Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 23, 2016 - 12:45 pm

Ottawa cop faces two charges for alleged racist comments about Nunavut artist

Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar to appear at hearing Nov. 1

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
An Ottawa Police Service sergeant faces charges related to comments he made in connection with death of the acclaimed Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook, who was found Sept. 19 in the Rideau River. (FILE PHOTO)
An Ottawa Police Service sergeant faces charges related to comments he made in connection with death of the acclaimed Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook, who was found Sept. 19 in the Rideau River. (FILE PHOTO)
Justice for Annie Pootoogook: Sytukie Joamie, now working as an Inuit knowledge keeper in Ottawa, speaks Oct. 4 at the Families of Sisters in Spirit vigil on Parliament Hill, held to demand justice for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Justice for Annie Pootoogook: Sytukie Joamie, now working as an Inuit knowledge keeper in Ottawa, speaks Oct. 4 at the Families of Sisters in Spirit vigil on Parliament Hill, held to demand justice for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

An Ottawa Police Service member, Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar, now faces two charges of discreditable conduct under the Ontario Police Services Act in relation to online comments he made about the late Inuk artist, Annie Pootoogook, according to multiple reports by Ottawa media.

The OPS could not “confirm or deny” to Nunatsiaq News Oct. 23 on whether Hrnchiar has been charged.

But 1310News in Ottawa has reported that the Ottawa Police Association, the union representing OPS members, confirmed the charges.

Section 2 of the Police Services Act says discreditable conduct is conduct that:

• fails to treat or protect a person equally without discrimination with respect to police services because of that person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status or handicap; or,

• uses profane, abusive or insulting language that relates to a person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status or handicap.

If found guilty, Hrnchiar, set to appear Nov. 1 before a disciplinary hearing on those charges, could face penalties including a fine, demotion, suspension or participation in an awareness program.

In two comments posted Sept. 24 under an online Ottawa Citizen story about Pootoogook, Hrnchiar dismissed the need for any police investigation and pointed to addictions as the cause of death of the artist, who was found deceased Sept 19 in the Rideau River.

Ottawa-based news organizations saved the two comments before they were removed by Hrnchiar.

“Because much of the aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers, living in poor conditions etc… they have to have the will to change, it’s not society’s fault,” the first post read.

“And of course this has nothing to do with missing and murdered Aboriginal women…..it’s not a murder case…..it’s (sic) could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned who knows…..typically many Aboriginals have very short lifespans, talent or not.” the second post read.

Inuit leaders condemned these remarks as an example of police racism that could have led to an inadequate investigation of Pootoogook’s death.

And, on Oct. 4, Inuit in Ottawa honoured Pootoogook’s memory and denounced the racism they believed was hampering the OPS investigation into her death.

The OPS held an investigation into the comments, although OPS Chief Charles Bordeleau, in media stories, at first downplayed Hrnchiar’s comments, stopping short of calling them racist.

But as public outrage grew, especially among the Inuit community, Bordeleau admitted in an interview with APTN that Hrnchiar’s comments are indeed racist.

This past week in the Nunavut legislature Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik said the attitudes of OPS members “are being called into question” and that Nunavut should look at a form of civilian oversight for the RCMP.

Right now, the Nunavut RCMP, under the terms of a policing contract with the GN, uses the OPS to do third-party external investigations into police shootings of civilians and allegations of police brutality in Nunavut.

But Okalik, a lawyer and former Nunavut justice minister, said comments that Hrnchiar posted raise questions about whether the OPS is capable of doing credible investigations in cases that involve Inuit.

“The Ottawa Police Service can no longer be trusted to conduct independent investigations,” Okalik said in one of a series of questions aimed at Nunavut’s justice minister, Keith Peterson.

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