Hundreds of Inuit could join class action suit against RCMP abuse, lawyer says

‘I believe, based on my interaction with the RCMP, that they treat me differently because I am Indigenous,’ plaintiff alleges

RCMP in Iqaluit asked for the public’s help finding Benny Bruce Sanguya, who was last seen on July 1. (Photo submitted by RCMP)(File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

A lawyer representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the RCMP for excessive force expects hundreds of Inuit to join the claim now that it’s been certified.

In her Wednesday decision, federal court Justice Glennys McVeigh said she disagreed with the government’s argument that plaintiffs’ claims of police brutality were individual.

“The claims do not ask if an RCMP officer illegally assaulted a class member, but rather whether the operations of the RCMP create a system where illegal assaults happen,” McVeigh wrote.

“After this has been established, then it can be determined whether a particular class member was a victim of this system.”

The lawsuit alleges that Indigenous people are frequently arrested, detained and abused by RCMP officers in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon on the basis of their race.

It also alleges the federal government has been “systemically negligent” in its funding, oversight and operation of its RCMP detachments and its officers, who it alleges have routinely used excessive force on Indigenous Peoples in those three territories.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Steven Cooper, one of the lawyers representing plaintiffs, said it remains unclear just how many class action members there are, but adds that number is likely to grow in the coming months.

“People are very reluctant to come forward until a claim is certified or the claim is settled and there is something for which to apply,” Cooper said.

“We’ve all seen the video-recorded events in places like Iqaluit and Kinngnait,” he said. “The best I can tell you is that I have little doubt that this is the tip of the iceberg.

“Myself and my colleagues have been hearing about these types of events for decades and I expect that we will be dealing in the hundreds [of class members] in Nunavut alone.”

The original plaintiff, Joe David Nasogaluak, is Inuvialuit from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. He alleges that when he was 15 years old, the RCMP assaulted him during an arrest and held him in police custody.

Nasogaluak is seeking $600,000 in damages.

Government of Nunavut, Employment Opportunities

One class member, Willie Aglukkaq, is a Dene man who grew up in an adoptive family in Gjoa Haven. In a 2019 affidavit filed as evidence in the lawsuit, Aglukkaq recounted a series of violent encounters with Nunavut RCMP officers.

“I have been assaulted by RCMP officers almost too many times to count,” Aglukkaq wrote, saying the first time was when he was just 11.

Aglukkaq recalled one incident in 1990 when he was attending a hockey game in Gjoa Haven and an RCMP officer arrested him and a friend.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong and he didn’t tell me why I was being arrested,” Aglukkaq alleged. “He handcuffed me so tightly that my wrists were badly bruised.”

Aglukkaq alleged that he was held in the RCMP detachment overnight, where officers beat him repeatedly and strangled him until he almost passed out.

“It was a terrifying and traumatic experience for me,” he wrote. “I believe, based on my interaction with the RCMP, that they treat me differently because I am Indigenous.”

Justice McVeigh defined members of the class action as comprising all Indigenous people who were born before Dec. 18, 2016, and who allege incidents of assault while in RCMP custody or detention in the territories.

Nasogaluak was a minor when he first launched the lawsuit in 2018, so his mother acted as his litigation guardian. Now that he’s a legal adult, Nasogaluak must get the court’s permission to put his own name on the claim.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by James michelin on

    Its happening alot here in nunatsiavut also sign me up! Get me a lawsuit i have had many horrendous encounters with r.c.m.p. and so have many, many of my peers here in this region

    • Posted by Really on

      If a plaintiffs can put forward a lawsuit against the RCMP for excessive force and I believe they should. Why shouldn’t the RCMP office put a lawsuit against the individual fighting with them. It is only fair, only because most, not all of the excessive force is due to the person being detained is the aggressor.

    • Posted by Why So Many Encounters? on

      Why would you and your peers have many encounters with the RCMP at all?

  2. Posted by Gone Fishing on


  3. Posted by The Injustice System on

    The lawyers are probably already lining up a class action lawsuit to go after the nurses and doctors too, because health care outcomes are so rarely perfect, and some patients even die. And teachers! Don’t think you’re safe when those residential school settlements were so successful. The kids of Nunavut drop out at high levels, there is rampant bullying, and the kids that do graduate are nowhere near the abilities of southern high school graduates. Somebody’s gotta pay!

    The fact that it’s not your fault won’t matter to the lawyer, they play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. They love class actions, too, as it’s so much easier to get people to make harsh accusations as part of a group against another group, and government likes to settle with our tax dollars rather than be accused of putting an aboriginal accuser through the supposed trauma of having to testify. It’s an industry for them, and they find lots of people willing to help make them richer.

    The activists will soon get their “de-colonizing” wish. Nobody from outside of Nunavut will be willing to risk coming to work, and not enough people from within Nunavut are willing to.

    • Posted by Jeanne on

      You are being so harsh and cynical. It is so apparent you have no knowledge nor understanding of history in Nunavut hence I consider your comment ignorant and as usual stereotyping.

  4. Posted by Two Cents on

    The government needs to fight a law suit for once. I mean really fight. They settle everything, and that prompts ambulance chasers like Cooper to continue. This case will never see the light of day because the government will Pay to avoid any press like this in election season, not because it is legitimate.

  5. Posted by North Baffiner on

    To the The Injustice System: typical defensive strawman’s argument there princess. In this colonial world, white is right and brown is downed.
    Seen it all, watched it all…so I paid back some officers down south where police die on occasion trying to hurt aboriginal people.

    I mayhap will take this into consideration as the RCMP is the most racist remnant of the colonial past. Too many Inuit could not fight back and were forced into situations they lost control of, and RCMP officers committed MURDER.

  6. Posted by CB on

    Individual RCMP officers may be good people trying to do the right thing, but the RCMP as an institution has failed to spend anything on improving capacity outside of Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. The frequent overcrowding in overnight RCMP cells in Kinngait, Igloolik, or Pangnirtung is often a receipt for disaster as tensions rise between prisoners in inhumane cramped spaces. There are too few officers to look after prisoners and service serious calls, and unfortunately mistakes get made. The RCMP owe a duty to every person they engage with to keep them safe and treat them with a basic level of respect – with their limited resources in the communities, this is often not possible. Unfortunately, instead of spending money on building better facilities or hiring more officers, the RCMP will be spending a lot of money -ultimately our tax dollars – on settling this avoidable lawsuit.

    • Posted by Reality Check on

      People sitting in cells need to be accountable also. At what point can we possibly expect Ottawa to keep throwing money here? The population has tripled in a few decades and is rapidly growing, but it’s not as if there is anything but government to support this place economically. The RCMP here make due with what they can, dealing night and day with mostly degenerates and unfortunately chances are some more innocent types get caught in the crossfire. No Inuit take on the job despite decades of easy enrollment and paid education so until Inuit step up to police themselves, get over it and maybe just avoid drunk and disorderly conduct and you won’t have to see the RCMP.

      • Posted by CB on

        No human being in a country as rich as ours should be forced to share a cramped cell with someone who is going to break their bones, or hit with a RCMP car door because officers were too exhausted from working double overtime to drive properly. These are the type of mistakes that are happening because of poor capacity, and are rightfully grounds for this unncessary class action.

        • Posted by Overexaggeration on

          The rcmp door punt has to be the biggest joke I’ve seen. The guy was not hurt, and the fact he has not sued anyone tells you that. It has been overblown in the wake of BLM 2021. You’re Barley cohenerent, where does anyone have a guaranteed right to have their own individual cell? Assaults and abuse happens in jail, and that has been the case since the beginning of gaol and it will always be the case.

  7. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    where do i sign up, i’m greedy ok, i’m honest enough to admit.

  8. Posted by Inuk from baffin on

    don’t forget about the mass killings of inuit dogs ,


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