Category Archives: Indigenous Victims

Inquests into Separate Police Killings of Indigenous Men Adrian Lacquette (23) and Evan Grant Caron (33) in Manitoba

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, two inquests were called into separate police killings of civilians in Manitoba which happened within a week and a half of each other in September 2017. The chief medical examiner in Manitoba has called an inquest into the police shooting and killing of 23-year-old Adrian Lacquette of Winnipeg on September 13. Manitoba Justice announced a separate inquest into the shootings and killings of 33-year-old Evan Grant Caron, who was fatally shot by police 10 days after the shooting of Adrian Lacquette.

Both victims were Indigenous men. This fact is reflective of the colonial and racist violence of policing in Manitoba (and Canada more broadly). At least 11 of the known 19 people killed by police in Manitoba between 2000 and 2017 were identified as Indigenous.

The inquests cannot assign blame or lead to arrests and police are under no obligation to follow any recommendations that might result from either inquest.

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Pressing Questions as Inquest into Police-Involved Death of Indigenous Man Jordan Lafond is Postponed to June

There are many unanswered questions about the role Saskatoon police played in the death of 21-year-old Jordan Lafond of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. An inquest into the death that was scheduled to take begin March 5, 2018, and which family hoped would provide some answers, has now been postponed until June 25.

The questions surrounding Lafond’s death are more pressing given that police initially suggested the injuries that led to Lafond’s death were inflicted in a vehicular crash and did not report that an officer used his knee to subdue the young man when he was handcuffed.

It has been reported publicly that Jordan Lafond died after the stolen truck he was a passenger in crashed into a fence on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the early morning hours of October 23, 2016. Lafond was taken into custody and later died in hospital. Police have not been forthcoming on their role in Lafond’s death and what they did to him during the arrest.

A six-person jury, five women and one-man, was selected on Monday. Four of the jurors are Indigenous. Three were selected from a special jury pool of Indigenous people and one who self-identified. The request for Indigenous jurors can be made at inquests but not for criminal trials, an issue that has received great attention following the recent not guilty verdicts in the killings of Indigenous youth Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The inquest is strictly a fact finding exercise and cannot assign blame or lead to charges being laid.

Grace Lafond-Barr, Jordan’s grandmother expressed the family’s grief: “Emotions have been up and down. A lot of tears, a lot of anger, a lot of sadness. Because we don’t know what happened to Jordan” (quoted in Hamilton 2018). She noted that police were not honest in reporting their actions during Jordan Lafond’s arrest. In her words: “We didn’t hear the truth when we were told of Jordan’s injuries. It would be nice to know what happened to him” (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Police changed their story about what happened a few weeks after Lafond died. They had initially claimed that Lafond was found underneath a tire of the truck that crashed and said at that time that he died of injuries resulting from that crash. Then-police Chief Clive Weighill alleged that officers believed Lafond was resisting arrest and acknowledged that an officer used his knee to subdue Lafond and that he was handcuffed. Police have not admitted what part that might have played in the death.

Police even had to downgrade the initial charge of dangerous driving causing death laid against the driver of the stolen truck. Said the Crown prosecutor at the time: “We weren’t in a position to prove that the accident—or the collision, in this case—caused the death” (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Saskatoon Police Service released a statement on March 5 saying that  they had carried out an internal investigation into Lafond’s death but would not release any details or results. There is no police oversight body, independent or otherwise, in Saskatchewan. The officer responsible is still on regular duties.

Jordan Lafond was a new father and worked at a roofing company to support her. Said Lafond-Barr: “Yes maybe he was in a stolen vehicle. But that doesn’t mean you should end his life over it. That’s what I said. I would like to bring some humanity to this (quoted in Hamilton 2018).

Anyone following events in Saskatchewan will note that young Indigenous men have been killed in that province for as little as stepping foot on a farm claimed by a white settler, with the settler farmer getting off despite admitting to the killing. So being killed by police for being in a stolen vehicle would not be unlikely in that context. And the officer involved will likely not even be charged. Jordan Lafond was the same age as Colten Boushie.

 

Further Reading

Hamilton, Charles. 2018. “’Everyone is Disappointed’: Inquest into Death of Jordan Lafond Postponed Until June.” CBC News March 5. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/family-hoping-for-answers-as-inquest-in-jordan-lafond-s-death-begins-1.4559159

 


Family of Joey Knapaysweet, Cree Youth Killed by Timmins Police, Releases Statement, Calls for Answers

Police in the small northern Ontario city of Timmins, shot and killed 21-year-old Joey Knapaysweet on February 3, 2018. In a context, as is true across Canada, in which police control information about their killings, few details have been provided publicly. Joey Knapaysweet was from the James Bay community of Fort Albany — more than an hour’s flight from Timmins. According to the family statement, he had gone to Timmins to “seek help in dreams for betterment of his life.” On Thursday, February 15, the family released a statement from Fort Albany saying they need answers about why police chose to kill their loved one.

Micheline Knapaysweet expresses her pain:  “I cannot sleep at nights, I need answers. This is my son, my child.” She asks further “What did he do that was so bad that he had to be shot and killed? I am so heartbroken, with so many questions unanswered.”

The Special Investigations Unit, the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario has only said: “There was an interaction between the man and officers, and one of the officers discharged a firearm. The man was struck. He was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.”

The police killing of Joey Knapaysweet occurred the same weekend as another Cree person from Fort Albany, 62-year-old Agnes Sutherland, died in custody of Timmins police. Their deaths through police interactions, happened as an all-white jury in Saskatchewan was about to acquit white farmer Gerald Stanley in the 2016 killing of a young Cree man, Colten Boushie. The Stanley trial and acquittal brought international attention to white supremacy, colonialism, and racism in Canada and Canadian criminal justice. The Stanley verdict sparked protests across the country against the mistreatment of Indigenous people throughout the justice system in Canada.

Might the deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland spark further actions and calls for systemic transformation. In Timmins a vigil before the Stanley trial verdict brought out at least 100 people. Micheline Knapaysweet has made a dedication to wear a red scarf, Joey Knapaysweet’s favorite color, until the family receives need answers to their questions.


Two Indigenous Victims of Timmins Police in One Weekend: Joey Knapaysweet (21) and Agnes Sutherland (62)

There is growing outrage, and mounting questions, after a deadly weekend in which two Indigenous people were left dead following encounters with Timmins, Ontario, police. Police in the small northern Ontario city shot and killed Joey Knapaysweet, 21, on Saturday, February 3, 2018. Then, on Sunday, February 4, Agnes Sutherland, 62, died in police custody. Both victims were from Fort Albany First Nation, a James Bay community.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents nearly 50 Indigenous communities in northern Ontario, expressed great concern over the two deaths in two days. In his words: “It’s very troubling. The families have a lot of questions” (quoted in Perkel 2018).

 

Deaths at the Hands of Police

Details about both deaths are limited so far. Police control information about their killings and deaths related to their activities. This is a problem across Canada in terms of policing. Police did not release the names of their victims. The names were conformed by multiple other sources, including federal Member of Parliament Charlie Angus.

With regard to the police shooting of Joey Knapaysweet, the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has only said that  there was “an interaction” between officers and the victim and an officer discharged a firearm striking the man.

Agnes Sutherland was arrested at a shelter after having been asked to leave the Timmins District Hospital, where she had sought help. She was taken to a police station and put in a cell on Saturday, the same day Knapaysweet was killed. Later that same evening she was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead late Sunday.

In a statement issued by Indigenous leaders Grand Chief Fiddler, Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council, and Fort Albany First Nation Chief Andrew Solomon, serious questions are raised: “It is alleged that when police attended at the scene of the local shelter, Ms. Sutherland was treated roughly while being taken into police custody. She suffered severe complications during her detention” (quoted in Perkel 2018).

 

Systemic Racism and Colonial Legacies

In their statement, Grand Chief Fiddler, Grand Chief Solomon and Chief Andrew Solomon call for a timely and thorough investigation. They raise the very real issues of racism in policing and the violence targeted at Indigenous people by police. In their words: “We have seen systemic racism in the city of Thunder Bay, and must now wonder if this is also happening in Timmins” (quoted in Perkel 2018).

Notably, Timmins Mayor Steve Black acknowledged that the deaths at the hands of police had increased racial tensions in the city, though he did not specify. He said: “I don’t believe there’s room for racism in any community. If changes need to be made or things need to be done to improve those relationships, we’re definitely willing to work with our partners on improving those relationships” (quoted in Perkel 2018). No word on whether that includes dismantling settler colonial police forces (or mayoralties). He has, though, condemned people who have spoken out against the police and their actions on social media (CBC News 2018).

 

Health Care Not Cops

According to the Chiefs, both victims had left the remote community of Fort Albany, near Ontario’s James Bay coast, to seek medical care in Timmins. They note in their statement: “Our people must continually leave their families and communities to come to cities to seek services that are not available in their respective communities” (quoted in 2018). The deaths come as an emergency summit is being held in Timmins by the Mushkegowuk Council this week. The regional James Bay government declared a state of emergency in November, concerned over the growing number of drugs and alcohol coming into its seven member communities (CBC News 2018).

Sutherland’s son, Glen Sutherland, told the Timmins Daily Press that his mother was a survivor of the notorious St. Anne’s residential school. He said that she needed a wheelchair to get around, and questioned the actions of hospital staff. She was using a wheelchair at the time of her arrest. Glen Sutherland said that her frequent trips to the emergency room were a cry for help (Perkel 2018). She was a mother of six with six great grandchildren.

The mistreatment at hospitals of Indigenous people seeking medical assistance has been a disturbing, and too common, issue in various locations in Canada, including infamous cases in Winnipeg, Manitoba that have gained some national attention. It speaks to ongoing legacies of colonialism and racism in Canada.

 

Conclusion

A vigil in Timmins for Knapaysweet on Tuesday, February 6, drew around 100 people. Chief Andrew Solomon is calling on the Attorney General of Ontario and the Minister of Community Safety to investigate the Timmins Police (CBC News 2018).

Police and criminal justice systems more broadly in Canada disproportionately target Indigenous people and disproportionately target them for violence. Criminal justice systems, including police forces, were founded as instruments of settler colonialism, occupation, dispossession, and displacement and this must always be front and center in discussions of policing in the country.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2018. “First Nations Chiefs ‘Shocked’ by Timmins Deaths.” CBC News. February 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/indigenous-chief-respond-timmins-1.4525074

Perkel, Colin. 2018. “Two Indigenous Deaths Linked to Police in Timmins, Ont., has Sparked Sorrow, Anger.” Toronto Star. February 7. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/02/07/two-indigenous-deaths-linked-to-police-in-timmins-ont-has-sparked-sorrow-anger.html


Death of Dale Culver, of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations: Formal Complaint Raises Questions About Racism, Intimidation of Witnesses in RCMP Arrest

The British Columbia C Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has raised questions of “racial bias” and excessive force by RCMP officers in the arrest of Dale Culver (35) of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations who died in custody following the arrest in July 2017. In an official complaint filed January 16, 2018, to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, the BCCLA also claims that the RCMP in Prince George, BC, told witnesses to delete video footage of the Culver arrest. According to police reports, Culver complained of shortness of breath after arrest and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Culver’s cousin, Debbie Pierre, said she was not informed of his death until 24 hours later. She then found video footage of the arrest posted on social media. In her words: “It was horrific” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The family had questions about Culver’s death and contacted the BCCLA to get some answers.

Police reports suggest the RCMP responded to a call about a man allegedly “casing vehicles.” This claim has not been independently confirmed nor has it been explained what that assumption was based on by caller or police. Police struggled with Culver physically.

It is reported that pepper spray used in Culver’s arrest. When he was put in the back of a police vehicle he appeared to have difficulty breathing. An ambulance was called and Culver collapsed when taken out of the police car. He was pronounced dead in hospital a bit after midnight on July 19, 2017.

According to executive director Josh Paterson, BCCLA has spoken with “a number of people, including eyewitnesses” who allege RCMP instructed people to delete video footage of the arrest (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The association questions whether “explicit or  implicit racial  bias” played a role in the encounter and arrest. BCCLA says it has been told there were “several hours” between the initial call to police and the arrival of RCMP on the scene (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). This raises obvious questions about Culver was approached and, specifically, whether it was because he was Indigenous.

In the words of the BCCLA complaint:

“We question on what information or basis the member or members of the RCMP began their interaction or questioning of Mr. Culver, and/or a request to identify himself, in the first place.” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018)

Debbie Pierre is left with the same question. In her words: “Was Dale targeted because of Dale or was he targeted because of his being Indigenous” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018).

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is also investigating, as it does in cases of police harm to civilians in the province. IIO chief civilian director Ron MacDonald says the IIO was independently aware of allegations of witnesses being told to delete video footage. He also said the IIO was aware of questions regardding police use of force and the timing of Culver’s arrest.

Culver had three children, the eldest of whom is now 14.

 

Further Reading

Kurjata, Andrew and Audrey McKinnon. 2018. “BC Civil Liberties Association Files Complaint Alleging RCMP Told Witnesses to Delete Video of Arrest” CBC News January 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/civil-liberties-iio-pg-rcmp-1.4489925


BEI Investigating In-Custody Death of Brandon Stephen in Cree Community of Waskaganish (Jan. 2, 2018)

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the unit that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Quebec is investigating the in-custody death of 24-year-old father of two Brandon Stephens in a jail cell in the Cree community of Waskaganish. The community is 1055 kilometers northwest of Montreal on the shores of James Bay.

A statement released by the Eeyou Eenou Police claims officers were called to a residence in the community at around 1 PM on Monday, January 1, 2018. They say they found a man identified as Brandon Stephen intoxicated and threatening to harm himself. Police report  he was then taken into custody.

According to police, at around 11 PM Stephen informed guards that he was not feeling well. At some point he was transferred to the medical clinic in the community where he died at around 3 AM on January 2.

This is the second police-involved death in an Indigenous community in northern Quebec, in a period of a week.


Police-Involved Deaths in Canada in 2017: What Little We Know

There is no formal, systematic process for documenting and recording the deaths of civilians through encounters with police in Canada. There is no systematic reporting publicly of civilian deaths through police encounters. A baseline or minimum number of people who died through police encounters can be arrived at by review of oversight agency reports, coroners inquest reports, and close following of media articles. Here is some of the very limited information of what we know about 65 reported deaths. Much more needs to be known and should be made public.

 

  1. Amleset Haile. Female. 60. January 2. Toronto, Ontario. Toronto Police Service. Self-inflicted. (Black woman).
  2. Jimmy Cloutier. Male. 38. January 6. Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Police. Shot.
  3. Ralph Stevens. Male. 27. January 7. Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Alberta. RCMP. Shot. (Indigenous man).
  4. Nadia Racine. Female. 34. January 25. Gatineau, Quebec. Gatineau Police. In-custody.
  5. Male. 20. February 11. Goodfare, Alberta. RCMP. In-custody.
  6. Male. No Age Given. February 12. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg Police Service. In-custody.
  7. Moses Amik Beaver. Male. 56. February 13. Thunder Bay, Ontario. Thunder Bay Police. In-custody. (Indigenous Man).
  8. Female. 20. March 6. Burlington, Ontario. Halton Regional Police Service.
  9. Male. 28. March 6. Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Police. Heart attack.
  10. Vitaly Savin. Male. 55. March 9. Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton Police Service. Shot.
  11. Male. 20. March 18. Pond Inlet. Nunavut. RCMP. Shot.
  12. Male. March 24. 61. Chateauguay, Quebec. Sûreté du Québec.
  13. Male. 40. April 1. Kelowna, British Columbia. RCMP. In-custody.
  14. Male. 24. April 28. Puvirnituq, Quebec. Kativik Regional Police Force. In-custody.
  15. Male. 39. May 2. Hall Beach. Nunavut. RCMP. Shot.
  16. Male. 32. May 13. Fort McMurray, Alberta. RCMP. In-custody.
  17. Male. 41. May 15. Beauceville, Quebec. Sûreté du Québec. Shot.
  18. Male. 26. May 22. Cambridge, Ontario.
  19. Female. No Age Given. May 27. Oak Bay, British Columbia. Victoria Police.
  20. Male. 43. June 3. Smith Falls, Ontario. Ontario Provincial Police. Self-inflicted.
  21. Male. 31. June 3. Ottawa, Ontario. Ottawa Police Service. Shot.
  22. Male. No Age Given. June 18. Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. RCMP. Shot
  23. Austin Eaglechief. Male. 22. June 19. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Saskatoon Police. Shot.
  24. Pierre Coriolan. Male. 58. June 27. Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Police. Shot. (Black man).
  25. Male. No Age Given. July 3. Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton Police Service. Vehicle chase.
  26. Male. No Age Given. July 5. Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. RCMP. Self-inflicted.
  27. Male. No Age Given. July 9. Quebec City, Quebec. Quebec City Police. Shot.
  28. Dale Culvner. Male. 35. July 18. Prince George, British Columbia. RCMP. In-custody.
  29. Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. Male. 50. July 19. Thunder Bay, Ontario. Thunder Bay Police. In-custody. (Indigenous man).
  30. Shawn Davis. Male. 52. July 26. Chatham, Ontario. Chatham Police. “Sudden Death.”
  31. Male. 66. July 30. Pointe-Calumet, Quebec. Vehicle chase.
  32. Male. 25. August 10. Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec. Sûreté du Québec. Shot.
  33. Female. 55. August 7. Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton Police Service. In-custody.
  34. Male. 23. August 20. La Sarre, Quebec. Sûreté du Québec. Shot.
  35. Male. No Age Given. August 13. Winnipeg, Manitoba. In-custody.
  36. Ozama Shaw. Male. 15. July 27. Mississauga, Ontario. Peel Region Police. Shot. (Black youth).
  37. Male. 48. September 4. Sudbury, Ontario. Sudbury Police. In-custody.
  38. Female. 26. September 4. Windsor, Ontario. Windsor Police Service. In-custody.
  39. Unnamed Male. 26. September 6. Whitefish Lake First Nation, Alberta. RCMP. Shot.
  40. Female. 46. September 9. Indian Head, Saskatchewan. RCMP. In-custody.
  41. Male. 29. September 9. Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton Police Service. Shot.
  42. Adrian Lacquette. 23. September 13. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg Police Service. Shot.
  43. Male. 34. September 15. Windsor, Ontario. Windsor Police Service. In-custody.
  44. Male. 33. September 23. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg Police Service. Shot.
  45. Sheila Walsh. Female. 65. September 25. Arnprior, Ontario. Ontario Provincial Police. Vehicle chase.
  46. Female. No Age Given. October 2. Quesnel, British Columbia. RCMP. In-custody.
  47. Nathan Wehlre. Male. 15. October 6. Highway 6, Ontario. Waterloo Regional Police. Vehicle chase.
  48. Taryn Hewitt. Female. 16. October 6. Highway 6, Ontario. Waterloo Regional Police. Vehicle chase.
  49. Cody Severight. Male. 23. October 10. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg Police Service. Hit and run, officer DUI.
  50. Male. 35. October 12. Qualicum Beach, British Columbia. RCMP. Shot.
  51. Cavin Poucette. Male. 26. October 19. Gleichen, Alberta. RCMP. Shot. (Indigenous man).
  52. Brydon Bryce Whitstone. Male. 22. October 22. North Battleford, Saskatchewan. (Indigenous man).
  53. Tom Ryan. Male. 70. October 27. Cobourg, Ontario. Cobourg Police Service. Shot.
  54. Male. 44. October 31. Brampton, Ontario. Peel Regional Police. During arrest.
  55. Male. 23. November 8. Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Police. In-custody.
  56. Bill Saunders. Male. 18. November 15. Lake Manitoba First Nation, Manitoba. Shot.
  57. Male. 57. November 26. Toronto, Ontario. Toronto Police Service. In-custody.
  58. David Tshitoya Kalubi. Male. 23. November 24. Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Police. In-custody. (Black youth).
  59. Male. 52. December 6. Douglas, Ontario. Ontario Provincial Police. Shot.
  60. Male. 25. December 13. Maple, Ontario. Toronto Police Service. Shot.
  61. Babak Saidi. Male. 43. December 23. Morrisburg, Ontario. Ontario Provincial Police. Shot.
  62. Male. December 24. Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton Police Service. In-custody.
  63. Male. 22. December 28. Umiujaq, Quebec. Shot.
  64. Male. 36. December 28. Danford Lake, Quebec. Sûreté du Québec. Shot
  65. Male. No Age Given. December 30. Mississauga, Ontario. Peel Regional Police. Shot.