Quebec provincial police officers in Val-d’Or accused of sexually assaulting aboriginal women
Reacting to allegations that police officers with the Sûreté du Québec abused and sexually assaulted aboriginal women in Val-d’Or, many Cree groups in Quebec are calling for a boycott of the community where they often shop, socialize and gather for major events such as hockey tournaments.
“It gave me a heavy heart,” said Linda L. Shecapio, president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association.
“These women are mothers, aunties, sisters, nieces. Everybody is touched by this.”
Today the Cree Nation Government released a statement reacting with “anger, shame and pain” to the abuse described by several First Nations women in an investigative report by the Radio-Canada program Enquête.
“The lack of a strong and real response from the leadership of the town of Val-d’Or is a very disturbing example of where it would appear that municipal, provincial and even federal leaders would often rather wait out a media cycle than address the victimization of First Nations women in their jurisdictions,” the release says.
“If we cannot guarantee the safety of our people from certain communities, as leaders we will do what we can to direct them elsewhere or find safe alternatives.”
The Cree government says it is “mobilizing resources to ensure that we stand with these brave women and that any women from our own communities feel safe and know that they will not be shamed but protected if they wish to come forward.”
For people living in the nearby Cree communities such as Waswanipi, and coastal Cree communities such as Waskaganish, Chisasibi, Wemindji, Nemaska and Eastmain, Val-d’Or is a popular stopping place on the long road south. It’s where many people shop for groceries, buy trucks or other large items, fuel up their vehicles, and participate in large gatherings.
Jamie Moses of Eastmain says in light of the allegations, Crees should take their business elsewhere.
“In Val-d’Or we feel that we are not welcome,” Moses said.
Moses and others have suggested the annual hockey and broomball tournament be relocated to another town. The tournament sees hundreds of young Crees and their families travel to Val-d’Or for several days in December.
“We should look elsewhere, where it would be better to send our kids to play,” Moses said.
“We should look elsewhere where we are welcomed as visitors.”
Organizers of the tournament are meeting to look at this question on the weekend. The Cree government’s release says it will “take immediate action to cancel public events scheduled to be held in Val-d’Or,” although it does not specify whether it intends to cancel or relocate the tournament.