'A child changes': Alleged brutality by northern RCMP detailed in court filings

Details of an alleged attack by RCMP on a Tuktoyaktuk teenager, now the lead plaintiff in a $600-million class action lawsuit, are emerging in a statement of claim filed in federal court.

Tuktoyaktuk teen lead plaintiff in $600M class-action suit alleging abuse at hands of RCMP in territories

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is seeking $500 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages. (CBC)

"Stupid f---ing native."

"Native punk kid."

Those are the words Joe David Nasogaluak, 16, is said to have heard as he was allegedly punched, kicked, choked, Tasered and pushed to the ground by police during an arrest in 2017.

He was 15 years old at the time.

The details are part of a statement of claim for a proposed class action lawsuit against the RCMP, as represented by Canada's Attorney General.

The statement says Canada failed to adequately oversee RCMP officers — the federal police force has jurisdiction throughout the three territories — and protect Indigenous people from brutality at the hands of officers in Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.

None of the allegations within the statement have been proven in court.

In 2017, shortly after Joe David's alleged experience with the police, RCMP told CBC they were investigating the incident but that a Taser was never used.

A photo of the jacket showing marks Joe Nasogaluak believes were caused by a Taser. RCMP said at the time that a Taser was not used. (Submitted)

According to the statement, Nasogaluak went to the nursing station with his mom after his release to get attention for bruises "on his face and wrists."

In a story for CBC that year, Nasogaluak's father said his son fought back. He also said the incident stemmed from a debate over whether the teen —  a well known drum dancer in the community — was giving police his real name when the young people were Ski-dooing and hanging out on the outskirts of town.

RCMP almost immediately asked the young people if they were drinking, according to Joe David's father, who is also named Joe.

"They said you are under arrest for not giving me your name," Joe Nasogaluak said at the time. "He did that and put his hands on the Ski-doo and my son said take your hands off my Ski-doo and then [the RCMP officer] punched him and rolled him over and they jumped him."

Statement of claim says case just one example

The statement of claim says Joe David was arrested and driven to the police station. Along the way, officers stopped their vehicle at the side of a road and questioned the teen without his parents.

Later on, it says, officers "consistently drove by Mr. Nasogaluak's home until his mother called the local RCMP detachment to complain."

Koskie Minsky LLP in Toronto and Cooper Regel in Edmonton say the young person's alleged treatment is just one example of how the RCMP "regularly discriminate against Aboriginal persons by employing excessive and unnecessary force, by arresting or detaining Aboriginal persons for no reason and by using hateful speech and language in the course of policing in the territories," according to the claim.

Joe Nasogaluak in a photo from 2017. He said that the incident has changed his son. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

On Friday morning, the RCMP told CBC it was aware of the statement of claim and is reviewing it, saying they were not in a position to provide comment. 

Questions for the Attorney General through the Department of Justice were referred to the RCMP and Public Safety Canada. A representative for Public Safety Canada declined to comment as the case was before the courts.

On Thursday, Nasogaluak's father Joe said his son did not want to comment on the case. But Joe said since the incident, his son hasn't been the same.

"A child changes ... young people, they don't forget this stuff," Joe said.

According to the claim, the incident left the teen shaken; he withdrew from school and after-school activities — and thought about taking his own life. 

"We sent them out to have fun ... you send your kids out for a night of Ski-dooing and you think nothing's going to happen to them," the youth's father said. "This is not right for our kids … to me, it's wrong in Canada."

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Katie Toth


When Katie Toth isn't hosting CBC North's weekend show, she is a multimedia journalist based in Yellowknife. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School in 2014, Toth's first full-time journalism job was at the historic Village Voice (RIP) in New York City. She has also contributed to National Public Radio, VICE and Motherboard.