OPP remain in Pikangikum after dispute over arrest

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:41

Pikangikum has new Ontario Provincial Police officers after community members protested the actions of previous officers.
“They didn’t want their members being beaten up by police officers,” Pikangikum Chief Jonah Strang said July 2, explaining two OPP officers had arrested a man and put him in jail overnight in late June. “That guy was trying to go for his firearm and the officers attacked him. (He) is also deaf and mute, that is why the people took it to heart.”
Strang said nobody was hurt during the half-day protest June 30 in front of the OPP police detachment.
“It started off like a minor incident and really took off after that,” Strang said, explaining the band council wrote up a band council resolution to get the OPP officers who were involved in the incident out of the community due to pressure from community members.
“The OPP are currently liaising with First Nation leadership to reach a resolution,” OPP Sgt. Shelley Garr said July 2. “The OPP have not and will not leave the community and will maintain adequate police service.”
Garr said the OPP want to ensure community safety.
“Currently there are 12 OPP on site, (including) two supervisors and there is one Pikangikum police officer,” Garr said July 5.
Health Canada’s nurses on duty in Pikangikum were temporaily deployed to Sioux Lookout from June 30 to July 2 due to the situation.
“The situation at that time impacted their ability to function effectively in an unsettling environment where their personal safety was at risk,” Ashley Lemire, media relations officer with Health Canada, said in an email reply.
“Health Canada monitored the situation closely and medical services were restored in the community July 2 as it was deemed safe for the nurses to return.
Health Canada had a contingency plan in place for community members to access medical services outside of the community until the nurses were able to return.”
Strang said the arrested man is now out of jail and in the community.
“He’s still in the community,” Strang said. “I guess he is okay, but they (community members) didn’t really appreciate that happening to him.”
Strang said the community has been negotiating with the OPP and now has OPP officers from across the region instead of the previous officers from southern Ontario, who had been policing the community over two-week shifts.
“They are just going to get them from close by, like Red Lake, Dryden and Kenora area, some people familiar with our community and members,” Strang said.
Strang said the community is relieved that the situation has been resolved, but the community still has another meeting with the OPP scheduled.