SQ boss expects tensions to subside in wake of cop suspensions
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, October 27, 2015 11:36AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 27, 2015 5:18PM EDT
The Surete du Quebec is implementing measures aimed at reducing tensions in Val d'Or, where eight officers were suspended last week over allegations of abuse towards native women.
Martin Prud'Homme, director of the force, was in Val d'Or Tuesday, one day after police committed to installing dashboard cameras in cruisers and the addition of social workers to downtown patrols.
Last week, Radio-Canada's investigative "Enquete" program broadcast interviews with various women who accused officers of assault and abuse of power over a period going back several years.
The probe into the alleged incidents was transferred to Montreal police amid criticism the provincial force was investigating its own members.
Prud'Homme says while the force needs to review its police-training procedures, the detachment has a good reputation. He believes tensions will subside as all sides set about finding solutions in the town, 525 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
"What I'm hearing is people are concerned, but to say we're in a crisis, I don't think we're there," Prud'Homme said. "Everyone is in solution mode -- on the aboriginal side, from the community -- and normally when looking for solutions, you find them."
Community members took part in a march over the weekend to support the alleged victims.
There were also reports local officers have been calling in sick after their colleagues were suspended.
Prud'Homme said the 56 provincial police members who work in Val d'Or feel scapegoated after the allegations came to light and say their spouses and children are also being affected.
On Friday, police said the 14 allegations involved nine officers, one of whom has died, and include two of a sexual nature. There are also allegations of assault.
Prud'Homme specified that none of the eight suspended officers are facing sexual misconduct allegations.
In Montreal, Premier Philippe Couillard defended public security minister Lise Theriault's handling of the file and deflected criticism from police officers that she didn't do enough to back them up.
The premier said some tension in the community is normal and an inquiry by an outside police force will ensure both those alleging the acts and the police officers in question get fair treatment.
"This is part of our justice system: the rule of law applies to everyone," Couillard said.
The premier hasn't ruled out a Quebec public inquiry into allegations of abuse towards native women, but added it would need to be complimentary to Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau's plans to launch a nationwide investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Couillard also called for a complete reform of the Indian Act, which he described as outdated and keeping First Nations communities in a state of dependence.
"My message to the aboriginal communities in Quebec -- and in Canada -- if they want to address this issue where it should be, at the deepest level, Quebec will be at their side," Couillard said.