Montreal

Trudeau calls arrest and detention of innocent Montreal man 'troubling'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the arrest of Montrealer Mamadi III Fara Camara is a "troubling case" and that "there needs to be full light shone on exactly what happened there." 

The prime minister and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante call for an independent investigation

Montrealer Mamadi III Fara Camara was accused of injuring a police officer during a routine traffic stop. He was arrested and put into detention for six nights, despite claiming innocence from the moment of his arrest, his lawyers said. The charges against him have been dropped. (Submitted)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the arrest of Montrealer Mamadi III Fara Camara is a "troubling case" and that "there needs to be full light shone on exactly what happened there." 

Trudeau addressed Camara's detention and release Friday morning during his daily pandemic news conference in front of Rideau Cottage.

"There are several unanswered questions, namely from the various authorities involved," he said in French.

Trudeau said he agreed with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who has called for an independent investigation into Camara's arrest and six-day detention. 

"I'm confident that the responsible authorities will put in place measures to find out exactly what happened, what went wrong in this troubling situation. It's something that we all want to see," Trudeau said, adding that he wanted to reiterate the existence of systemic racism in the country. 

Camara, a 31-year-old PhD student, had been accused of disarming and injuring Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officer Const. Sanjay Vig during a routine traffic stop in the city's Park Extension neighbourhood on Jan. 28. 

Trudeau's Papineau riding covers the same neighbourhood. He said his thoughts were with Camara and his family, as well as with the injured officer. 

Camara spent six nights in detention before his sudden release Wednesday afternoon. He had claimed innocence from the moment of his arrest, his lawyers said.

WATCH | Trudeau wants answers:

Trudeau says he agrees with Montreal mayor about need for investigation

12 months ago
Duration 0:31
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to the case of Montrealer Mamadi III Fara Camara, saying it was "troubling" that he spent six days in jail for something he didn't do. 0:31

Civil rights advocates have decried what they argue is racial profiling by the Montreal police, and have raised questions about the circumstances of Camara's arrest, the length of his detention and the impact of the incident on his career and personal life. 

Simonetta Barth, the SPVM's deputy director, and Chief Sylvain Caron have insisted Camara, a Black man, was arrested based on the evidence investigators had at the time.

"It has nothing to do with racial profiling or social profiling or anything like that," Barth said during a Thursday news conference.

"We went with the facts that were in front of us at the time that the investigation was starting."

On Friday, the president of the union representing Montreal police officers issued a news release, strongly reacting to Plante's call for an investigation.

Yves Francoeur said there was a "deep unease" among officers about her comments and the mention of racial profiling as a possibility in the case, and that the comments followed a trend of making "insidious remarks" about police work. 

"It was astonishing to hear you, in a full press briefing, make presumptions about the conclusions of a complex, delicate police investigation and, above all, one that is still active," Francoeur wrote.

Police set up command post in LaSalle

Montreal police said a stolen, red Hyundai Elantra connected to the Jan. 28 incident was found in the borough of LaSalle, and they have set up a command post there while continuing their investigation. (Josh Grant/CBC)

Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to find the person who did attack and disarm Vig, the Montreal police officer, last week.

The same day Camara was allowed to return home to his pregnant wife, police launched a new search.

The investigation is now centred around another person who was at the scene, police said.

On Friday, the SPVM set up a command post on Jean-Brillon Street in LaSalle.

They said a stolen red Hyundai Elantra connected to the Jan. 28 incident was found there and they are looking for evidence, video footage and potential witnesses.

If police do manage to nab a new suspect, they will likely face serious charges.

The charges against Camara have been stayed, but included attempted murder, aggravated assault against a police officer, disarming a police officer and discharging a prohibited firearm.

With files from Presse Canadienne and John MacFarlane

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