Protesters gather in NDG to mourn Black man shot and killed by Montreal police

Last week, Montreal police officers shot and killed 41-year-old Sheffield Matthews in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, prompting protesters to gather this weekend and renew calls for police reform.

'This man was in distress, and instead of being met with care, he was met with bullets' said protest organizer

Protesters gathered at Trenholme Park in NDG, calling for police reform following the fatal shooting of 41-year-old Sheffield Matthews. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

Last week's fatal shooting of 41-year-old Sheffield Matthews has brought back memories of other Black men shot and killed by Montreal police officers in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and it's leading to renewed calls to reform the police system in Quebec.

About 200 people gathered at Trenholme Park on Saturday afternoon, demanding police forces be defunded, with more resources being allocated to community groups that can respond to mental health crises.

Montreal police officers shot and killed Matthews last Thursday, after officers received an early-morning call about a man in distress.

The province's police watchdog, the Bureau of Independent Investigations, is looking into the incident.

According to its initial report, police say they found Matthews holding a knife and approaching their squad car. The officers remained in the car until they saw him approaching the driver of another vehicle.

Police say officers shot Matthews when he charged toward them with the knife still in hand.

"Until when are we going to keep repeating the same thing?" said Marilhan Lopez, one of the protest's organizers. "This man was in distress, and instead of being met with care, he was met with bullets."

Marlihan Lopez, one of the protest's organizers, says part of the SPVM's budget should be allocated to community groups who can respond to mental health crises. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

Almost exactly 33 years ago, 19-year-old Anthony Griffin, was fatally shot by an officer just outside an NDG police station on Nov. 11, 1987.

In 2018, 23-year-old Nicholas Gibbs, who had mental health issues, was also shot and killed by police in NDG.

On Saturday, people in attendance held a moment of silence to honour the lives of Black men who have been killed by police and different speakers took turns addressing the crowd, including Remy Gibbs, Nicholas's nephew. 

Remy Gibbs highlighted the fact that the man charged with killing two people and injuring five others during a Halloween sword attack in Quebec City was not harmed by police — while Sheffield was shot and killed — as proof of systemic racism. 

"These are not just people you're killing, these are families you're destroying," Gibbs said.

"You kill one person in a family, you're destroying damn near a whole generation."

Voices demanding that cities across North America defund police departments grew louder last spring, following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for several minutes.

During the summer, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she was keeping an open mind about the idea of reallocating funds usually earmarked for the police.

Critics have also questioned the police watchdog's neutrality, saying there is a lack of representation of people of colour in its ranks and pointing to its track record, which has resulted in few charges against police officers.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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With files from Kwabena Oduro