done," said Smith, who noted that the teen in the case had attacked Lofroth before he was subdued.

    "His career will not recover from this."

    Smith called for a conditional discharge, which would mean no criminal record. He said Lofroth has already been disciplined by the RCMP for use of excessive force.

    The lawyer also pointed out Lofroth had been on desk duty at reduced pay, had been permanently removed from the Emergency Response Team and had been embarrassed in his community by media coverage of the case.

    Crown seeks suspended sentence

    The Crown is seeking a suspended sentence, which would mean a criminal record for the veteran Mountie.

    It is also asking for a number of conditions, including anger counselling for Lofroth, a letter of apology to the youth he struck and mandatory community work within the First Nations community.

    Judge Edmond de Walle, brought in from Salmon Arm for the sentencing, reserved his decision to a later date.


  55. Terrace Mountie gets suspended sentence for assaulting teen

    Video showed veteran Mountie striking handcuffed teen in face

    CBC News December 21, 2016

    A veteran B.C. Mountie convicted of assaulting an Indigenous teenager in Terrace, B.C., has been handed a suspended sentence with 12 months probation.

    RCMP Const. Bruce Lofroth was charged after video surfaced in 2014 of a violent arrest of a teenage boy on a Terrace sidewalk.

    The video appeared to show two Mounties kneeling beside a teenager as he lay on the sidewalk outside a Terrace print shop.

    Lofroth was sentenced Wednesday afternoon in a Terrace court.

    Provincial judge Edmond de Walle, who was brought in from Salmon Arm, also ordered Lofroth to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $200 fine.

    Video played at sentencing

    In the video, played at Lofroth's sentencing hearing in October, a Mountie in black leather gloves appears to punch the youth's body and head. After the boy is handcuffed, the officer then appears to strike him in the face.

    The video sparked two investigations. One was an RCMP code of conduct review. The second was a probe by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C.

    Lofroth was charged with one count of assault and placed on administrative desk leave. He pleaded guilty in August.

    He has worked as a police officer for almost 30 years, first with the Victoria Police and then as an RCMP officer and member of the Emergency Response Team in Northern B.C.


  56. $600M class-action lawsuit claims police mistreatment in N.W.T., Yukon and Nunavut

    Lead plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by RCMP when he was 15 years old in Tuktoyaktuk

    CBC News · Dec 19, 2018

    A teen in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., has launched a $600-million, class-action lawsuit against the attorney general representing the RCMP in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon, after he says he was assaulted and subjected to racial slurs after he was arrested at the age of 15.

    Joe David Nasogaluak is the lead plaintiff in the proposed class action, which seeks $500 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages from the RCMP on behalf of Indigenous people who have been subjected to excessive force by RCMP in the three territories.

    A statement of claim was filed in federal court in Edmonton on Wednesday.

    According to a news release from law offices Koskie Minsky LLP in Toronto and Cooper Regel in Edmonton, Nasogaluak's claim alleges "systemic negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and breaches of sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

    Kirk M. Baert, the lawyer leading the case, says Indigenous people are regularly assaulted by the RCMP "because of who they are."

    "This epidemic of assault amounts to state-sponsored harm against Aboriginal persons," he states in the release.

    Baert's law firm, Koskie Minksy LLP, is one of the law firms involved in the $800-million Sixties Scoop settlement.

    Steven Cooper, another attorney in the Nasogaluak case, was involved in legal work around the Sixties Scoop in Alberta as well.

    'This is just the tip of the iceberg'
    The lawyers will have to convince a judge to agree that there's a group with shared grievances in order for the class action to be certified and proceed.

    Cooper told CBC News on Wednesday that his team has interviewed a "small number" of people so far and has found approximately 12 cases that could end up part of the class action.

    "This is just the tip of the iceberg," Cooper said, adding that he expects news of the statement of claim could prompt more people to come forward.

    "There are too often cases where people think they're alone," he said.

    Cooper said people interested in learning more can contact his firm at 1-800-994-7477 or at steve@cooperregel.ca.

    A request for comment from the RCMP was acknowledged by the police force, but an interview was not granted on Wednesday.