Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is standing by his assessment and belief that a Mountie in Nunavut inappropriately struck an Inuk man with his vehicle door in June before arresting him.
“I saw what I saw,” Miller told a news conference from Ottawa Wednesday.
Miller didn’t say anything more for a few seconds, making for a dramatic pause.
He was responding to a question about whether the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) outside review, released Tuesday, wrongly cleared the officer of a criminal act.
The review concluded the RCMP officer in Kinngait did not strike the man on purpose on his way to arrest him.
“The vehicle came to a sliding stop on a snow- and ice-covered track, the driver’s front tire went off the track, the vehicle dipped forward and the opened driver’s door swung forward and struck the community member,” the OPS statement said.
It was then five officers tackled and handcuffed the man.
The review found no evidence of an assault or assault with a weapon.
It said contact with the vehicle door was an accident.
Before the review was released, Miller was one of a number of politicians who reacted to the incident with alarm. He said using a door was not an appropriate police tactic.
Act of racism
On Wednesday in Ottawa, Miller suggested the Mountie used the door on an Indigenous suspect as an act of racism.
He cited the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who shared a live video of abuse she faced from Joliette, Que., hospital staff hours before her death.
Echaquan was a vulnerable Indigenous person needing protection, as was the man stumbling in the Arctic slush before he was knocked down and injured by the RCMP vehicle, the minister said.
“Look, every act of racism and expression of systemic racism are disgraceful…these are situations where people are vulnerable, where their physical integrity is compromised…(by those who are) supposed to protect them,” he said.
“Instances of racism in these situations and systemic racism can kill.”
Miller said the Trudeau government is moving to introduce reforms to improve the justice system for Indigenous peoples.
“We will continue to hold those who serve and protect Canadians to account,” he said, “making sure that we reform the RCMP…We do need to get to the bottom of these things.”