Quebec's new independent bureau to investigate shootings, serious injuries and deaths stemming from police interventions has only just opened, and it's already facing questions about whether it can conduct a fair investigation.
The Bureau of Independent Investigations, which is to go by its French acronym BEI, finally got down to business on Monday after years of delays.
It is comprised of 18 investigators — nine former police officers, two people formerly associated with police and seven civilians with relevant backgrounds in fields such as criminology and law.
The majority of them are white men.
Robyn Maynard, a member of the activist group Montreal Noir, says that's a problem.
"That is not at all reflective of the actual make-up of Montreal. And especially it's not representative of the population that actually face the most police violence," she said.
The BEI has been in the works for three years.
It was hit with another round of delays earlier this year after the bureau's director, former Crown prosecutor Madeleine Giauque, decided to introduce new training to ensure staff can properly handle allegations of sexual assault against police officers.
That decision came on the heels of allegations of abuse against police in Val-d'Or last year.
Julie Matson, who founded Montreal-based Justice for Victims of Police Killings after her father died in police custody in 2002, believes ex-police officers should not be on the BEI.
"This is not an unbiased group of citizens working for the greater good here. It's just a badge protecting a badge," she said.
Process will be fair, BEI says
René Trépanier, the BEI's deputy director, said steps will be taken to ensure the new unit conducts investigations fairly.
He said that lead investigators will not be assigned to any cases involving police forces where they once served, and that complicated cases need the perspective ex-officers can provide.
"We'll be able to have some training, some experience coming from the ex-officers, and the kind of investigations we do need that kind of training," Trépanier said.