Following an investigation into widespread allegations of police abuse of First Nations women in northern Quebec, Crown prosecutors will be charging only two officers.
After an investigative report by Radio-Canada’s program, Enquête, was released in 2015, Montreal police began investigating the allegations. They gathered 38 complaints of police abuse, including rape, sexual assault, and harassment. Six provincial police officers in Val-d’Or were suspended as a result, but due to lack of evidence, none will be charged.
Two retired officers from Schefferville, Quebec, have been charged for offenses allegedly committed over 20 years ago. These are the only two charges to come out of the investigation. It is unlikely that this will do anything to ease the concerns of residents in Val-d’Or, who now have further reason to question the legitimacy of the justice system.
At a news conference on Friday in Val-d’Or, Mathieu Locas from the Quebec Crown prosecutor’s office said that “the fact that charges are not being laid doesn’t mean the event didn’t take place. The burden of proof on the Crown is very high and we have to show that these suspects are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Before and after the news conference, residents of Van d’Or protested peacefully. Native leaders are calling for a province-wide inquiry, beyond the current national inquiry. It would pressure the province to identify exactly how the justice sytem is failing First Nations peoples, and take steps to address the systemic racism. The Assembly of First Nations responded by calling for an “immediate explanation from the Crown prosecutor’s office in response to media reports that charges will be not be laid against six Québec provincial police officers in Val-d’Or accused of physical and sexual abuse against Indigenous women.” The Commission of Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also released a statement saying that “the Commissioners wants to learn how lack of services, or ineffective delivery of services, has contributed to this national tragedy.”
Quebec’s association of provincial police officers released a statement condemning the investigation, and in particular the reporting done by Enquête.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.