Video of First Nations teen being struck by Thunder Bay police officer 'distressing,' says federal minister
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says a video that seems to depict a Thunder Bay police officer striking a First Nations youth on a stretcher undermines ongoing work to mend the frayed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and police.
Thunder Bay police have said the force is aware of the the video, which was uploaded to Facebook Saturday night, and is investigating.
In the 21-second video, a voice can be heard yelling, "That's enough," before a female officer appears to hit the teen in the face.
Afterward, the officer yells: "Do not spit on me, you do not spit on me," while appearing to forcefully push down the person in the stretcher.
Bennett, whose father was a Toronto police officer, said the actions depicted in the video run counter to the way police should handle tense situations.
"It's really distressing because it's setting everything back," said Bennett.
Alvin Fiddler, the grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents 49 northern Ontario First Nations, is calling for an independent probe of the incident.
NAN said the youth is a 17-year-old from Nibinamik First Nation, about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The youth was attending school at the Matawa Learning Centre.
Bennett said she supported the call for an independent investigation into the incident.
"It sets us back on everything we learned with [the] Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls [inquiry] in terms of sexism, racism in policing, all those things we are trying to move forward and change," said Bennett.
"This is about power and inappropriate use of physical methods as opposed to what we know works in terms of de-escalation."
Thunder Bay police under systemic racism probe
Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director is expected to release a report this month following an investigation into allegations of systemic racism in the way Thunder Bay police handle death and missing persons cases involving Indigenous people.
Sen. Murray Sinclair is also expected to release his findings soon from an Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.