Human rights complaint claims Thunder Bay police officers broke Métis man’s nose

The troubled Thunder Bay Police Service is facing a new human rights complaint from a Métis man who says officers broke his nose and gave him a concussion.

Lawyer Chantelle Bryson filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on behalf of John Semerling on Jan. 13, 2023. The complaint names acting police chief Dan Taddeo, and four officers.

The complaint alleges that Semerling was forcibly taken from his home by police after a friend called for a welfare check.

Semerling had lost his job and the friend became concerned for him according to the complaint.

Bryson says Semerling, a well-known Métis man from the community, initially agreed to go with officers to the Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre, but after waiting to see a doctor without success, and seeing no sign of the officers, he started walking home.

“All of a sudden, I believe it was three cruisers race up, four officers, none of whom identify themselves and one of them grabbed him and punched him in the face four times, Bryson says.

“They broke his nose… he had facial injuries. Even two weeks later when he came to see me like, he was visibly bruised, and had concussion symptoms.”

“He now has serious fear and anxiety of leaving the house of possible interactions with the police.”

Semerling is seeking financial compensation of $300,000 for employment losses.

“Mr. Semerling was an outgoing Indigenous community leader and deacon in the Roman Catholic church,” the complaint reads. “He has suffered physical and mental trauma as a result of the actions of the respondents and now fears leaving his home and is easily triggered by the mere sight of the Thunder Bay Police Services officers or the Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre.”

In response to APTN’s request for comment, Scott Paradis, a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay Police Service said the police have not reviewed the complaint.

“We have not seen the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario application that you are referring to, and therefore would not be able to provide comment,“ he said.

The complaint also names Dr. David Yee and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre for allegedly restraining Semerling when he was brought back to the Centre.

Marcello Bernardo, manager of communications and engagement for the Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre said the hospital was unable to comment.

“Due to privacy laws, we are unable to speak publicly to issues related to our patients, staff, physicians, or volunteers,” Bernardo says. “What we can say is Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is committed to providing safe, quality and respectful care to all the diverse populations we serve.”

Bryson says they’re willing to have the matter resolved through mediation. Otherwise, she says it could be years before the complaint makes it to a tribunal hearing due to what she calls a crisis in the complaints system.

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