Coiteux reaffirms confidence in SQ investigation of Montreal police
Public security minister defends move to bring in SQ despite new report linking them to scandal
Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux reaffirmed his support Thursday for a provincial police-led investigation of claims that Montreal police fabricated evidence against its own officers to keep them quiet about alleged corruption within the force.
"The Sûreté du Québec has the expertise and the knowledge that's required to lead this kind of investigation," Coiteux said.
"The public can rest assured of the quality of the work that will be performed by the SQ on this file, which is deploying unprecedented measures and a team of experienced investigators."
SQ 'surveillance report' on Montreal officer questioned
Coiteux's assertions came on the heels of a report in Le Devoir newspaper Thursday that said SQ officers had filed a "surveillance report" on one of the Montreal officers concerned, which was passed along to the SPVM's internal affairs unit.
The report was filed by four SQ investigators who saw Roger Larivière with journalist Stéphane Berthomet at a Montreal restaurant in 2014.
Larivière said his office and home were searched by Montreal police shortly after his meeting with Berthomet.
SQ spokesman Guy Lapointe denied that provincial police had the Montreal officer under surveillance.
"It wasn't a surveillance operation, but an impromptu encounter that happened in a restaurant," Lapointe said.
"[The officers] were concerned about the meeting and reported it to their superiors."
Coiteux accepted that explanation.
"They reported it. It wasn't an investigation," Coiteux said.
"It doesn't cast anything into doubt."
Earlier this week, Larivière and two other Montreal police officers, Jimmy Cacchione and Giovanni Di Feo, said they were whistleblowers who were targeted by the SPVM's internal affairs unit after they threatened to go public with their findings on possible corruption in the force.
Cacchione and Di Feo said they were suspended and informed that they themselves were the subjects of an RCMP investigation.
The information they had on other officers was seized, they said, and nothing came of it.
Cacchione said the investigation against them was based on allegations fabricated "with the goal of muzzling people who have things to say."
Shortly after the story emerged on Tuesday, Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet asked his SQ counterpart Martin Prud'homme to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations.
Opposition wants BEI involved
The move to involve the SQ — and the government's support for it — was questioned on Thursday by opposition parties.
Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée said news of the SQ's surveillance report on Larivière is further proof that an independent body needs to investigate the allegations.
"The appearance of independence is not enough," he said.
Lisée has said Quebec's independent investigation bureau (BEI) should take the lead, a position that was echoed by André Spénard, the public security critic for the Coalition Avenir Québec.
The bureau, however, has said such an investigation is outside its mandate.
The bureau said it was created to investigate civilian deaths or injuries during police interventions and lacks the expertise for such an inquiry.
New details on SQ investigation
Coiteux said the SQ investigation includes a number of "exceptional ... even extraordinary measures."
- A dedicated prosecutor from the office of Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) to provide the SQ investigators with legal support and counsel.
- Direct access to the police ethics commissioner.
- An RCMP investigator to provide access to RCMP investigation files if necessary.
- If necessary, the SQ will transmit its findings to the DPCP at the end of its inquiry.
- The SQ will follow up with the minister of public security, and a report will be made public.
- The SQ may also provide the Montreal police force with recommendations based on its inquiry.