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Native leaders call for multiple probes into tasering of boy, 11

A policeman conducts a demonstration of a Taser electroshock weapon in The Netherlands on March 27, 2009.

Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images/Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images

The tasering of an 11-year-old aboriginal boy by the RCMP in Prince George has led to calls for multiple investigations in British Columbia.

While the West Vancouver Police Department has already opened an inquiry into the RCMP handling of the case, native spokesmen are demanding other investigations also be held into child services and into whether there are racial aspects to the case.

"It's hard to put it into words … I'm just a little stunned," Chief Wayne Christian, co-chair of the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council, said Monday in reacting to the incident. "Certainly I hope Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond [the provincial Representative for Children and Youth]gets involved, but this incident also needs to be investigated from another set of eyes."

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Chief Christian said he wants a probe into how the RCMP interact with native people.

"I hope it comes within her purview to look at that, but if it doesn't, we need to have an independent process. … The reality is, it's racial profiling," he said.

Chief Christian said when sled dogs were killed in Whistler recently, then-premier Gordon Campbell was quick to form a task force to investigate.

"Premier Christy Clark talks about putting the family first. Well, let's have an investigation on this," he said. "It's an 11-year-old child. Can't the police subdue him without using such force?"

Gladys Radek, a native-rights defender, said there are racial aspects that should be investigated.

"When I heard the first news report about this, I thought, 'it has to be a first nations' boy,' and that is what it turns out to have been," she said. "This is a child, that never should have been tasered."

Ms. Radek, a co-founder of an annual Walk4Justice campaign that raises awareness about violence against aboriginal women, said there needs to be more than a police-on-police investigation.

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"We need a civilian group in there. The police investigating themselves is digging deeper distrust," she said.

Chief David Luggi, of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, in Prince George, said he was stunned to hear of the incident, which took place Thursday when the RCMP responded to a 911 call of a reported stabbing of a 37-year-old man by an 11-year-old boy.

"Whether the child is first nations or not, the fact is, this kind of thing just shouldn't happen," said Chief Luggi.

He said a police investigation of the RCMP isn't going to be enough.

"I do think Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has to be involved," said Chief Luggi.

On the racial question, he said: "The treatment of first nations by police forces have generally not been favourable. The fact it's a first nations child in this case magnifies those issues."

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The West Vancouver Police Department announced Monday investigators have been sent to Prince George to gather information.

And Ms. Turpel-Lafond said she "is leaning towards" calling an investigation.

"I'm very close to making a decision to investigate," she said. "I'm very concerned about this situation and obviously that a young child in care, an aboriginal child that's very fragile … has been involved in this incident."

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said her first concern is to see that the child is cared for in the wake of the incident.

"This is a child in care of the state. And a child who's been in care of the state for some time. So again that's a major concern to me because these incidents don't usually come out of the blue. There's usually a history and particularly when a younger child is in a group home. An 11-year-old child in a group home is unusual," said Ms. Turpel-Lafond.

"If someone was hurt in an incident, we have to be sympathetic to the victim … but who's the victim here?" she asked. "I am really concerned that this child does not get depicted in public as an adult-like aggressor … because I feel very strongly the facts will not bear that out when they do become public."

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National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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