Quebec expands probe into aboriginal women's allegations of police abuse

Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says Montreal police will take over the investigation of complaints by aboriginal women of abuse by Sûreté du Québec officers, and the probe will be expanded to include all police forces in Quebec.

Montreal police to take over investigation of complaints against Sûreté du Québec, other police forces

"We won’t sit around with our arms crossed,” says Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux about more abuse allegations surface against aboriginal women. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec is giving aboriginal women an alternative way to report complaints against police, in the hope of encouraging anyone with allegations to come forward, Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said Tuesday.

The province has set up a new hotline for aboriginal people to call to make a complaint if they don't want to deal directly with police.

  • New hotline number: 1-888-844-2094
  • Existing Montreal police hotline:  1-844-615-3118

Calls to this hotline will be directed to the existing parajudicial counselling service for aboriginal people – Services parajudiciaires autochtones du Québec – which will guide complainants and refer them to victim services.

Coiteux said the Montreal police force will investigate all complaints from now on, unless the allegation is against a Montreal police officer.

The government's latest initiatives come in the wake of new allegations from aboriginal women across Quebec claiming physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Sûreté du Québec officers.

"The public confidence in police forces has been shaken, and we want to make sure that every complaint is taken seriously," said Geoffrey Kelley, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, who accompanied Coiteaux in making the announcement.

Government promised action

Last week, Coiteux called the nature of the women's allegations "extremely serious, very troubling and unacceptable."

"These allegations will for sure bring with them a government response. We won't sit around with our arms crossed," he said.

The women — from various places across the province, including Schefferville and Maniwaki — said they decided to share their own experiences after Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête aired a story last November about the experience of aboriginal women in Val-d'Or.

One woman, Lise Jourdain, said she was assaulted by SQ officers more than 25 years ago.

"I was raped by police officers in Schefferville," she told Enquête.

The women in Val-d'Or claim they were assaulted by Sûreté du Québec officers over a period of two decades.

Better police training

Coiteaux also announced the establishment of a new working group to study how to provide better training for police officers working with people in indigenous communities.

He said the group will work with the École nationale de police du Québec (ENPQ) – the provincial police academy at Nicolet.