Val-d'Or sees 'hope' after police abuse allegations

"There's still a lot of emotion going on depending on who you speak to — anger, sadness, maybe a lot of frustration as to how things are going," says an advisor with the Native Friendship Centre.

Quebec AM hosts panel discussion about the aftermath of Enquête's investigation

Bianca Moushoun is among the aboriginal women in Val d'Or, Que. who have filed formal complaints against Quebec police officers who she said gave her beer and traded sex acts for money and cocaine. (Radio-Canada)

Five months after a Radio-Canada Enquête report shook the town of Val-d'Or, people in the community are feeling a mix of emotions.

Last fall, the program reported several allegations of sexual abuse by provincial police officers against aboriginal women. Those allegations are currently under investigation by the City of Montreal police.

The outcome of that investigation is unknown, but the reverberations are still felt in Val-d'Or. 

Quebec AM host Susan Campbell held a panel discussion to talk about the aftermath of the allegations as part of CBC Quebec's live broadcast in the community today. 

"There's still a lot of emotion going on depending on who you speak to — anger, sadness, maybe a lot of frustration as to how things are going," said Sharon Hunter, community relations advisor with the Native Friendship Centre.

But she added, "there's also some hope there in terms of all the work that's going on, that's happening and all the mobilization around the situation."

As part of Quebec AM's special broadcast in Val d'Or, Susan Campbell hosted a panel discussion on how the community is feeling, five months after explosive allegations of police abuse against aboriginal women. (Julia Page/CBC)
Lorraine Morissette, a municipal councillor and riding assistant to MP Romeo Saganash, echoed those sentiments.

"We were stunned, but mostly we were so sad," Morissette said. She also agreed with Hunter: "There is hope."

Francis Lévesque, director of the aboriginal training unit at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, however, said the allegations spurred change.

"People have started talking," Lévesque said. "The crisis put a face on things that everybody knew."

Improved housing, social programs

All three guests pointed to some positive steps that have been brought in to address some of the underlying social conditions affecting many aboriginal people in Val-d'Or, including homelessness and addiction. 

The provincial government committed $6 million in the fall in the wake of the allegations. Some of that money was used to reopen a daytime drop-in centre called Willie's Place in February.

Morissette noted that a 56-unit housing development will be built in the fall.

"Yes. the money is great, money is needed, is required," Hunter said, while stressing that many people in the community came together to work on solutions. 

Lévesque also noted some of these positive changes, but noted that some organizations are still struggling, including La Piaule — a mission serving people who are living in poverty that he also works with. "The needs are still there," he said.

"We took that crisis seriously, which is the first step," Lévesque added. "But we need to keep this going."