Saskatchewan RCMP shot and killed 22-year-old Brydon Bryce Whitstone of Onion Lake Cree Nation around 9 PM on the evening of Saturday, October 21, 2017, in North Battleford.
RCMP have reported that they received a call from a man, saying he had been chased and shot at from a vehicle. Police located the suspected vehicle and gave pursuit until they immobilized the vehicle. During their interaction with the driver shots were fired injuring a man inside the vehicle. The victim, now identified as Brydon Bryce Whitstone, was pronounced dead at around 9:40 PM, while en route to hospital.
RCMP also report that a woman inside the vehicle suffered minor injuries. She was taken to hospital, but then released into police custody. Neither her condition nor the specific reason she was taken into custody have been reported publicly at this time. Neither has it been reported publicly how many shots were fired by RCMP officers. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.
There is no independent investigative unit In Saskatchewan to examine cases of police harm to civilians in the province. RCMP Chief Superintendent Maureen Levy has reported that the Regina Police Service is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Whitstone by RCMP officers.
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice will also appoint what it calls an independent observer to oversee the investigation, but such observers are almost always former police officers, so in no way independent. Justice Ministry spokesman Drew Wilby explained at a news conference that in cases were an independent observer is requested, the ministry appoints someone such as a former police officer. Yet, Wilby suggested, incredulously, that, “This individual will not be connected to the RCMP.” But it could well be a fellow officer so no claims of independence have any credibility.
Saskatchewan RCMP are a directly colonial military force. It remains a force of settler colonial military occupation of Indigenous lands and has an ongoing history of violence against Indigenous people and communities.
Police in Saskatchewan investigate police. There is no independent civilian oversight body in the province despite ongoing calls from community advocates.
On July 5, 2017, officers of the Blaine Lake Saskatchewan RCMP allegedly responded to a call about a distraught man with a firearm in a rural area. Two officers encountered a man who they say discharged the weapon, resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man was taken to hospital in Saskatoon and pronounced dead there. The Saskatchewan RCMP have requested an investigation into the death, which will be conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service.
We have repeatedly commented on the lack of real, independent oversight of police agencies at all levels across Canada on this site. This relates both to the absence of true autonomy and independence but also to the lack of transparency within oversight agencies and their incapacity to hold police accountable for obstructing and blocking investigations, not cooperating with investigations, or violating policies and requirements for reporting incidents of harm to civilians.
Information secured by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) through access to information requests shows that police forces do not necessarily even report cases where their officers have killed a civilian. In this local case the Hamilton Police Service did not notify the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), regarded as the “gold standard” for oversight of police globally, about a vehicular killing involving police in Hamilton in September 2016. The collision on September 3 killed a 20-year-old male, Chokha Bayez. Incredibly an investigation was only launched into the incident when the victim’s family approached the SIU almost one month after the crash.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said in response to questions from CBC that the vehicle death listed in the FOI response was not publicized by the SIU simply because Hamilton police did not tell the agency about it. Yet all Ontario police services operate under a legal requirement to immediately notify the SIU of incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death of civilians in which their officers are involved. Furthermore the vehicular killing is not even listed on a police board report of SIU investigations presented at the Hamilton police board in April of 2017. Clearly the Hamilton Police Services view themselves as well above the law, as do police forces across the country. They are a law unto themselves as we have long known.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has committed to publishing the details of every police-involved fatality dating back to 1990, when the Special Investigations Unit was established, as per the recommendations of the recent report on police oversight undertaken by Justice Michael Tulloch. SIU investigations are kept secret even from the families of victims. The Tulloch report also recommended that oversight agencies start collecting demographic data including race and religion, currently not maintained systematically in Canada. The report also recommended that oversight bodies release detailed reports whenever a police officer is cleared of wrongdoing. At the same time, police officers involved in deaths or serious incidents will not be identified unless they are charged, as is current, bad, practice.
Carter, Adam. 2017. “4 Times Hamilton Cops were Investigated for Sex Assault and the SIU Said Nothing.” CBC News. April 20. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/siu-sexual-assault-allegations-hamilton-police-1.4077303