Thunder Bay·Exclusive

First Nations teen files complaint against Thunder Bay police after street check

A teenager from Neskantaga First Nation, in northern Ontario, has filed a formal complaint against Thunder Bay police after she says she was subject to a street check that left her frightened and under threat.

'I felt so terrified,' Cheyanne Moonias, 18, says after interaction with Thunder Bay police

Cheyanne Moonias, 18, filed this handwritten complaint with Ontario's civilian police oversight agency, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, after she says she was threatened by Thunder Bay police officers who she says had no reason to stop her. (Jody Porter/CBC)
A First Nations teenager has filed a complaint against Thunder Bay Police after she says she was subject to a threatening street check earlier this month. We'll hear what she has to say and get reaction from the police.

A teenager from Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario has filed a formal complaint against Thunder Bay police after she says she was subject to a street check that left her frightened and under threat.

Cheyanne Moonias, 18, is living in Thunder Bay, Ont. to attend school at the Matawa Learning Centre.

Her complaint to Ontario's civilian police oversight body, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, said that she was walking back to school after lunch on Sept. 10 around 1.p.m. when she was approached by two male officers asking for her identification.

"I responded back, saying 'no, you don't have the right to ask me for i.d.'", Moonias said. "'The police officer responded back 'we could do what we want, we are the law.'"

Moonias said the officers then asked if they could search her for drugs or weapons.

"He looked like he was already going to grab me, he had his handcuffs out," she said. "I kept saying 'no, I'm just a girl who was trying to get to school.' I was crying too."

Moonias said she asked if she could go, but was told to "stay put" or she would be arrested.

She asked again and the police "finally said 'we will let you go, but this is not over,'" Moonias said. "They sounded so aggressive. I walked back to class. I felt so terrified."

A school official took Moonias to the police station to file a report about the incident.

In a written response, Thunder Bay police said it would be inappropriate to comment directly on the complaint.

"Officers will from time to time, have the need to speak with members of the public," stated police spokesperson Chris Adams. "The Thunder Bay Police Service does not arbitrarily stop persons to collect personal information."

The incident with police has left Moonias' mother, Marilyn Waswa, rethinking her decision to allow Cheyanne, and her younger sister, to attend school in the city. Thunder Bay is approximately 500 kilometres south of Neskantaga, a fly-in First Nation.

"My first thought was getting both of my girls back home, without even thinking twice," Waswa said. "I wanted them home. [But] I talked to them first and they want to continue their education and I want them to finish their school."

Waswa said she constantly worries about the safety of her daughters and used to have faith that police might help them stay safe.

"Now I feel like I don't trust them," she said.

Her daughter said she has lost faith in the entire policing profession.

"You never know what they could do to you," Moonias said. "I came out here to get an education and to succeed on my future and my goals.

"One of my dream goals is to become a police officer, but I don't think I want to be that anymore because of what happened to me," she said.

The safety of First Nations students in Thunder Bay will be the focus of an inquest into to the deaths of seven First Nations students in the city. It is set to begin October 5.