Advocates plan rally on Parliament Hill for Val-d'Or women at centre of police abuse allegations

People from Ottawa and Gatineau’s indigenous community have organized a rally on Parliament Hill in support of women in Val-d’Or, Que., who allege abuse at the hands of provincial police officers.

Rally will take place on Parliament Hill Nov. 3 at noon

Bridget Tolley is one of the organizers behind the Nov. 3 rally on Parliament Hill. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC News)

People from Ottawa and Gatineau's indigenous community have organized a rally on Parliament Hill in support of women in Val-d'Or, Que., who allege abuse at the hands of provincial police officers.

The rally will begin at noon on Nov. 3, the day before Justin Trudeau and his new Liberal cabinet are sworn in to power.

"Maybe he'll remember the last protest before he gets sworn in as prime minister," said organizer Bridget Tolley.

Last week, Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête aired a report in which several indigenous women in Val-d'Or accused police there of sexual assault and abuse of power.

The report included allegations that certain police officers would routinely pick up women who appeared to be intoxicated, drive them out of town and leave them to walk home in the cold. Some women alleged they were physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts.

Eight officers allegedly involved in those claims have since been put on leave or administrative duties, while Montreal police have been brought in to investigate.

Tolley was "really sad" when she first heard the story out of Val-d'Or, and she thought it was important to organize an event in Ottawa to echo support for the women at the centre of the scandal.

Calls for independent investigation

She said the rally's message to them will be "to stay strong, and to keep going. Because this has got to stop. The truth has got to come out."

Following the sex abuse allegations, Quebec provincial police have committed to adding cameras to police cruisers, as well as bringing in more officers and social workers to Val-d'Or.

Ghislain Picard says the allegations raise questions about the relationship between police and aboriginal people across the province. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)
Meanwhile, indigenous leaders like Ghislain Picard, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, have called for an independent investigation.

Tolley agrees, and she hopes to draw more attention to the ongoing investigation at next week's rally, while advocating for the women who spoke out.

"We're going to just have a few speakers, some drumming, and just show our love and support for these women and let them know that we're thinking of them."