Regional chiefs call for independent investigation after video shows woman getting punched at RCMP detachment

Regional chiefs from British Columbia and Quebec-Labrador are calling for an independent investigation into the video of a young, Indigenous woman being knocked unconscious at an RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man.

Regional chiefs Terry Teegee of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations and Ghislain Picard, of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador sent out a press release Thursday, calling what happened to Genesta Garson a “brutal assault.”

The video shows Garson, then 19 years old, being punched in the face by a community safety officer after being detained into custody on the suspicion of being intoxicated on Jan 6, 2018.

She is knocked unconscious and dragged into a cell.

CBC obtained the security video through a court application and its release prompted Manitoba’s top cop to call for a review into the training of safety officers and a deeper look into the actions of the RCMP officers that night.

“The video released yesterday was difficult to watch, and I recognize that many people are troubled about what occurred in the cell area of the Thompson detachment,” Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said in a statement emailed Tuesday.

Genesta Garson was detained at the RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man. on Jan. 6, 2018 after officers suspected her of being drunk. This is the security video taken from that night, which shows an officer knocking her unconscious. 1:49

Garson told CBC News that after she filed a formal complaint with the RCMP, officers came to her home multiple times and bullied her into withdrawing the complaint.

The regional chiefs said given the RCMP’s history with its treatment of Indigenous people, it cannot be trusted to investigate this fairly.

“The RCMP continue to ignore its own legacy of violence and abuse of Indigenous people in this country and an independent investigation into the assault of Ms. Garson is needed,” the statement said.

A civil lawsuit has been filed by Garson against the RCMP, the City of Thompson (which employs the safety officers) and the officers involved. It contends she was discriminated against because she is Indigenous.

Garson is a member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation.

The regional chiefs said in the statement there needs to be greater public oversight by law enforcement officials and an overhaul of the current systems in order to “prevent the violence and deaths of Indigenous women from continuing.”

Because it was a safety officer who threw the punch at Garson, Manitoba’s Independent Investigation Unit will not look into it because the officers do not fall under their jurisdiction. 

The release did not specify who it wanted to lead the investigation.

“The regional chiefs call for an end to police impunity for violent assaults and murder of Indigenous people,” the statement went on to say.

Garson told CBC News that since the incident, she is afraid of police.

“Too many Indigenous women are afraid of the police, based on their prior experiences of harassment and abuse,” the statement ended.

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