Mounties rapped
75-year-old woman arrested and 'cuffed

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 12/97) - RCMP crossed the line when they arrested and handcuffed a 75-year-old Somali woman who could barely walk, says a man charged in the $11-million phone fraud case.

"She even needs help going to the bathroom," said Farah Yousuf, speaking for the 22 residents of Yellowknife and Inuvik charged with theft of telecommunications in January.

"They detained her for 18 hours. And when they let her out, they brought her home and left her outside in 40 below."

Yousuf maintained the treatment reveals the strong racial undertones of the case. "The way the police treated these people is unacceptable."

While Staff Sgt. Dave Grundy denies that racism was a factor in the case, he confirmed that an older woman was arrested and doesn't disagree that she was detained in cells for a long period of time.

"I'm not going to disagree with him (Yousuf)," he said. "There were a lot of people handcuffed. In the States, everyone is handcuffed, but not so much in Canada."

"We were dealing with such a large number of people -- it was a safety issue. We didn't know what we were dealing with."

But Grundy said that the woman wasn't locked out in the cold. "That didn't happen -- we have a responsibility to look after our prisoners and they (officers) are good at doing that."

On the morning of Jan. 23 at 8 a.m., 50 RCMP officers raided several homes and arrested everyone in the residences at the time.

Police arrested a total of 32 people in Yellowknife and Inuvik and kept several of them in jail for as long as 18 hours.

"It took us that long to determine if they were involved or not," said Grundy. "Anyone kept longer than that was charged."

But Yousuf doesn't accept Grundy's explanation. "It was a blind arrest -- they arrested everyone that was in the houses at the time," he said.

"I don't know if it was a lack of experience with such a large case, but it was something. I never thought something like this would happen in Canada."

Yousuf said the RCMP also showed a lack of concern when they arrested a man whose traditional garment fell to the floor, leaving him standing naked.

"He was wearing a garment worn by Moslem men -- almost like a skirt," he said. "There he is, it falls to the floor while the RCMP is searching his house and he's standing there naked in front of everyone. I think it's awful."

Grundy couldn't confirm or deny this incident happened. "I'm not aware of it, and I called all the investigators," he said.

Yousuf said the Somali community is upset about the way the whole case was handled, and claim that it was racially motivated. "It bothers me and all of us," he said.

"I think what the RCMP did was unnecessary. People who commit major crimes in Yellowknife aren't treated the way this community was treated."

Yousuf says the Somali community wants to speak out about what happened.

"These guys are driving cabs and cleaning buildings," he said. "Half of them can't even spell their own names -- they don't know their rights. I felt I had to do something."