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Justice wasn't served for Romeo Wesley, and it's time the nation pays attention: Kabatay

Names like Romeo Wesley, Moses Beaver and Dale Culver should dominate the news cycle. How can injustice be fixed if no one notices, asks Jasmine Kabatay.

The Thunder Bay district jail where Moses Beaver was found unresponsive in February. The coroner is investigating the death.

Torstar News Service Order this photo

The Thunder Bay district jail where Moses Beaver was found unresponsive in February. The coroner is investigating the death.

When footage emerged of the 2010 death of Romeo Wesley, I let myself believe justice would finally be served.

To me, and I’m sure many others, the video was enough to show that something went very wrong that day. It showed exactly what happened, from the beginning to the end

The video showed two police officers subduing Wesley with a baton, handcuffing him, and stepping on his back and neck with their boots while he was on the ground.

On July 20, an Ontario coroner’s inquest determined his death was accidental.

That shocking verdict, coming seven years after Wesley’s death, was another reminder of how justice is hard to receive in this country, especially for Indigenous Peoples.

In the course of the inquest, one of the officers involved testified he wasn’t disciplined in any way. The inquest was the only venue where justice could be served for Wesley.

It wasn’t.

Earlier this month Marlon “Roland” McKay, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, about 600 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont., was found dead in a police cell. He was in the city for a medical appointment. The province’s police watchdog is investigating.

Two weeks ago, Dale Culver died in police custody. The Prince George, B.C., man, identified in the media by his girlfriend, was pronounced dead in hospital after being pepper sprayed by police, according to an RCMP release. Part of that altercation was also captured on camera. The case is now before the province’s independent investigator.

In January artist Moses Beaver from Nibinamik First Nation in northern Ontario, died after being found unresponsive in a Thunder Bay jail cell. A coroner’s inquest is probing the situation.

We’ll wait to see if justice is served in these cases. But what can’t wait is for the nation to pay attention. These names should dominate the news cycle. How can injustice be fixed if no one notices?

There are many injustices in this country. Just look at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Or the anti-Black racism seen in policing and education.

The treatment of Indigenous men by institutions is just as heart breaking. These people are exactly that: people. They make mistakes, they have family, and they have accomplishments, just like the rest of us.

We should be worrying and wondering about the justice they receive, because it is not only for them. It’s for the people that know them, who were close to them.

Their pleas are just as valid as any other person in this country.

We should know how and why these men had to die the way they did. This all starts with one simple step: Pay attention.

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