By Shari Narine
Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail and her son could have been spared an uncomfortable encounter with two members of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) – and confrontation on Facebook – if there had been communication between the City of Edmonton and its police service.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the city said EPS had not been made aware of an agreement struck between the city and organizers of the National Gathering of Elders that conference attendees, who had their accreditation with them, would be able to ride the city’s public transportation free of charge.
“It doesn’t appear as if Edmonton Transit informed Edmonton police (of the agreement),” said Rohit Sandhu, senior communications advisor with the city.
“Having said that, we are certainly working with the Edmonton Police Service to ensure the communication channel is strengthened for the future.”
Last Thursday, the final day of the four-day gathering of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Elders at Expo Centre in Edmonton, Wabano-Iahtail was stopped while on the LRT by two EPS members asking her for her transit ticket.
In a 10-minute video capturing the incident, she explained the agreement that existed between the Elders Gathering and the Transit Service.
An officer contacted someone on his cell phone and was informed no such agreement was in place. Words ensued in which Wabano-Iahtail informed the officers they could not question her son as she was his guardian.
She also informed others that they did not have to comply with the officers’ request for identification. When they reached the Coliseum stop, Wabano-Iahtail and her family, along with the two EPS officers, exited the LRT.
The video ended when the family walked away.
Judy Kim-Meneen, co-event coordinator of the National Gathering of Elders, would not comment on the incident. She said they were meeting with EPS Tuesday afternoon.
However, on a Facebook posting, the coordinators said they had “reached out to ETS Officials to request an explanation … and ask that the police service publicly apologize to Jocelyn and her son.”
The Facebook posting goes on further to say, “We believe that Concrete Action must follow words or declarations of Reconciliation.”
Following news reporting of the incident, Wabano-Iahtail posted a response from Ashley Rae, who lives in Edmonton. Rae’s posting was peppered with four-letter words and called Wabano-Iahtail a “moron” who believes “just because I’m brown I can get away with anything because if I’m questioned about it or have to face consequences I can just say they are racist and it’s a hate crime and I’m off the hook.” She went on to say that “if I was the officers I would of f***ing knocked you’re a** out.”
Wabano-Iahtail responded, in part, by writing, “Goodness gracious if our Turtle Islanders knows their Human Rights, gives voice and asserts those Rights because when that moment is exercised, many of your Settler citizens become maliciously mean Spirited, dehumanize and engage in further violence.”