Op Ed: Anishinabek Nation leader questions safety of First Nation citizens in Thunder Bay

Opinion

THUNDER BAY — Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Ed Wawia in response to the recent video depicting a female Thunder Bay Police Service police officer slapping an impaired youth while being detained on a stretcher:

As the Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief representing the Northern Superior chiefs in the Robinson Superior Treaty territory, we have a significant number of our Anishinaabe citizens who call Thunder Bay their home, whether permanently or temporarily.

In reaction to the recent flood of events, I question the safety of our First Nation citizens. I am appalled to witness the lack of sensitivity by Thunder Bay citizens towards the incident involving an impaired youth being assaulted by a local on-duty police officer.

What is more troubling is the statement of newly elected Mayor of Thunder Bay, Bill Mauro, followed by a statement released by the Thunder Bay Police Association that are deflective, insensitive, and biased. The statement blatantly downplays the real issue at hand of a police officer assaulting an impaired and detained youth and instead, shifts the focus towards blame, effectively dismissing our northern treaty partner, Alvin Fiddler, who is well within his mandate to question and call for answers following the incident involving a young girl from one of the 49 communities he represents.

Such statements from officials in public positions of authority and influence are destructive and contrary to a solution-based agenda and approach. Their statements raise more questions than answers regarding the ethical and social values they possess that shape their worldview, which ultimately dictates the standard of care and representation on behalf of all people and citizens, regardless of race, sex, lifestyle or religion.

We all have an obligation to fulfill when it comes to protecting and supporting our citizens, especially our young people who are a vulnerable demographic. We do our citizens and ourselves a great injustice when we narrow our focus to race, blame, and politics. The Mayor and police association made multiple references supporting the police officer on duty; however, not one reference or concern towards the young girl. The blame must stop here. If reconciliation is what we want, then we need to take ownership of our individual roles, especially as public servants, and roll up our sleeves and get to work.

To that end, first and foremost as a father and elected Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief on behalf of the Northern Superior chiefs of the Anishinabek Nation within the Robinson Superior Treaty territory, we support our friend and treaty partner, Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, in condemning the actions taken by the police officer who assaulted a young girl from Nibinamik First Nation and we stand with him and everyone who is calling for immediate answers.