Category Archives: Indigenous Victims

RCMP Assume Indigenous Man Having Stroke is Drunk: Inquest into Paul Kayuryuk Death

Between July 24 and July 27, 2017,  coroner’s inquest in Baker Lake, Nunavut, examined the death in jail of Paul Kayuryuk in October 2012 and concluded that police must “challenge assumptions” about intoxication in Inui communities. This after necessary medical attention was not provided Kayuryuk after RCMP jailed the man, who was having a stroke, on the assumption that he was drunk.

RCMP took Kayuryuk into custody after he was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake.  Kayuryuk was observed overnight by three different guards and remained unconscious. It was only at midday the following day that a medical examination was ordered as a result of information received from the family. Kayuryuk was diabetic and the doctor and nurses at the local health center determined that he was experiencing a serious stroke. He was medivacked to Winnipeg but died there two weeks later from complications from the stroke.

Six jurors made 17 recommendations. Among them:

Cultural sensitivity training for officers and providing prisoners access to Inuktitut translators;  Seeking family insights and acting on the side of health care rather than presumed intoxication when in doubt.

Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will present the recommendations to the RCMP who are under no obligation to observe them. This is one of several coroners’ inquests examining harm to Indigenous people by police with implications of racism and racist stereotyping of people seeking or in need of medical care.


Alberta Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Has First Court Appearance, Victim’s Family Not Notified

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips had her first court appearance on charges of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the killing of 41-year-old Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016.

Janvier’s family is speaking publicly about concerns that this RCMP killing is going to be swept under the rug. Tracy Janvier was walking on a highway near Anzac, south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, when struck by a car and injured. Incredibly Constable Phillips drove over and killed the stricken victim while racing to the scene without slowing.

In a news release announcing the laying of charges the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province stated:

 

“While responding [to the scene] at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him.”

 

The police vehicle also hit a 71-year-old man who was helping Janvier. That man suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The family is concerned it was kept in the dark regarding the change in time of Constable Phillips’ court appearance.

Said Marina Nokohoo, Janvier’s sister, at the courthouse in Fort McMurray: “My brother deserves justice. He paid the ultimate price. My mom and dad, they’ve lost a child. So they feel that loss. They feel that impact more than any of us. Yet, because they are still our parents they are still taking care of us who are grieving.” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

Nokohoo continued: “I just don’t want to make it so that my brother’s death is going to be swept under the rug, or it’s going to be forgotten about. He’s my brother. He’s a human being. He’s important as anyone else” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

The next court date is scheduled for August 30, 2017.

 

Further Reading

Thurton, David. 2017. “‘My Brother Deserves Justice,’ Says Family of Alberta Man Killed by Speeding RCMP Vehicle.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/tracy-janvier-rcmp-vehicle-killed-anzac-asirt-1.4233099

 


Romeo Wesley Pepper Sprayed, Beaten Stepped On, Handcuffed by Cops: Death Ruled…Accidental

Romeo Wesley (34), of Cat Lake First Nation, died after being pepper sprayed, beaten, handcuffed, and stepped on by two police officers in his community’s nursing station in 2010. On July 20, 2017 the coroner’s inquest into his killing by police was released and concluded incredibly that his death was accidental. Now for most reasonable people if a civilian pepper sprayed, beat, restrained, and stepped on someone and they died it would not be viewed as an accident. Death would be recognized as a probability outcome of those actions being inflicted on someone.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station, in the community 400 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, concerned about shortness of breath and looking for help. A nurse there viewed his behavior as erratic (one would think acting erratically is not atypical for someone in medical distress) and called Nishawbe-Aski police.

The two officers who arrived pepper sprayed Wesley, tackled him onto the floor, beat him with a baton, and handcuffed his hands behind him. With police forcing him face down on the floor and with their boots on his head, neck, and back, Wesley stopped breathing. The inquest determined this to be an accident but we might reasonable ask if he would have died in the absence of this police assault.

None of the medical staff at the nursing station, including the doctor and nurses, did anything to help Wesley, perhaps fearful of police response if they tried. They only checked on him after he stopped breathing.

The coroner’s inquest, in a manner not unique in cases of police killing civilians, decided to blame the victim in their ruling. They found the cause of Wesley’s death to be “struggle and restraint (chest compression, prone positioning, handcuffing) as well as agitation and trauma (pain)….with acute alcohol withdrawal/delirium tremens.” Restraint, agitation, and trauma are all directly attributable to actions taken by the police officers. These were not accidents.

The jury made 53 recommendations. Some of them highlight systemic racism within government services in Indigenous communities (without actually naming racism). They include:

Cultural training courses for nurses before being placed in an Indigenous community.

Hiring medical staff and police officers who speak the language of the communities they serve.

Developing a protocol for police interventions in medical facilities within Indigenous communities.

Designating Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services as a police force under the Police Services Act in Ontario and thus providing for some civilian oversight.

 

By all accounts Romeo Wesley was a beloved member of the community and is missed by many. The community was hoping for much more from this inquiry.


Victim of Thunder Bay Police Identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay, 50-Year-Old Indigenous Man

The Thunder Bay police have garnered much notoriety recently over concerns of widespread racism on the force against Indigenous people in the area. Now the 50-year-old man who died in his cell while in custody of Thunder Bay police has been identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. He died on July 19, 2017, after being arrested and detained for as yet unstated reasons. The victim’s family has confirmed that McKay, of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, was in the city for medical reasons. Paramedics supposedly cleared him on health grounds before he was taken by police. The family has apparently been told by the coroner that McKay did not die of a heart attack. The Special Investigations Unit is examining the case.


The Death of Debra Chrisjohn: Racism and Police Violence Against Indigenous Women

Nearly a year after the death of Debra Chrisjohn in police custody, and even after the filing of charges against police officers responsible, Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service, many issues remain unaddressed and unanswered about police actions in her arrest, detention, and death. Beyond the specific actions undertaken by police, the circumstances of Chrisjohn’s death raise issues of police racism and violence against Indigenous people and communities.

Debra Chrisjohn (39) of the Oneida Nation of the Thames was arrested on September 7, 2016. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, announced on July 13, 2017, that constables McKillop and Doeriing have been charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Both had contact with Chrsijohn on the day she died. The family has received few facts about the death of their loved one beyond this.

The family wants to know why the officers did not seek medical attention for their loved one when it became apparent that she needed help. Debra Chrisjohn’s father Robert Chrisjohn, asks: “Why didn’t the police take her to the hospital sooner when they knew she was sick and needed help? The police arrested her and were responsible for making sure she was okay. This happens way too often in our community. This happens all the time. The police just don’t seem to care” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

Caitlyn Kasper, of Toronto’s Aboriginal Legal Services, claims that police had enough information available to deal with Debra Chrisjohn’s case in a different way. For example, police knew that Chrisjohn had a documented history of both substance abuse and mental illness. At the time of her arrest and detention on September 7, 2017, there were clear indications that Chrisjohn was in need of medical attention, not time in police custody

The family and community advocates insist that any discussion related to the actions of these officers in this case must address the troubling behaviors of police forces across Canada in dealing with Indigenous communities. This is, of course, an ongoing history of colonial violence and brutality. In the words of Caitlyn Kasper: “What happened to Debra is not an isolated incident. It is very obvious that it isn’t these types of issues just in London or the Oneida First Nation. It’s a concern we hear about in Toronto, all across Ontario and all across Canada” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

.According to Kasper, the case against the officers must focus on what she terms the “foundational relationship” between police and Indigenous people across the Canadian state (McQuigge 2017). Kasper notes the ongoing questions of police responsibility in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Many believe that police have been purposefully negligent in investigating those cases. Others suggest that police are themselves involved in the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women. Samantha Doxtator, a friend of the victim, has stitched together traditional moccasin vamps to commemorate Debra Chrisjohn and is sending them to be included in an art installation in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

Giselle Dias, an area psychotherapist who has spent 25 years working for prisoners’ rights, insists it be acknowledged that Indigenous and marginalized communities are most impacted by the criminal justice system in Canada. She agrees that Chrisjohn’s death points fundamentally to the a systemic issue of over-policing and mistreatment within racialized communities (Ghonaim 2017). And she is rightly not optimistic about the court process offering any redress. In her words: “Just because these police officers have been charged, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be found guilty. I will not rest assured” (quoted in Ghonaim 2017).

In case after case this truth remains. The system protects itself and that includes protecting killer cops.

 

Further Reading

Ghonaim, Hala. 2017. “Family of Indigenous Woman Who Died in Police Custody Seeks Answers and Justice.” CBC News. July 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/family-of-indigenous-woman-who-died-in-police-custody-wants-justice-1.4204624

McQuigge, Michelle. 2017. “Charges Point to Police-Indigenous Tensions.” Sudbury Star. July 15. http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/07/15/charges-point-to-police-indigenous-tensions

 


Charges Against Killer Cops Mark McKillop and Nicholas Doering in Death of Debra Chrisjohn

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians has announced that two police officers have been charged in the 2016 death of Debra Chrisjohn, of Oneida Nation of the Thames. The officers charged are Ontario Provincial Police Constable Mark McKillop and London Police Service Constable Nicholas Doering. The killer cops face charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life, respectively. Chrisjohn, died while in police custody, only an hour after she was taken to hospital.

Details surrounding the death have not been made available and many questions remain to be answered. What has been said, though there has been no independent confirmation, is that London police were called to Trafalgar Street and Highbury Avenue North, a neighborhood in that city’s east end on September 7, 2016 for someone supposedly obstructing traffic. Chrisjohn was arrested by London police for the obstruction and then transferred to the Elgin County OPP detachment supposedly on an outstanding warrant from 2013.

The rest remains obscure, with the SIU refusing even to name a cause of death publicly. So far they have only been willing to offer that at some point on the afternoon of September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn was moved to a jail operated by the OPP. Chrisjohn was taken by paramedics from the jail to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital at 7:52 PM. She was pronounced dead there at 8:43 PM.

Even family members have not been given toxicology results or been told details of their loved one’s death in custody. This is a stark situation given repeated calls for transparency in the SIU and its reporting system.

Constable Doering could face up to five years in jail, while Constable McKillop faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. It virtually never happens that a killer cop is convicted for their actions let alone receiving a maximum sentence. Both officers are still on duty. McKillop is on active duty with the OPP, while Doering is doing administrative duties

Members of the Oneida Nation of the Thames hope that these charges will bring some attention to the mistreatment of Indigenous women by police. Complaints have long been raised against various police services for inflicting extreme violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women.


Inquest Video: Killer Cops Chris Carson and Troy Sousa Stand on Romeo Wesley’s Neck and Back after He is Pepper Sprayed

Romeo Wesley, a 34-year-old Indigenous man of Cat Lake First Nation was killed by police on September 9, 2010, while in police custody at the Cat Lake nursing station. Two Nishnawbe-Aski police officers, Constable Troy Sousa and Constable Chris Carson, pepper sprayed Wesley, beat him with a baton, handcuffed him, and then stepped on his neck and back with their boots after he was face down on the ground and under their control.

This stunning violence is captured in 45 minutes of security video footage from the Health Canada nursing station where Wesley was killed and was shown during the inquest into Wesley’s killing which has finally gotten under way in July 2017. The video shows that several minutes passed from the time that Wesley stopped moving before anyone checked his vital signs. Instead, police took photos of the subdued man and a nurse mopped the floor around him. Dr. Harriet Lennox, the doctor on duty that night, testified that the pepper spray used by police in the confined space made it difficult for the nurses to breathe.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station,  the community’s only health facility, three times over the course of two days, trying to get help for a variety of problems including vision troubles and problems breathing. Instead of help he was killed.

Constable Chris Carson showed up at the scene wearing a t-shirt with a rifle on it. He later took off the shirt and was bare chested when he stood on Romeo Wesley’s neck. Dr. Lennox testified that she wondered when police would consider Wesley to be subdued enough that she could provide medical care, but assumed that they would have proper protocols in place.

The autopsy report of the killing blurred lines on the police violence inflicted on the man and his recurring health problems. It concluded that Wesley died from a combination of “chest compression with prone positional restraint” (police standing on his neck and back) and “severe alcohol withdrawal” which certainly did not naturally lead to being stomped by police boots.

Officers with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service receive the same training as other police officers in Ontario but they are not subject to Ontario’s Police Service Act and are not subject to the same oversight when people are harmed in their custody.

Cat Lake First Nation is about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Approximately 500 people live there.