Quebec to create police oversight agency

Public Security Minister Stéphane Bergeron confirms that the government will follow through on its pledge to assemble a civilian police oversight body to reinspire public confidence.

Confidence in law enforcement has been eroded, public security minister says

Police oppose civilian oversight

10 years ago
Duration 0:59
Parti Québécois plan to create civilian police oversight agency criticized

The Quebec government plans to create an independent body to investigate incidents involving police.

Public Security Minister Stéphane Bergeron confirmed Wednesday that "in the following weeks," the ruling Parti Québécois would follow through on its pledge to assemble a civilian police oversight agency.

Currently, investigations into incidents involving police that result in serious injury or death are handled by officers from another force.

But having "police investigate police" has been strongly denounced by the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the provincial ombudsman. Critics say there's an appearance of a conflict of interest and a strong possibility of bias, with officers tending to be sympathetic to their colleagues during an examination into possible misconduct.

Bergeron said the province would commit to "a new model" to give those investigations more credibility. He said he wants to raise public confidence in police, which has been "seriously undermined" in recent years. 

Two men — one of them an innocent bystander on his way to work — were shot dead by Montreal police at this scene in June 2011. All officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing, leading to a rekindled debate about whether police can impartially investigate police. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

The previous Liberal government had proposed legislation to create a civilian oversight agency, but it was criticized as toothless by Ombudsman Raymonde St. Germain and didn't get voted into law before the legislature was dissolved for the summer election.

Liberal critic and former Sûreté du Québec officer Robert Poeti expressed concern that the personnel of a civilian agency would not have the proper training. "On a legal point, I think it's a problem," he said.

Yves Francoeur, the head of the Montreal Police Brotherhood, the union for the city's officers, shared similar fears.

"In the province of Quebec right now, there's only 80 investigators that have the expert eyes to investigate a scene or a major event," he said.

Several other provinces have independent police oversight bodies, though some of them are staffed by current or former police officers. Ontario has one for serious incidents and another for less-grave cases, while Alberta and British Columbia also have agencies.

With files from CBC News