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Tasering incident may be probed by several ministries

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Representative for Children and Youth in British Columbia in Victoria, November 29, 2010.

Deddeda Stemler for the Globe and Mail/deddeda stemler The Globe and Mail

Native court workers say they have no faith in a police investigation into the RCMP tasering of an 11-year-old boy in Prince George and have asked the British Columbia government to hold an independent inquiry.

"We have an office in Prince George and we were made aware very early of the tasering of an 11-year-old aboriginal child – and quite frankly it appalled us," said Hugh Braker, president of the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C.

"Traditionally, most if not all of the aboriginal communities and nations in B.C. did not have corporal punishment for their children, and as an aboriginal person I cannot think of a single instance where it would be necessary to taser an 11-year-old," Mr. Braker said, while attending a court workers' conference in Vancouver on Wednesday.

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"So we were actually shocked by what happened. Our shock is just compounded by the knowledge now that it's going to be the police who investigate themselves," he said.

Mr. Braker made his comments in an interview shortly after the keynote speaker at the conference, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, said she was deeply disturbed by the tasering incident, which took place Thursday after the RCMP responded to a call from a group home where a stabbing had occurred.

The West Vancouver Police Department has begun an investigation into how the RCMP handled the call, but Mr. Braker said his organization has asked Ms. Turpel-Lafond to do her own inquiry.

"Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's office is independent. We have far more faith and confidence in her ability to investigate the tasering of the youth in Prince George than we do in having the police investigate themselves," he said.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said she is "reviewing" the incident, but has not yet decided whether to order a formal investigation.

"I have to look at whether or not there has been an injury to the child and the nature of that injury. And I have to exercise my authority appropriately, and so there is a bit of information I don't have yet," she said. "It's an active file."

But Ms. Turpel-Lafond indicated the government is looking at the possibility of a broad investigation supported by several ministries.

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"There are some deep questions that arise in this case that are going to need to be examined, should there be an investigation," she said.

"I have fairly broad powers, but I'm not a police oversight body," she added. "I think it's important to have very clear support from, you know, the solicitor-general in the province, from the attorney-general, from the minister for children and families."

Ms. Turpel-Lafond declined to say what she has learned so far about the incident, nor would she describe the size of the boy, who was hit with a taser when he emerged from a home, after a 911 call reported a 37-year-old man had been stabbed by an 11-year-old boy.

The victim of the stabbing was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities have not released any information regarding injuries to the boy.

"The key thing for me ... is to say that this is a deeply vulnerable child who had complex needs and ... I'm very concerned that this child [not]be depicted in any way as a menacing criminal," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said.

She said she expects to announce a decision on the investigation by week's end.

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About the Author
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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