Supreme Court denies Canada’s appeal of class action certification against RCMP

Inuvialuit family calling Supreme Court decision on class action appeal a win.

The Supreme Court of Canada turned down a request from the federal government to appeal the certification of a class action lawsuit against members of the RCMP.

The class action was launched in 2018 and involves plaintiffs in three territories who say they were victims of excessive force by members of the Mounties.

The claims alleges “systemic racism and racist treatment of the Indigenous population, who were arrested, detained or held in custody,” according to a statement from Steven Cooper, one of the lawyers involved.

Canada appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the certification of the class action filed in federal court.

The high court doesn’t explain why it won’t hear a case.

“This is a victory in the pursuit of justice, but it is merely the end of the beginning,” said Cooper. “The RCMP, while admitting their own malfeasance, have shown a singular inability to alter their own bad behavior.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has echoed the concerns of multiple senior representatives of the RCMP and yet, to date, has been unable to effect change. Society demands reconciliation and reconciliation requires acknowledgment and validation of the complaints made.”

Two cases have been filed by Cooper and his partners and certified to proceed as class actions against the RCMP. There is also a similar case filed in Vancouver in 2020 “covering many of the same issues,” and the rest of the country.

According to Cooper, the dismissal by the court on Thursday paves the way for all the lawsuits to proceed.

“There isn’t going to be an overhaul of the system, the thing to be is the spark,” Cooper said. “The other foundational principles behind class action is behavior modification, and so it’s rare to have such consistent acknowledgment of liability on the part of a national institution like we have here.”

It’s welcome news for the Nasogaluak family – the main plaintiffs in the case.

“They did do an investigation but it was the cops investigating cops,” said Diane Nasogaluak, mother of the lead plaintiff, Joe David Nasogaluiak. “I was glad my husband knew a lawyer and so we called him Alan Regal who said after the investigation is done he said if you are not pleased with it then to give him a call.

“I told them all I want is justice for my son and they said you should be happy we dropped those charges, they laid a bunch of charges on him and he was only 15 he didn’t do anything, all he did was sitting there driving around with his friends.”

Joe David was arrested in 2017. He was 15 at the time. He alleges that two officers in Tuktoyaktuk assaulted, tasered, choked and hurled racial slurs at him.

“After all this happened he tried to go back to school, but one day they were having RCMP talk there and JD just walked out of school, he didn’t feel safe or comfortable with them there going into his classroom talking about their job,” Diane Nasogaluak said.

Joe David Nasogaluak who is now 21, has been on a healing journey, connecting with his culture, singing, drumming and dog mushing.

The class action was launched on behalf of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon who allege they were harmed by unnecessary force by the RCMP.

“If any message were to be derived by the dismissal of the leave application, it’s that these types of claims will be allowed to proceed collectively because they are the most productive use of judicial resources and they allow far greater access to justice, which are two of the founding principles of class action proceedings,” said Cooper.

The Nasogaluak family wants systemic institutional and cultural change for policing in Canada.

“Since I was young I was always scared of cops,” Diane said. “I feared for my family. Maybe it was good for our family to change the law to change the future for my grandkids and everyone else in the north and wherever else because it has been going on for generations and generations.”

According to Cooper, there are roughly 1,000 names on the class action across the three territories.

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