(Image of an Ottawa police badge found on the Facebook page of the individual believed to have posted “racist” comments.)
APTN National News
Ottawa’s police chief says he has asked staff to investigate whether one of his officers posted “racist” comments about Indigenous peoples in response to an online news story about the death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau told APTN National News in a brief interview Monday he asked staff to investigate the comments and whether they were made by an Ottawa police officer following a complaint from the public.
“I asked my staff early this morning,” said Bordeleau. “I would ask you give us time to assess and look at it.”
A member of the public spotted the comments and sent an email of complaint Sunday evening to both Bordeleau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, believing the posts may have been made by a police officer.
“The posts are troubling for the overt racism of the text, but they are all the more distressing given that they appear to be made by (the police officer), who I recognize as a sergeant with the Ottawa police service,” said the email, which was also carbon copied to two reporters by Veldon Coburn. “I’m particularly troubled that an officer, either past or present, would harbour these racist views. It puts into question all involvement such an officer had in the administration of justice, especially cases that involved Indigenous peoples.”
Bordeleau responded to Coburn the same day.
“My staff will follow up and take appropriate action if found to be one of our members,” said Bordeleau, in his email, which was forwarded to APTN National News.
The offending comments were posted Saturday on an Ottawa Citizen story about Pootoogook’s death by someone using a Facebook account.
The comments stated that Pootoogook’s death “has nothing to do with missing or murdered Aboriginal women.”
The Facebook poster said Pootoogook’s death was not caused by murder.
“It’s not a murder case….it’s 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, (sic)” said one comment.
The second comment claimed Indigenous people were the authors of their own misfortune.
“Because much of the aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers, living in poor conditions ect…..they have to have the will to change, it’s not society’s fault, (sic)” said the comment.
A previously used Facebook profile photo of the person who posted the comments matched the features of man wearing an Ottawa police uniform in separate photo posted by a relative on the social media platform.
APTN phoned Ottawa police and confirmed someone matching the name on the comments works for the force. The officer usually works the afternoon shift, but called in sick Monday.
APTN was also given an Ottawa police email address for the officer. APTN contacted him to ask about the posts but did not receive a reply.
APTN also contacted the officer’s sister who said she would pass a message on to her brother.
After APTN‘s inquiries the name on the Facebook page was changed.
Pootoogook’s body was found submerged in the Rideau River on Sept. 19. She was once a star in the contemporary art world and her ink and crayons drawings are currently in the collections of the National Art Gallery and the Ontario Gallery of Art.
Ottawa police said Monday investigators consider the death suspicious.
Editor’s Note: Story was updated on Sept. 27 to change the date of the posted comments.