Fallout from Val d'Or accusations could go far beyond Quebec town
“Sandra,” an Algonquin mother of four whose name we’ve changed to protect her privacy, has lived through more than most 31-year-old women.
For years, she lived with an abusive partner in Val d'Or. During one call to police, her ex, a Cree man, stabbed an SQ officer in the hand.
Years later, she called police again for help when she became involved in another dispute. She says when they arrived, they told her to walk home.
“It was minus 40. I was in shorts and running shoes,” she said.
No one offered her a lift. Angry, she called a friend to pick her up and admits she called the officer a name. That's when things turned.
“They threw me on the ground. Even my sister said it she had never seen anyone thrown out of pickup like that.
“I just flew out the truck face down in the snowbank. I couldn't breathe because my face was in the snow. I was running out of air,” she said.
Sandra is one of several aboriginal women in Val d'Or who say they have been abused by police.
“In my past relationships I had had violence but never that bad. ...I felt like I was treated like a dog,” she said.
"Sandra," an Algonquin woman who lives in Val d'Or, tells Caroline Van Vlaardingen about her experiences with police in the town.
Her head was pinned to the ground under the officer's boot, she says. Her face, leg and arm were injured.
Since the allegations against eight SQ officers surfaced about a week ago, Val d'Or has been a city divided. Many don’t know who or what to believe.
“It’s too big for a town like this to absorb,” said metis woman Amelia Bergeron.
The reality, according to resident Sylvain Picard, is that many people are afraid of aboriginals. They get drunk, use drugs and ask for money, he says, adding that he doesn’t believe the women’s allegations.
Resident Monique Lacoursiere says she's afraid of the police.
“If something happens at my home I don't think I'll be calling the police today. Who do I call? Who do I go and see. Who do I trust?” she said.
Val d'Or resident Monique Lacoursiere told CTV's Caroline Van Vlaardingen she's now afraid of the police.
The Montreal police are handling the investigation into the allegations and have issued calls in aboriginal languages for more alleged victims to come forward.
The union representing provincial police says its members are being unfairly judged. But what's happening to some native women in Val d’Or and nearby reserves like Lac Simon is complex – a national problem deeply rooted in colonialism, racism and poverty. The town built on gold has become a lightning rod for deep-seated problems.
Indigenous leaders admit the violence isn't always from outside.
“I do not pretend that there is no violence against aboriginal women in our communities. We need to face it,” said Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees Matthew Coon Come.
Many are convinced an inquiry into violence and what happened to hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women is long overdue.
A year and a half after Sindy Ruperthouse went missing, her parents say they are finally getting some attention from Val d'Or police.
“I think something may happen but we can't stop talking about her and forget her again,” said her father Johnny Wylde.
Sindy Ruperthouse's parents Johnny Wylde and Émilie Ruperthouse Wylde don't want the investigation into her disappearance to be put on a back burner.
“We’ve been marginalized for so long and this is why problems like this have persisted,” said Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel.
Jimmy Papatie, who lives on the Kitcisakik First Nation, says there's a wall of silence between native and non-native people.
“I think we need to look at the future. To break that wall of silence that has been there for so many years. It's been for 400 years now, he said.
“We need to break that and to break it we need to face the truth also, and not live in denial.”