Indigenous leaders urge inclusion in Prince Albert police board

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte. -- Herald file photo

The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) is calling for a spot on the city’s board of police commissioners.

The call comes in response to recommendations released on Tuesday following an independent review of the Prince Albert Police Service. 

The provincial government ordered the inquiry following three in-custody deaths within three weeks in the fall of 2021 and, just a few months later, the death of a 13-month-old boy.

“Let us see this moment as a catalyst for positive change,” said PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte.

“The PAGC firmly believes that their inclusion will contribute valuable perspective, insights and expertise in the decision making process and add some community representation on the board – and this will make sure our community’s voice is heard and respected.”

Hardlotte joined members of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) for a news conference on Wednesday.

The Indigenous leaders are also calling on the province to release the full inquiry, not just the recommendations.

FSIN Second Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat said the province should provide police agencies with medical professionals around the clock. If this isn’t possible, he explained, all vulnerable people should be transported to hospital to ensure they receive timely care.

Across Canada, Lerat said police should not lodge people for intoxication.

“This is an inhumane practice,” he said.

Saul Laliberte was one of the three people who died in the string of in-custody deaths. He was from Cumberland House Cree Nation.

His mother, Amelia Bloomfield, sat alongside the PAGC and FSIN at the news conference. At one point, Bloomfield became emotional.

Amelia Bloomfield, mother of Saul Laliberte, middle, embraces Cumberland House councillor Bev Goulet, left, after a media event about the death of Saul Laliberte at Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) office in Saskatoon, Sask., on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. — Heywood Yu/Saskatoon StarPhoenix

“He was a son, a brother, a friend to all of us, a person who should’ve been treated fairly,” said Rene Chaboyer, chief of Cumberland House Cree Nation.

“It’s ashame that something like this event takes away a mother’s baby.”

Last week, a 21-year police member was charged with negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life in relation to Laliberte’s case.

Interim police Chief Patrick Nogier said there is room for improvement in the detention cells. This includes having paramedics on standy 24/7, not just at night.

“Nobody’s going anywhere. The community is always going to be there,” said Hardlotte. 

“That’s all we’re asking for. We can contribute.”

Hardlotte said there was no mention of Indigenous culture in the recommendations. He also said body cams would hold police accountable.