Mural honouring police-shooting victim unveiled in NDG as family awaits Crown's decision
Advocates push for change 3 years after Nicholas Gibbs' family filed lawsuit against City of Montreal
Around 100 people gathered at a mural unveiling in honour of police-shooting victim Nicholas Gibbs in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood (NDG) on Sunday.
The mural, which took a year to create, was painted with Gibbs' favourite colours, shades of blue and white. Advocate Marcelle Partouche Gutierrez felt that was important to help remember him.
"This represents us using our voice and taking a stance and honouring the memory of a young man who should be with us today, " said Partouche Gutierrez, a community organizer with Rap Battles For Social Justice (RB4SJ).
"[The mural] represents rage and hope."
Gibbs, 23, was fatally shot by SPVM police in the NDG neighbourhood in the summer of 2018.
The BEI issued a news release with preliminary information on the night of the shooting, saying police were called to the scene to break up a fight at the corner of Montclair Avenue and de Maisonneuve Boulevard.
During that intervention, one of the two men involved in the scuffle approached an officer with a knife. Police officers used a stun gun on the man "without success." Police then fatally shot the man, later identified as Gibbs.
No decision more than 3 years later
Gibbs's family filed a $1-million lawsuit against the City of Montreal three years ago, arguing that police used excessive and disproportionate force against him.
But that lawsuit has been stuck in neutral, as the family waits for the Crown to finish reviewing a report by Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI).
The family is tired of waiting, says their lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire.
"We don't have yet the decision and it's been 872 days," she told CBC News.
More than three years may have passed, but the turmoil is still painfully fresh for the victim's mother, Erma Gibbs.
"She's sad. She's angry," said Dufresne-Lemire. "You know, she's in limbo."
"She's not just waiting for the lawsuit to move forward, but to know if the police officer who killed her son will be charged or not for the killing," she said.
The lawyer sent a letter to the Crown's office asking about the delay.
"They responded. At least we got some information but we are still looking at a delay of 872 days," said Dufresne-Lemire.
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) said the Crown is analyzing the BEI investigation report.
"The delay relating to the study of the case by the prosecutors may vary according to the specific circumstances of each case," said Audrey Roy Cloutier.
An announcement will be made when the DPCP makes a decision, she said.
As the family waits for the case to evolve, the community has been stepping up its efforts to demand change to the policing system.
Advocates from a collective of community organizations and groups are calling for acknowledgement of the harm, accountability, anti-racism training, representativity, prevention and cultural mediation.
"It's very possible for the mayor — for the SPVM — to listen and to hear what we are requesting because we have drafted a plan," said Partouche Gutierrez.
Sue Montgomery, the mayor of Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough was at the mural's unveiling. She called the delay of the Crown's decision unacceptable.
Montgomery is calling for civilian oversight of the police, more transparency, and partnerships with mental health professionals in the police force.
Meanwhile, Dufresne-Lemire says Gibbs' family just wants to move on. "The family needs to have answers. For them, it's something so terrible," she said.
Partouche Gutierrez calls the delay "inhumane."
"Give them an answer so the family can stop being tortured by the time it takes to have to be strong to fight for justice," she said.
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based on a report by Kwabena Oduro, Chloe Ranaldi