Montreal

Allegations of police mistreatment of Indigenous people have gone nowhere, inquiry hears

So far, none of the 54 complaints handled by Montreal police have led to charges, and Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) will not say how many are being analyzed at this time.

Quebec prosecutors dismiss 5 cases of alleged police misconduct without making decision public

Det.-Sgt. Carl Thériault, one of several Montreal police officers who investigated complaints by Indigenous men and women of police misconduct, testifying at the Viens Commission in August 2018. (Viens Commission)

Quebec prosecutors have quietly decided not to lay charges in five cases of alleged police misconduct toward Indigenous people.

The absence of charges was revealed during testimony this week at the Viens Commission, the public inquiry struck in response to multiple allegations by Indigenous women in Val-d'Or in the fall of 2015.

Following those allegations, the Ministry of Public Security tasked Montreal police with investigating all future complaints of police misconduct by Indigenous women or men.

So far, none of the 54 complaints handled by Montreal police have led to charges, and Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) will not say how many are being analyzed at this time.

Jean-Pascal Boucher, spokesperson for the DPCP, declined to be interviewed.

"At the end of the review of all the completed investigations, we will determine how we'll make our decisions public," Boucher wrote in an email to CBC.

Montreal police refused to say if and when any of the 54 complaints lodged after April 2016 were transferred for review to the DPCP.

The DPCP's public announcement in November 2016 that there would be only two charges laid after the Val-d'Or allegations was met with disappointment and anger.

At least five of 54 complaints dismissed without announcement

At the inquiry, Montreal police detectives have given details of more than a dozen completed investigations in which no charges were laid.

For five of those investigations, the DPCP has never made public its decision to dismiss the complaints.

Two complaints came from women who were injured by police or during detention by police.

Yesterday, Det.-Sgt. Carl Thériault talked about his investigation of a February 2017 incident at the Royal Canadian Legion in Maniwaki.

He interviewed a 60-year-old Indigenous woman who alleged she was injured during her arrest.

"She told me the officer was rough with her," Thériault told the inquiry Tuesday.

The woman told Thériault she had pushed a first officer toward a wall because she was trying to get at her husband, when a second officer came up behind her.

"She said [the officer] asked her to cross her legs and then put all his weight on her, which led to a fracture in her leg, below the knee."

Thériault said the officers were trying to get her on the ground in order to put handcuffs on her.  

Retired justice Jacques Viens, who is presiding over the inquiry, noted the woman's age and asked Thériault to describe her physically.

"She's about five feet, not very tall," he responded.

Thériault said an internal expert at the police force didn't find any problems with the manoeuvre and said it made sense because the woman was resisting arrest.

"The injuries 'Victim A' incurred are unfortunate and remind us that that even in an ideal situation, consequences of the use of force remain unpredictable," said Thériault, quoting from the SPVM expert's report.

Violent incident caught on camera

Last week, the inquiry heard about a woman who ended up with severe bruising all over her head, face, arms and knees after she was injured during an escort into a cell at the Val-d'Or detachment.

The incident happened in June 2016, about six months after provincial police in Val-d'Or came under the spotlight because of the allegations in the Radio-Canada report, Enquête.

Det.-Sgt. Patrick Parent described surveillance video where you can see the woman's hands cuffed behind her back. There are four officers present and one officer is guiding her to the cell.

"You can see she's intoxicated and having trouble walking, and when they turn a corner, her pants fall a little, and she falls face first on the floor," said Parent.

Parent told the inquiry some of the officers can be seen "smiling or laughing" on the surveillance footage.

None of the officers checked to see if she was injured.

Parent told the inquiry he didn't find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing and had not been hired to investigate misconduct.​

About the Author

Catou MacKinnon started working for CBC in New Brunswick as a reporter and then as the Martime Noon correspondent. Since 2004, she's been reporting on stories from all over the province of Quebec.