A joint communique by Montreal Noir and Justice for Victims of Police Killings on how Quebec’s new ‘independent’ police investigations bureau, made up of 14/18 ex-Montreal Police employees; is more of the same. No justice for victims of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous police violence; nor for other victims of racial and social profiling.
Montreal, June 27, 2016 –
Montreal Noir and Justice for Victims of Police Killings reject the makeup of the BEI which takes effect today. Staffing the BEI with ex-police officers and staff is disrespectful towards our communities, and disrespectful to the families and friends of persons who have lost their lives at hands of police.
Since the killing of unarmed Black community member Bony Jean-Pierre in April, Montreal Noir has demanded a truly independent body of inquiry to investigate police killings. This demand was made at the SPVM office in Montreal Nord, as well as the May 9th neighbourhood council meeting in Montreal-Nord, led by Christine Black, borough mayor. Since 2010, Justice for Victims of Police killings and the family members and friends of Anas Bennis (killed 2005), Claudio Castagnetta (killed 2007), Ben Matson (killed 2002), Jean-François Nadreau (killed 2012), Quilem Registre (killed 2007), Gladys Tolley (killed 2001) and Fredy Villanueva (killed 2008), all killed by police, have demanded an end to police investigating police following a death at the hands of law enforcement officers.
In addition, the family of Brandon Maurice, a 17-year-old Maniwaki youth killed by the SQ in 2015, wishes to tell the public that:
“The family of Brandon Maurice is against the structure of the BEI…too many investigations have gone wrong in the past, because it was police investigating other police. We need an impartial organization to judge the mistakes of the police, not another police body for officers to protect themselves, which is currently the case.”
The racial composition of the “neutral” investigating body is nearly 100% white, and composed almost entirely of men. One only needs to look at the racial and gendered homogeneity of the BEI to see that it does not represent the diversity of Quebec society. Most particularly, it does not represent the communities most affected by police brutality; those of us who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, trans, and otherwise marginalized.
This homogeneity prioritizes one, powerful voice; this keeps the power in the hands of a very distinct, elite group, who already dominate Quebec society. (See the link at the bottom of this release for a photo of the BEI officers).
Fourteen out of eighteen BEI officers have worked with the police force in some way, and a full nine out of eighteen are ex-SPVM agents. This shows an undeniable pro-police bias. Recent years, and numerous studies, have demonstrated that the SPVM continues to practice racial and social profiling; particularly against Black, Indigenous and other racialized persons of all ages. . A leaked SPVM report from 2009 found that 30 to 40% of Black youth in St. Michel and Montreal Nord had been stopped for non-criminal encounters by police in that year alone. It is not an accident that surveillance and profiling starts with youth of colour; setting youth from our communities on a directly pathway to prison. Though crime rates continue to fall, the rates of incarceration of Black and Indigenous persons have skyrocketed by more than 80% in the last decade, as have the rates of incarcerated persons with mental health issues. The presence of police in our communities have multiplied on the streets, in metros and parks; which does not create security but adds further insecurities in our communities. The BEI as it stands today will not effectively challenge these abuses of power
That former SPVM officials will take over from the SQ in investigating police abuses will only further reinforce the status-quo of impunity, and a lack of public trust. Ongoing profiling tells us that the police do not value our lives; and the lack of meaningful consequences over the past several decades of police killings have shown us that police investigations do not honor us even in death.
In the words of Julie Matson, member of JFVPK who’s father was killed by the police in 2002, “The possibility of a truly independent investigation bureau was a small ray of hope for us families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police. The bureau we are getting, as currently proposed, demonstrates the same status quo as we have always had. It is truly a disappointment”
A real independent body would involve both a consultation and decision-making power held in the hands of affected community members; including Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities, persons with mental health issues; and the LGBTQI* community.