SASKATOON — The head of an organization representing Saskatchewan First Nations is expressing concern following the fatal shooting of an Indigenous man by RCMP.
Brydon Whitstone of the Onion Lake Cree Nation died after being shot on Saturday in North Battleford, Sask.
Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, says he’s been getting calls and messages questioning the details around the 22-year-old man's death.
Cameron says the shooting furthers the mistrust First Nations people have toward the justice system, and he adds there is also a lack of trust in the independent investigation that has been called.
RCMP said in a media release after the shooting that they had pursued a vehicle following reports of a man being chased and shot at.
The police chase ended shortly after the suspect rammed a cruiser and officers opened fire.
A woman who was also in the vehicle suffered minor injuries, was taken to hospital for treatment and then released back into custody.
One RCMP member was also hurt in the pursuit, taken to hospital, treated and released
Whitstone's friend tells CTV Saskatoon that officers were pursuing the wrong car.
“The story of him being a suspect, of chasing a guy, is wrong," says Landin Blanko. "It just so happens he was in a white, four-door car in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was an innocent man, shot and being blamed for something he didn’t actually do.”
Blanko believes Whitstone may have panicked when police began pursuing the vehicle.
“Brydon didn’t do nothing wrong, but probably was scared,” Blanko says. “He’s a 22-year-old kid. All of a sudden — boom — police come out of nowhere, chasing him out of nowhere. He had no idea what was going on.”
Cameron says he is left wondering what specifically led police to shoot Whitmore.
“The comments about 'in response to the driver's actions to the officers,' what does that mean?” Cameron asked on a CKOM radio talk show on Monday.
He said he is worried that RCMP may have been too quick to use lethal force.
“Does damage to a vehicle warrant to kill someone on sight?”
RCMP have turned over the investigation to the Regina Police Service. The review is to be overseen by the provincial Justice Ministry.
Cameron said the FSIN has long wanted to see First Nations represented at such investigations.
“The majority of people that are incarcerated are First Nations people. Wouldn’t it make sense to have one of our own First Nations legal experts involved in all these processes?” he asked.
Cameron suggested involving First Nations people would be a step toward rebuilding trust in the justice system.
(CKOM, The Canadian Press)