Video of a violent arrest recorded by a bystander and posted to YouTube has upset First Nation chiefs in two provinces.
“I did watch the video, it’s very alarming and concerning,” Kevin Hart, Manitoba regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, said from Winnipeg.
“I watched the video of what Mr. Penner experienced and I found it very difficult to watch,” added Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), in an emailed statement.
Hart said in an interview he was alerted to what happened to Evan Penner, a member of his northern Manitoba community of Nisichiwayasihk Cree Nation, by Chief Bobby Cameron of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).
All three have condemned the way the Saskatoon arresting officer, who is on leave while the incident is investigated, handled the situation.
“Indigenous people are still being stereotyped in a very violent way when it comes to the arrest of certain individuals,” Hart told APTN News.
Hart said the video showed “systemic racism” in policing when it comes to dealing with Indigenous suspects, particularly those struggling with addictions.
Settee praised neighbourhood resident Frank Collins for filming the arrest.
“I do want to commend the neighbour who had foresight to record the interaction and beating of an MKO citizen. I am very concerned with the handling of incidents across the country where police have been called for assistance,” said Settee.
“It is devastating to our relationships with police when we see arrests of Indigenous peoples being handled with such violence. We need to see immediate changes to the ways in which the RCMP, and other police, are working with Indigenous peoples.”
MKO said Penner was calm when Collins chatted with him before watching Penner use a neighbour’s garden hose to cool off in the hot afternoon sun.
Saskatoon police said they dispatched officers after receiving a complaint of a suspicious person in the area.
Penner’s family confirmed he was back with them following his bail release on several criminal charges, including resisting arrest, after the July 4 incident.
The family said earlier Wednesday Penner had disappeared.