Montreal

Quebec forces routinely break law requiring officers to report independently to police watchdog: BEI head

Human rights and anti-police brutality groups have made public a series of letters that they say shows Quebec's system of investigating deaths and injuries at the hands of police is seriously flawed.

Madeleine Giauque has complained to 4 different police directors about police not following rules

In at least 10 separate letters to four Quebec police services, Madeleine Giauque, director of Quebec's Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI), has raised concerns about police failing to obey the law into independent investigations into police incidents where a gun is discharged or someone is hurt. (Radio-Canada)

Human rights and anti-police brutality groups have made public a series of letters that they say shows Quebec's system of investigating deaths and injuries at the hands of police is seriously flawed.

The 10 letters, written by Madeleine Giauque, the head of the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI), were obtained through an access to information request.

The letters, sent to the directors of the Montreal police, Laval police, the Sûreté du Québec and the Kativik Regional Police Force, raise concerns about several cases where officers were left together, without supervision, to write up their version of the events before handing them over to the BEI.

The law governing the BEI requires that officers must write their accounts of an incident independently.

In one case, in which a civilian was shot by police in Montreal North in 2016, Giauque says in her letter that a supervising officer repeatedly advised the officers involved to stop speaking to each other as they wrote their reports.

The same letter details another incident that same year in downtown Montreal in which a civilian was shot. The letter states the officers involved wrote their reports in the same room and were unsupervised most of the time.

In both of these cases, the civilians survived the shooting, but six of the cases Giauque mentioned in her letters involved a civilian death. 

In March, the BEI took over an investigation after a man fell to his death from a balcony in Laval. 

Giauque wrote that in that case a Laval police officer "refused to answer the questions of BEI investigators."

The groups — the Ligue des droits et libertés, the Réseau d'aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal (RAPSIM), the Coalition contre la Répression et les Abus Policiers and the CSN labour federation's central council for metropolitan Montreal — say the letters raise serious concerns about the BEI's ability to carry out effective investigations.

Alexandre Popovic, spokesperson for the anti-police brutality group, points to another case in which Montreal police waited 11 hours to contact the BEI after a man was seriously injured in Pierrefonds-Roxboro in July 2017.

"[The Police Act] says the police chief must contact the BEI without delay," said Popovic. "So...the police chief is not even respecting the law."

SPVM says it has changed its practice

Last week, the family of Nicholas Gibbs, a 23-year-old man shot and killed by police, released a letter from the BEI's director to the interim head of the SPVM, Martin Prud'homme.

The letter that said officers had not followed proper procedures under the law, by interviewing witnesses and family members before handing the case over to BEI investigators.

Gibbs's family has launched a lawsuit for just over $1 million against the SPVM.

In a statement after that lawsuit was launched, ​SPVM spokesperson Insp. André Durocher confirmed that the police service had received Giauque's letter but said the SPVM has since changed its practice.

Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec's public security minister, was not available to comment on the letters.

But her spokesperson, Jean-Francois Del Torchio, said the minister expects police forces to fulfil their obligations to the BEI.

About the Author

Ainslie MacLellan is a journalist at CBC Montreal. Follow her on Twitter: @CBCAinslie.