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    Frank Paul - Victim of Police Brutality
    Indigenous Action Group memorial march and rally for Frank Paul

    By Aaron Mercredi
    On December 6, 2006, the Indigenous Action Group organized a memorial march and rally for Frank Paul and other victims of police brutality in Canada. Over 50 people joined in that day as a march wound its way from the Main Street Skytrain station and into a nearby alley, where eight years earlier the Vancouver Police Department left the 47-year old Miqmaq man out to die.

    On December 6, 1998, Frank Paul’s body was found in an alley behind the Vancouver Detox. Interestingly, his body was found by the same two police officers who had dumped him there only hours earlier after they had dragged his motionless and rain-soaked body out of the police station. Frank Paul was known to the VPD. He had problems, like many people living in the poverty of the Downtown Eastside, and he had been taken into custody twice the night before to spend time in the drunk tank. He was released the first time after he was able to walk on his own, but then was taken in again a few hours later - this time unresponsive - and shown on surveillance tapes being dragged from the entrance into the elevator of the police station, leaving a wet streak on the floor from the freezing rain outside. Even though he was unconscious, the head sergeant decided he was fit enough to be ‘breached,’ a term used for removing people from the downtown area. The surveillance tapes then show police officers dragging Frank’s still motionless body from the elevator back in to the paddywagon. ‘Breaching’ Frank Paul meant driving to a nearby alley outside of the downtown core, pulling him out of the paddywagon and leaning him against a wall as the cold December rain continued to pour down.

    For 8 years, the Vancouver Police Department, which is responsible for his death, has avoided being held accountable for their actions that night. The VPD held internal investigations and imposed a two-day suspension on the jail sergeant for ‘discreditable conduct’ and a one-day suspension on a police officer for ‘neglect of duty.’ After years of Indigenous groups and grassroots activists demanding a public inquiry into Frank Paul’s death, Solicitor General Rich Coleman rejected these calls in 2004. As those responsible for this crime remain silent, activists continue to keep this issue alive.

    The rally was MC’d by Kat Norris, coordinator of the Indigenous Action Group, and a long-time activist in Vancouver. As people held signs with pictures of other Indigenous victims of police brutality, she explained how the crime committed against Frank Paul was not an isolated incident, but is continuing a long legacy of abuse and murder of Indigenous people in Canada, and that the denial of an actual inquiry into Frank Paul’s death shows how inherently racist Canada’s police forces are. Kat introduced other speakers from the Indigenous community, including those who have suffered abuse at the hands of the VPD and those who are working against it. The rally concluded with a ceremonial burning at the site where Frank Paul’s body was left, with people offering tobacco and a prayer to an innocent man who was left to die cold and alone.

    Frank Paul was one of many Indigenous people who are targeted by the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP and police forces across the country. This is what Canada does to Indigenous people. In order to build a country on stolen Native land, the colonial entrepreneurs could not just kill all the Indigenous people. Those who were displaced onto apartheid reservations, isolated communities and Metis colonies had to be outcasts from mainstream colonial society and portrayed as savages and animals. This mindset continues today, systemically within Canada. Whether it is the lack of investigation into the over 500 missing Indigenous women in this country or the repeated racial profiling and abuse of Native people by police forces through actions like the Starlight Tours in Saskatchewan (where young native men were also ‘breached’, only this involved being beaten to a pulp and left to die outside of Saskatoon in the freezing winter), racism and colonialism are thriving. Bringing attention to these crimes, like the recent memorial rally, is how we can expose Canada’s true history and actions, and this truth must be told.

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