Justice for Abdirahman Abdi Coalition 'outraged' by Ottawa police handling of Pootoogook death
The Facebook comments “betray an utter lack of respect or acknowledgement for the struggles of Indigenous people,” the group said.
A local group seeking justice for Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali man who died after a police confrontation last summer, says it is “outraged” by the Ottawa Police Service’s handling of an Inuit woman’s suspicious death and a scandal that has reignited accusations of racism within the force.
A Facebook account linked to Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar added comments under an Ottawa Citizen article on the discovery of Annie Pootoogook’s body in the Rideau River on Sept. 19.
Pootoogook, 46, was a renowned artist whose drawings chronicling modern indigenous life gave her international recognition and praise, including a $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2006 and a review in the New York Times which called her work “disconcertingly autobiographical.”
The controversial online comments, which have since been deleted, said her death “has nothing to do with missing or murdered Aboriginal women” and said that “much of the Aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers.”
In light of the social media posts, Ottawa police confirmed an officer was now the subject of an internal investigation brought on by a complaint from Chief Charles Bordeleau. Police have not publicly named the officer.
The Justice for Abdirahman Abdi Coalition released a statement Thursday strongly condemning the comments, saying they “betray an utter lack of respect or acknowledgement for the struggles of Indigenous people.”
The group is also raising concerns that the Ottawa police major crime unit did not initially rule Pootoogook’s death as suspicious.
“The fact that an Indigenous woman found dead in a river, especially in light of the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, was declared at first not to be suspicious is astounding,” the group said in the statement.