Denouncing Dual Discrimination: Falconers LLP Highlights Connection Between Anti-Indigenous Hate Crimes and Systemic Racism in Policing

On March 31, 2017, the CBC Radio program, Day 6, featured comments by Julian Falconer of Falconers LLP. Falconer’s comments highlighted the interconnection between anti-Indigenous hate crimes and the persistence of systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service.

Falconer provided these comments in the context of his firm’s representation of the family of Stacy DeBungee. Mr. DeBungee’s suspicious 2015 death was hastily deemed ‘non-criminal’ by Thunder Bay Police after the police conducted an investigation that lasted less than three hours. Representing the DeBungee family, and also drawing on his experience representing Nishnawbe Aski Nation in the Seven First Nations Youth Death Inquest, Falconer had this to say to the Toronto Star:

“There is a systemic treatment of Indigenous deaths that is not lost on any of my clients. They are less than worthy victims.”

The CBC program, Day 6, recently drew on these comments to highlight the ongoing issue of crimes against Indigenous peoples in Thunder Bay being systematically treated by police with a lower standard of seriousness, urgency and responsiveness than crimes against Thunder Bay’s non-Indigenous population. The most recently publicized example is the tragic case of Barbara Kentner who, on January 29, 2017, was walking with her sister on a residential street in Thunder Bay when a person in a car that was driving past them lobbed a 20+ pound trailer hitch at the women, striking Barbara in the stomach. Barbara’s sister, Melissa heard one of the passengers shout, “I got one” before the car drove off. Barbara’s injuries are so severe that doctors have said that she has only a few weeks to live. This case has renewed concerns that hate crimes continue to be perpetuated against Indigenous peoples in Thunder Bay because these crimes are not taken seriously by the Thunder Bay Police Service.

This deeply concerning matter is not going unaddressed. Following Falconers LLP’s intervention to bring attention to this pattern of racist, substandard policing afforded to First Nation community members in Thunder Bay, in November 2016, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) launched an unprecedented investigation into the presence of systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service.

In The News

Thunder Bay’s Indigenous community says hate crimes are common and racism in the police force isn’t helping   CBC, March 31, 2017

Trailer-hitch attack on First Nations woman called ‘hate crime’   Toronto Star, March 28, 2017

OIPRD Systemic Review of the Thunder Bay Police   November 3, 2016

Thunder Bay police face allegations of ‘systemic’ racism   Toronto Star, September 22, 2016

Inquest into the Deaths of Seven First Nations Youth: Summary

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