Montreal police violated protesters’ rights, report says

The 47-page report, called "Repression, Discrimination and the Student Strike," was based on 384 witness accounts of the Montreal student demonstrations.
A protester being arrested at an anti-tuition hike demonstration last April. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

A report on last year’s student demonstrations has concluded that police violated protesters’ rights and applied laws in an arbitrary manner.

"I was hurt and pushed to the ground by riot police. They touched me, they hurt me, they ignored me," said one student witness.

Report recommendations:

1. Withdrawal of all charges under municipal bylaws and Quebec’s highway safety code and stop proceedings against those whose rights were violated.

2. Launch a public investigation into police abuses, mass arrests and the violation of rights and liberties as a result of police intervention during the student strike.

3. Immediate ban on the use of rubber bullets, sound cannons and other lesser-lethal weapons used for crowd control.

4. Launch of an investigation by Quebec’s Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights into political profiling and the mass violations of freedom of expression in Quebec.

5. Immediate repeal of bylaw P-6 and other municipal bylaws limiting the right to protest.

6. Immediate halt to the use of articles 500 and 500.1 by police during protests.

7. Creation of an independent body that would investigate all cases of police intervention that lead to the death or injury of an individual.

Student group ASSÉ worked with two legal groups — the Quebec Human Rights League and the Association of Progressive Jurists — to produce the report.

The 47-page report, called "Repression, Discrimination and the Student Strike," was based on 384 witness accounts of the Quebec student demonstrations.

ASSÉ says many people suffered not only physical injuries, but also psychological ones. They said many people who came forward said they had been intimidated and humiliated by police officers.

Cmdr. Vincent Richer of the Montreal police said there were more than 700 demonstrations in Montreal last year.

"We did evaluate, all along, our way of working, and we did adjust our ways with the comments from people that were protesting," he said.

"So generally speaking we are very satisfied with the police work that was done during the protests," Richer added.

Marie-Claude St-Amant, a lawyer with the Association of Progressive Jurists, said she wants the creation of a special unit to investigate when someone dies or is injured during police interventions.

"It wouldn’t be policemen investigating police officers. It would be independent judges that would decide whether or not the acts that were committed are in fact violations of fundamental rights," St-Amant said.

The three groups plan to send their report to Premier Pauline Marois on Monday.