A Prince Albert family is still looking for answers
- Marjorie D.L. Roden | July 08, 2023
While most people in Prince Albert’s Kinsmen Park spent Canada Day celebrating and having fun, the family of Boden Umpherville gathered for a much more somber occasion.
The family hosted a free barbeque lunch followed by a peaceful demonstration outside the police station on 15th Street West.
“They’re expecting us,” said Chase Sinclair, the family spokesperson. “I talked to the deputy chief yesterday (June 30th). We’re protesting for acknowledgment and accountability.”
On April 1, Umpherville from the Ahtahkakoop First Nation was involved in a violent altercation with police that was captured on video. The 40-year-old was hospitalized with serious injuries. A few weeks later he was declared brain dead and taken off life support.
Since his death, the family has been demanding answers from police.
Last month, an evening vigil was held for Umpherville where they asked for access to his medical records and for work to begin on creating a better relationship between the police and Indigenous people.
However, they received no response from the police or from the municipal government, so they decided to return with more support.
“We want a change in relationship to the police, in regard to compassion,” said Sinclair.
“It’s very simple. I think they need to be more culturally sensitive. A relationship needs to be established. Right now, it’s ‘us and them’. There’s a fence there. I offered that hand out for them to come and shake the last time and they didn’t show up. If somebody’s holding out their hand, you shake it.”
Carrie Hoey, who attended the Canada Day gathering, is concerned about the lack of response from the police about Umpherville’s death.
“Awareness needs to be brought up, and accountability measures need to be taken,” she said. “I haven’t heard of the police being held accountable for this whatsoever or apologizing to the family through any of this.”
Hooey says the incident has left her feeling “scared” for her own safety because she doesn’t know if she can fully trust police to protect her.
Sinclair believes serious changes need to take place on both sides.
“Our people are so oppressed,” he said. “They’ve internalized the oppression. They just sit and accept life. That’s why you don’t hear stories about people complaining to the public complaint commission, and all of that, it’s because we’re just used to it.”
He hopes momentum will keep growing and more people will continue to show up.
Sinclair plans to organize at least one or two peaceful protests per month to motivate positive change.
“We want a different relationship (with police),” he said. “We want to be treated fairly and we want them to show us that they care about what happened, not just let it sit on the wayside. I think the whole culture matters.”
Calls to the police service were not returned.