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Alleged Montreal-area 'Chinese police stations' planning to sue RCMP for $2.5 million

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Two Chinese community centres in the Montreal area are planning to launch a $2.5 million defamation lawsuit against the RCMP and the Attorney General of Canada after being accused by the police force of hosting "alleged Chinese police stations."

The RCMP confirmed in March it had opened an investigation into the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal, in Montreal's Chinatown, and the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud, in Brossard, on the South Shore of Montreal.

According to human rights group Safeguard Defenders, so-called Chinese police stations are used to monitor and threaten Chinese citizens living abroad, sometimes forcing them to return to China for persecution.

Representatives from the two centres spoke at a press conference Friday morning to condemn the RCMP's "vague allegations," which they say have unfairly targeted their institutions, caused people to lose their jobs and led to funding cuts.

They also say the bank holding the mortgage for the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (Chinese Family Service of Greater Montreal) announced its intention to not renew its mortgage in March 2024.

"This 'witch hunt' of an investigation is having real-life consequences on the Chinese-Canadian community in Montreal," reads a statement released by the Coalition to Save Chinese Quebec Institutions ahead of the news conference.

Two Canadian senators — Independent Sen. Yuen Pau Woo and Conservative Sen. Victor Oh — also attended the press conference on Friday.

Sen. Woo came out in defence of the community centres last May when he called on the RCMP to present their evidence or leave the Chinese community organizations alone.

REPUTATION 'TARNISHED OVERNIGHT'

No lawsuit has yet been filed with the court, but the groups' lawyer, Maryse Lapointe, has sent the RCMP a formal notice that they intend to take legal action. The dollar amount is an estimate of the damages they could seek, but the lawyer said it could be higher. 

The lawyer's letter said the centres' reputations has been "unduly tarnished overnight" by the national police force and Xixi Li, a Brossard city councillor and executive director of both community centres, "is an indirect victim of the RCMP’s fault."

"Let's not forget that the two community organizations in question are the only centers offering this kind of service to the Chinese community in the province of Quebec. Until the reputation of our clients is restored, the Chinese community in Quebec will continue to suffer from a flagrant lack of services specifically aimed at its needs," the letter states. 

In an emotional address to reporters Friday, Li said she had suffered serious distress due to the allegations. 

"I had to take pills to sleep. I lost weight," she said. "At that point, I could not face the public."

Li says she’s still not sure what exactly she’s being accused of, nor does she know the status of the investigation.

RCMP RESPONDS

CTV News reached out to the RCMP to respond to this story. The federal police force refused to comment on any eventual lawsuit. 

"On questions about Chinese Police Stations more broadly," Sgt. Kim Chamberland wrote in an email, "The RCMP will not comment on specific locations as investigations are ongoing. However, the RCMP can confirm that our national response has disrupted illegal activity."

"It is important to note that some of the activity the RCMP is investigating is occurring at locations where other legitimate services to the Chinese Canadian Community are being offered," Chamberland added.  

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