Reports Indigenous women were abused by retired police officer never led to charges, Viens Commission hears

Investigators say several Indigenous women reported being sexually abused by a retired police officer in Val d'Or, Que., but no formal charges were ever filed.

Investigators say several Indigenous women reported being sexually abused by officer in Val d'Or, Que.

A protest was held outside the Val-d'Or courthouse in November 2015, after the Crown announced that no police officers would be charged in connection with allegations that Indigenous women were being abused. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

Several Indigenous women living in Val-d'Or, Que., told investigators they were sexually assaulted, or were paid to provide sexual favours, by a retired provincial police officer.

The allegations followed a 2016 investigation by Montreal police, who were called in to follow up on reports that women were being abused in the community, more than 500 kilometres north of Montreal.

Investigators shared the results of their work with the Viens Commission on Thursday, which resumed its hearings in Val-d'Or after breaking for the summer.

The commission was launched in 2016 to investigate how Indigenous people are treated by public services in Quebec, after Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête reported on allegations by several Indigenous women that they had been mistreated by police officers in Val-d'Or.

Woman said she 'feared for her life'

Det.-Sgt. Brigitte Dufresne, of the SPVM, said a woman who came forward said that a retired police officer, referred to as "Number 37'' by the inquiry, sexually assaulted her.

The Viens Commission will hold its hearings in Val-d'Or until Aug. 24, before moving on to Quebec City, Kuujjuaraapik and Kuujjuaq in November. (CBC News)

The alleged victim, whose identity was not disclosed during the hearing, said the officer picked her up at a corner store in 2008.

She said after eating candy he had in the car, she "lost control of her body."

The man allegedly drove her to a set of train tracks "to watch the sunset" and then attacked her, the woman said. When she woke up, she said her clothes were torn off.

She later remembered "being choked and beaten," and said she was "fearing for her life."

In a police photo lineup, the woman identified a photo of the retired police officer without hesitation. 

"She was 100 per cent sure," said Dufresne.

'Blue Cabin'

A nurse who met with the woman in the weeks following the alleged incident told investigators she showed signs of post-traumatic stress, and had signs of violence on her body.

The nurse also told police that several Indigenous women she was in touch with knew about "Number 37."

"It was a well-known fact among sex trade workers that a retired police officer liked to dress the girls up in his uniform and take photos of them," Dufresne told the commission.

After investigating the allegations, police found a "blue cabin" that matched descriptions provided by the alleged victim and other witnesses.

The man in question was never arrested, but did speak briefly with another police investigator.

The inquiry was launched after months of public pressure in the aftermath of an investigation by Radio-Canada program Enquête, which reported on allegations by several Indigenous women that they had been mistreated by police officers in Val-d'Or. (Vincent Desjardins/Radio-Canada)

Dufresne said "Number 37" denied the allegations, saying "he had never had sex with an Indigenous woman."

He said he had at times given rides to Indigenous people, "but never if they were drunk or high."

The case was transferred to the Crown prosecutor, but no charges were laid "because of contradictions" in the case, Dufresne said.

Few charges laid

Of the 38 cases that were examined in 2016, only two led to charges being filed against retired police officers who had worked in Schefferville, Que.

Alain Juneau of the Sûreté du Québec and Jean-Luc Vollant of Schefferville's Indigenous police force were both charged with sex-related crimes.

Juneau was found dead in his home months later, on Jan. 1, 2017.

Vollant is still awaiting trial. The charges against him are related to events alleged to have occurred in the 1980s.

The Viens Commission's hearings will continue Friday in Val-d'Or.