Women in Algonquin communities closest to Val-d’Or don’t feel protected by police, chief tells inquiry
CBC News Posted: Jun 07, 2017
Women in Lac Simon are still fearful of provincial police, two years after allegations of officers abusing Indigenous women first surfaced, a Quebec inquiry heard Wednesday.
Chief Adrienne Jérôme of the Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation, just east of Val-d’Or, Que., was testifying on the third day of the commission looking into relations between Indigenous people in Quebec and government services, notably policing and justice.
“Our women don’t believe in the justice system,” Jérôme told retired Superior Court justice Jacques Viens, the inquiry’s commissioner.
“They’re afraid of the police, afraid to make a complaint. They don’t feel protected.”
The Quebec government launched the inquiry last December, a year after CBC/Radio-Canada reported several Indigenous women said they’d been physically and sexually abused by provincial police officers stationed in Val-d’Or.
Montreal police investigated the complaints but no charges were ever laid.
Jérôme said that wiped away what little faith Aboriginal women had left in the justice system.
“The anger is still there. The injustice is still there,” she said.
Adrienne Anichinapeo, the chief of Kitcisakik, another Algonquin community 120 kilometres south of Val-d’Or, said the women who had the courage to come forward to complain about police treatment in 2015 feel betrayed.
They need psychological and social support, Anichinapeo said.
“These women have been left to fend for themselves.”
Children fear police
Jérôme said the mistrust of police is often established in childhood.
She said social workers for the government’s youth protection agency ask too much of Aboriginal parents and are too quick to seize children from their homes.
She testified youth protection workers are often accompanied by police on home visits.
“Our children are afraid of police,” she said. “When they see a police car, they burst into tears inside their homes.”
She said Lac Simon faces a host of social problems, including substance abuse, suicides, school bullying and a major housing shortage.
She said policing, education, social, health and psychological services are all chronically underfunded.
Jérôme said the First Nations communities are left begging for money, and they’re often caught between two levels of government.