Aboriginal women in northern Quebec speak out against violence

Aboriginal women in the remote community of Schefferville are denouncing violence against women following the allegations levelled against police in Val-d'Or.

Val-d'Or allegations evoke painful memories in Schefferville

Sureté du Québec says it is investigating the allegation of sexual assault levelled against one of its officers in Schefferville on the Quebec-Labrador border. (Radio-Canada)

Aboriginal women in the remote community of Schefferville are speaking out against violence following allegations levelled against police in Val-d'Or.

One woman formally complained this week to police about an assault that she alleged took place in 1998. 

The Sûreté du Québec did not comment on the formal complaint, which is under investigation.

Another woman in the northern community, who wished to remain anonymous, told Radio-Canada she was also sexually assaulted by an officer in the 1980s, but feared bringing her case to police.

Marie-Claude Riverin, the head of a local aboriginal women's centre, said the allegations in Val-d'Or have given women the courage to talk about their own experiences with violence. 

She said more needs to be done to help these women deal with the painful memories evoked by the Val-d'Or reports. 

"We really have to work on developing the services and resources to address these issues, which run generations deep," she said.

Schefferville is in northeastern Quebec — a community due north of Sept-Îles that has no road access, just a few kilometres from the Labrador border.

Allegations of sex abuse

Last week, Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête reported claims that police officers in Val-d'Or routinely picked up aboriginal women who appeared to be intoxicated, drove them out of town and left them to walk home in the cold. Some allege they were physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts.

After the Enquête report aired, eight officers already under investigation for abuse of power and assault were suspended or put on administrative duties.

That investigation has been turned over to the Montreal police department and will be monitored by an independent observer appointed by the Quebec government.

​None of the eight officers are under investigation for sex-related acts.

The SQ confirmed that it is investigating two other officers on sex-related allegations, however. One of those dates back to the 1980s and the officer has since died, while the officer in the other case has not been identified.