Two Indigenous men say they were ‘racially profiled’ in Manitoba within two weeks

A trip to pick up furniture from The Brick did not go as planned for a respected Cree Elder in northern Manitoba.

Edwin Beardy said the bed he ordered was ready for pick-up so he drove two hours to Thompson, Man., from  Tetaskweyak First Nation.

But when he arrived the order wasn’t ready, so he asked for and received a refund. He was shocked by what happened next.

“A man came behind the desk and then he started walking away, and he said, ‘Come back when you’re sober, you’re drunk. Come back when you’re sober,'” he told me. “So I said, ‘What? I don’t even drink. I just drove from Split Lake [Tetaskweyak] to get here.’

“‘No, no, you’re drunk, come back when you’re sober,'” he said.

Local RCMP said they were called about a possible impaired driver and man causing a disturbance at a store.

“The driver was given an ASD – Approved Screening Device – and the result was a zero reading. The file was concluded,” police said in an email.

Beardy said he has a medical condition called Kennedy’s Disease, which weakens his facial muscles and lower body. He said it was hard to do the sobriety test.

“What I had to do was kind of hold my face a little bit in order to blow. I did manage to blow into the breathalyzer and then we waited, and then the RCMP said you’re breathing zero and then they left.”

A similar incident was reported in Winnipeg a week later.

Junior Cochrane, an ambassador with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat, was stopped and questioned by local police officers outside a Winnipeg hotel. He said they told him he fit the description of someone who assaulted the hotel manager.

Turns out Cochrane was on evening safety patrol at the time.

He said when he went for his phone the officers reached for their guns.

“I just put my hands up. I was like, ‘I’m just trying to grab my phone’ and they said, ‘Don’t move, don’t move.’ They took everything out of my pockets. I told them I was working and on patrol and they didn’t believe me.”

Cochrane said officers put two set of handcuffs on him and placed him in the back of a police cruiser. They also asked how much he had been drinking, to which he said hadn’t because he was working.

After a discussion with other officers who arrived on the scene, Cochrane said police told him they had the wrong man and let him go.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I told you you had the wrong guy’ and then a female officer with dark hair she came up and she apologized to me and I said, ‘Thank you, I accept your apology,'” Cochrane told APTN News.

“I was pretty upset at the other officers. I didn’t say anything else, I just went inside [the hotel]. I wanted to leave after that, I didn’t want to be at the building. I was pretty upset about it.”

Cochrane said he has filed a report with the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA), which investigates civilian complaints against the police.

Meanwhile, the manager at The Brick in Thompson, Keith Sanburn, told APTN by phone that Beardy would receive a formal apology and employees sent to cross-cultural training.

Winnipeg police officers turned down an offer to join in a sharing circle with Cochrane and the Secretariat’s Turtle Team, which provides cultural and family support for First Nations people.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment citing the complaint before LERA.

“When we spoke about this later on, it was like a slap in the face for a group of people that had been working really hard and diligent throughout this pandemic time and completely inappropriate,” said Brenda Sanderson, who leads the Turtle Team.

“My first thought was racial profiling. We were angry, we were hurt.”

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