back to top

A First Nations Woman Received A Settlement For Her "Horrifying" Treatment By The RCMP

Ethel Pelly was also kept in a holding cell for 14 hours without access to water.

Posted on

Reporting by Larissa Burnouf, APTN National News

In 2012, Ethel Pelly was arrested and charged with a drug offence. She was taken to a holding cell in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Pelly said that's where her "horrifying" treatment by the RCMP began. It started with Pelly being stripped of her underwear.

Larissa Burnouf / APTN

"Is this the way you guys operate?" Pelly, 42, remembers asking the officers. "You let the women come take your underwear while the men come and look at you?"

Pelly told APTN National News that she told police that she was having her period and was bleeding profusely at the time. She said a female officer stripped her of her underwear anyway, leaving her locked in her cell in pants and a see-through tank top, bleeding through her clothes.

"The man wasn't even looking at my eyes when he was talking to me," said said. "He was just looking at my chest" said Pelly, fighting back tears.

Pelly has now received an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount from the RCMP.

"My pants were soaked in blood, the sink was full of blood, the toilet was full of blood," she said. "The stench in there was terrible. I couldn't flush the toilet and I told them and they wouldn't help me. Nobody would help me."

Larissa Bunrouf / APTN

According to RCMP records, Pelly was locked in her cell for nearly 15 hours. A "miscommunication" resulted in her not having access to water for her entire stay.

Pelly's lawyer Tom Campbell said he received the police video taken the next morning.

"The investigating officer attempted to take a statement from her later the next day and she's soaked in blood. She's clearly distraught," said Campbell. "And the officer clearly ignores her distress."

When Campbell contacted the RCMP, he was sent a letter of apology explaining that detainees are stripped of underwear to prevent them from self-harm and from damaging cells.

The letter went on to explain that the water was turned off so she couldn't destroy any evidence that may have been on or in her body.

The RCMP acknowledged miscommunication on their behalf, which left Pelly without water for a total of 14 hours, agreeing that was unacceptable. It concluded with an apology:

On behalf of the investigator's involved, please pass on to Miss Pelly our sincere apology for having the water turned off to her cell for that extended period of time.

"That apology letter is not good enough, not in the least. It is not good enough at all," said Pelly. "I would like actually like to see [the officer's] resignation because he knew… he gave the orders to lock me in there. And he left me in there for that long"

Pelly did not receive the officer's resignation but she did receive an out-of-court, undisclosed settlement from the RCMP for her treatment.

Larissa Burnouf / APTN

"I'm glad it is over with but not too pleased they still have their jobs" said Pelly. "They were disciplined and I requested they go back to school and educate themselves in Native Studies and learn the importance of the women and their Moon Time. I also requested they go to First Nation schools and talk to them about their procedures and what their policies are."

Pelly said it's a small victory as her trust and faith in policing has completely changed.

"My feeling towards the so called 'serve and protect' is lost. I have no trust in the RCMP and look at them in a negative way now. I will never look at them the same."

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is the first national Aboriginal television network in the world with programming by, for and about Aboriginal Peoples, to share with all Canadians and viewers around the world.

Contact APTN News at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.