The 38-year-old man shot and killed by Montreal Police on Friday, January 6, 2017, has been identified as Jimmy Cloutier, a homeless man who made use of shelter services at the Old Brewery Mission. The Old Brewery Mission reported that Cloutier was a long-time client who had attended the shelter especially for meals and changes of clothing. Shelter director Matthew Pearce said that Cloutier had participated in a program at Maison Claude-Laramée for homeless people with mental health issues, a program run jointly by the shelter and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (CBC 2017). Cloutier had no attended the shelter for four years after completing the program. Pearce reported that over the past year, Cloutier had been a “fairly frequent visitor” and seemed fine the day of the shooting, stopping by the cafeteria to get coffee (CBC 2017).
Surveillance camera video from the police killing of Cloutier shows the victim tossing a cup of liquid, presumed to be coffee from the shelter, on the ground before bending over, apparently to set something else down, before then picking up a bag and walking out of the view of the camera (CTV Montreal 2017). Cloutier is pursued by several police officers clearly holding firearms. The man was shot and killed only seconds later. Police claim that he was armed and made some “aggressive gesture” at them, but this has not been independently confirmed.
Indeed homeless people on the scene were upset that the police had used lethal force against Cloutier and deployed it so quickly. They have asked why no alternatives were attempted first. Police became aggrieve with homeless people on the scene who merely raised questions about the actions taken by police. Those wondering why police chose not to use less-lethal options have continued to raise concerns. According to Milosz Janda, the Old Brewery Mission social counsellor: “They just want to find out what was the reason for such behaviour? Why was it done that way? Why weren’t other possible approaches there?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).
Cloutier is the fourth homeless person known to have been killed by Montreal police officers in the past few years. This fact is not lost on Old Brewery Mission director Matthew Pearce. He points out the awful history of police engagement with poor and homeless people. According to Pearce: “Four incidents of confrontation with the police, and four deaths. Not injuries – deaths. I have to feel that in each of those there were other options that could have been pursued” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He suggests that police are too fearful and stressed out by homeless and street involved people.
The circumstances of the police killing of Jimmy Cloutier are all too familiar for family members of other homeless people killed by Montreal Police. Pierre Magloire’s brother Alain was shot and killed by police two years ago. Magloire’s response to this latest killing was dismay. In his words: “I was, like, ‘Again? Oh my God.’ How come we are at the same place we were two, three years ago?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He echoes the belief that police are too panicked in dealing with people who may be experiencing distress: “They are not ready to deal with someone. They are getting afraid very fast” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).
These killings are extreme forms of the poorbashing that police regularly inflict on homeless people. It extends from habitual police practices of harassment, intimidation, bullying, and violence. It reflects police perspectives that view homeless people as “problems” or unworthy victims, or detritus.
CBC News. 2017. “Video Shows Final Moments of Old Brewery Mission Client, Shot to Death by Police.” CBC News. January 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/old-brewery-mission-shooting-victim-identified-1.3928900
CTV Montreal. 2017. Questions Raised by Homeless Shelter after Deadly Police Shooting.” CTV News. http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/questions-raised-by-homeless-shelter-after-deadly-police-shooting-1.3235204