(Ethel Pelly sitting at her lawyer’s office after settlement was reached. Photo: Larissa Burnouf/APTN)
APTN National News
YORKTON, SASK — A First Nations woman has won an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount of money against the Yorkton RCMP for mistreatment following her arrest more than three years ago.
Ethel Pelly, 42, was arrested and charged with a drug offence in February 2012 and taken to the Yorkton holding cells.
In an interview with APTN National News, Pelly said that’s where her “horrifying” treatment at the hands of the RCMP began that started with being stripped of her underwear.
“Is this the way you guys operate?” Pelly remembers asking the officers. “You let the women come take your underwear while the men come and look at you?”
Pelly said she explained to the police that she was having her period and bleeding profusely at the time. She told APTN that a female officer stripped her of her underwear anyway, leaving her locked in her cell in pants and a see-through tank top, bleeding through her clothes.
“The man wasn’t even looking at my eyes when he was talking to me,” said said. “He was just looking at my chest” said Pelly fighting back tears.
According to RCMP records, Pelly was locked in her cell for nearly 15 hours and “miscommunication” resulted in her not having access to water for her entire stay.
“My pants were soaked in blood, the sink was full of blood, the toilet was full of blood. The stench in there was terrible. I couldn’t flush the toilet and I told them and they wouldn’t help me. Nobody would help me.”
Pelly’s lawyer Tom Campbell said he received the police video taken the next morning.
“The investigating officer attempted to take a statement from her later the next day and she’s soaked in blood. She’s clearly distraught,” said Campbell. “And the officer clearly ignores her distress.”
Yorkton RCMP letter of apology
When Campbell contacted the RCMP, Pelly was sent a letter of apology explaining that detainees are stripped of underwear to prevent them from self-harm and from damaging cells. The letter went on to explain that the water was turned off so she couldn’t destroy any evidence that may have been on or in her body.
The RCMP acknowledged miscommunication on their behalf, which left Pelly without water for a total of 14 hours, agreeing that was unacceptable.
“That apology letter is not good enough, not in the least. It is not good enough at all,” said Pelly. “I would like actually like to see his resignation because he knew… he gave the orders to lock me in there. And he left me in there for that long”
Pelly did not receive the officers resignation but she did receive an out-of-court, undisclosed settlement from the RCMP for her treatment within the Yorkton RCMP holding cells.
“I’m Glad it is over with but not too pleased they still have their jobs” said Pelly. “They were disciplined and I requested they go back to school and educate themselves in Native Studies and learn the importance of the women and their Moon Time. I also requested they go to First Nation schools and talk to them about their procedures and what their policies are.”
Pelly said it’s a small victory as her trust and faith in policing has completely changed.
“My feeling towards the so called ‘serve and protect’ is lost. I have no trust in the RCMP and look at them in a negative way now. I will never look at them the same.”
Pelly is glad to put the whole ordeal behind her and pleased that the police acknowledged her terrible treatment and hopes her fight will help others who faced similar experiences to come forward and bring change to the RCMP.