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Winnipeg advocates renew call for police reform after death of Tyre Nichols

Winnipeg advocates are renewing calls for police reform after the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, a Black man who was beaten by police during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 7. Nichols died three days after the confrontation. 

The officers, all of whom are Black, have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other crimes. Memphis police said other officers who showed up at the scene are under investigation.

“Knowing that it happened under the hands of police again, and Black policemen, it is beyond words. I don’t even know where to start,” said founding member of Winnipeg-based Parents Against Racism, Blandine Tona.

“How can we trust that institution again,” she said.

Tona said doesn’t believe the U.S. or Canada have done enough to prevent harm done by police, citing a recent incident where Manitoba’s Independent Investigation Unit said it would not investigate a police dog biting a child during a school visit. 

She’s calling for action from both governments to take “considerable measures” to reduce police violence.

“We have here, again, another case of people forgetting the role of protecting the population, and [instead] harming someone in a way that [denies] the person basic human rights,” Tona said.

“We are done with condemnation. We want to see action. We want these young people to live. No one is having children to see them die in this horrible circumstance,” she said. 

A woman with braided hair and glasses stares solemnly at the camera.
Blandine Tona is a founding member of Parents Against Racism, a coalition which advocates against racism in the school system. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Alphonse Lawson, president of French immigrant community organization Amicale de la Francophonie Multiculturelle du Manitoba, is calling for a review of police culture, procedures and training. 

Lawson said he thought change was happening following George Floyd’s death in 2020, but now doubts himself and said “things have not changed that much.” 

He said although he can’t ignore the fact that the officers charged are Black, the culture for all officers needs to change.

“It’s not going to be matter of white or black, but every time life is in danger in the hands of the police, the appropriate measures [need to] be taken to protect the citizen, to protect the community and to protect life,” Lawson said.

A man looks solemnly at the camera. He wears a black suit and red tie.
Alphonse Lawson, who is with Amicale de la Francophonie Multiculturelle du Manitoba, is calling for a review of police culture, procedures and training. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Danny Smyth, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Winnipeg Police Chief, said in a statement that CACP condemns excessive and inappropriate use of force, and it reaffirms the commitment to engage with communities to ensure trust and confidence.

“As police leaders, we recognize that the actions of these officers will also impact the trust and confidence in policing throughout the United States and Canada — damaging the reputation of a majority of officers who are unwavering in their commitment to public safety.”

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