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MONTREAL - A video that purportedly depicts Quebec provincial police ruthlessly beating an Innu man has many First Nations communities in the province asking to regain control of their own police forces.
Shaky footage shot through the window of a vehicle last week showed what appears to be two officers attacking a young man from the Unamen Shipu community of La Romaine, Que.
The video has since sparked two separate police investigations and prompted Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador, to demand immediate action.
Picard wrote two strongly worded letters this week — one to the federal and Quebec governments, with the other published online for the public.
The government letter makes a plea to re-implement First Nations police services and to ensure they receive the resources needed to do their jobs effectively.
From 2007 to 2009, six different First Nations communities in Quebec saw their self-run police forces replaced by provincial police.
Picard is requesting an urgent meeting with the Quebec and federal ministers responsible for public security.
''First Nations elders, women and youth, in their communities or cities, are scared,'' he wrote in his online letter.
''They are scared of things getting out of control again. It is not normal. It is not acceptable.''
His statement opens with a reference to Terry Lalo, a 16-year-old Innu he says died following an encounter with the police in 2002.
Picard says the footage from last week serves as a reminder as to how the justice system might be failing the First Nations people.
''There is an issue here of racial profiling,'' said Picard, adding that frustration is clearly mounting among Innu against provincial police.
That view is shared by Unamen Shipu Chief Raymond Bellefleur, who also wants his community's own policing services to be restored.
''I do not accept that my population be treated in this manner,'' he said in a statement. ''Our (community) is terrified by police brutality.''
Provincial police spokeswoman Nathalie Girard said the force launched two inquiries as soon as they became aware of the video early last week.
One is looking into the behaviour of the officers, while the second is investigating the actions of the man shown in the video.
Because both inquiries are ongoing, police were unable to offer further comment on the content of the video.
Girard did add, however, that the investigations will likely take longer than usual considering the remote location of La Romaine.
''It could be days, it could be weeks,'' she said. ''There are no roads that can take you there — it's either boat or plane — so this will result in additional delays.''
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