NunatuKavut files complaint against RCMP

Rick Lipsey
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Calls for review of police actions during Muskrat Falls protest

RCMP officers approach NunatuKavut demonstrators to make arrests during their April 5 protest.
— Photo by Derek Montague/The Labradorian

NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) President Todd Russell has launched a complaint to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

The complaint stems from a protest the NCC held April 5, which led to the arrest of Russell and seven other protesters.

During that protest, Russell and about a dozen others blocked traffic on the Trans-Labrador Highway and prevented traffic from going into the Muskrat Falls worksite.

"The complaint is based on the fact that we felt that the RCMP did not behave properly," says Russell. "And we felt that it was excessive, their actions, in the sense that we had participated in protests of a similar nature and there were no arrests."

A few hours after the protest began, the RCMP told the protesters they could not block traffic and warned them that they could be arrested for obstruction if they refused to move.

A while later, Russell and seven others linked arms and laid on the road in defiance of the RCMP's orders. They were carried off one by one and put into RCMP vehicles, and charged with obstruction.

The NCC says it has a claim to land in the Muskrat Falls area and says the provincial government and Nalcor did not consult with it before going ahead with the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

Tim Cogan, a spokesman for the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, has confirmed it has received an official complaint against the RCMP from Russell.

"We got a complaint on (May) the 14th," says Cogan. "And we forwarded it off to the RCMP on the 15th for followup."

Russell said the arrests unfairly targeted him and the other NunatuKavut protesters. He said he and others held a protest, which blocked traffic, at the same highway location in January. No arrests were made at that time.

Russell also pointed out that no Innu protesters were arrested when they shut down the worksite in mid-April.

"We also compare that to the fact that there were a number of protests across the country as part of the Idle No More movement, where there were road blockades and railroad blockades and there were no arrests," said Russell.

"The law must treat everybody fairly and law must seem to be treating everybody fairly and without bias ... and in this case, I don't think that's the case."

Since the arrests, Russell and other members of NunatuKavut have contended that the arrests were politically motivated.

"The law cannot ... act on particular pressure, say from political higher ups or political interference."

Russell said there is nothing in the complaint about being mishandled or roughly treated by the RCMP officers who took them into custody.

Organizations: RCMP, NCC, Trans-Labrador Highway Commission for Public Complaints

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • California Pete from NFLD
    May 18, 2013 - 10:35

    Poor little NunatuKavut's .Break the law and get paid. Now the taxpayer has to cover this too !!!

  • Don
    May 18, 2013 - 05:19

    Just Todd Russell's way of wastefully spending our money Ottawa gave his group.too gain publicity.

  • Dickie
    May 17, 2013 - 16:56

    What you feel is excessive and what is excessive are two different thing.

  • saelcove
    May 17, 2013 - 13:25

    Maybe russell should talk to the Cree in north Quebec it would be a real eye opener

  • laura
    May 17, 2013 - 13:19

    #Team NUNATUKAVUT all the way!!!

  • Don
    May 17, 2013 - 13:01

    K-May, You might be really tired about hearing about the problems that afflict many First Nations communities in Canada and around the world. Its a shame that you occasionally see a news story that glances over the problems of poverty and social disruption that influence people here in our own backyards. They really should be quiet shouldn't they, and accept the fact that indigenous peoples in Canada are much more likely to live in poverty, to come from broken homes, to come from broken communities, to have alcohol fetal syndrome, to be stereotyped and discriminated against by police, social workers, medical staff.... I feel bad for you K-May. It must be hard on you hearing about the problems of people that you wish would simply disappear.

    • SC
      May 17, 2013 - 16:29

      Much more likely to live in poverty? Why? Everything is paid for! There is no excuse! It's not like they have to buy their own transportation, pay taxes, build their own homes, etc. It is paid for by our government. The government sure as hell ain't paying my mortgage, or buying me a skidoo. I'm waiting 2 years now to get a moose license, and will probably have to continue to wait another year or two. I respect that they have their own culture and beliefs. They want to live off their land, and so on. Then do so! Stop complaining that the government does not do enough and take care of your own darn kids!

  • BI
    May 17, 2013 - 12:31

    I think if they lay on the road in Ottawa and blocked it, then the police would come in and take them away. They are still citizens of Canada and shouldn't be given preferential treatment. Treat them the same way we would be treated. No complaint valid here.

  • doug
    May 17, 2013 - 12:20

    "The law must treat everybody fairly and law must seem to be treating everybody fairly and without bias ... and in this case, I don't think that's the case." Haha....law and fair can't be used in the same sentence as it does not exist.

  • doug
    May 17, 2013 - 12:16

    Since the arrests, Russell and other members of NunatuKavut have contended that the arrests were politically motivated. "The law cannot ... act on particular pressure, say from political higher ups or political interference." Russell said there is nothing in the complaint about being mishandled or roughly treated by the RCMP officers who took them into custody." Oh really, well russell did you ever hear of the G20 summit in toronto, canada?, was the largest mass arrest in canadian history, of course you probably didn't hear about it because it didn't involve native peoples. Lets see here, politicians make the laws and police enforce them...simple

  • K
    May 17, 2013 - 11:09

    Can some one put a muzzle on Russell. Then explain the Canadian laws to him. Obviously he still believes it is their way and Canada has no say, except when dealing out goods service money education benefits, medical treatments etc. SOOOOOO tired of the whining for so much more.

    • Agreed...
      May 17, 2013 - 14:55

      AGREE!!! Laws and politics apply to everyone. If they want to keep the land and the traditiional way of life, do so without tax payer money.