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Taloyoak teen alleges police brutality

Howard Saittuq had a black eye last week and he says it came at the hands of an RCMP officer.

Saittuq and Sharion Poodlat, both 18 and in a relationship, were outside of Saittuq's parents' home at 2 a.m., smoking a cigarette, on Sept. 29. Poodlat said a house guest misinterpreted an earlier interaction between her and Saittuq's parents as "fighting" and alerted police.

Howard Saittuq, an 18-year-old resident of Taloyoak, says a police officer choked him and punched him twice in the face during an altercation outside his family's home earlier this month. photo courtesy of Elaine Saittuq

"I wouldn't hurt anyone like them," Poodlat said, denying any such clash with Saittuq's mother and father.

Two male Mounties showed up a short while later.

Poodlat said Saittuq approached the police officers and told them that they weren't taking Poodlat to the "drunk tank."

Saittuq was then thrown to the ground and one of the Mounties choked him and punched him twice in the face, Poodlat alleged. She said she began yelling for Saittuq's father as she heard her boyfriend "gasping for air."

"I was telling Howard to calm down, and the cop that was choking Howard went towards me and started saying, 'Back the (expletive) up' and kicking me," she said, adding that she wound up with minor bruising.

Saittuq echoed much of Poodlat's recollection of events, although he said he never resisted.

"He (one of the RCMP) pushed me down to the ground, then grabbed my arm, grabbed my neck and started choking me. And then he put me more up and then punched me twice right to my eye," Saittuq said.

Saittuq admitted that he "stepped toward" the police officers because he was "trying to protect" Poodlat, but he said he didn't touch them.

Neither Saittuq nor Poodlat was charged. However, they were both arrested and placed in jail cells. Saittuq said they were detained for 12 hours, Poodlat said it was for 10 hours.

Asked whether any alcohol was involved in the incident, Poodlat replied, "Yes, but we only had a cup. We know what we were actually doing though."

Saittuq, a Grade 10 student, added, "I was sober enough, I seen everything. I remember everything."

Both teens said they'd never dealt with the police officers before.

Elaine Saittuq said her son Howard has never had any conflict with the law prior to this.

"Us parents of Howard (are) strictly raising our boys not to do this or that, and help people when they can," she stated.

An RCMP spokesperson in Iqaluit stated last week that 'V' Division has not received indication of an official complaint, but Elaine said she contacted RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. She said she was told that paperwork was being mailed to her so a written complaint can be filed.

Nunavut RCMP do not wear body cameras, 'V' Division confirmed, so that won't shed any light on matters.

Howard said the altercation has left him feeling angry.

Poodlat said she too is still upset.

"I feel so angry because they shouldn't be hitting us," she said. "There's people in my community that went through the same situation. It really needs to stop; this violence against us Inuit needs to stop!"