On Friday, January 6, 2017, Montreal police shot and killed a man outside of the Old Brewery Mission. As if inflicting this trauma on homeless people who witnessed police violence was not enough, police then decided to become aggressive with clients of the shelter. It is suggested that the victim of the police shooting had been a client a of the Mission at various points over the course off 11 years.
According to Matthew Pearce, the Director General of the Old Brewery Mission, police became aggressive with people upset by the use of lethal force. Pearce relates: “I was told there was an incident where someone made a critical remark to the police. And the police reacted with some degree of aggression” (quoted in CBC News 2017). The violent response by police to even mild criticism from the public is too common and raises questions about police views on the communities they claim to protect and serve. Pearce suggests that the response was inappropriate. In his words: “We feel that the reaction that the police had to that remark was excessive and I’ll be following up with Montreal’s police chief” (quoted in CBC News 2017).
Pearce noted too the harm that can be done by actions such as the aggressive police targeting of shelter clients. He notes: “Our role is to reduce tensions at all times so it is a concern to us when third parties like the police are inside our building. We don’t want them to contribute to the creating of issues that we then have to work to resolve” (quoted in CBC News 2017). Yet this sort of behavior is too common among police, particularly where homeless and street involved people are concerned.
The Mission’s Director General is now working overtime to ensure that people on the street are confident that the mission is a safe place. According to Pearce: “It’s essential that people, when they come inside the mission, they are leaving the street behind so they are coming to a place of respect of dignity and of security” (quoted in CBC News 2017). A coroner’s investigation earlier suggested that police need improved training when dealing with people who may suffer mental health issues following the killing of a homeless man more than two years ago (CBC News 2016). Psychologists are working with people traumatized by the police action.
CBC News. 2017. “Old Brewery Mission Seeks to Reassure Clients after Fatal Police Shooting.” CBC News. January 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/old-brewery-mission-reassures-clients-after-police-shooting-1.3926230
CBC News. 2016. “Montreal Police Need Better Training to Deal with Mentally Ill, Coroner Says.” CBC News. March 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/police-mental-illness-training-coroner-report-1.3479916