Montreal

Quebec premier won't rule out inquiry into police relations with Indigenous people

Premier Philippe Couillard indicated a newfound openness on Tuesday to holding an independent inquiry into police relations with Indigenous Quebecers.

Couillard signals possible shift in government's opposition to inquiry following outcry

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, seen here at a recent party meeting, met Tuesday with Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Premier Philippe Couillard indicated a newfound openness on Tuesday to holding an independent inquiry into police relations with Indigenous Quebecers.

His government has spent more than a year resisting calls for an inquiry from those who have said it was necessary following allegations that Quebec provincial police officers abused Indigenous women in and around Val-d'Or.

An investigation into those allegations and others resulted in Crown prosecutors deciding not to charge the officers at the centre of the scandal. Indigenous leaders say that decision, announced last week, only reinforced the need for an inquiry.   

Couillard met Tuesday with Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Couillard suggested he was willing to consider holding an inquiry. He added that he wanted to meet again with other Indigenous leaders before committing to any further steps.

"I don't think I should rule anything out," the premier said.

"I discussed this morning with Mr. Picard and I hope to be able to talk, before leaving tonight, with Mathew Coon Come [chief of the Grand Council of the Crees] and maybe another couple of leaders of communities, particularly communities affected by the Val-d'Or events."

Couillard is scheduled to leave Tuesday for summits in Paris and Madagascar. 

Matthew Coon Come, pictured, was among several Indigenous leaders who called for the government to reverse its opposition to a public inquiry at a news conference Monday. (CBC)

Good thing, bad things

His openness to an inquiry would represent a significant shift in the government's position.

As recently as Monday, in meetings with Indigenous leaders, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux and Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley gave no indication the government was prepared to reconsider its opposition to a public inquiry. 

The government has maintained the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls would address concerns about policing.

"There are good things and bad things when you set up a public inquiry," Couillard said Tuesday.  

"The good thing is you put it out in the open, which is always a good thing. The bad thing is it takes years, sometimes, before you have practical actions on the ground. So let's talk about both aspects of the question."

with files from Ryan Hicks

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