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No charges against Fort Res RCMP after external review
Investigation to continue into injuries suffered by elder; family declines to speak

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 26, 2015

There will be no criminal charges laid against any RCMP member in Fort Resolution and the family is not talking after an alleged assault against an elder last September.

NNSL photo/graphic

Fort Resolution elder Loretta Edjericon suffered a black eye and bruised arm in September. Her family claimed the injuries were caused when police officers entered her house in search of another woman. - photo courtesy of Margo Edjericon

The lack of charges is the conclusion reached after external review of the RCMP's investigation into the incident.

"I've concluded that nothing further will be done with regards to the officers involved in this matter, meaning that I'm not recommending any charges or any further action as it results to Criminal Code investigations being done now," said Sgt. Jason Graham of the Medicine Hat Police Service.

Graham concluded his review on Jan. 9 and submitted it to the RCMP's 'G' Division in the NWT.

In October, the RCMP investigated a public complaint in Fort Resolution after it was alleged that an officer had assaulted an elder.

Upon completion of that investigation, managing officers ordered an external review be conducted.

The alleged assault by an RCMP officer involved a 71-year-old woman.

According to a family member speaking to News/North just after the incident, Loretta Edjericon was elbowed in the face by an RCMP officer and suffered a bruised arm on Sept. 20 after two officers entered her home, looking for another woman who had allegedly breached her probation conditions.

Despite the results of the external review, the RCMP said the investigation into the matter is not over.

"The images that were seen in the media were very disturbing. Photos were shown of an elder who was the victim of violence," stated a Jan. 19 news release from the RCMP. "The investigation into the cause of the victim's injuries is not closed. The 'G' Division RCMP Major Crimes Unit continues to assist the Fort Resolution RCMP in their investigation."

Graham explained he came to his decision based on a review of all the material that was given to him, and it would only have been referred to the Crown for review if he believed there were enough grounds to lay a charge.

"I have to give the benefit of the doubt to these officers the same way I would with anybody else," he said. "The law says without a reasonable doubt, and there is lots of it here."

The case was handled as it would have been for any member of the public, he stressed.

"I can tell you with what I was presented with I could not recommend any charges being laid against any officer, the same way that if the same circumstances were presented to anybody else in the public I would feel the same way."

Graham added there were conflicting and changing stories from members of the public interviewed by the RCMP.

"That had a major impact on what I was reviewing," he said.

Graham said he had to look at the possibility that the elderly woman got her injuries by another means, as the alleged victim wasn't really sure what happened to her.

"So there were a lot of question marks at the end of this, ones that I could answer and ones that I couldn't answer," he said, explaining that made it almost impossible for him to come to any other conclusion than what he did. "I don't have a good account of what happened, nor do I think the people involved actually do. No one actually saw it happen," he said. "I have no eyewitness. I had nobody that actually saw what happened."

It was a situation of he said, she said, the officer added.

"And next thing you know it was some people who didn't see anything were then claiming they did see something."

When asked how he could assure the residents of Fort Resolution that his review was fair, Graham responded that he would never put his reputation or the reputation of the organization he works for at risk.

"I've done this before. I don't know any of these officers, never met them, never spoken to them. I have nothing to gain in this or nothing to lose. That's the whole purpose of us investigating it," he said.

Nor has he had any contact with the family.

The sergeant said without a doubt it was an impartial and fair review.

Attempts by News/North to obtain a comment from the family of Loretta Edjericon were unsuccessful. Her son Louis Balsillie, the chief of Deninu K'ue First Nation, said the family will not be commenting further on the matter.

RCMP Const. Elenore Sturko said it was important to have the review.

"But it's also important to remember there was a person who was injured and we want to continue the investigation into the cause of those injuries," she said. "The file is not closed."

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