Quebec is looking into its police watchdog after criticism continues over transparency, lack of action
MONTREAL -- Quebec is proposing changes to its police watchdog, the bureau of independent investigation (BEI).
The office investigates incidents when a citizen is injured or killed during a police intervention, and in three years since the BEI was formed, not a single criminal case has been brought against an officer.
Families of victims of police violence say it needs a complete overhaul.
It's been more than three years since Cesar Celik's 28-year-old son Koray died after being beaten by police inside their family home.
"They came from this area, and I met them at the garage door here," said Celik. "We called for help because our son was looking not himself and appeared in crisis."
Instead of calming the situation, however, Celik said police were aggressive with his son and escalated the situation. He said four officers cuffed his son and beat him while he was lying face down on the floor.
"My wife and I, we said stop, stop! What are you going? He is arrested already," said Celik. "Four people! You are still beating him, and no, no. They continued kicking, kneeing, punching, and choking."
After two minutes, Celik said he saw a flash of what he thinks was a taser, and his son stopped moving.
A BEI investigation cleared the officers involved of wrongdoing.
"What BEI said is, ah, he was aggressive towards police, and police were trying to arrest him, and he had a heart attack," said Celik. "No beating, no tasering, kicking, no punching, no four people attack with metal batons, nothing. He just had problem, he just died."
Celik is suing the Montreal police department (SPVM) and Urgence Sante for half a million dollars.
Human rights advocate Eve-Marie Lacasse has been keeping a close eye on the BEI since it was established in 2016.
"The only source of information that the BEI take into consideration is the police force involved," she said. "When the vast majority of the BEI investigators are from the police community or have worked in the police community, you cannot talk about independence."
In a scathing report last month, the Ligue des Droits et Libertes found "the BEI not truly independent of the police community, nor is it transparent or impartial."
Tracy Wing's 17-year-old son, Riley Fairholm, was fatally shot by police in Lac Brome in 2018.
He, Wing said, was in crisis as well.
"What I need to know is how my son died," said Wing, who is insulted at being left in the dark. "As soon as anyone says to me you know, it's not important for you to know, or it's none of your business. It makes me wonder why that is."
Wing still doesn't know why the officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, Quebec's Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault proposed changes to the BEI, including a mandate to hire more civilian investigators.
Lacasse said, however, that the changes do not go far enough.
"We think that the BEI needs a very true, an important reform, more than what was proposed in the bill," she said.
Guilbault's office emailed CTV News and said it is in the process of reviewing the Police Act in its entirety.
The BEI was created with the idea that police officers should not investigate other police officers, but three years into its mandate, those who have been up close and personal with the office say it has fallen short.