Val-d’Or decision remains a political storm for the Couillard government

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The contrast couldn’t have been more striking.

The fallout from the Quebec crown prosecutors’ decision not to proceed with charges against several Val-d’Or Surêté du Québec police officers continues to swirl around the province and across the country. But, for provincial Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley, it’s time to move on.

Speaking to the CBC November 21, Kelley said it’s time to “find ways to move forward.”

The comment outraged several hundred people who gathered the next day at Montreal’s Place des Arts to protest the lack of charges and the apparent indifference in Phillipe Couillard’s Liberal government.

“We believe you!” chanted the crowd, many holding candles in the cold in a vigil organized by Idle No More Quebec, the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter, Quebec Native Women and Amnesty International.

The November 18 announcement that six suspended SQ officers at the Val-d’Or detachment would not face any repercussions over 37 allegations of physical and sexual abuse touched off a wave of anger across the province.

“We’re here to denounce the abuse that the women in Val-d’Or received at the hands of police officers, and to demand a public inquiry so that true justice can take place,” Alana Boileau, of Quebec Native Women, told the crowd at Place des Arts.


The day before, a press conference by several Aboriginal organizations renewed the call for a judicial inquiry focusing on police relations with First Nations in Quebec. They included Quebec Native Women, the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Nation Government, the Anishinabeg communities of Kitcisakik, Lac Simon and Abitibiwinni and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL)

Cree Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come emphasized the widespread support for the women who came forward with the allegations. “I believe you. We believe you. Even the independent observer and the director of criminal prosecutor are not denying that the events happened,” said Coon Come.

“Yet the government of Quebec continues to resist and ignores the overwhelming evidence of the need for a provincial judicial inquiry – a revision of how justice is administered for and to Indigenous populations. The message is loud and clear: The justice system has failed these women and will continue to fail them.”

Viviane Michel, president of Quebec Native Women, noted that the Liberal government made no secret of its lack of interest in improving relations with First Nations when it won the 2013 election. “Upon his arrival in power, the Couillard government put an end to the work that was already underway to develop an action plan on discrimination and racism towards First Nations,” Michel said. “Why? What are they afraid of?”


The example of swift action by the Couillard government after recent allegations of sexual assault against a Liberal MNA was brandished as a “double standard.” The government established a multi-million dollar plan to address rape culture, Coon Come noted. He also observed the calls for an inquiry after it was revealed that both the SQ and the Montreal police had spied on journalists.

“The double-standard could not be more striking,” said Coon Come. “Yet the Government of Quebec continues to resist and ignore the overwhelming evidence of the need for an provincial judicial inquiry – a revision of how justice is administered to and for indigenous populations.”

AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said Quebec is kicking the issue under the carpet of the federal National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“The reaction of the Couillard government is to sweep this all into the federal camp,” Picard said. “What happened to the sacrosanct provincial jurisdiction of Quebec, especially in matters of policing?”

The organizations encouraged people to sign an online petition on the National Assembly website calling for a provincial inquiry. Petition 6389 notes, among other points, that “one of the most vulnerable populations in Quebec confirms their lack of confidence in police forces responsible for ensuring their security.”


There are signs the Couillard government is feeling the pressure and searching for ways to calm the political waters.

On November 23, SQ Director General Martin Prud’homme announced that the Val-d’Or detachment would be reformed to include a focus on “community policing,” and create a unit with a number of Indigenous officers. The one-year pilot project will begin early in 2017.

But Picard is skeptical, noting on CBC there is already a difficulty recruiting Native officers for First Nations communities and that proper funding will need to be found.

Finally, it appears Quebec is trying to find a way to save face on the calls for a provincial inquiry by proposing a roundtable with Aboriginal representatives to examine ways to improve relations with First Nations communities. Meeting with Premier Couillard November 23, several chiefs – including Coon Come and Picard – discussed a new willingness by the Liberal government to create an as-yet undefined commission to look at the issue.

“Was there an opening? That was confirmed to us today,” Picard told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t think the impunity would have been the right response!”

Soon after, however, Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux was less than precise. “There was neither an opening or a closing of any door because we are all pursuing the same objective.”

That, however, remains to be seen.

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