Video of First Nations teen being struck by Thunder Bay police officer 'distressing,' says federal minister

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says a video depicting a Thunder Bay police officer striking a First Nations youth on a stretcher undermines ongoing work to mend the frayed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and police.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett joins call for independent investigation

Thunder Bay police say they're investigating an incident that appears to show an officer striking a person strapped to a gurney. (Facebook)

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says a video that seems to depict a Thunder Bay police officer striking a First Nations youth on a stretcher undermines ongoing work to mend the frayed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and police.

Thunder Bay police have said the force is aware of the the video, which was uploaded to Facebook Saturday night, and is investigating.

In the 21-second video, a voice can be heard yelling, "That's enough," before a female officer appears to hit the teen in the face.

Afterward, the officer yells: "Do not spit on me, you do not spit on me," while appearing to forcefully push down the person in the stretcher.

Bennett, whose father was a Toronto police officer, said the actions depicted in the video run counter to the way police should handle tense situations.

Video clip was originally uploaded to social media Saturday night. 0:16

"It's really distressing because it's setting everything back," said Bennett.

Alvin Fiddler, the grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents 49 northern Ontario First Nations, is calling for an independent probe of the incident.

NAN said the youth is a 17-year-old from Nibinamik First Nation, about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The youth was attending school at the Matawa Learning Centre.

Bennett said she supported the call for an independent investigation into the incident.

Carolyn Bennett reacts to video of police striking First Nations teen on gurney 1:13

"It sets us back on everything we learned with [the] Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls [inquiry] in terms of sexism, racism in policing, all those things we are trying to move forward and change," said Bennett.

"This is about power and inappropriate use of physical methods as opposed to what we know works in terms of de-escalation."

Thunder Bay police under systemic racism probe

Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director is expected to release a report this month following an investigation into allegations of systemic racism in the way Thunder Bay police handle death and missing persons cases involving Indigenous people.

Sen. Murray Sinclair is also expected to release his findings soon from an Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

About the Author

Jorge Barrera

Reporter

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.

with files from Matt Prokopchuk