The leader of an Indigenous community watch group is furious following a video that emerged showing Edmonton police officers asking people who were sheltering in a downtown LRT station to leave the place, sending the folks into the extreme cold.
The footage, posted on Twitter and Facebook, shows offers in uniform escorting individuals out of the Central LRT station Sunday evening. Officers are heard telling persons to leave the place because they are dining and not wearing masks.
Judith Gale, a local patrol leader with Bear Clan Patrol, said the group provided persons with food and clothing before the police interrupted.
The officers’ actions were “totally wrong,” Gale told CBC News Monday. “This is inhumane.”
A spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) said the police know about the video and that the officers could better handle the situation.
Environment Canada records show the mercury was -21.5 in central Edmonton at 8 p.m. Sunday. Edmonton has opened LRT stations as shelters during inclement weather in former winters.
Earlier this month, as temperatures dropped in Edmonton, the city opened additional shelter beds and offered free overnight bus service for folks needing to stay warm.
Group provides food and clothing
“I was livid,” Gale said. “I really was, I was shaking. I didn’t know what to do, because these police people did not have any compassion at all.”
Bear Clan Patrol is an Indigenous-led community initiative that started in Winnipeg. A local group started in Edmonton in 2020. The group provides food, hygiene products and clothing to vulnerable persons.
The situation caught on camera took place just after 8 p.m, said Gale. She added that her group members were providing soup, sandwiches, bannock, and fruit to around a dozen folks.
Gale argues with two police officers in the footage, reminding them about the extreme weather. An officer is heard saying that there are shelters for the people to use. She said that the officers did not ask if the individuals needed transportation to a shelter.
Usually, the Bear Clan Patrol has had a decent relationship with the EPS, according to Gale. Now, she wants officers to undergo more compassionate care training.
Edmonton police spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said police had seen the video.
“Our officers strive to balance the role of enforcing public safety, bylaws (loitering), and COVID-19 protocols,” Sheppard said in a statement to CBC via email.
“In this particular case, we should have done a better job at communicating our role in helping connect citizens to the City of Edmonton’s services and partner agencies whose goals are to keep vulnerable citizens safe and warm.”
Sheppard stated that the police service works to reach out to the community about the situation. As of Monday night, Gale said she had not gotten a report from Edmonton police.
Video sparks community support
Gale said she works at the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights in Edmonton, and the organization has tried to reach out to Edmonton police about the incident.
Gale added that she had received so much community support since the footage was posted to the Bear Clan Patrol’s Facebook page.
“I have been inundated with calls and emails and texts saying that they’re writing their city council, that they’re going to be phoning the EPS complaint line, that they’re going to be taking action,” said Gale.
Edmonton’s extreme conditions are predicted to end soon, with the city’s emergency measures to respond to the chilly weather set to end by Wednesday morning.