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Nearly a year after racist incident, Ottawa police officer paddles with family of Annie Pootoogook

On Wednesday, police officers and Indigenous youth spent the day paddling in canoes as part of a day aimed at breaking down barriers.

One participant said that not too long ago, he would have never imagined participating in such an event.

“It’s a long way from where we were last fall,” Veldon Coburn said.

Coburn is the adoptive father of the late Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook’s daughter, Napachie, 4. Last fall, he filed a complaint against Ottawa Police Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar for racist comments Sgt. Hrnchair made on social media following Pootoogook’s death.

Sgt. Hrnchiar was disciplined for discreditable conduct and has since been working to make amends.

The turning point for Coburn was the sincere apology Sgt. Hrnchair made to the courtroom during his disciplinary hearing.

“I realized that he’s not a hostile, aggressive, cold-hearted person.”

On Wednesday, Coburn, Napachie, and Coburn’s other adoptive daughter, Ellie, 8, who is also a cousin of Pootoogook, and Sgt. Hrnchair shared a canoe as part of the Flotilla for Friendship.

Sgt. Hrnchiar said he felt blessed to have the opportunity. It was both his and Coburn’s first time participating in the event.

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