Couillard government announces independent inquiry into Quebec-Indigenous relations

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It was a long time coming but Quebec’s First Nations, and the women who so bravely came forward to share their allegations of abuse at the hands of the Val-d’Or SQ detachment, will finally get the provincial judicial inquiry that they have demanded for more than a year.

The inquiry will look at the treatment of Indigenous communities by public institutions including police, correctional services, youth protection and health systems. Education appears to have been left out of the equation.

The Liberal government had staunched resisted an independent judicial inquiry. But on December 21 Premier Philippe Couillard joined Public Security Minister Lucie Charlebois and Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, as well as AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, at the press conference to announce the inquiry.

Progress, reconciliation and confidence were Couillard’s words of the day as he promised a “frank” and “honest” look at Quebec’s justice system. While he said the inquiry wouldn’t re-examine the abuse allegations against SQ officers in Val-d’Or, it will look at systemic relations between the region’s police and Indigenous population and aims to complement the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.


“It’s not about blame or vengeance,” Couillard said in his statement. “The need for justice is felt by everyone and there are clearly some systemic problems. [The inquiry] will allow us to address these issues and analyze without prejudice… the actions that must be taken so that everyone can live in a climate of trust rather than suspicion and worry, of openness rather than contempt… of reconciliation and progress.”

Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens, who spent 25 years working in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, will lead the commission. It is scheduled to take two years to complete, concluding on November 30, 2018.

Picard and Coon Come expressed their gratitude for the government’s decision but stressed that there is still much work to be done.

“Our women have the right to feel secure, something that so many people take for granted,” said Picard. “We’re open to dialogue with the authorities of the Sûreté du Québec to work together to re-establish a climate of confidence and harmony.”

“I do not have the luxury to be silent,” stated Coon Come. “I have three daughters and three granddaughters and I think we all agree that we want to make the world a better place for them.

“This inquiry will enable women and men to share their experiences and find solutions. Indigenous people, police officers and other stakeholders will be able to work together to solve problems.”

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come addresses a press conference

In his statement, the Grand Chief said there is a lack of training for police officers, and a lack of social services and resources to address the needs.

Coon Come acknowledged the family of Sindy Ruperthouse and the women who came forward as part of Radio-Canada’s Enquête program last fall. Its investigation into the stories of Indigenous women who said certain Val-d’Or SQ officers took them on starlight tours and offered them money and drugs in return for sexual favours shocked the province. Coon Come said that it is thanks to their courage and perseverance that this inquiry is happening.

The Grand Chief also commended Val-d’Or mayor Pierre Corbeil for his work in handling the crisis and for teaming up with First Nations organizations to work towards improving relations with Natives in Val-d’Or and nearby communities.

“The Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee intends to collaborate directly with both commissions and work towards real reconciliation,” Coon Come said.   

The provincial inquiry will analyze the relationship between Quebec and Indigenous communities over the past 15 years, hear directly from First Nations, police and other communities affected by what transpired in Val-d’Or and, should the commission deem it necessary, look at other regions in Quebec as well.

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