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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Northwest Territories mother says she was stunned by RCMP taser with kids on lap

January 14, 2009
CBC News

A woman in the Northwest Territories says RCMP jolted her with a Taser while child protection workers apprehended her children in Yellowknife last year.

The woman, who cannot be identified, told CBC News that two of her youngest children, aged one and five, were sitting on her lap when a Yellowknife RCMP officer used the electric stun gun on her.

At the time of the March 2008 incident, RCMP had forced their way into her Yellowknife home to help social workers apprehend her children, the woman said.

"I still wouldn't let my kids go, so they did it to me again," she said. "That's when I was in shock, I guess, because I couldn't move after that. And then they took my kids."

The woman complained to the RCMP, but she said a police investigation concluded that the officer who used the Taser on her had acted appropriately.

No one from the RCMP was available for comment when contacted by CBC News earlier this week.

Seeks apology

The woman said social workers had told her she could not have her children back unless she stayed away from their father, an alleged drug dealer. The woman said she had split up with the father a year earlier, but said he was in the house on the day police arrived.

The woman said she got her children back a month after the Taser incident, on the day she left Yellowknife to move to Inuvik, N.W.T. "I think what should've happened is at least get an apology, at least for my kids," she said. "They're still scared to this day. Like, they ask me if I'm OK, or if they're going to come back."

Complaint did not go to watchdog

The woman did not turn to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, an independent police watchdog agency set up by Parliament. Members of the commission say more Canadians are turning to the agency, but add that many are still taking their complaints about RCMP conduct to the RCMP itself. "We certainly found that people were not that aware of the commission," said Brooke McNabb, a special adviser to the commission, who visited the North last spring.

"We have people who have training in mediation and in police investigations, we're set up to help people frame their complaint, so that when it is investigated there's a better chance that what's being looked at is what the real issues are for the complainant."

The commission is starting to receive more complaints from the Northwest Territories: it has received 25 complaints in the last nine months, compared to eight complaints three years ago.

Last month, the commission launched its own probe into a March 2007 incident at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility in Inuvik, in which an RCMP officer used a Taser on a 15-year-old female inmate.

Two RCMP investigations, as well as a probe by the territorial Justice Department, cleared authorities of any wrongdoing in that case.

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