The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has placed a municipal enforcement officer on administrative duty until an independent agency can complete an investigation, after a video of the arrest of an Inuk man was shared on social media.
In a news release late Saturday, the town said the investigation is “of the utmost importance and taken quite seriously by the mayor, council and management of the town.” The town did not say the name of the agency conducting the investigation.
Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans shared the video on Facebook Friday evening.
The video appears to show the town’s municipal enforcement officer arresting the Inuk man, who begins to turn toward the officer. The officer then quickly pulls the man to the ground.
Evans said the video was taken on Friday and sent to her by a friend in the community.
Warning: The below video may be disturbing to some.
Some comments on the post suggest that the man may have spit on the officer. But Evans said even if that were the case, that wouldn’t excuse the use of force.
“He couldn’t even turn back and look at the cop, so that’s not a valid reason, he wasn’t spitting on that cop, so why did the cop feel he could actually take that extra step and throw him to the ground, because I think that’s too much use of force,” she said.
Evans pointed to homelessness in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as contributing to the situation.
“Homelessness now, where it’s not being addressed, I think is actually contributing to fostering racism where racism didn’t exist,” she said.
Evans said while there has been some government funding for the homeless shelter in the town, there isn’t any for outreach programs. She called for more resources to be put toward helping homeless people.
“There hasn’t been anything concrete done to deal with this issue. Now we have a cop basically serving out justice and that’s a failure, that’s a failure on every level of government,” she said.
“Justice shouldn’t be served on the street by a town cop … so I think there’s a bit of bullying going on. And also, trying to deter homeless people from being in a certain area shouldn’t be solved by hurting them.”
On Friday night, about three hours after the video was posted on social media, the town released a statement, saying it was aware of the video and would be investigating the incident, but had no further comment.
CBC News requested more information by email on Saturday, but was again told the town would not be providing comment.
The NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) also issued a statement in response to the video on Saturday morning.
NCC President Todd Russell said the officer used “brute and unnecessary force” in the arrest and should be punished for his actions.
“This outrageous behaviour is another troubling example of violence against Indigenous people and the structural racism that exists in law enforcement in Canada,” Russell said.
“We are calling for appropriate and swift disciplinary action to be taken by the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The NCC commends those who brought this video forward on social media. We are united in solidarity with those who stand against any and all forms of racism and violence.”
Meanwhile, Evans said it’s “a positive step” that an independent investigation will be carried out, but she believes the town isn’t at fault.
“My issue is not with the town. I know the people who are on town council, I know the mayor, I don’t think there is an issue of systemic racism with the [town] council,” she said.
“I think it’s one individual cop and his behaviour needs to be looked into.”