A federal judge has certified a $600-million class action lawsuit alleging RCMP discrimination against Indigenous people in the North.
On Wednesday, as first reported by the Canadian Press, Justice Glennys McVeigh formally approved the litigation. It was initially launched against the Attorney General of Canada in December 2018 on behalf of Indigenous people who claim they have been subjected to excessive force by the RCMP in the territories between 1928 to the present.
The class action alleges that Inuit, Métis and First Nations people are regularly assaulted by RCMP officers in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut because they are Indigenous. It claims that Canada has been systemically negligent, and breached its fiduciary duty to Indigenous people in the North and violated their charter rights in its oversight and support of the RCMP.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Joe David Nasogaluak, 19, who lives in Tuktoyaktuk. He alleges that in November 2017, when he was 15 years old, RCMP pushed him to the ground without provocation and proceeded to beat, choke, punch, and taser him while using racial slurs. RCMP then took Nasogaluak into custody and later released him to his parents.
In affidavits filed with the court, other potential class members allege they experienced racism and violence when being arrested and detained by RCMP.
Last June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said systemic racism is an issue in police forces across Canada. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckie issued a statement acknowledging systemic racism in the national police organization, saying it was committed to change.
In the NWT, the Dene Nation is now leading a pilot project with the RCMP to address systemic racism in policing.
In January 2020, Steven Cooper of Cooper Regel – one of the law firms behind the class action – told Cabin Radio about 50 people had reached out as potential class members including representatives in Hay River, and Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. He said he expected the class to gain at least 1,000 members.
Those who believe they may qualify as a class member are asked to contact Cooper Regel at 1-800-994-7477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.