• More aboriginal women allege abuse at hands of Quebec provincial police
Apr 01, 2016

More aboriginal women across Quebec are speaking out about what they say is physical and sexual abuse at the hands of provincial police officers.

The women — who hail from places such as Schefferville and Maniwaki — say they wanted to share their own experiences after Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête aired a story in November about aboriginal women in Val-d'Or alleging they were sexually assaulted by Sûreté du Québec officers over a period of two decades.

Following the report, then public safety minister Lise Thériault handed investigation of the allegations to the Montreal police.

Women come forward

Lise Jourdain says she experienced abuse at the hands of SQ officers over 25 years ago.

"I was raped by police officers in Schefferville," she told Enquête.

"Actually, it was one officer, but I use plural because the others knew what was happening."

Kristen Wawatie, originally from Lac Barrière in the Abitibi region of Quebec, said she was violated by an officer in Val-d'Or in August 2012.

Kristen Wawatie

Kristen Wawatie says an officer in Val d'Or, Que., called her a drunkard and put his hands in her pants. (Radio-Canada)

"I said no, I don't want you to touch me," she said.

"It's then that his hands went, they went in my pants. He said to me that he can touch me when he wanted."

Wawatie said she told the officer she would bring him to court.

"He said, 'Who are they going to believe, the police or a drunkard?'"

Deserted by police

Other women are sharing stories about being abandoned by officers at the side of the road, kilometres away from habitable areas.

Carolyn Henry said that in 2007, she was visiting Maniwaki, a small town north of Gatineau in the Outaouais region, for a powwow.

'The worst things are going through our heads. You hear the stories of what happened to many other indigenous women.'– Carolyn Henry

She said she was leaving a bar with a friend when SQ officers offered to give them a lift back to their campground.

But she said police drove past the campground and continued driving for about 45 minutes.

"You can't help at think the worst. I mean, we were in a vulnerable situation, two young indigenous females in a town that we're not from and we don't know anything about," Henry said.

"They knew that we needed a ride. So yeah, like, sure, the worst things are going through our heads. You know, 'cause you hear the stories of what happened to many other indigenous women."

Henry said the police drove to what looked like an abandoned gas station, told her and her friend to get out and then drove off, leaving them stranded.

Public security minister promises action

A former employee of Quebec's public security ministry, Isabelle Parent, who worked under the junior minister for 12 years inspecting police forces, said she wants to break her silence on the allegations.

"There was no interest. At the top, there was really no interest in the security of aboriginals, aboriginal women," she said.

"That shocked me."

Parent said prosecutors often said they didn't have enough information to move forward with charges.

In an interview Thursday with Radio-Canada, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux defended turning down interview requests from the Enquête team.

He said he had no information on the allegations at the time of the request. On Thursday afternoon, he said that he will make sure complaints are followed up on. 

"These allegations will for sure bring with them a government response," Coiteux told Radio-Canada.

 "We won't sit around with our arms crossed."

No comment from SQ

The provincial police refused interview requests from the Enquête team.

Jean O'Bomsawin, a former SQ officer, said the allegations about Val-d'Or officers shocked him.

"My first reaction was, they are going to speak to everybody to make sure this situation is dealt with, that it won't go any further," he said.

"There needs to be a serious investigation into all these allegations, to find the truth. Those who protected other officers must face consequences as well."

The Montreal police said the investigation into the conduct of the eight officers in Val-d'Or is continuing.

 

 

 

 

 

With files from Radio-Canada's Enquête