JOHN’S — The leader of a Labrador Indigenous group says he has zero confidence in an investigation that cleared an officer of wrongdoing who was seen in a video throwing an Indigenous man to the ground.
NunatuKavut Community Council President Todd Russell said Friday the probe launched by the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay raises more questions than answers.
“If the person technically did not stray outside their procedures, or rules or guidelines, then the damn guidelines are not right. Obviously, obviously,” Russell said. “And they must be infused with a racial bias.”
The town’s investigation was in connection with a video that surfaced in October on social media appearing to show a municipal enforcement officer holding an Indigenous man against a vehicle and then throwing him to the ground. The man’s hands appear to be constrained behind his back.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay issued a news release Thursday declaring that the officer in the video was back at work after an independent investigation concluded he hadn’t breached workplace policy or acted outside his authority. The release did not include details of the investigation.
The town said St. John’s lawyer Sheilagh Murphy was hired to conduct the probe. She concluded there was no evidence in ten minutes of body camera footage of the incident, or in witness testimony, to support allegations that the officer was out of bounds, the town said in the news release.
On Friday, Murphy refused an interview request and the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay did not return a request for comment.
Russell said the town wasn’t transparent about the parameters of its probe or about the details of what was being investigated. “Did they even raise the matter of whether this could be an example of racism, or that it’s a manifestation of systemic racism?” he said. “Did they give any thought to whether the policies they have are appropriate?”
He also questioned why a town officer is responsible for restraining and detaining people. The man in the video was said to be homeless, and the footage sparked a debate in the province about Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s pressing homeless issues.
“I’m thinking to myself _ and excuse my language _ but what the f— does homelessness got to do with the force that an enforcement officer is using against somebody?” Russell said. “What are we trying to say here?”