THUNDER BAY – A shooting incident on the Oneida First Nation of the Thames has the Chiefs of Ontario awaiting information on the circumstances that led to shots being fired. The shots were fired by a member of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on the Saturday morning of the August long weekend. Gunfire was exchanged and a young man was shot. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is currently investigating.
Preliminary information from the Special Investigations Unit indicate the following:
• On August 2, 2013, a robbery occurred on the Oneida First Nations Reserve;
• Today, the OPP was still on the reserve investigating the robbery;
• The OPP received information that the accused was driving around with a loaded gun;
• At approximately 11:03 Am, OPP officers located the male and gun fire was exchanged; and
• The male was taken the hospital with gunshot wounds.
The SIU has assigned four investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. Anyone who may have information regarding this case is asked to contact the lead investigator at 416-622-1872 or 1-800-787-8529 ext. 1872.
Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy has expressed his support to the family and community during this difficult time.
Chief Joel Abram of the Oneida Nation of the Thames stated, “The inherent weaknesses in the Ontario First Nations Policing Agreement (OFNPA) our policing falls under, I believe, was a contributing factor to the environment leading up to the unfortunate events in Oneida. If we had adequate resources and control of such, this event might not have happened.”
The incident at Ipperwash brought to the forefront a similar lethal response against members of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation which lead to the shooting death of an unarmed man, Dudley George, by an OPP officer.
The Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry contained within it several recommendations that aim to reconcile relations between First Nations and the Government of Ontario and it is vital that both partners continue, yet with more and equal strength, on a path toward reconciliation.
In addition, Canada plays a large role in the policing issue for First Nations as do the provinces. The Chiefs of Ontario are working in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations to secure a meeting with the newly-appointed Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney to discuss the urgent policing needs of First Nations.
Beardy and Abram also pointed to the recent video showing 24 year old Norbert Mestenapeo of Unamen Shipu, QC being beaten by two Quebec police officers and two other separate shooting incidents involving First Nation individuals in Pigeon Lake First Nation and Grande Cache, in Alberta as a very concerning growing line of incidents demonstrating the need to support and promote First Nations police services. Regional Chief Beardy stated, “Governments of the Province of Ontario and Canada, we must address First Nations policing cooperatively and urgently, lethal responses like the incident in Oneida Nation of the Thames will only continue if we cannot make First Nations policing a priority.”