Val-d'Or allegations create challenge for new Montreal police aboriginal committee

A new partnership between Montreal police and aboriginal community comes as provincial police officers in Val-d'Or face allegations of abuse.

Advisory committee announced in June to hold first meeting next week

Melissa Mollen Dupuis welcomes the collaboration with Montreal police but is not surprised by skepticism in the community.

The Montreal police department's new aboriginal community advisory committee could lead to a major change in the relationship between police and First Nations in Montreal, says one leader in Montreal's urban aboriginal community.

However Melissa Mollen Dupuis, an organizer of Idle No More Quebec, says the timing is not ideal.

The new partnership comes as provincial police officers in Val-d'Or face allegations of abusing aboriginal women. 

"Police they think we're all 'Indians'... and we all think they're all police. So we don't [make] any distinction between the federal, provincial or the municipal [police]," said Mollen Dupuis.

The new community advisory committee includes roughly nine aboriginal Montrealers and will meet for the first time next week.

Montreal police promised to create the committee in a signed agreement with Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network in June.

The goal of that agreement is to improve communications and understanding between Montreal police and aboriginal Montrealers.

Tackling the issues 

The committee will tackle several issues, including developing prevention programs, developing a protocol for when aboriginal women are reported missing and setting up aboriginal culture training for all Montreal police officers.

"[The relationship] is so new that nobody's going to trust it for the moment," said Mollen Dupuis, who added that if police succeed in earning trust, this partnership could lead to a major change in the relationship between First Nations and police in Montreal.

We're being heard, we're pushing our issues forward.- advisory committee member Jennifer Brazeau

Allegations of aboriginal women being abused by provincial police in Val-d'Or were reported by Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête. They are creating yet another challenge when it comes to building bridges. 

The Montreal police department has officially taken over the investigation into the alleged abuse by Val-d'Or provincial police officers.

Mollen Dupuis hopes the new partnership between the aboriginal community and police in Montreal is not damaged by the fact there's opposition to Montreal police investigating provincial police. 

"I just hope [Montreal police] are going to continue with this new relationship, but not hold it against First Nations for asking for that independent investigation [in Val-d'Or]," she said.

Community partners optimistic

Community leaders at the forefront of the agreement are optimistic about the new partnership with Montreal police.

"They're willing to be trained. That's huge. They're willing to have this table this advisory table. There are so many things they're willing to do," said Nakuset, co-president of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network.

"We're being heard, we're pushing our issues forward," said advisory committee member Jennifer Brazeau, who is also a project manager at Quebec Native Women. 

'How can we trust police?'

Montreal police Cmdr. Du Dinh sat with members of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network at the Network's fall meeting last Thursday to answer questions from the community about the new agreement.

The topic of Val-d'Or kept coming up along with the question: "how can we trust police?"

"Every time there's an issue like that that makes the headlines...that kind of trust relationship is taking a step backward and we have to work harder to go forward," Dinh said in an interview.

Montreal police willing to listen

There's also skepticism about whether Montreal police will really listen to aboriginal members of the new advisory committee.

Brazeau insists they will.

"We've been focusing on having only aboriginal representation on [the committee] to make sure its aboriginal representation with aboriginal perspective that's given to the police force," she said.

In addition to the aboriginal Montrealers on the committee, Dinh and the liaison officer assigned to aboriginal communities will also take part. 

"I have to applaud [Montreal police], they've been open, they've been willing to listen to what we have and they've moved more quickly than we ever thought [they would]," Brazeau said.

Initially, Montreal police suggested scheduling the new advisory committee's first meeting in January 2016.

However, after the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network insisted it must happen sooner, Montreal police moved the meeting to next week.


Shari Okeke is writer/broadcaster for Daybreak on CBC Radio, and creator of Mic Drop, an award-winning CBC original podcast.


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