On April 6, 2016 Lac-Simon police shot and killed 25-year-old father of three Sandy Tarzan Michel, after first hitting him with a car. On Thursday, June 15, 2017 The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions for the province announced its decision not to lay charges against the officers responsible. The Lac-Simon force was not investigated by an independent body but rather by Montreal police who made the recommendation, not surprisingly, not to lay charges.
Four officers had been sent to Michel’s home, in the Algonquin community of Lac-Simon in western Quebec just south of Val-d’Or, apparently in response to a domestic call. Police claim to have approached Michel on the basis that he was known to them. The police report says Michel exited his house carrying a machete but notes that officers drove into him with their police car. No statement on whether or not this is standard and sanctioned police procedure. Yet the Montreal police did suggest that it was legal activity with which the Director agreed with. When this did not give them the desired result an officer fired four shots and killed the man.
Since this investigation was begun Quebec has established an oversight body the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations). Only two days before the Lac-Simon announcement, critics held a press conference claiming the BEI was neither transparent nor effective.
It is among the rarest of occurrences in Canada that a killer cop is ever charged for taking the life of a civilian. Oversight agencies, which are not autonomous or independent of police, prosecutors, and judges work to ensure that the state protects the state and killer cops are legitimized. On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 one of those rare events occurred with the laying of charges against Montreal police officer Christian Gilbert who killed 46-year-old Bony Jean-Pierre on March 31, 2016.
Murder charges against police are unheard of and officer Gilbert has been charged with manslaughter. He shot Jean-Pierre in the head with a rubber bullet, a projectile that police routinely use, as in protests for example, and which police propagandists pose as non-lethal. The charges were announced by Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP). Officer Gilbert was released under a promise to appear on July 6, 2017.
The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), Quebec’s investigation unit, which now examines incidents of police harm to civilians was not established when the investigation into Jean-Pierre’s killing was initiated. Instead the charges come, incredibly, following an investigation by Quebec provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
The Montreal North community, long angered by police targeting and violence organized and mobilized in response to the police killing of Jean-Pierre. At least 100 people participated in a march and rally in June. At that time some cars and banks were vandalized and objects thrown at the police station in a community uprising. The march occurred on what would have been the 26th birthday of Fredy Villanueva, a young man shot and killed by police in 2008 when Montreal policed moved aggressively to break up a game of dice in a park. Yes, he was killed for playing dice. The killing of Fredy Villanueva highlighted the racist targeted policing practices of Montreal police, reinforced by the killing of Bony Jean-Pierre.
Eight investigators of Quebec’s BEI (Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, Bureau of Independent Investigations) are examining the police killing of a 41-year-old man in the town of Beauceville, approximately 90 kilometers south of Quebec City. The provincial police, the Sureté du Québec (SQ), claims its officers were responding to a 911 call at around 9:45 AM regarding a domestic dispute. The victim was shot at least once. None of the SQ claims has been independently verified.
A 24-year-old man died in police custody in Puvirnituq, in northern Quebec, sometime in the evening of Friday, April 28. The man was arrested and detained by police, for as yet undisclosed reasons, earlier Friday morning. Police report that a guard noticed between 5:30 and 6 PM that the man was not breathing. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations) has assigned seven investigators to examine the case. The BEI is not actually independent and provincial police (SQ, Sûreté du Québec) officers will also be involved in the investigation.
Quebec’s Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) and Montreal police are investigating after a lengthy standoff in Châteauguay ended with the death of a 61-year-old man early in the morning of Friday, March 24, 2017. Police had surrounded the residence on Rossini Street in what they claim was a standoff beginning apparently around 9 AM Wednesday, March 22. A bailiff had called local police to report being confronted by a man inside and they claim to have secured a perimeter upon arrival. Sûreté du Québec (SQ) took over the scene around 8 PM Wednesday.
SQ report that they heard gunshots from inside the house at around 1:30 AM on Friday. Entering, in their report, 12 minutes later they claim to have found the man’s body inside the house. The SQ’s SWAT team as well as investigators from the provincial force’s major crime squad, those trained in crisis negotiations, were reportedly on the scene but there has been no confirmation of whether they communicated with the victim at any point. The various police accounts have not been independently confirmed.
A 28-year-old man suffered a heart attack and died during an “interaction” with Montreal police on Monday, March 6, 2016. The incident occurred around 2 AM when police attended a residence in Ile-Bizard where they claim the victim was intoxicated and involved in some form of domestic dispute. The man died despite efforts of paramedics to revive him.
Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), the unit that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in the province is examining the case. None of the police claims have been independently verified publicly.
It is a situation that is happening far too frequently in the Canadian policing context. Experiencing mental distress is levied a death sentence when police are sent to intervene. On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Nadia Racine (34) died from injuries sustained during a violent arrest by Gatineau police the day before. Racine was injured and had been taken to hospital after police arrested her in her apartment at 24 Rue Charles-Albanel.
Sadly police were responding to a simple noise complaint called in by a neighbor who heard banging and screaming coming from the victim’s apartment. Shawn Lescard, who lives in the apartment directly above hers recounted: “It sounded like she was getting beaten. I wanted to save her life. I thought she was getting beaten and that’s why I called the cops. Now…she’s passed away” (quoted in CBC News 2017). Calling the cops too often ends fatally when mental health issues are involved and should not be an option when someone is experiencing mental distress. Lescard called the Gatineau police non-emergency phone line. He was shaken by news of his neighbor’s death: “She seemed like a good person. Quiet. She [kept] to herself. It’s pretty sad the way she went” (quoted in CBC News 2017).
According to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), the provincial body that examines police harm to civilians in Quebec, Gatineau police said officers responded to the noise complaint at around 6:14 PM Tuesday. BEI spokesman Martin Bonin-Charron reports that when police arrived at Racine’s apartment they received no answer at the door and then forced their way in. Inside the apartment they claim to have found Racine in a state of “mental distress.” According to Bonin-Charron: “She was banging her head around the apartment” (quoted in CBC News 2017). The BEI has not said anything about the arrest that led to Racine’s injuries that did report police put her in handcuffs. According to the BEI: “The police officers, they handcuffed her before realizing she was in [medical] distress” (quoted in CBC News 2017). It is not clear why police handcuffed someone who at most was suggested as a victim of assault based on the call put in by the neighbor Lescard. One might well note the contradiction in the police reports already though. On one hand they say they entered the apartment to find the victim in distress but on the other hand they claim to have handcuffed her before realizing she was in distress.
The BEI has assigned eight investigators to this case. They are not an independent oversight body and as a result will be joined in the investigation (and monitored) by the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police.
CBC News. 2017. “Woman Fatally Injured During Arrest by Gatineau Police, Identified.” CBC News. January 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/woman-dead-gatineau-bureau-enqu%C3%AAtes-ind%C3%A9pendantes-1.3952975