The family of an Inuk woman who was hit by a police car in Nunavik, the Inuit territory in northern Quebec is wondering why it took two months for the incident to be investigated.
“When I heard that she got struck by a police truck, it came to my mind, ‘why?’” said her partner Paul Tookalook.
“Why not run after her, pepper spray her? Not hit her.”
Maina Aculiak, 48, said on April 4, she ran from police after shoplifting some hunting knives from the Northern Store in Umiujaq, a village of about 400 people off the coast of Hudson Bay.
It was during this pursuit police hit Aculiak with their car.
Aculiak suffered several broken ribs, six fractured vertebrae, a broken left arm, a punctured lung, as well as a lacerated kidney and liver. She was airlifted to a hospital in Montreal and is into her third month of recovery in a rehabilitation centre.
APTN News interviewed Aculiak in the hospital.
Her answers were translated from Inuktitut by Tookalook.
“She said she was trying to open the package [of the knives], they saw her trying to take the knives out, she started running when she saw the police,” Tookalook said as Aculiak looked on.
The Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF) polices Nunavik.
When asked for an interview about the event, a spokesperson told APTN to speak to the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEI), the Quebec independent body that investigates police incidents where a person is killed or seriously injured by police.
According to a press release by the BEI, the police had been told that “a woman was in possession of knives and had made threats to hurt someone.”
The statement goes on to say that they did not investigate the incident sooner because they were told that the injury was only a broken arm.
When asked by APTN where the incomplete report of Ms Aculiak’s injuries originated, the BEI replied via email that “it was the Kativik Regional Police Corps who informed the BEI on April 4 shortly after the event and informed us of the diagnosis.”
The BEI launched its investigation hours after Montreal’s LaPresse reported on June 5 the seriousness of Aculiak’s injuries and the lack of inquiry into the events leading up to them.
“The independent inquiry launched today will notably make it possible to determine whether the information provided about the event was accurate and to shed full light on it and its aftermath,” said the BEI’s June 5 statement released only in French.
“The police never came to me after the incident,” said Tookalook.
Tookalook said that no one had filed an official complaint because they assumed an investigation would be launched automatically.
It’s at this point in the conversation that the petite Aculiak said a few words in Inuktitut, then broke into tears.
“Maina says she’s still traumatized about the incident that happened,” Tookalook said.
He adds that physically, Aculiak is expected to make a full recovery.
Aculiak’s incident is the second incident being investigated by the BEI in the town of Umiujaq in the last seven months. On December 28th a 22-year-old man was shot to death by the KRPF for threatening people with knives.