Residents of Val-d'Or rally to show support, solidarity with local police
6 police officers were suspended after being accused of abusing Indigenous women last year
Around 100 residents of Val-d'Or, Que., gathered Sunday to show their support for provincial police officers accused of abuse by a number of local Indigenous women.
Among the demonstrators were a dozen officers in civilian dress accompanied by their families, and citizens who came to affirm their confidence in the work of Val-d'Or police officers.
No representatives of the Indigenous community attended the rally.
Six police officers were suspended after being accused of physical and sexual abuse by the women last year. Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions announced last month that no charges would be laid against the officers, citing a lack of evidence.
Sunday's event, which included a symbolic march to the local police station, was organized by Bob Chevrier, a resident of Preissac in Abitibi.
Chevrier, whose relative is a police officer in Val-d'Or, said the march was for all police officers.
"I wanted them to know they have our support and to do something to help them put it behind them," he said.
A difficult situation for officers, families
On arriving in front of the police station, the demonstrators began to applaud.
Among the demonstrators, many said they felt the city's police force were treated unfairly following the broadcast of the allegations by Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête in late 2015.
Carol-Ann Girard is married to a local officer and took part in the march.
"We are not here for pity or to play the victims but, on the other hand, it was not easy for us, for the relatives, the families," she said.
"People automatically associated the uniform with the wrong side," she said.
The Mayor of Val-d'Or, Pierre Corbeil, said police sometimes have to work in a difficult context.
"I think we are witnessing here a demonstration of solidarity, support and thanks or recognition, if I may put it that way, to people who are called upon to intervene in situations that are too often delicate, and also very difficult," he explained.
Forty-one provincial police officers are suing Radio-Canada for airing the report.
They are asking for $2.3 million in damages.
The officers claim the report was "biased, misleading" and its content was "inaccurate, incomplete and untrue."