$600M class-action lawsuit claims police mistreatment in N.W.T., Yukon and Nunavut
Lead plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by RCMP when he was 15 years old in Tuktoyaktuk
A teen in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., has launched a $600-million, class-action lawsuit against the attorney general representing the RCMP in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon, after he says he was assaulted and subjected to racial slurs after he was arrested at the age of 15.
Joe David Nasogaluak is the lead plaintiff in the proposed class action, which seeks $500 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages from the RCMP on behalf of Indigenous people who have been subjected to excessive force by RCMP in the three territories.
A statement of claim was filed in federal court in Edmonton on Wednesday.
According to a news release from law offices Koskie Minsky LLP in Toronto and Cooper Regel in Edmonton, Nasogaluak's claim alleges "systemic negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and breaches of sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Kirk M. Baert, the lawyer leading the case, says Indigenous people are regularly assaulted by the RCMP "because of who they are."
"This epidemic of assault amounts to state-sponsored harm against Aboriginal persons," he states in the release.
Baert's law firm, Koskie Minksy LLP, is one of the law firms involved in the $800-million Sixties Scoop settlement.
Steven Cooper, another attorney in the Nasogaluak case, was involved in legal work around the Sixties Scoop in Alberta as well.
'This is just the tip of the iceberg'
The lawyers will have to convince a judge to agree that there's a group with shared grievances in order for the class action to be certified and proceed.
Cooper told CBC News on Wednesday that his team has interviewed a "small number" of people so far and has found approximately 12 cases that could end up part of the class action.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Cooper said, adding that he expects news of the statement of claim could prompt more people to come forward.
"There are too often cases where people think they're alone," he said.
A request for comment from the RCMP was acknowledged by the police force, but an interview was not granted on Wednesday.
- This story originally said the lawsuit was against RCMP. It has been clarified to clearly define it is against the attorney general, representing the RCMP.Dec 20, 2018 12:10 PM CT
With files from Katie Toth