Kingston Police apologize to Indigenous Languages Nest for ‘negative interaction’

Townhomes Kingston offices on Montreal St
Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest (KILN) (in the former Town Homes Kingston building), located at 610 Montreal Street. Kingstonist file photo.

The Kingston Police Force has issued a formal apology to the Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest (KILN), its members, and the community for an “interaction” that “was not to the standard” expected of police, which “upset many people including children who were present and damaged [Kingston Police’s] relationship with some members of the Indigenous community in Kingston.”

According to a Facebook post by the KILN dated Friday, Jun. 16, 2023, the organization was holding a community workshop on their property at 610 Montreal Street in November 2022, “when we were the subject of a police response to a community complaint about the activity taking place.”

The post further states, “Based on the negative response we received from responding officers and the impact it had on staff and those attending, including children, the KILN Board of Directors launched an official complaint through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). The OIPRD and Kingston Police took the complaint seriously and today issued a formal apology to the KILN membership and community with a commitment to do better.”

Reached for comment, KILN Executive Director Constance Carriere-Prill explained that, last November, KILN hosted a cultural teaching workshop focused on the rabbit harvest, at a time of year when many Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the community were traditionally engaged in various types of lawful hunting.

“The workshop included over two dozen attendees of all ages, including children, and centred on traditional teachings, respect for our animal relations, humane harvest, fur harvest, and cooking. It was held in the backyard of our private property at 610 Montreal and had been publicized on our social media,” Carriere-Prill stated.

After a pedestrian passerby called the police, there were two separate police responses to the address, according to Carriere-Prill. The second police response came after the first response had already ascertained the nature of the workshop and determined that no legal violations were occurring.

Carriere-Prill noted that “the second response was a notable escalation of the first [and] involved multiple cruisers, derogatory comments about the nature of the workshop, shaming of cultural practices, filming of participants without consent, refusal to retreat, and efforts to criminalize the workshop activity.”

“The negative interaction was not only very disruptive to programming, [it was also] traumatizing for some participants, who required cultural support afterwards,” Carriere-Prill observed.

“KILN has worked hard to build an environment of inclusion, respect, and cultural safety for the local Indigenous community. Events of that day breached that sense of safety, while also impacting some of the gains which had been made in previous months in building a positive relationship with police.”

The supervising officer in charge at Kingston Police headquarters was immediately contacted, rescinded officers’ presence on site, and initiated dialogue regarding reparations, education, and the importance of increased cultural awareness training for front-line officers, Carriere-Prill explained.

“It has been a dialogue that has continued since the incident and throughout the formal complaint process, which the KILN Board of Directors saw as an important step to ensure accountability and positively impact future interactions between police and KILN members,” she said.

“KILN continues to work in collaboration with the Kingston Police Department with a shared goal of continuing the important work of building positive relationships.”

The letter of apology, written by Inspector Matthew Funnell of the Professional Standards Bureau of Kingston Police, states, “Pursuant to the provisions of subsection 63 of the Ontario Police Services Act, it is the duty of the Chief of Police to investigate all service complaints against the Kingston Police when directed by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). On behalf of the Chief of Police, I initiated an investigation into the concerns you brought to our attention regarding a call for service at the Kingston Indigenous Language[s] Nest on November 26, 2022.”

As a result, Funnell stated, “I have determined that the level of service the Kingston Police provided during this interaction was not to the standard we would expect, has upset many people including children who were present, and damaged our relationship with some members of the Indigenous community in Kingston.”

Funnell called the response of the Police “a missed opportunity for our organization to learn about Indigenous traditions and cultural practices in an urban setting.”

“Had we been better[,] those present at KILN that day could have had a positive interaction with police officers, which for many would have been something they have not historically been accustomed to,” Funnell acknowledged.

Funnell indicated that in-person discussions had since taken place between KILN and himself, and he stated that “even prior to this incident, the Kingston Police [has been] committed to building bridges with the Indigenous community in order to serve them better.” 

However, “Clearly, there remains much work to be done at all levels of our organization. Moving forward we will continue working to build trust with members of Kingston’s Indigenous community to ensure that the service we provide is of the highest standard — from our front-line members and civilian staff, to the office of the Chief of Police.”

Funnell indicated that he had “substantiated [the] service complaint” made by KILN, and said, “I would like to take this opportunity to once again apologize for how this interaction with our officers has impacted the members of the Kingston Indigenous Language[s] Nest and the wider Kingston Indigenous community. I would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention, and to commit to you personally that I, and the Kingston Police as a whole, will continue to listen to and work with all members of the Indigenous community to foster a respectful relationship built on trust and cooperation.”

KILN’s post indicated, “We are grateful for the immediate response of the leadership of the Kingston Police Department at the time of the event in question and the continued engagement since.”

The post further stated, “As Indigenous people, and people of many other communities and cultural backgrounds, increasingly practice culture in a visible way within an urban community, there is always the potential for people to not understand what they are seeing. We want to see a community that, when encountering something new they have not seen before, asks questions and seeks to understand rather than presumes deviancy or that what they are seeing is ‘wrong.’ Respect, education and conversation is the key to a healthy community.”

Questioned about the nature of the original complaint, the interaction that occurred between Kingston Police officers and members of the KILN community, and whether the officers involved had faced any sort of reprimand, Constable Ash Gutheinz, Media Relations Officer of the Community-Oriented Response and Engagement (CORE) Unit, provided the following statement:

“Kingston Police received the complaint, reviewed it, and worked closely with the KILN executive to resolve this matter. The PSA (Police Services Act) indicates that any conduct investigations are to be kept strictly confidential. As such, the PSA prohibits us from providing specific details; however, we feel that we have resolved the matter to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.”

Carriere-Prill finished her comments by pointing out, “In this increasingly diverse landscape that welcomes people from all nations, it is important that people take a breath and pause before judging something they have not seen before or do not understand. Many groups of people have long practiced certain ways of living and being that may be unfamiliar to others. As we grow together as an urban community, it is our hope that the diversity of cultures will become increasingly visible, welcomed, and celebrated by both our neighbours and those charged with serving the community. “

One thought on “Kingston Police apologize to Indigenous Languages Nest for ‘negative interaction’

  • It is disheartening that the indigenous people continue to feel unsafe in our community, even at their community centre. There is a lot of education to be had in our communit. My heart goes out to everyone who was traumatized by this incident

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