Boden Umpherville’s family advocating to fix ‘skewed relationship’ with Prince Albert police

Verna Umpherville, mother of Boden Umpherville, is hugged by Chase Sinclair during a press conference at FSIN headquarters, where family spoke about Boden's injuries sustained during an arrest made by Prince Albert police which left him brain dead. -- Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Chase Sinclair has hope.

Ever since Boden Umpherville died of injuries sustained during an altercation with police officers in Prince Albert, he’s been pushing for equality of Indigenous peoples.

Umpherville’s death was the last straw.

“I’m 38 years old and I’ve lost damn near 50 of my friends in P.A. to drugs, alcohol, suicide, murders. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of seeing my people die,” said Sinclair.

He’s been holding vigils and peaceful demonstrations for justice for Umpherville. 

The most recent was on July 1, when the group held a memorial gathering and then protested outside of police headquarters on 15th Street East.

“There’s a reason why we see overrepresentation of Indigenous people in jail, and it’s because of that skewed relationship – us and them,” he said.

“This is why I’m doing this, is to unsilence silenced voices.”

A group peacefully protests outside of the Prince Albert police station on 15th Street. — Justice for Boden Umpherville/Facebook

Umpherville had broken orbital bones on his face, a laceration above his eye that required 19 stitches, cuts, and multiple burns, according to his family.

The arrest occurred on April 1 and Umpherville was taken off of life support about three weeks later.

A news release from the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) said Umpherville was one of three people in a vehicle police pulled over. Although the car had been reported stolen, according to police, one of the people inside was the registered owner.

Prince Albert police used stun guns, collapsible batons and pepper spray during the arrest, according to SIRT.

“That was a life,” said Sinclair.

“It goes far beyond Boden, but it’s a trigger for me because he was such an important piece to a puzzle that could have helped kids like us. He just needed the time.”

Umpherville was a father of five. He loved to be outdoors, particularly playing basketball, and was caring and compassionate, Sinclair described. The two grew up together and were like brothers.

He may have had a criminal record, Sinclair added, but he was an “all around good guy.”

Boden Umpherville died of his injuries on Apr. 26. — Justice for Boden Umpherville/Facebook

Sinclair said he invited police to attend two peaceful demonstrations.They didn’t show up, but he said he spoke with Deputy Chief Farica Prince following the protest on Canada Day.

They’re set to have a meeting on July 25 with interim Chief Patrick Nogier and an elder.

“I think that’s a start, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re still going to be at their front door every month,” said Sinclair.

The Prince Albert Police Service did not respond to a request to confirm the meeting.

The Herald also asked for a response to Sinclair’s hope for an improved relationship between police and Indigenous peoples, but did not hear back.

Nogier spoke at an Indigenous Day event last month, vowing that the police service will continue to support the Indigenous community.

“I stand in front of you today to ensure you that the Prince Albert Police Service will continue to learn. We will continue to engage; we will continue to listen as we try to chart a path forward,” he told attendees.

Earlier this week, a 21-year member of the Prince Albert Police Service was charged in relation to a 2021 in-custody death. The officer is facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the neccessities of life.

This was the last of three in-custody deaths that occurred within three weeks in the fall of 2021.

Sinclair said for an improved relationship, the police first need to accept responsibility.

“If you want accountability through a person with lived experiences, I would say that a card, a letter, a hug, a kiss, flowers, a sorry – a public sorry – and explaining how things could have went differently, that’s accountability,” he said.

“That’s balance of power. We don’t see that.”