First Nations leaders are calling for answers about a video circulating online that shows a police officer slapping and forcefully holding down a teenager lying on a gurney outside an apartment building in Thunder Bay, Ontario
“That’s enough. Do not spit on me,” yells the officer in the 21-second video, after slapping the person on the stretcher on the head.
“You do not spit on me,” continues the officer while covering the victim’s mouth with her hand and pushing down.
According to Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the person on the stretcher is a 17-year-old girl from Nibinamik First Nation, a remote community about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The girl, whose name hasn’t been released, is attending high school in the city.
The video shows the teen girl wrapped in blankets, as a paramedic and the police officer stand on either side of the stretcher.
“I don’t know why she decided to start being combative here,” the officer is heard saying at the start of the video, which has been widely shared on social media. “You’re just going to the hospital, you’re going to the hospital.”
“Fuck you,” the teenager replies.
NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he is “outraged” by the incident captured on video.
“We do not know all of the details that led to this incident, but there is simply no justification for such violent and callous treatment of a youth in a defenseless position,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler in a statement. “Such actions by the police, whatever the cause, must be fully investigated by an independent authority and the results made public by the Chief of Police.”
The Thunder Bay police released a statement on Monday evening explaining that the officer involved in the incident has been served with a notice of investigation, and "officer is currently off duty."
"Given the very public nature of this incident, we are aware of threats through social media against our officers. These threats are also being investigated with the assistance of social media providers," the statement concluded.
The Thunder Bay police has been under intense scrutiny for the past year for its handling of investigations into deaths and cases of missing Indigenous youth, and for its general treatment of Indigenous people.
“The inquest into deaths of Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay revealed harrowing testimony of police abuse against [First] Nation youth,” tweeted Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay.
“We must stand up to protect the youth.”
Earlier this year, a report from the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found “substantial” deficiencies in the investigation into the death of Stacey DeBungee of Rainy River First Nations in 2015.
An OIPRD spokesperson told VICE News on Monday it has received 225 complaints about the Thunder Bay Police Service since 2013, but couldn’t provide further details on the natures of those complaints. There were 34 complaints against the police service during 2013 and 2014, and there have been 61 complaints so far between 2017 and 2018.
According to Latisha Hardy, who posted the video of the teen on Facebook, the Thunder Bay police had been called to a party because another person needed help, and the girl in the gurney was being taken to the hospital because of “how highly intoxicated she was, and was clearly in distress with the seatbelt retrains and didn’t want to be in them,” she wrote.
She was not being arrested, Hardy continued.
Hardy told APTN that the officer hit the victim so hard that she started to bleed. She has since been released from the hospital.
With files from Rachel Browne.
Cover image of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick.