Police in Gatineau, Que., have settled a lawsuit launched by a local family after officers raided their home wielding guns, mistaking a skunk smell for marijuana.

Police raided the home on Montée Paiment, in the outskirts of north Gatineau, in January 2011 after they said they had "reasonable grounds" to search the home.

Oliver MacQuat and his family were home at the time of the raid when about dozen officers entered assuming they had busted a grow-op.


Police thought this 150-year-old home in rural Gatineau was a marijuana grow-op, turns out it was a skunk smell that contributed to the error. (CBC)

"They all had their handguns drawn. That really scared the hell out of me," MacQuat told CBC News at the time.

The auto mechanic said an officer handcuffed him and seated him on a stool while officers searched his home.

It turned out the main motive behind the raid was a skunk that lived below the home's front shed, MacQuat said.

No snow signalled possible grow-op

Police told MacQuat they had a warrant, he said, but they did not show it to him. Police also said there was reason to believe the house, which is more than 150 years old, contained marijuana plants, electrical equipment and grow lamps.

A thermal imaging camera also detected a lot of heat coming from their home, police told the family, and there was little snow on the roof. That is one of the signs police look for when identifying potential grow-ops.

Macquat said police insisted on going through his entire home. They also refused to allow his son to re-enter the home when he arrived from running an errand.


This warrant from Gatineau police detailed exactly what they were looking for when they entered the MacQuat family home. (CBC)

But a police sergeant admitted the smell came from the skunk minutes after the raid began, the MacQuats said.

The family eventually received the warrant days later, which detailed what police were looking for.

Family sought apology from police

The family spent more than a year demanding an apology from Gatineau police and the Surêté du Quebec. They also hired a lawyer to pursue legal action.

Their case was settled in September 2012, according to the family’s lawyer Sylvain Marcotte, but he could not divulge how much the family received or whether police apologized.

MacQuat also told CBC News last year he suffered post-traumatic symptoms after the raid, which included nightmares involving gun violence.

Gatineau police were not available for comment on the settlement.