Police shooting of Alain Magloire renews calls for reforms

Monday’s fatal shooting of Alain Magloire by Montreal police officers underscores the need for an independent civilian body to investigate such incidents, say human rights' advocates.

Civilian oversight of police, better access to mental health services deemed vital

Alain Magloire, 41, has been identified as the man shot and killed by Montreal police on Monday outside the city's central bus station. (Facebook)

Quebec's provincial police have identified the man fatally shot by Montreal police officers on Monday as Alain Magloire.

Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau released few details about Magloire, 41, other than to confirm that he was known to police.

Matthew Pearce, the head of Montreal's Old Brewery Mission, said staff at the organization which helps people living on the street were familiar with Magloire, who had been through the agency's transition program.

He said Magloire had only recently ended up on the streets as a result of mental illness.

Magloire ‘well-educated’ and ‘charismatic’

Magloire was the father of two daughters, and friends and family contacted by CBC News described him as charismatic and well-educated.

Magloire had previously been employed in the field of molecular biology research and also worked for ten years as a monitor at Camp Papillon — a camp for disabled children.

“He was a super good friend — super-charismatic, very generous — a very, very good person,” said Brigitte Malette, through tears.

She said he had a good job, a wife, children and many friends.

Magloire was also a rugby player.

"When I played rugby with him, he was in perfect shape, and he was not someone who was aggressive – far from it. It's proof that disease can wreak havoc," said Guy-Louis Valcourt, a friend who said he never had any idea Magloire went on to suffer from mental illness. 

Malette, who is a researcher at St. Justine Hospital, says she worked with Magloire for five years — but things began to fall apart for him a few years ago, and they lost touch.

“You want to help but you don't know how, and also he got isolated,” she said.

Another close friend, Jeanne Blay, agrees.

“He was a marvelous man, who unfortunately had some mental health problems,” Blay told CBC News.

Magloire had a hammer

Officers shot Magloire on Monday after responding to reports of a man wielding a hammer and acting aggressively in the vicinity of Montreal's central bus station on Berri Street.

A witness told CBC News that the man had used the hammer to smash windows at a nearby hotel and threaten its staff and guests.

The SQ took over the investigation at the request of Quebec's Minister of Public Security, Stéphane Bergeron, almost immediately after the incident. It is standard practice that another police force investigate whenever a police weapon is discharged or a civilian is hurt in the course of a police intervention.

Officers gather at the scene of Monday's fatal shooting of a man by Montreal police. Witnesses said the man had a hammer and had been acting aggressively. (CBC)

Calls for civilian oversight agency

A police watchdog group, however, is raising new questions about this protocol and says it should be an independent civilian oversight body that investigates such incidents.

Alexandre Popovic, spokesman for the Coalition Against Police Repression and Abuse, told CBC News that it’s time for Quebec’s government to finally act on a pledge that it made in 2012 to create such an agency.

Bergeron said last December that there were some delays in getting the independent body up and running.

He said it would be several months before it would be established.

“It’s deplorable,” Popovic said. “There’s an emergency over here [in Quebec]. We are very late for this when we compare ourselves with Ontario, for example, which has had such a body since 1990. And here in Quebec, 24 years later, we still don’t have that body.”

Popovic’s group is not alone in denouncing the practice of police investigating other police – Quebec’s Human Rights Commission and the province’s ombudsman have also been critical of the status quo, which they say raises questions of conflict of interest and bias.

This concern for credibility, which Bergeron said in 2012 had been “seriously undermined,”  was at the core of the PQ government’s announced intention to create a new civilian agency.

At the time, Montreal's police brotherhood questioned the need for such an agency, pointing to the professional expertise that police bring such investigations.

Health care reforms needed

Pearce, of the Old Brewery Mission, believes Monday's incident could have been avoided if people in Magloire's position had better access to critical mental health services.

"How many people must die before we transform the way these people are treated in our health care system," he asked. "As long as we don't adapt these services, we'll continue to experience these tragedies...The solution to deal with mentally ill people can't be shooting them. We have to find other techniques."

Pearce pointed to the Old Brewery Mission's PRISM pilot project as an example of the kind of reforms required.

Initiated last fall, the project provides mission clients with on-site access to psychiatric help in partnership with the Department of Psychiatry at Montreal's French hospital network, CHUM.

Pearce said the results have been nothing less than extraordinary.

"We've seen some small miracles and some big ones," he said, pointing to one long-term client of the mission who was stabilized after only a week of treatment.

"Without these projects, they take to the streets, hammer in hand, confronted by police, and it has to stop," Pearce said.