Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Sun, August 6, 2008
The reason aboriginal leaders in Manitoba have no credibility when alleging police racism is because even when they’re presented with clear evidence that cops sometimes have no choice but to shoot armed suspects, they still cry racism.
Anybody remember the case of Donald Miles? He was an aboriginal man fatally shot by police outside a Winnipeg gas station in 2001.
He lunged at an officer with a knife and cops had no choice but to shoot him.
The case was investigated by homicide detectives and reviewed by an outside agency, as per the law.
The case went to a coroner’s inquest in front of a provincial court judge, which is also mandated by law.
All of the evidence was laid on the table, examined, questioned and tested. The conclusion by the judge was cops did everything in their power to stop Miles—including emptying three canisters of pepper spray on him—and had no choice but to shoot.
Did aboriginal leaders come out and condemn Miles for his actions when presented with the facts? Did they recommend to their own people that if asked by police to drop a weapon that they comply?
We all remember the case of Matthew Dumas, the aboriginal man fatally shot by police in 2005 after he lunged at a cop with a screwdriver.
The case was investigated by homicide and was reviewed by an outside police agency.
It went to a coroner’s inquest where all the facts were scrutinized and all the witnesses examined and cross-examined in court.
It was a thorough probe and the evidence clearly showed the cop had no choice but to shoot.
Two civilian witnesses—both of whom were aboriginal—testified in court they saw Dumas lunge at the officer with a screwdriver.
Did any aboriginal leaders come out and condemn Dumas for his actions? Did they state the obvious, that he was the author of his own misfortune?
Instead, they maintained the shooting was an act of racism. In other words, it doesn’t matter what the facts of the case are.
Aboriginal leaders will always stand up at press conferences and say cops are shooting native people for no reason. I don’t know how they expect the public to take them seriously.
Craig McDougall, an aboriginal man, was fatally shot by police over the weekend.
Cops say he was brandishing a knife. We don’t know the facts of the case yet. But we will.
Because, just like the Dumas and Miles cases, it will go to a coroner’s inquest where all the evidence will be examined and scrutinized.
If cops used excessive force and shot when they shouldn’t have, we’ll find out.
If McDougall was not brandishing a knife as his family alleges, we’ll find that out, too.
In the meantime, using the McDougall death as another soapbox for aboriginal leaders to make blanket statements about how cops are running around shooting native people for no reason is not only irresponsible and preposterous, it hurts their own cause.
Because every time they make these false claims, they lose credibility with the public.
Their claims recommendations from the 1991 Aboriginal Justice Inquiry have not been acted upon are also bogus.
It’s simply not true. The former Filmon government acted on many of them and the Doer government has acted on many more.
Despite that, many aboriginal leaders refuse to even acknowledge some of the progress that’s been made.
I guess it’s just easier to keep playing the race card.