Calgary police investigating Nunavut excessive force allegations
Iqaluit’s Bernard Naulalik says police beat him up twice in 2016
Special to Nunatsiaq News
The Calgary police force is investigating the Nunavut RCMP over two alleged incidents of excessive force by the Iqaluit RCMP against local man Bernard Naulalik, who says police beat him up during two separate arrests in 2016.
“The matters concerning Mr. Naulalik are currently under review by the Calgary Police Service and we have no further comment at this time,” an unnamed media coordinator for “V” Division told Nunatsiaq News in an email on Aug. 8.
Naulalik is also suing the RCMP and two of its members for one of those incidents, according to court documents. A lawsuit filed this year on June 5 alleges the officers “were negligent in the degree of force they used against Mr. Naulalik and used excessive force.”
As of July 12, there was no statement of defence filed. The two officers named in the statement are Const. Jeffrey Dillon and Const. Ryan Dawiskiba.
In 2015, an investigation by the Ottawa Police Service cleared the Iqaluit RCMP of wrongdoing in a complaint of excessive force filed by Naulalik that same year.
Nunatsiaq News published video of that incident in May 2015.
An investigation published on Aug. 9 in the Toronto Star suggests that Naulalik’s complaint may not be unique: The story includes communications obtained through access-to-information requests that show Nunavut’s legal aid agency raised concerns to Nunavut justice and police leaders in 2015 about a possible trend of police excessive force across the territory.
“Instances of excessive force by the RCMP … appear to be on the rise in Nunavut,” the Legal Services Board told Nunavut’s Justice Minister in a 2015 letter, according to the Star.
The board said their files contain 30 incidents in which Inuit across Nunavut showed “visible injuries sustained during an arrest or subsequent detention,” allegedly caused by the RCMP, the Star’s story said.
Nunavut’s “V” Division did not respond to Nunatsiaq News request for comment to the allegations made by Naulalik in this story.
The Star’s story includes video footage from the Iqaluit detachment of Naulalik’s two 2016 arrests.
Const. Ryan Dawiskiba and Const. Jeffrey Dillon arrested Naulalik on June 6, 2016.
According to the court record, the officers instructed Naulalik to remove his clothing in the cell block area of the Iqaluit detachment.
“During this time Mr. Naulalik turned toward the officers and was grabbed hard, turned around, and slammed into the wall,” the Statement of Claim said.
The officers then led Naulalik to cell # 3, where the officers lowered Naulalik to his knees, each officer holding one of Naulalik’s arms behind him.
“While on his knees and with his arms still controlled by the officers, [Naulalik] turned his head to the left in the direction of Constable Dillon. Constable Dillon struck Mr. Naulalik in the head with his left hand. After Constable Dillon struck Mr. Naulalik, the three men struggled and Mr. Naulalik was struck a number of additional times in the head/face by Constable Dillon and Constable Dawiskiba,” the statement said.
As a result, Naulalik suffered injuries to his right ear and eye, which required some stitches, the court document said.
“Mr. Naulalik has suffered emotionally and has had feelings of depression following this incident,” the statement alleged.
The Crown withdrew the charge laid against Naulalik stemming from this incident.
According to the RCMP, the second incident currently under investigation by the Calgary police relates to Naulalik’s arrest on Dec 4, 2016. No lawsuit has been filed in that matter, but such lawsuits can be filed within two years of the date of the alleged incident giving rise to the suit.
Neither “V” Division nor the two officers responded to requests for comment on the video and police reports from either Nunatsiaq News or the Toronto Star.
In the statement of claim filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice, Naulalik alleges the RCMP, the Attorney General of Canada and the two officers “breached their … fiduciary duties to ensure that while Mr. Naulalik was in their care that he would not be the subject of any tortuous or wrongful act.” Naulalik is seeking $30,000 in general damages as well as punitive and aggravated damages to be determined at trial.
According to the Star, Naulalik has faced at least 19 charges since the beginning of 2014, but 12 of those have been either withdrawn or stayed by Crown prosecutors, who refused to comment on their reasons for staying or withdrawing the charges. Naulalik’s seven convictions include one for trafficking marijuana and six for breaking court orders.
In their 2015 letter, the Legal Services Board refused to provide specific details about any of the alleged 30 incidents citing solicitor-client privilege and “to protect tactical litigation strategies,” according to communications quoted in the Star’s investigation.
“V” Division’s Commanding Officer, Michael Jeffrey, sent a letter to the Nunavut justice minister in response to the Board’s letter, the Star reported.
“The generality of the allegations made by the Legal Services Board makes it difficult to identify concerns that have not been brought to our attention,” Jeffrey told the minister, according to the Star.
And Jeffrey said complaints against Nunavut RCMP decreased between 2013 and 2014, although neither the RCMP nor the Government of Nunavut specifically track complaints of excessive force against RCMP, the Star reported.
The Legal Services Board also said for every client willing to sue the RCMP over such allegations, like Naulalik, there are five clients who are not willing, “for fear of possible recrimination,” according to the Star.
But the Nunavut Justice Department did not acknowledge this fear in a response to the Star: “The department is confident that any complaints about police conduct will be investigated fully,” the department reportedly told the Star when asked what steps the department took to alleviate that fear.