First Nation leaders continue to speak out about an incident that was captured on cellphone video over the weekend in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and posted to social media platforms, including Facebook. The video (posted below)appears to show a Thunder Bay Police officer smack the face/ head area of a young woman lying on a gurney.
The First Nation youth, who can be seen on the gurney, is from Nibinamik First Nation and has been attending school in Thunder Bay at the Matawa Learning Centre. Nibinamik First Nation, also known as ‘Summer Beaver’, is a small remote Oji-Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario, and is connected to the rest of the province by its airport, and a winter ice road. Nibinamik FN is located 530 km north of Thunder Bay, 370 km northeast of Red Lake and 655 km northeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“That’s enough”, the officer can be heard in video, immediately after what looks and sounds to be a slap to the head area.
“You do not spit on me,” the officer continued, as her right hand appears to cover the young person’s mouth. The youth appears to be immobilized on the gurney next to an ambulance. The words “You’re going to the hospital” can be heard.
It is not clear why the 17-year-old youth required medical attention. Police officials have confirmed that an investigation has been launched but have not clarified if it will be independent of the TBPS.
Indigenous students from outside Thunder Bay relocate to the city to complete high school or post-secondary education.
“The Thunder Bay Police Service has failed to serve the citizens it is sworn to protect – this recent incident of a police officer striking a young Indigenous woman reinforces the notion that something is fundamentally wrong with how our justice system and those tasked to enforce the law view us as First Nations and Indigenous Peoples,” stated Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare. “I am troubled by the frequency and volume of these types of incidents and I support immediate intervention to hold this officer and the police force accountable.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is also calling for answers. The Nishawbe Aski Nation’s head office is in Thunder Bay. “We do not know all of the details that led to this incident, but there is simply no justification for such violent and callous treatment of a youth in such a defenseless position,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Such actions by the police, whatever the cause, must be fully investigated by an independent authority and the results made public by the Chief of Police.”
First Nation leaders called for the resignation of former Thunder Bay Police Chief J.P. Levesque following a report from the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) earlier this year that documented “substantial” deficiencies in the investigation into the death of Rainy River First Nations member Stacy DeBungee in 2015. Levesque also faced charges of breach of trust and obstruction of justice in an unrelated matter but the case was dismissed. He has since retired.
In November 2016, the OIPRD announced a systemic review of the Thunder Bay Police Service’s practices for policing Indigenous Peoples. Specifically, policies, practices and attitudes regarding missing person and death investigations.
The Thunder Bay Police Services Board is also under investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), the statutory governing body for police boards in Ontario. Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) was expecting to receive Sen. Murray Sinclair’s final investigative report on August 31, 2018, however that report has not yet been released.
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission launched an investigation into the TBPS Board in July 2017 after serious concerns were raised by Indigenous leaders relating to the deaths of a number of young students.
“In July 2017, I was retained to lead an Ontario Civilian Police Commission (“OCPC” or “the Commission”) investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board (“the Board” or “TBPSB”). This investigation follows a request from First Nations leaders from Grand Council Treaty #3, including Rainy River First Nations, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation.” Senator Sinclair states in an a 35 page interim report released October 31, 2017. “My mandate includes examining areas of strength and areas for improvement in relation to the Board’s oversight of policing. I further have the ability to make recommendations to the Board, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Commission, itself.” The Final Report is expected to be released later this year.
This most recent incident seems to underline the historical and systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service that has been widely reported. “It (racism) continues to seep into the way in which the service (TBPS) performs its duties today, including investigations involving Indigenous Peoples.” said Grand Chief Fiddler.
Earlier this year, the TBPS formed a working group to help it reshape its diversity training, recruitment, communications and community policing. Officials with the Thunder Bay Police Service said the working group would include members of the service and volunteers from the community and the initiative’s purpose is righting relations inside and outside the police service, particularly with the Indigenous community.
It will also involve restructuring the force’s Aboriginal Liaison Unit, attempting to recruit Indigenous and other under-represented groups to the police service and creating ongoing diversity training for staff.
In a released statement, the TBPS acknowledged systemic racism exists in Thunder Bay and said it must be challenged by all members of the community. The statement was also signed by the City of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, acknowledging a need to improve safety for Indigenous students attending school in Thunder Bay.
NAN Chief Alvin Fiddler said that conduct such as what is demonstrated in the video put the TBPS in direct contravention of its own values of honesty, integrity, fairness, reliability, teamwork, positive attitude, community partnerships, and victim sensitivity.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare said, “Incidents like this are an insult to the hard work our communities so selflessly commit to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and girls, where those who should and can be helping us get the answers and the much needed resolve, are perpetuating of the problem.”
GCC Hare further stated that “While the Chief of the Thunder Bay Police Service has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident, Anishinabek Nation leadership support Nibinamik First Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead’s call for an independent investigation into the incident.”
First Nation leaders are pushing for The City of Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay’s Anti-Racism & Respect Advisory Committee to immediately collaborate with the Thunder Bay Police Service in order to put into effect a plan that works towards eradicating racism.
Media release from the Thunder Bay Police Service. Issued at 13:00 today.
THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO – December 4, 2018. ‘The Thunder Bay Police Service officer who is the subject of an investigation under the Police Services Act regarding the December 1, 2018 Egan Street incident, is currently on leave.
The officer is receiving medical treatment as a result of an exposure to bodily fluids which occurred during her physical contact with a 17-year-old female at the Egan Street residence.
The youth was being readied for transport to hospital from that location. This incident was the subject of a video which was posted to social media.
The investigation, which was initiated by the Chief of Police, continues. Since this is a Police Services Act investigation, the Chief cannot comment on this matter.
We will continue to provide updates as the investigative process continues.‘
Video via Facebook Latisha Hardy
@Thunder Bay Police HERES THE FULL VIDEO.The youth called the ambulance for a different individual who needed help. The young girl in the gurney was being transported to the hospital because of how highly intoxicated she was, and was clearly in distress with the seatbelt retrains and didn’t want to be in them. She was not being arrested, so she wasn’t “resisting”.
Posted by Latisha Michelle Hardy on Sunday, December 2, 2018