The RCMP have asked an outside police force to conduct a criminal investigation into one of its officers in Nunavut after a video posted on social media showed a Mountie driving a truck into an apparently intoxicated, staggering Inuk man.
The incident occurred just after 11:30 on Monday night in the small community of Kinngait, as dozens of U.S. cities were roiled by protests and rioting over a video of the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
The video from Nunavut, posted on Tuesday on Facebook under the heading “Was that necessary?” shows a man swaying and lurching on a slippery road. A white truck with its driver’s door open arrives, moving quickly; the open door strikes the man hard, and he falls.
An RCMP officer in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) has been removed from the community after a video was taken of the Mountie hitting an intoxicated man with his truck. There are now six active investigations of RCMP incidents in Nunavut. pic.twitter.com/DraE0R5JSX— APTN News (@APTNNews) June 3, 2020
Five officers emerge from the truck and from off-screen. It is difficult to see what happens next because two of the officers are blocking the view from the camera, which is held from a distance. The man is on the ground while three officers crouch over him. The man screams. Within seconds the officers raise the man to his feet and shove him into the back seat, while he shouts, “Why? Why?” When bystanders move toward the truck, the officers scream “get away.”
Immediately after viewing the video, Amanda Jones, the chief superintendent of the Nunavut RCMP, ordered an independent criminal investigation and an internal one, according to a statement from Corporal Jamie Savikataaq, a media officer with the Mounties in Iqaluit. In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Chief Supt. Jones declined to name the external police force until it confirms it is available to do the investigation into the unnamed officer.
The man who was hit by the vehicle was not charged, she told The Globe. He was arrested under the Nunavut Liquor Act for intoxication in a public place after members of the public told a Mountie in Kinngait that an intoxicated man was fighting, the RCMP statement said. He was seen by a nurse while in custody, the statement said, without identifying the man.
The officer who drove the vehicle is being removed from the community and placed on administrative duties, the statement said.
Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said in a statement that she met with Chief Supt. Jones to express her “frustration and outrage." She said she notified the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and will request a review once the external criminal investigation is done.
“I have seen the video from Kinngait circulating on social media and am very concerned by the unnecessary force, the violence and the lack of respect I have seen.” The people of Nunavut “should not fear this kind of treatment and disregard for safety and basic rights.”
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the video had been shared 3,800 times, and commented on 720 times.
Benson Cowan, the chief executive officer of Nunavut’s Legal Services Board, which oversees legal aid in the vast northern territory of 39,000 people, describes the incident as typical of RCMP behaviour toward the Inuit of Nunavut.
“I think this video shows clearly what many have observed in Nunavut – that unnecessary violence against Inuit by the police has become standard practice." He added that, at a time of widespread protest over police brutality in the United States, it shows a complete lack of reflection and understanding about the role of the police.
He said Chief Supt. Jones’s response was appropriate, but “I would like to know what steps the RCMP are taking to ensure this does not keep happening.” Last June, and again this January, he wrote to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to request a systemic review of RCMP policing activity in Nunavut. His January letter pointed to strip searches of two women in RCMP cells, including one in which three men forcibly removed a woman’s clothing.
On Facebook, Mike Is McGrath commented: “What page in the training manual was that on?” Fred Garneau said: “That’s attempted murder trying to run someone over!!!!! As if the guy could run away coward cops takes 5 to take down a drunkin fellow who was already hit by the cop!!!!”
It is the latest violent incident involving the RCMP in Nunavut. The RCMP have reported three shootings, two of them fatal, in which the Mounties have been involved since February. The most recent was on May 5, shortly after 11 p.m.; the RCMP have said only that there was a disturbance at a residence, and an officer discharged a firearm. It said the Ottawa Police Service has been called in to investigate.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.