The Canadian Press
Eight Quebec provincial police officers have been suspended amid allegations of assault, sexual misconduct and other abuse against Indigenous women, Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said Friday.
Theriault also announced that the probe into the alleged incidents has been transferred to Montreal police amid criticism the provincial force was investigating its own.
On Thursday, Radio-Canada’s investigative “Enquete” program broadcast interviews with various women, including one who alleged police officers took her to a remote road in northwestern Quebec and asked her to perform oral sex for $200.
Another told the show that officers allegedly broke her cellphone and threw her footwear into the snow before abandoning her about a kilometre from her house.
Theriault urged other women who have been abused or assaulted to report the incidents.
“It is reprehensible and unacceptable for a police officer to use his power to abuse people who are vulnerable,” said Theriault, who burst into tears at her Quebec City news conference.
“If the criminal allegations are founded, those involved will be brought to justice…We cannot remain insensitive to these shocking and troubling revelations. We must act.”
Theriault also defended the original decision to not assign the investigation to a force other than the provincial police when her office first heard about the allegations last May.
“Provincial police officers who are involved in these types of investigations are experienced men and women and their integrity must not be called into question,” she said.
In Montreal, provincial police Capt. Guy Lapointe said the 14 allegations involved nine officers, one of whom has died, and include two of a sexual nature. There are also allegations of assault.
“Let’s be very clear on one thing,” he told a news conference. “The type of behaviour that allegedly took place is unacceptable and in no way reflects the values of Quebec provincial police.”
Chief David Kistabish, whose Abitibiwinni community is directly affected by the allegations, said it is imperative that prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau keep his election promise to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
“As a father, I am disgusted,” he said of what he heard on the Radio-Canada program. “As an Algonquin, I am hurt, and as a chief, I am shocked.”
“As leader of my community, I will not sit idly by and I won’t be invisible.”
Kistabish was joined at a news conference in Val-d’Or by several people, including a man whose daughter disappeared from Abitibiwinni 17 months ago.
Johnny Wylde gave a heart-rending account of how the entire community misses Sindy Ruperthouse, who was 44 when she was last seen.
“Sindy is energetic and sympathetic and is a smiling and intelligent woman,” he said. “It’s hard to say what happened, where she is, why she disappeared. We have no answers to these questions.”
“We’ve had our daughter, sister, aunt, niece and friend ripped from us. We are no longer the same.”