'Slip of the tongue': Officer defends door-to-door visits to Southwest borough residents

A police officer who made remarks about homeless Indigenous people during door-to-door visits in the Southwest borough claims it was a "slip of the tongue."

Ossie Michelin says police knocked on his door, telling him to beware of homeless Inuit

Ossie Michelin holds up the letter he got from two uniformed Montreal police officers. "They tell me they've had a lot of complaints last year about homeless Inuit sleeping in parks and scaring people," Michelin says. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

A police officer who made remarks about Indigenous people during door-to-door visits in the Southwest borough claims it was a "slip of the tongue."

Ossie Michelin filed a complaint with Quebec's police ethics commission because he felt officers were racially profiling First Nations people while warning residents about rowdy behaviour in the Atwater neighbourhood.

"I don't want to call that a mistake — it was just a slip of the tongue," Alex Mitu, the Montreal police officer who spoke to Michelin, said.

Mitu told Michelin that residents had been phoning police to complain about Inuit people sleeping in neighbourhood parks.

The officers handed Michelin a flyer and said he could report any disruptive behaviour. The flyer makes no mention of homeless people, nor Inuit people or anyone else from an Indigenous community.

Michelin, who is originally from Labrador and is half Inuit himself, was insulted and says the explanation from Mitu isn't good enough.

"That doesn't really mean anything — that's just an excuse," Michelin said.

"They said that they said the wrong thing. Well, they said the wrong thing because they weren't educated properly."

'We're not perfect'

Carlos De Angelis, the Aboriginal liaison officer for the Montreal police department, said police officers at Mitu's station received training last year, but there is still work to do.

"We're not perfect," De Angelis said. "Could we make some mistakes? Yes."

There needs to be better training and approaches to First Nations' issues by local police, according to Michelin.

"I think just giving training once to each bureau every so many years is insufficient," Michelin said.

With files from Kate McGillivray