Nunavut excessive force investigation done; public disclosure pending
Alleged brutality against Bernard Naulalik in police cells still undetermined
The Ottawa Police Service has completed its external investigation into a case of alleged excessive use of force by Nunavut RCMP officers against a man in Iqaluit police cells last summer.
But the details of that investigation, and whether the two officers involved will be disciplined internally, or charged with offences, are still confidential at this point.
RCMP Insp. Don Halina said Oct. 26 that the lead RCMP investigator in the case is away and still has to confer with the complainant, Bernard Naulalik, before disclosing the results of the external investigation. That could take a few weeks, Halina said.
“We’re just working to finalize next steps and part of that is talking to the complainant,” Halina said Oct. 26.
For several weeks at least, Nunavut RCMP have had the results of an Ottawa Police Service investigation into the conduct of two officers toward Naulalik on July 19, 2014. We have chosen not to publish their names until they have been disciplined or charged with offences.
The alleged assaults against Naulalik made national headlines when Nunatsiaq News broke the story in May 2015.
According to court documents and lawyers involved, Naulalik had been picked up by police in Iqaluit on three minor infractions July 18, 2015, and found himself in RCMP cells.
While there, he had an altercation with two RCMP officers which was captured on closed-circuit video.
That video shows a struggle between Naulalik and two Nunavut police officers during which it appears one officer pins Naulalik down while another punches the prisoner several times in the head and neck.
Following that incident, police laid an assault charge against Naulalik, a charge that the Crown stayed several months later.
Naulalik’s defence lawyer Tamara Fairchild alleged at the time that police laid that assault charge to cover up, or justify, their use of force against him.
Fairchild then launched a legal application under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to have the three original charges against Naulalik stayed because of his ill treatment by police in jail. The Crown stayed those charges too.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service wrote in an Oct. 7 email that although their investigation into the Naulalik case is complete, they could not reveal their findings because they were on contract to the Nunavut RCMP.
At the time the story broke, Halina urged the public to avoid jumping to conclusions based on the damning video.
“The video only gives a portion of the context of the interaction, and I would urge everyone to allow the investigation to run its course before coming to any conclusions of whether the individuals involved… contravened any statutes of the Government of Canada,” Halina told Nunatsiaq News in May 2015.
In response to updates on the investigation Oct. 26, Halina asked again for patience and said proper disclosure protocols with both the RCMP chain of command and the Ottawa Police Service must be followed prior to making public statements.
“We’re not here to cover anything up,” Halina told Nunatsiaq News. “This attracted quite a bit of attention so somewhere along the lines, there will be some sort of announcement, if not from us than from the OPS.”
He added that if an RCMP member is charged with an offence, that information would be made public.
The Ottawa Police Service is also investigating another possible case of excessive use of force in police cells related to an incident in Iqaluit on Jan. 2, 2015, involving Nunavut RCMP officers and a prisoner named Eetooloo Ejetsiak.
In the cell-block video which captured that incident, a Nunavut police officer appears to hit Ejetsiak in the face with a hand that is also holding a taser gun.
The Ottawa Police Service said Oct. 7 that the Ejetsiak case is still under investigation.
— With files from Thomas Rohner