Head of SQ to address explosive allegations of misconduct by Val-d'Or officers for 1st time

CBC News has learned the Sûreté du Québec will break its silence over the fallout from allegations that some provincial police officers in Val-d’Or mistreated and abused Indigenous women, when Martin Prud'homme testifies before the Viens commission today.

Indigenous women want apology from Sûreté du Québec that ‘harm was done’ in Val-d’Or

Women in Val-d'Or, Que., who spoke publicly about alleged misconduct at the hands of local police officers, said they were 'humiliated' and 'disappointed' to find out the complaints would not lead to any criminal charges. (Julia Page/CBC)

CBC News has learned the Sûreté du Québec intends to break its silence over the fallout from allegations that some provincial police officers in Val-d'Or mistreated and abused Indigenous women.

Martin Prud'homme, who is on leave from his job as the head of the SQ while he serves as interim director of the Montreal police service, is to appear as a witness at the Viens commission today.

That inquiry into Quebec's treatment of Indigenous people was launched in the wake of allegations that police would harass and abuse Indigenous women, even driving some women out of the northwestern Quebec town to "dry out" and leave them there.

Édith Cloutier, executive director of the Native Friendship Centre in Val-d'Or, Que., stands in front of the centre where women first spoke out publicly about alleged police abuse in 2015. (Catou Mackinnon/CBC)

Eight police officers were suspended after those allegations were first made public on Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête in October 2015.

However, Crown prosecutors later determined there was not enough reliable evidence to charge any of those officers, nor were any of them ever called to a hearing of the police ethics committee.

"There is definitely a need for an apology," said Édith Cloutier, the longtime head of Val-d'Or's Native Friendship Centre.

"There is demonstration throughout this commission that harm was done towards women — vulnerable Indigenous women."

Months before the allegations were made public, Cloutier sat with many of the alleged victims of police mistreatment when they filed individual, official complaints with the SQ's internal disciplinary service.

Women sought guarantee of protection

Cloutier said the women who spoke out were vulnerable.

Knowing the risk they were taking by agreeing to appear on Enquête, Cloutier reached out to the head of the Val-d'Or SQ detachment to ask him to protect the complainants from retaliation or intimidation.

"We want to understand how come we didn't get the support we were supposed to have, or the protection that every citizen should have when you request such protection," said Cloutier.

Martin Prud'homme, on leave from his duties as head of the Sûreté du Québec, will speak publicly for the first time Friday about the allegation of mistreatment of Indigenous women that shook the provincial police force in 2015. (Radio-Canada)

Paul Crépeau, a lawyer who will be familiar to those who watched the Charbonneau commission, will question Prud'homme about the SQ's handling of the crisis.

Today's hearing in Val-d'Or will take place during the 34th week of the commission, whose motto is "Listening, reconciliation and progress."

Cloutier said many women are eager to hear what the SQ will say.

"Reconciliation comes at the end of the road. You must first start with an acknowledgement of fault," said Cloutier.