Former Quebec police officer charged with armed, sexual assault dating back to early 1990s
Alain Juneau, 56, was posted in the northern Quebec village of Schefferville
Former Quebec provincial police officer Alain Juneau is facing charges related to his time stationed in a tiny community near the Labrador border.
Juneau, 56, is accused of sexual assault and armed assault between 1992 and 1994 in the northern Quebec village of Schefferville, where he was posted as an officer with the Sûreté du Québec. He was charged Nov. 10.
It's not yet known if there's a link to a wider probe of alleged abuses of Indigenous women by police.
Quebec's director of criminal prosecutions is expected to confirm the charges at a news conference Friday in Val-d'Or.
The revelation of Juneau's arrest comes after multiple reports that prosecutors would not be laying charges in connection with any of the 37 files handed over by Montreal police, setting off a torrent of criticism from activists and Indigenous leaders.
Aboriginal women 'fallen victims … to the system'
Édith Cloutier, executive director of Val-d'Or's Native Friendship Centre, said that she and her colleagues had trusted the justice system and took part in the investigation with "good will."
However, she said they feel disappointed now, hearing that charges will not be pressed against any of the officers allegedly involved in abuses in Val-d'Or.
"Aboriginal women have fallen victims yet again to the system which has failed to protect them," Cloutier said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The Montreal police investigation was ordered after Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête uncovered several allegations of abuse toward Indigenous women in Val-d'Or, a city about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
Most of the files relate to alleged incidents in Val-d'Or, but officers in other parts of Quebec were also subject to investigation.
Limits to justice system, observer says
Earlier Thursday, an independent observer tasked with overseeing the investigation said she would be "surprised" there weren't any charges.
Fannie Lafontaine, a human rights lawyer appointed by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to monitor the investigation, added, however, that there are inherent limits to the criminal justice system when it comes to cases of abuse.
"Prosecutors have a very high standard to meet," Lafontaine, the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights at Laval University, told CBC's Quebec AM on Thursday.
"They have to prove to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that certain things happened, and this leads to various cases every day that won't go to trial even if what is being said by the person actually happened."
In a separate interview on CBC's Daybreak, Lafontaine said that in 21 of the cases handed over to prosecutors, no police officers were identified by name, so no charges were possible.
Of the remaining cases, she said, "a handful" were on solid legal footing, but most were too weak to prosecute.
Lafontaine's report, made public Wednesday, concluded that the investigation by Montreal police into allegations against provincial police officers was "fair and impartial."
Deeper issues at play
Lafontaine's report also stressed that criminal investigations are limited and do not address the deeper issues facing Indigenous people in Quebec.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said the province is looking at ways to ensure an alleged victim of abuse is supported throughout the legal complaint process.
"For example, a woman could be accompanied by a person of their choice during the process with police," she said.
In response to the report, Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley said "the question of racism in the police force is a very preoccupying one."
"We have to take every measure possible to restore confidence between the police and communities they serve," he said.
Prosecutors to offer more info
Members of the Sûreté du Québec are suing Radio-Canada for airing the Enquête report.
In the region, some people are concerned about what the announcement could mean for relations between police and Indigenous communities.
''The relation between the Native and non-Native, in the last year after [the Enquête report], was shaken, but both nations tried to reconcile," said David Kistabish, Chief of the Abitibiwinni Band Council of Pikogan, which is about 80 kilometres north of Val-d'Or.
"Since yesterday what we're seeing on social media is that one person is against the others. I have concerns for the future about that."
With files from Quebec AM, Daybreak and Ryan Hicks