The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is investigating an incident in June where a Nunavut man was seen on video getting hit with the door of a moving RCMP truck, including whether race was a factor.
The commission, which is a federal agency that looks into the conduct of the RCMP, said in a news release Tuesday that its chairperson Michelaine Lahaie initiated the complaint.
On June 1, the bystander video showed the 22-year-old man in Kinngait, Nunavut, being struck by the open door. After his arrest, he was "viciously attacked" by another inmate in an RCMP cell. The arresting officer who was driving the pickup truck was subsequently removed from the community and placed on administrative duties.
"I am concerned with the conduct of RCMP members involved in this serious incident," said Lahaie in the statement.
She said the investigation will add another "level of scrutiny" to the incident, and it will look into the circumstances that led the man to be placed in a cell where another detainee allegedly assaulted him.
I am aware that there is historical distrust by Inuit toward the police. - Michelaine Lahaie, commission chairperson
The man, who CBC has chosen not to name, had to be airlifted to Iqaluit for treatment after the alleged attack.
Earlier this summer he told CBC he wanted to take legal action against the officers who arrested him.
"I'm not happy with what happened to me at the hands of the police," he said at the time in Inuktitut. "I want to sue those police officers and charge them, as encouraged by my lawyer."
After the incident, RCMP's V Division in Nunavut appointed the Ottawa Police Service to investigate and determine whether criminal charges should be laid. The incident also led to an RCMP internal code of conduct investigation into the actions of the officer, which is still underway.
Investigation will look into racial bias
Lahaie said the investigation will also look into whether racial bias or discrimination played a role in the man's arrest and treatment in RCMP cells.
"I am aware that there is historical distrust by Inuit toward the police and I am committed to increasing RCMP accountability," she said.
In June, the federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said a car door was not a proper police tactic.
"It's a disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act," he said at the time.
Nunavut's Minister of Justice Jeannie Ehaloak also said she was "very concerned by the unnecessary force, the violence and the lack of respect I have seen."
"Nunavummiut should not fear this kind of treatment and disregard for safety and basic rights."
In a statement to CBC on Tuesday, federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said Inuit communities deserve to feel safe.
"We continue to work with experts, impacted communities and individuals with lived experience of racism and discrimination to ensure our agencies serve without bias, and with a commitment to justice for everyone," the email said.
Blair also said he supports RCMP members wearing body cameras to increase accountability and transparency.
The commission's investigation will look into:
- The circumstances leading up to the incident in question;
- Whether the conduct of the RCMP member driving the vehicle was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the arrest of the man was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the use of force employed by RCMP members during the man's arrest was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the man required and received adequate medical care following the initial incident;
- The circumstances surrounding the man's alleged assault while in custody, whether reasonable steps were taken to ensure his safety, and whether the conditions of his detention were adequate; and
- Whether the man received adequate medical care following the incident in the cell; and
- The actions taken by the RCMP in response to this matter.
The commission's role is to examine RCMP members' conduct and, where applicable, make recommendations. However, those recommendations are not binding.