Montreal remembers Fredy Villanueva's killing 5 years later

Family and community members will hold a vigil to commemorate the death of 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva, who was killed by a police officer five years ago.

Family and community to hold vigil tonight

Gilberto and Lilian Villanueva, parents of Fredy Villanueva, attend a vigil in 2009, at at the site where their son was killed. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Today, family and community members will hold a vigil to commemorate the death of Fredy Villanueva, the 18-year-old who was killed by a police officer five years ago.

The vigil will be held in the Montreal North park where Villanueva was shot on August 9, 2008.  The coroner's inquest was stalled for months over legal wrangling by the city and the police union. The union contested revealing any information about officers’ service weapons at the inquest.

Villanueva was shot by Montreal police Const. Jean-Loup Lapointe in Henri-Bourassa Park after the 18-year-old was found playing an illegal game of dice with his brother and three friends.

The day after Villanueva's death, a demonstration turned into a riot as tension between young people and police reached a climax.

Today, police say they have revised their approach.

"In our unit, an ethics committee was formed," said Martial Mallette, police commander of station 39 in Montreal North. "We meet after interventions that could arouse questions. We have identified various elements — such as racial profiling — with our staff, in order to avoid situations like this from occurring."

The SPVM hired Rose-Andée Hubbard a few days after the riot. As a community development consultant, she continues to help the police and the community to better understand each other.

"I run workshops for some youth, youth at risk, facing difficulties, those that drop out. Sometimes I step in after an intervention where the role of the police may be perceived negatively. I meet with people," she said.

The city has invested $4.5 million to beautify the area since 2009. In addition, $900,000 is now spent annually on community activities.

For the director of "Les Fourchettes de l'Espoir," a group which helps feed poorer members of the community, the death of Fredy Villanueva may at least serve to raise awareness and bring about change.

"I am a person who comes from Chile, and I have lived under a dictatorship for 30 years. And I can tell you that, unfortunately, most of the time it takes a tragic event to raise awareness," Brunilda Reyes said.