FSIN demand accountability for death of baby Tanner Brass

Kyla Frenchman is wrapped in a starblanket by FSIN leadership during a press conference calling for accountability from Prince Albert police in the death of her 13-month-old son Tanner Brass on May 19, 2023. -- Screenshot

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) are calling for accountability and transparency from the Prince Albert Police Service, following the release of the Saskatchewan Public Complaint Commission’s (PCC) report into the death of 13-month-old Tanner Brass which found two Prince Albert police officers neglectful of their duty.

“The Prince Albert Police Service had a duty to protect Kyla and her child, Tanner, [and] they failed Kyla, an Indigenous woman, and her child, miserably,” said Eleanor Sunchild, Kyla Frenchman’s lawyer.

The report states that though both officers were aware of the concerns raised by Kyla in her 911 call, neither went inside the home in which Tanner was killed to ensure his safety. 

“[They] were incorrect in their belief that they required a warrant or permission… to enter the residence. Under these circumstances, they did not,” reads the PCC’s report.

“There should never be officers that go to calls, including domestic disturbance calls involving children, who do not know the law or authority that they hold when attending these type of calls,” said Sunchild. 

While the report noted that the two responding officers did not reach out to a superior for additional assistance, FSIN said they feel that senior management also had a role to play.

“It’s not just the frontline officers that are being pointed the blame to, it was the commanding officer on duty that night who could have made the call to intervene,” said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt. “Rather than listen to Kyla and support her story, they immediately stereotyped her as being another drunken Indian.”

Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after the PCC’s report was released to the public. Until a permanent replacement can be found, an interim Police Chief will be seconded from the Saskatoon Police Service effective immediately.

“We look forward to working with the new chief to enhance relationships between the First Nation community and Prince Albert Police Service,” said FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat.

FSIN is calling for the immediate dismissal of the responding officers, as well as criminal charges laid against them for criminal negligence causing death.

They’re also asking for a full-scale investigation into the Prince Albert Police Service and an inquest into the death of Tanner Brass.

“Police investigating police will always fail,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “You must have First Nation experts, First Nation individuals who are trained, educated in the law system to be part of these investigations.”

The PCC report noted inconsistencies between what was alleged by Kyla and what the PCC found, but Lerat said they believe essential details of what happened on Feb. 10, 2022, were not considered.

“When Kyla interacted with the police, she was in shock and she was in trauma,” said Lerat. “It is completely understandable that she was not able to communicate clearly.”

“We don’t lie when it comes to tragedies such as this,” said Cameron. “We feel it, we live it, we experience it, we breathe it.”

Sunchild added that Kyla Frenchman will be pursuing legal action against the Prince Albert Police Service in the near future.

The Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Christine Tell broke her silence on Friday afternoon by thanking the Public Complaints Commission for its work and offering sympathy to the family of Tanner Brass.

“This situation was tragic and the details now released highlight the need for immediate change within the Prince Albert Police Service,” said Tell. “I am confident that the new interim Chief of Police will begin the process of change that is necessary.”

Tell added that she looks forward to the continued support of the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners as they prepare for the release of the Prince Albert Police Service Special Inquiry final report in the coming weeks.

The Public Complaints Commission receives, investigates, and reviews complaints against municipal police. The PCC is a five-person, non-police body appointed by the government.

Police were called to the 200 Block of 23rd Street West at 5:44 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2022 following complaints of a family dispute. Officers transported one person to police cells, but were called back to the residence just before 11 a.m. following reports of a homicide involving a child. Police discovered a deceased 13-month-old boy, later identified as Tanner Brass, on arrival.

Kaij Brass, Tanner’s father, was arrested at the scene and charged with second degree murder.