Quebec to hold public inquiry into Val-d'Or allegations

Canada’s public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women will not be conducting an in-depth investigation into the abuse allegations in Val-d’Or, Que.

Federal commission says looking into specific cases of alleged abuse not part of its mandate

A woman holds up a sign in support of aboriginal women at a march last month in Val-d'Or, Que. (Sandra Ataman/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is proposing a public inquiry into police relations in Val-d'Or, Que., more than a year after police officers there were accused of sexually assaulting aboriginal women.

The news comes as the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women says its two-year mandate isn't long enough to delve into Val-d'Or.

In a letter obtained by Radio-Canada, the commission's executive director, Michèle Moreau, said that while the events in Val-d'Or will be part of the national narrative, the mandate of the federal inquiry does not allow for a thorough factual investigations into specific cases.

But the commission said that nothing is stopping the province of Quebec from conducting its own public inquiry.

"Such a move would be highly complementary to the mandate and work of the national inquiry."

Quebec inquiry in the works

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and his staff met with Indigenous leaders Thursday to discuss the community in Val-d'Or, Que. (Francis Labbé/Radio-Canada)
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard met with Indigenous leaders Thursday and proposed to do just that.

"What we can tell you today is that we have made great strides in the early discussions we have had – enough progress to say that very soon we can give you more information on how we will proceed," Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, said after the meeting.

According to Radio-Canada's sources, the commission won't repeat the criminal investigation into some police officers.

  Instead, it'll focus on systemic racism and its causes.

The meeting comes one month after it was announced that the six police officers accused of abuse would not be facing charges.

The officers were suspended shortly after a Radio-Canada story revealed that Indigenous women in the community said they were physically or sexually abused by police.

Thirty-seven women came forward to file official complaints. None led to any criminal charges.

The Sûreté du Québec has always denied any wrongdoing and is suing Radio-Canada for $2 million in damages for airing the story.

"We want an independent judicial inquiry that would have a lifespan of one year that would deal with relations between police officers and members of our community, which would also look at the causes and the situations where there is discrimination or systemic racism," said Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

"We have made substantial progress. We will wait for confirmation from the Quebec government."

With files from Radio-Canada's Francis Labbé