Chief Ghislain Picard of AFN of Quebec and Labrador is skeptical of pilot project, repeats call for inquiry
By Benjamin Shingler, CBC News Posted: Nov 23, 2016
Quebec provincial police reacting to allegations of abuse in Val-d’Or are establishing a new station in the northern community that will include both Indigenous and non-Indigenous officers.
Half of the officers at the new station, made up of more than a dozen officers, will be Indigenous. The existing station in the city of 32,000 will remain intact.
The one-year pilot project is set to begin early next year, with the goal of improving strained relations between police and First Nations members of the community.
Six officers were suspended with pay last year after several Indigenous women told Radio-Canada they had been abused by members of theSûreté du Québec.
Crown prosecutors announced last week they will not charge any of the suspended officers.
The job status of the officers isn’t immediately known. Two of the officers who were suspended — Simon Drouin and Émilie Langlois — on Tuesday denied any wrong doing when they were interviewed by the French-language television network TVA.
Martin Prud’homme, the SQ’s director general, will announce further details of the police pilot project later today.
Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, questioned whether a new station with Indigenous officers would address the underlying problems in Val-d’Or.
“The first question that comes to mind is: how will the two stations relate to one another? It is a very important question,” Picard said on Daybreak.
He added there’s already a shortage of Indigenous police officers on First Nations reserves, so it will be difficult to fill the positions.
An analysis by CBC News earlier this year found that visible minorities make up less than one per cent of the SQ.
“If there’s no extra funding coming from somewhere, then definitely the proposal is going to fall short,” he said.
Picard repeated his call for a provincial inquiry into police relations with Indigenous Quebecers, saying he was hopeful Premier Philippe Couillard would take action.
Couillard signalled on Tuesday he was open to the possibility of an inquiry.
Indigenous leaders have argued the broad scope the national inquiry would mean the problems in Quebec wouldn’t get the attention they deserve.
“There is a situation here that demands some political will, because obviously it’s a situation that can worsen if we don’t make a decision to bring it out in the open,” Picard said.
Michèle Audette, former head of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and one of five commissioners overseeing the federal inquiry, wouldn’t comment directly on whether Quebec would benefit from a provincial inquiry.
“If a province or territory wants to go further into one issue, we can’t stop them,” she told Radio-Canada, adding that their could be collaboration between the two inquiries.