Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wagmatcook First Nation demands inquiry over shooting by RCMP

Members of the Wagmatcook First Nation outside Cape Breton, Nova Scotia are renewing their request for a Public Inquiry into the shooting death of one of their own by RCMP Constable Jeremy Frenette in December 2008. And it seems the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is listening and has launched a chair-initatied complaint.

This comes in the wake of a decision by Nova Scotia Attorney General Ross Landry that a public inquiry would not be held, stating that it “wouldn’t necessarily” address the First Nation’s concerns. An earlier investigation conducted by Halifax Police Service with the assistance of the RCMP cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing and concluded that Frenette acted in self-defence, despite the fact the RCMP officer had been ordered by his senior officer not to enter Simon’s home but still climbed through Simon’s window after twice being refused entry to the home. The reason Frenette chose to enter the home was redacted from the report, which was just provided to the family approximately ten days ago. The report has never been released to the public.

The RCMP has also confirmed it will not be taking disciplinary action against the officer because too much time has passed for the RCMP to begin its investigation. This has left many in the small community, including the common-law wife of the deceased John Simon, questioning why the RCMP did not begin its review sooner and caused great unease in the community since the shooting more than 15 months ago.

In its official reply, the Wagmatcook First Nation says that the police report into Simon’s death was “replete with errors, omissions and questionable inferences”. The report contains 43 pages of partially redacted material. Band lawyer Gary Richard described the report as "deeply flawed”, stating that the report takes quotes from what are apparently interviews with participants in the incident, yet the entire statements and names of the participants are redacted. The report also states that Simon’s common law partner told the police that she and Simon had been intoxicated, arguing over a gun and that a struggle ensued, although the band and wife maintain that there was no confrontation or domestic situation. Richard described the report as “coloured”, and that it takes every opportunity to portray Simon in a way that doesn’t accurately reflect what happened on the evening in question.

The CPC probe will look into whether the RCMP, or those employed under its authority, complied with all appropriate training, procedures and statutory requirements when responding to persons believed to be suicidal or otherwise potentially of a high-risk nature, and if the RCMP conducted an investigation that was adequate and free of any conflict of interest.

Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law I)

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