While the prime minister didn’t specify the reports he was speaking about, this week, an RCMP officer in Nunavut was caught on camera hitting a 22-year-old Inuk man with the door of a moving truck, and a 26-year-old First Nations mother in New Brunswick was shot and killed by police.
During Trudeau’s daily news conference on Friday, the prime minister said the reports “bring to light the systemic realities facing far too many Canadians.”
“We need to ensure that each of these individual cases is investigated properly but we also need a larger reflection on changing the systems that do not do right by too many Indigenous people and racialized Canadians,” Trudeau said, noting he will be speaking to cabinet members and the RCMP commissioner later today.
“We can’t solve all of this overnight. We need to make a change. We need to start today.”
Trudeau’s remarks came a few hours after the federal Indigenous services minister expressed outrage about the violent incidents in Nunavut and New Brunswick.
Marc Miller told reporters he read reports of the two incidents and watched the video of the Nunavut arrest “in disgust,” saying the country needs a reckoning over a repeated pattern of violence against Indigenous people by police officers.
“A car door is not a proper police tactic, it’s a disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act,” Miller said at a news conference on Parliament Hill on Friday morning. “I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check. When I first saw the report, I thought it was some morbid joke.
“Frankly, along with many Canadians, Indigenous Peoples living in Canada, politicians in Canada, I’m pissed, I’m outraged.
“There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on,” he continued. “This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.”
When pressed by a reporter about what specific actions the Liberal government will take to address the problem, Trudeau said Ottawa will be moving forward on “many” reports and recommendations that “have laid out concrete steps that can be taken,” citing the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The prime minister added that the federal government has authority over the RCMP but will need to work with police forces and justice systems across provinces and municipalities to address the problem.
“Far too many Canadians feel fear and anxiety at the sight of law enforcement officers and authorities” because systemic racism against Indigenous and racialized people persists, Trudeau acknowledged.
“This has long been their reality,” he said, “but over the past weeks, we’ve seen a large number of Canadians suddenly awakened to the fact that the discrimination that is a lived reality for far too many of our fellow citizens is something that needs to end, and that is what we are working on.”
The Inuk man struck and arrested in the Kinngait community of Nunavut was placed in a holding cell and later beaten by another man. The injured man, whose identity hasn’t been released publicly, was airlifted to Iqaluit for treatment.
One of the arresting officers was removed from Kinngait and placed on administrative duties, police said the day after the incident.
Internal and independent external investigations into the incident have been ordered, according to the RCMP division in Nunavut.
The Ottawa Police Service, which does independent investigations of police in Nunavut, has sent a team to the territory.
In New Brunswick, Chantel Moore was killed overnight Thursday in Edmundston, N.B. — where she had recently moved from British Columbia — after police were dispatched to do a wellness check.
Her aunt, Nora Martin, told Global News that police got the address from Moore’s mother, Martha.
“A couple hours later, they went back to Martha’s place and told Martha that Chantel had attacked the cop with a knife and he shot her five times,” Martin told Global News.
RCMP is providing forensic support in the shooting and has asked Quebec’s independent police investigation agency to help.
On Friday, Miller said he wants answers quickly — and that Moore’s family deserves answers.
“It was a wellness check and someone died,” Miller said. “I can’t process that.”
As Canadians observe police violence against Black people in the United States and spreading protests against that violence, Miller said they should also see and think about what’s happening in Canada.
“It is something we need to reckon as a society,” he said.
The incident in Nunavut has prompted renewed calls for RCMP in the territory to wear body cameras. Miller said he is open to the idea of adding body cameras to all police but noted that their use hasn’t stopped violence from occurring south of the border.
Canadian police forces also need to do better with both recruitment and training, Miller said.
—With files from Global News’ Alexander Quon and Srushti Gangdev and the Canadian Press