'Would it have been the same if it was a white person?': inquiry into wrongful arrest of Mamadi Camara
MONTREAL -- Quebec will be holding an inquiry later this month into the wrongful arrest of Mamadi Camara, who was charged and detained in the attempted murder of a police officer in Parc-Extension two weeks ago.
Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault said Tuesday an investigation, presided by Justice Louis Dionne, will shed light on what led to Camara’s arrest and the deposition of charges against him.
“The confidence of our citizens in our police and judicial institutions is at stake,” said Guilbault in a statement.
The 31-year-old PhD student was put in jail for six days before being released last week when video surveillance footage made it clear police had arrested the wrong man.
The real perpetrator is still at large, and the SPVM’s investigation into the assault still active. Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron publicly exonerated Camara on Friday and apologized.
But there are still many questions surrounding how Camara, a witness to the attack and the one who called 911, ended up being the man arrested instead.
“I think we don’t have enough information to know if it's a case of racism,” said Quebec Premier François Legault when asked about it by reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
“I think that Mr. Dionne will be able to answer this question about the motivation about why it happened this way, would it have been the same if it was a white person,” he said.
CLAIMS OF SYSTEMIC RACISM
Many advocates said this is yet another clear example of systemic racism in Quebec.
Former RCMP officer and social justice advocate Alain Babineau said prosecutors played an important part in the laying of charges against Camara, in addition to police.
It took six days after Camara’s arrest for the video that led to charges being dropped against him to come to light, leading to many questions about where that key piece of evidence was on day one.
“It’ll be very interesting at this point to really dig into institutional racism and discrimination within two components of the criminal justice system, not just the one,” said Babineau.
“There’s clearly a problem.” agreed Marie-Livia Beaugé, a lawyer and activist.
“This shows us that there is a problem, not only in the police but also in the way that cases are looked at and how they were accepted and not accepted,” she added.
WORRIED ABOUT LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
And though most agree an inquiry into the Mamadi Camara case was necessary, there are already many concerns relating to the way it will be conducted.
One of them is how much of the inquiry and report will be made public.
A news release from the provincial government Tuesday said "the report may be made public, in whole or in part, to the extent that it can be done without prejudice to a police investigation or possible prosecution.”
“We do not have the guarantee it will be made public in the end nor that the testimonies will be made public,” said Camara’s lawyer Virgine Dufresne-Lemire.
“For us, there’s a lack of transparency that is quite important,” she said.
Dufresne-Lemire said it is also unclear whether the question of racial profiling will be specifically addressed.
Justice Dionne would be responsible for validating the relevance of the actions taken by the police officers.
Dionne was the director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions from 2007 to 2011, when he was appointed to the Court of Quebec as a judge.
The inquiry will begin on Feb. 22, and last a maximum of five months.
The SPVM said it will offer its full collaboration to the inquiry.
“We respect the decision and will be transparent throughout the process,” the force’s media relations department told CTV News.