Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller did not parse words on police violence against Indigenous people, after two officer-involved incidents this week – one with a man in Nunavut, the other the fatal shooting of B.C. woman Chantel Moore in New Brunswick.
While the news conference on Friday (June 5) was intended to be an update on COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities, Miller was questioned by reporters about the two recent incidents and racism.
The minister said that he “watched in disgust” a graphic video showing an RCMP officer in Nunavut ramming his car door into a 22-year-old Inuk man walking along a road on Monday evening.
The young man, who has not been identified by police, was arrested for domestic assault and failing to comply with probation orders and taken into police custody. The video shows him notably intoxicated. He was later beaten by another man in the same holding cell and had to be airlifted to hospital.
Miller said he had also been briefed on the the fatal police shooting of Moore, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation near Tofino on Vancouver Island. The 26-year-old mother had recently moved to Edmundston, N.B. to be closer to her daughter.
Her boyfriend, who lives in Ontario, called Edmundston Police early Thursday morning to conduct a wellness check on Moore. She ended up being shot and killed. Police said in a statement that Moore was holding a knife and making threats.
Moore’s family has said that she was shot five times by the officer.
“I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check,” Miller said. “When I first saw the report I thought it was some morbid joke.”
The family of Moore and the young man deserve answers, the minister said.
“Frankly along with many Canadians, Indigenous Peoples living in Canada, politicians in Canada, I’m pissed, I’m outraged,” he said. “There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on. This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.”
The two incidents are being investigated separately by out-of-province civilian watchdog agencies.
Miller also spoke on the idea of making body cameras mandatory for police forces – saying that he is open to the idea but noted such measures haven’t stopped police violence over the border. Instead, Miller pointed to proper training and recruitment as necessary steps to end these incidents.
On Thursday, BC RCMP released a statement saying that the force is “deeply saddened by the anguish expressed by so many in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota.”
Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan detailed a number of steps taken to “ensure biased-free policing,” including a dedicated hate crime team which provides advice and guidance on how to investigate hate crimes.
Last week, the Independent Investigations Office in B.C. forwarded a report to BC Prosecution Service for the consideration of excessive-force related charges against five RCMP officers to Crown counsel after an Indigenous man who was believed to be casing cars was killed during an arrest in 2017.
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