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Ottawa Cop Charged for Making Racist Facebook Comments About Annie Pootoogook

Sergeant Chris Hrnchiar said the Inuit artist likely "got drunk and fell in the river."

by Manisha Krishnan
Oct 24 2016, 6:55pm

Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar will face a disciplinary hearing. Photo via Facebook

The Ottawa police officer who said an Inuit artist's death was likely her own fault because "typically many Aboriginals have very short lifespans" has been charged under the Police Services Act, according to multiple media outlets.

Sergeant Chris Hrnchiar used Facebook to make the comments on an Ottawa Citizen article about the death of Annie Pootoogook, 47, a prominent Inuit artist who was found dead in the Rideau River. While foul play was initially ruled out, homicide detectives are now investigating.

But Hrnchiar, an officer in forensics, seemed to think that was unnecessary.

"Of course this has nothing to do with missing and murdered Aboriginal women...it's not a murder case....could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned who knows.....typically many Aboriginals have very short lifespans, talent or not," he wrote, followed by, "Because much of the aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers, living in poor conditions etc.....they have to have the will to change, it's not society's fault."

Read more: Why the Ottawa Cop Who Made Racist Facebook Comments Likely Won't Be Held Accountable

Hrnchiar has been charged with two counts of discreditable conduct. Offences under the provincial Police Services Act are resolved through a hearing process, with potential outcomes ranging from a verbal reprimand to dismissal.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau at first seemed to downplay the comments; instead of condemning them as racist he told the CBC "I'm certainly hearing that they're being seen as being racist comments... I certainly appreciate and understand how those comments are being received."

He also said everyone has biases but "our job as police officers is to ensure that those biases don't impact the work that we're doing." In a subsequent interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, however, the chief admitted the comments were racist.

Mayor Jim Watson continues to refuse to comment on the issue. Reached by VICE, his office said "As to not interfere with or compromise an ongoing investigation, Mayor Watson cannot provide comments on an open police investigation." Watson was also silent in the immediate aftermath of the controversial death of Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of Ottawa police. He blocked Twitter users like Toronto journalist Desmond Cole when criticized online about his silence.

According to a report from the Chief of the Ottawa Police Service, complaints about Ottawa cops spiked by 133 percent in the third quarter of 2016.

Hrnchiar's hearing will begin Nov. 1.

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