Black Press Files Police were on scene as soon as 7:05 p.m. to respond to a multi-vehicle crash involving a sheriff’s van.

Black Press Files Police were on scene as soon as 7:05 p.m. to respond to a multi-vehicle crash involving a sheriff’s van.

Class action filed against RCMP over alleged Indigenous mistreatment

A class-action lawsuit filed in an Edmonton court alleges RCMP in the three northern territories regularly assault and abuse Indigenous people.

A class-action lawsuit filed in an Edmonton court alleges RCMP in the three northern territories regularly assault and abuse Indigenous people.

“We know from anecdotal and media reports that this class is going to be quite significant,” said Steven Cooper, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit filed against the federal government on Wednesday.

The statement of claim, which contains allegations that have not been proven in court, points to the example of David Nasogaluak, a resident of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

It says that in November 2017, Nasogaluak, then 15, was stopped and questioned by officers as he was riding his snowmobile outside town with five friends.

The statement says officers beat, choked, punched, Tasered and used racial insults against Nasogaluak. It says he was handcuffed and taken to the police station, where he was released without charge.

Officers continued to drive by Nasogaluak’s home until his mother called to complain. The lawsuit says Nasogaluak suffered lasting physical and emotional damage, and has since quit school.

Such treatment is far too common across Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the statement says.

“It is well known in the territories that Aboriginal persons are improperly targeted by the RCMP on the basis of their race, ancestry and beliefs.”

Cooper, who has long legal experience in both Nunavut and the N.W.T., said the courts must first rule that there is an issue to be considered, which would define who was eligible to be a plaintiff in the class action. If the courts certify the lawsuit, appropriate plaintiffs can then sign on.

He said his office routinely receives complaints about RCMP misbehaviour.

“It is indicative of what’s happening across the country. There’s no shortage of videos.”

Read more: $500 million lawsuit proposed on coerced sterilization in Alberta

Read more: Trudeau wants new relationship with Indigenous people to be his legacy as PM

One such video documented the apparent beating of Bernard Naulilak in RCMP cells in July 2016 and led to a debate in the Nunavut legislature about whether the territory should form a civilian body to review complaints against the force.

Nor was that the first time the issue was debated by Nunavut lawmakers. In 2015, a report was commissioned into police misconduct. The report was never released.

A letter that year from Nunavut’s legal-aid service suggested it had information on 30 cases of excessive use of force. The service’s chairwoman has said there were 27 civil cases filed between 2014 and 2017.

In 2010, the Yukon government released its own report on similar concerns. That led to the formation of a council that visits the territory’s communities annually to discuss policing concerns.

RCMP in Nunavut have defended their record.

Statistics released by the territory’s V Division indicate Mounties responded to 27,000 calls and held 7,500 people in custody last year. The force received 13 complaints between 2016 and 2018.

Cooper said such numbers reveal little.

Misconduct complaints are always going to be swamped in Nunavut by the huge numbers of arrests, he said. As well, few in tiny, remote communities far from legal advice are willing to take on authority.

“The complaint system is intimidating and not very friendly. Most people won’t know about it, won’t know how to access it and have zero faith in the ability of the complaints commission to deal with these types of issues.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Crush Concierge co-owners Ashley Wells and Erika Greenland, pictured here following COVID-19 social distancing alongside their dogs Hank and Lady Bird, are up for two SBBC awards. (Photo courtesy of Erika Greenland)
Three Tofino companies up for Small Business BC Awards

Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister all received nomination honours.

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen has resigned his position and is heading south-Island. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns

Mayor Mayco Noel says he and his council “completely caught off guard”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March. 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino councillor candidates identify differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new municipal councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read