A North Battleford lawyer says the recent violent arrest of a First Nations man in Saskatoon is not an uncommon experience for Indigenous people when dealing with police authorities.
A video circulating on social media shows an officer punching a man named Evan Penner repeatedly while he has him pinned face-down to the ground.
Other officers later arrive and appear to taser Penner.
A Saskatoon Police Service press release says officers responded to a report of a suspicious person in the 500 block of 11th Street East on July 4.
The release says a taser and pepper spray were ineffective in subduing a man who was resisting arrest.
It says a 27-year-old man is now facing charges of assaulting a police officer, disarming a peace officer, mischief and possession of a controlled substance.
Speaking at a press conference Friday put on by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to address Penner’s treatment by Saskatoon police, Eleanore Sunchild said social media is now beginning to expose the reality of how many Indigenous people are treated by police.
“I don’t think it’s that uncommon and I think what is more common is now people are videotaping these kinds of incidents,” she said. “So, that makes all the difference when there’s allegations of assault, abuse and those are videotaped because the officers don’t know who has a video camera. It could be anybody who has their cellphone and is recording.”
Speaking at the same press conference, FSIN vice-chief Dutch Lerat questioned why police continued to beat Penner after officers appeared to have him completely subdued.
“Instead of handcuffing by other members that were there, the police continued to strike and punch this young man with a volley of hand held closed fists,” he said.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said racism is alive and well in Saskatchewan’s police forces and invited RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to come have a look for herself.
“Systemic racism is real here in Saskatchewan, it’s real right across Canada,” he said. “And for those that say otherwise or need to better understand, we offer the invite to Brenda Lucki to come and listen and learn and experience and witness from our perspective. You’ll see where we’re coming from and we have to have immediate change.”
Another SPS press release says the video posted on social media did not capture all of the interaction between officers and the suspect.
It also says the suspect received a non life-threatening injury to his face and was seen by paramedics.
The release says addictions and mental health issues were present during the arrest and the incident has been referred to the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission.
Lerat also questioned why Penner was only assessed by paramedics and not an actual doctor.
Penner’s mother Sherri was also at the press conference.
Saskatoon’s board of police commissioners met Thursday afternoon to discuss the incident.
(PHOTO: Left to right, Sherri Penner, Eleanore Sunchild, FSIN Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat and FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron outside FSIN offices in Saskatoon Thursday. Photo by Fraser Needham.)