NAN Welcomes Ruling that Police Video will be Considered at Mamakwa-McKay Inquest

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation welcomes a ruling that a video depicting the racist and degrading treatment of an Indigenous man by the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) will be considered at the inquest into the deaths of two other Indigenous men while in police custody.

“It is very important for the families that a jury will be allowed to view this video footage so they can see for themselves the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples while in custody of the Thunder Bay Police,” said Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. “The truth must be told to preserve the integrity of these inquest proceedings and to ensure that the outcome is relevant and addresses issues of systemic racism that continues to pervade this police service.”

The Thunder Bay Police Service had attempted to suppress a video showing officers mistreating an Indigenous man in the TBPS jail on August 2, 2014, the same night that Don Mamakwa, of Kasabonika Lake First Nation, died while in police custody. Roland McKay, of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, also died in police custody in 2017.

Lawyers for the Mamakwa and McKay families argued that the video footage should be admitted as it shows how police racism affects the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Thunder Bay. They argued that the video will help a jury understand the circumstances around the deaths, identify systemic issues, and what actions can be taken to prevent similar occurrences from happening again.

In his decision released this week, presiding coroner Dr. David Cameron confirmed the video is relevant and material to issues that will be raised at the Inquest, including:

  • how racism, bias and stereotyping may have been a factor in the Thunder Bay paramedics’ and police officers’ interactions with Don Mamakwa and Roland McKay;
  • the goals and appropriateness of taking intoxicated people or suspected to be intoxicated people into police custody; and
  • the policies and procedures regarding interactions between a police officer and an intoxicated person or a person suspected to be intoxicated.

Dr. Cameron indicates in his decision that it is important for jurors to see the footage as:

[T]he question of whether racism, bias or stereotyping was a factor in Mr. Mamakwa’s death should not be examined in a vacuum. The fact that another Indigenous man was almost simultaneously experiencing very similar treatment may suggest systemic issues that need to be addressed to prevent further deaths.

The Executive Council extends condolences to the families and acknowledges their ongoing trauma.

For more information please contact:
Michael Heintzman,
Director of Communications
Cell: (807) 621-2790
mheintzman@nan.ca