Montreal

Petition calls for Fredy Villanueva memorial in Montreal North

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to honour the memory of Fredy Villanueva in the Montreal North borough where he was fatally shot by police almost eight years ago.

Remembering 18-year-old 'symbolizes the physical resistance to systemic racism'

A petition is calling on the Montreal North borough to acknowledge the memory of Fredy Villanueva who was shot and killed by police. (Montreal La Presse handout/Canadian Press)

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to honour the memory of Fredy Villanueva in the Montreal North borough where he was fatally shot by police almost eight years ago.

Villanueva was only 18 when he was shot by an officer on Aug. 9, 2008, after police moved in to break up an illegal game of dice in the park.

Solo Fugère and Ricardo Lamour, both cast members in the recent Montreal play Fredy, which detailed the coroner's inquest into Villanueva's death, submitted the petition.

The petition, signed by 700 people, was introduced during new Montreal North Mayor Christine Black's first council meeting last month.

It demands the borough acknowledge Villanueva's place in its history by setting up an official memorial at the spot he was killed.

We're just asking for justice because we know there's systemic racism in Quebec and Fredy Villanueva symbolizes the physical resistance to systemic racism.- Ricardo Lamour

The petition also renews calls for him to be included in a mural originally slated to go up for last year's Montreal North centennial celebration — but has since been delayed.

"The family has been asking for that for years," Lamour told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

As it stands, a makeshift memorial at the foot of a tree near where Villanueva was shot is often vandalized or deteriorates with time, Lamour said.

More than a memorial

Erecting an official memorial would be about more just commemorating Villanueva, he said.

"To remember Fredy Villanueva is resistance over the injustice that he was seeing, but also, it's a political act," he said.

A makeshift memorial was set up on April 7, 2016 to commemorate what would have been Fredy Villanueva's26th birthday. (Radio-Canada)

As for figuring out what the memorial should look like, Lamour says they're far from reaching a decision.

"We're not even at the point where we're having the discussion right now with the city," he said.

"They're just not open with talking and inviting the Villanueva family to the table and seeing what are their demands."

In Lamour's view, former Montreal North Mayor Gilles Deguire was against keeping Villanueva's memory alive. He said the city was reluctant to do so because "the city is the employer to the police."

Mylène Horion, a spokeswoman for the borough, told CBC News the petition was received and passed on to a working group.

Lamour said he's skeptical of its commitment to follow up on the matter.

"There are so very few members of the Montreal North community at that table," he said.

"We don't really trust that working group."

Continued tension in borough

The petition comes two months after another fatal police shooting in Montreal North.

Tensions rose after Bony Jean-Pierre, 46, was shot and killed by police during a drug raid on March 31.

In April, the newly formed activist group Montreal Noir called on mayoral candidates in the borough's recent byelection to address what it called "systemic anti-black racism in Quebec."

Members of Montreal Noir activist group called on Montreal North to address 'systemic anti-black racism in Quebec.' (Charles Contant/CBC)

Lamour said formally acknowledging Villanueva's death as part of Montreal North's history would be a step in that direction.

"We're just asking for justice because we know there's systemic racism in Quebec and Fredy Villanueva symbolizes the physical resistance to systemic racism," he said.

With files from CBC Daybreak

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