Indigenous leaders call on Prince Albert, Sask. police chief to step down following toddler’s death

A group of Saskatchewan Indigenous leaders is calling for the “immediate termination” of Prince Albert Police Chief Jonathan Bergen, a sergeant and two officers following the death of 13-month-old Tanner Brass last month.

On Feb. 10, at 5:44 am police were called to a home in the 200 block of 23rd Street West where a family dispute had been reported. One person was taken into custody.

Hours later, just before 11 am, police were called back to the home after a homicide involving a child was reported. Tanner’s father has been charged with second-degree murder in his death.

On Wednesday, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Prince Albert Grand Council, and Thunderchild First Nation issued a joint news release, saying the boy’s mother who was initially taken into custody when police first responded.

According to the group, Kyla Frenchman initially contacted police because she feared for Tanner’s safety and “was fleeing from a domestic violence situation.”

“When officers arrived, they assumed her fear was alcohol-related and arrested her for intoxication, ignoring her pleas for help,” the news release said.

“During this incident, they labeled Kyla as being drunk — despite being sober,” FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat said during a news conference held Wednesday morning in Saskatoon.

“To us, police assisted in baby Tanner’s murder,” Lerat said.

A photo of Tanner Brass and Kyla Frenchman provided to news media. (FSIN)

The vice chief described the police response as “disgusting and vile incompetence.” and criticized Bergan for allowing the officers involved to remain on the job.

“All it would have taken for those officers was to make a 30-second walk into the house and clearly they would have seen an intoxicated man with a baby in the house,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said

“I’ll tell you this if it was a white baby, this would never happen. Never.” Cameron said.

“If Kyla was a white woman this would never happen. Officers would have taken the utmost care and attention.”

During the news conference, Frenchman approached the podium supported by two other women but found it too difficult to speak.

However, Frenchman was quoted in the joint news release.

“No mother should ever have to go through this. No mother should have to feel this pain,” Frenchman said.

“He was such a happy baby, who was always smiling. He was adorable and had big squishy cheeks. We used to watch Blue’s Clues together and laugh.”

In addition to terminations at Prince Albert Police Service, the Indigenous leaders are jointly calling for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tanner’s death, “immediate intervention” from the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety.

The leaders are also pushing for a coroner’s inquest.

At Bergen’s request, the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission is investigating the police service’s response.

Bergen felt the investigation was warranted following an internal review.

In the days following Tanner’s death, Prince Albert Police service also created a new oversight role.

Bergen “determined that a structure change” was needed, according to a news release announcing the move.

CTV News has requested a response from the police service and the ministry.

–This is a developing story. More details to eat.

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