Ottawa

'This needs to stop': Rally held for First Nations man fatally shot by police

Greg Ritchie, a 30-year-old man from the Saugeen First Nation near Owen Sound, Ont., lived with mental health struggles and was picking up medication at a southeast Ottawa pharmacy when he came into contact with police.

Greg Ritchie, 30, was killed in interaction Thursday at south Ottawa mall

Greg Ritchie, 30, was shot to death by Ottawa police on Jan. 31, 2019. (Submitted by Chantel Ritchie)

Ottawa residents gathered at the city's police headquarters on Elgin Street Saturday to take part in a spirit walk and demonstration to honour Greg Ritchie, a First Nations man fatally shot by officers earlier this week.

Ritchie was killed Thursday after an altercation with two constables at the Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre in the city's southeast end.

The 30-year-old from the Saugeen First Nation near Owen Sound, Ont., lived with mental health struggles. According to his family, he was picking up medication at a nearby pharmacy when he came into contact with police.

"He had a mental health issue. What would've worked best is love, kindness, compassion, being gentle," said Jocelyn Wabano Iahtail, who helped lead the demonstration. 

Wabano Iahtail performed a song in Cree and spoke to reporters afterward.

Jocelyn Wabano Iahtail spoke to those gathered in both English and Cree. She said she fears for the life of her son, who lives with special needs. (CBC)

'Over and over again'

"We've been here numerous times with the loss of life of other brothers and sisters. Whether it's from our community or the black community, we've been here over and over again. And this needs to stop," she said. 

Ritchie had recently moved to the Ottawa area from Kitchener, Ont., where he spent time living on the streets.

His family was in the process of getting him professional help for his mental illness at the time of his death. Ritchie's brother, Nicholas, previously told CBC Ottawa that he was a gentle person who was often easily scared

Speakers at the rally often switched between English and Cree as they tried to honour the life of Greg Ritchie. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Wabano Iahtail said she fears her son could face a similar fate.

"I'm the mother of a special needs son, and I'm afraid that I'm going to lose my son. We've had altercations with the police," she said.

When it comes to justice for us, we don't trust it.- Robert Lazore

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), an independent agency that handles incidents involving police where someone is killed, injured or sexually assaulted, is investigating Ritchie's death. 

Robert Lazore didn't know Ritchie personally, but said he wanted to attend the event in solidarity with his community. He added that he doesn't have much faith in the Canadian justice system.

"When it comes to justice for us, we don't trust it. And for good reason. It never works in our favour. There's always an excuse," Lazore said.

"It's frustration that goes back 526 years. Nothing has changed."

Robert Lazore said he wanted to attend to show support for the First Nations community in Ottawa. (CBC)

Organizers said the rally aimed to pressure the Ottawa Police Service to hold those involved in the incident to account, and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

One of the officers involved, Const. Thanh Tran, was previously charged with assault causing bodily harm by the SIU in 2011. He was acquitted in 2013. 

Sources have told CBC News that the other officer, Const. Daniel Vincelette, was cut on the forehead during the altercation.

The SIU said Ritchie was holding a weapon, but the agency has not specified what it was. 

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan

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