Indigenous groups say Quebec police protest tactic a form of intimidation

first_imgMONTREAL – A controversial red badge worn by provincial police officers expressing solidarity with colleagues alleged to have abused Indigenous women drew a cautious response this week from Quebec politicians.Police officers began wearing the badges with the station number 144 nearly two years ago as a show of support for the Val d’Or detachment in northwestern Quebec after eight officers were suspended following allegations they had mistreated Indigenous women.The badge is described as a type of intimidation by Indigenous leaders, who expressed disappointment that politicians were not more forceful in calling for an end to the practice.“I think that the officers involved should take them off, it’s that simple,” said Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. “It’s totally inappropriate, it’s unacceptable and it’s disrespectful. That’s how I see it.”The strongest political response came from Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee, who said those in a position of authority should not have their beliefs on display.“I ask police officers here and elsewhere: Do not display your beliefs,” Lisee said. “You are paid to enforce the law and represent the state.”Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard was measured in his comments, telling reporters on Thursday that he opposes the red bands but would leave it to police brass to deal with the matter.The Liberal leader told reporters Thursday his first allegiance is to the woman who came forward courageously on a “delicate and painful matter.”“I don’t believe the police uniform is the right way to express that soldarity,” Couillard said.Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault declined to pass judgment on the badges but called for closer ties with Indigenous communities.Picard called it unacceptable that politicians would leave it up to the police to deal with the long-running protest. He called the badges provocative, especially considering the distrust created by the allegations against the officers.“If people are going to put their energy and effort into finding ways to create that sense of trust and security, to us that element (the badge) is not helping,” Picard said.Both the police force and the union representing its officers declined comment Friday. Following an outside investigation, Quebec’s public prosecution service said there would be no charges against the officers alleged to have mistreated the women.In June, Paul Charbonneau of the Quebec provincial police testified at the National Inquiry into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls that the force would rather persuade than order officers to stop wearing the protest badges. Charbonneau acknowledged the badge can “traumatize” Indigenous women who see an officer wearing it, according to a CBC report.Police brass from the Val d’Or detachment are scheduled to testify Tuesday before a provincial inquiry that has also heard complaints about the badge.The Viens commission was created in December 2016, mandated to look into the treatment of Indigenous people by police, youth protection officials, the public health department and the justice and correctional systems.It’s not the first time police in Quebec have modified their uniforms as a form of protest. Montreal police officers wore colourful camouflage pants from 2014 to 2017 to oppose pension reforms.last_img

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