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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home News Prince Albert toddler’s mom calls for justice in his death

Prince Albert toddler’s mom calls for justice in his death

Prince Albert toddler’s mom calls for justice in his death
Kyla Frenchman (second from left) is surrounded by supporters at Friday's media conference. She is calling for justice for her son, 13-month-old Tanner Brass. -- Thia James/Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Thia James

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Kyla Frenchman says she believes her 13-month-old son Tanner Brass would still be alive today if Prince Albert city police officers had listened to her when they were called to her home.

Her son was later discovered dead after police returned to the home in response to a second call reporting a homicide involving a child. His father, Kaij Brass, is charged with second-degree murder.

Although hesitant to speak at a media conference on Friday morning, Frenchman listened to the words softly spoken to her by Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations spokeswoman Larissa Burnouf to tell her about her son.

“Tanner was a happy baby,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she continued.

He would get excited when he ate, and would run to her when she’d turn on the television, wearing his big smile, she said.

When Burnouf asked her why it was important for her to speak with media she replied, “To get justice for my baby. It’s not right. No woman should ever have to go through this.”

The FSIN previously said its own investigation found that Frenchman was taken into custody during the first police visit to the home — which police later confirmed. The FSIN said it determined that Frenchman was leaving a situation involving domestic violence.

The FSIN said she was wrongly suspected of being intoxicated, a welfare check on the child was not done and Social Services was not called.

On Friday, Frenchman was surrounded by family and supporters, including lawyer Eleanore Sunchild, who read a statement prepared by Frenchman when Frenchman was initially not ready to speak.

“She’s speaking out today because she does not want this situation to happen to any other Indigenous woman or Indigenous person again. There’s been too many instances of police failing Indigenous people,” Sunchild said.

“And this night in particular, they had a duty to respond to her calls. They had a duty to make sure she was safe. She asked them to check on her child, and they didn’t.”

The two officers are suspended pending the outcome of a Public Complaints Commission investigation, the scope of which now includes three senior supervisory officers.

After a media conference earlier this month, Prince Albert Police Chief Jonathan Bergen said he had “immediately” launched an investigation into the force’s response to the first call and as a result moved a sergeant into a new inspector role to provide oversight of the patrol division. He described the two officers who responded to the initial call as “junior” officers with less than five years of combined experience.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron called mention of the two officers being rookies or that they weren’t properly trained “excuses.” They didn’t need to be properly trained to have checked on Tanner, he said.

The FSIN has long advocated for an overhaul of the justice system to increase inclusion and representation of Indigenous peoples in all areas, and creation of on-reserve tribal police services, he noted.

“We cannot afford to continue (on) the same path. These tragedies can be easily avoided.”

If Frenchman and her family want to seek legal action or a human rights case, the FSIN will support her, Cameron added. He reiterated calls for the firing of the two police officers and for the staff sergeant on duty to be held accountable.

FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear said this is a national tragedy.

“That means this event is of such significance, all of Canada should be aware and share our outrage.”

The police service declined further comment on Friday.