For immediate release
July 8, 2020
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. condemns the beating of an MKO citizen, Evan Penner, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan over the first weekend of July 2020.
MKO has reviewed a video that shows members of the Saskatoon Police Service beating Mr. Penner. They also used pepper spray and a taser on him. The beating of this 27-year-old man was videotaped by Frank Collins, who shared with media that Penner was using his neighbour’s garden hose to cool off during the hot weather.
“I watched the video of what Mr. Penner experienced and I found it very difficult to watch. I do want to commend the neighbour who had foresight to record the interaction and beating of an MKO citizen. I am very concerned with the handling of incidents across the country where police have been called for assistance,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “It is devastating to our relationships with police when we see arrests of Indigenous peoples being handled with such violence. We need to see immediate changes to the ways in which the RCMP, and other police, are working with Indigenous peoples.”
One of MKO’s objectives is to protect the citizens of MKO regardless of where they live. With citizens from MKO First Nations living across the country, MKO continues to be concerned for the well-being of Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast.
“The Saskatoon Police Service needs to take a good look at their organization to investigate what is happening within their ranks,” stated Grand Chief Settee. “They must work closely with First Nations leaders to eliminate the systemic discrimination that exists within their force.”
As Indigenous peoples across the country are experiencing violence, and even death, as a result of their interactions with the RCMP and other police, MKO has been taking steps to strengthen the relationship with the RCMP in Northern Manitoba. On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the MKO flag was raised at the RCMP detachment in Thompson for the first time. On July 6, Grand Chief Garrison Settee and a number of MKO Chiefs met with Jane MacLatchy, the RCMP’s Assistant Commissioner in Manitoba.
“Even as we take positive steps towards reconciliation with the RCMP in Manitoba, we see videos and hear reports of First Nations people experiencing harm caused by police. It is disheartening. Police brutality is ongoing,” said Grand Chief Settee. “I urge leaders at all levels to continue to work together in an urgent manner to end the police brutality and violence being experienced by Indigenous peoples across the country.”
Over the last 30 years, many reports have been published outlining recommendations to improve relationships between First Nations and policing and justice systems. In 1988, the province commissioned the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI) after the shooting of JJ Harper by Winnipeg Police. The AJI provided recommendations to build positive relationships and regain the confidence of First Nations with Justice Manitoba. In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have echoed the need for initiatives to improve the relationships between police services and Indigenous peoples.
The Saskatoon Police Service is well known for carrying out “starlight tours,” which have caused death amongst Indigenous peoples. These tours took place when Saskatoon police would arrest Indigenous people and drive them out of the city at night in winter, where they would abandon them.
For more information:
Melanie Ferris, MKO Communications
Email: [email protected]
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people.