Host Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss Quebec Premier François Legault’s seemingly immovable and uncaring paternalistic approach to pandemic management (and a bit of Montreal politics too).
Quebec Premier François Legault rejected calls from all opposition parties in Quebec’s National Assembly and the Mayor of Montreal to exempt the homeless from the province’s 8pm to 5am curfew.
In a press conference today, the Premier said that if there was an exemption, people who weren’t homeless would essentially fake homelessness (tell police they were) to be able to walk around at night without getting a fine.
On Sunday, homeless man Raphael André’s body was found in a portable toilet near a homeless shelter that had recently been forced to not allow overnight stays. This prompted the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois to call on the premier to exempt the homeless from the province’s curfew.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante joined in the call this morning. It was her, though, that Legault directed his response, asking why she didn’t trust the SPVM (Montreal Police).
Legault stressed that the police aren’t there to ticket the homeless, but rather to direct them to the nearest shelter. Homeless advocates said that the SPVM had issued at least six tickets to the homeless in the curfew’s first week.
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue as thousands gathered at Place Emilie Gamelin last Sunday.
Protestors spent their sunny afternoon marching peacefully in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, reignited by the death of African American man George Floyd, who died in police custody for a harmless infraction on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded for his life.
Floyd’s death sparked international outrage, with protests against police brutality and systemic racism uniting folks from across the world to take part in actions towards police reform.
Montreal’s second major Black Lives Matter protest since Floyd’s death, the event initially sparked local backlash after organizers, Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, invited the Montreal Police (SPVM) Chief to join the protest. The decision was contested by locals, and a day later the invitation was withdrawn. In an open Facebook message, the organization wrote that “citizens are terrified of the idea that [the police chiefs] will be there.”
Still, the invitation did not stop police from teargassing the crowd around 7pm.
At 11am, after a two-hour solidarity event reserved for the Black community, the thousands of protesters, most following organizers’ directions to stay masked, began to move downtown.
Organizers offered free masks and gloves to protestors to maintain safety. For many, it was the first major outing since the COVID-19 pandemic halted large scale collective gathering at the end of March, though with a crowd so large it was difficult to follow the two meter social distance requirements.
Most protests held signs, with different messages; some more humorous, shedding light on the unity and togetherness of the situation while others alluded to the seriousness of the crimes. A simple sign, “8:46”, paid homage to Floyd’s death; it represents the amount of time Floyd suffocated under the officer’s knee.
Most protestors dispersed around 2pm, where the march ended at Dorchester Square, though many continued into the day to march around the downtown area, eventually coming face to face with a wall of police in full riot gear, shields, face masks, and rubber bullet guns.
Stanley Courages, a protestor at the event, said he joined in support of the Black Lives Matter movements. To him, it’s a symbol that things are going bad, “and going bad for a lot of people,” he said.
“The system is sick, but we all know that. Nobody has the nerve to say it out loud,” he continued. “This is nice to see, Black, White, Latin, a little bit of Asian… it’s nice to see all kinds of people. […] Somehow, some way, people can relate to it, the sadness, whatever the problem they have with this kind of system. So I’m here for that symbol.”
The spotlight is on what he calls the Black movement because Black folks have been put at the bottom since colonization, he said. But Black folks aren’t the only ones suffering, he explained.
“The black movement – the same thing as the Black Lives Matter – that’s what I see as a symbol that everyone is not okay with this system,” he said.
Pascale Lavache, another protestor at the event and who is Black, said she is marching for her nine year old son.
“I want him to not have to march when he’s my age, when he’s grown,” she said.
“I’m happy to see there’s lot of the youth is present,” she continued. “it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. Everybody feels the injustice. Everybody feels the injustice, and I feel like this is a great movement and I’m happy to see everybody is standing up for this injustice that touches everybody. So I’m really marching for myself.”
To her, the Black Lives Matter movement is about standing up for what is right, and standing up for equal rights for everybody. “I think people need to understand that this is not just for [Black folks], it’s for everyone. And it needs to stop, this needs to stop. It’s a disservice for everybody when there’s no justice.”
Though most protestors broke up around 2pm, protests continued around the downtown area until around 7pm. It was then that police opened fire on the remaining protectors without warning.
The use of tear gas, a chemical weapon that is banned in war, has been criticized by healthcare experts. It irritates the tear ducts, causing coughing, and potential irritation of the upper respiratory tract; all symptoms that could further spread the COVID-19 virus, experts say.
Already a violent weapon, its use at peaceful protests in the Canadian epicentre of the pandemic is problematic at the very least. Local healthcare professionals have called for police to cease its’ use – to no avail.
Though the protests have shed light on the systemic racism present in the Canadian justice system, Premier Francois Legault said publicly that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Quebec. The thousands of protestors that hit the streets last Sunday would disagree.
From racial profiling, economic insecurity, and a lack of representation in all facets, Quebec’s longstanding whitewashing of its’ history and culture and xenophobia; including the contested Bill 62 which bands all religious symbols in public, prove a different, darker reality.
One way to ease the injustice, Lavache said, is for there to be equal representation at every level – in both media, politics, and police force.
“We need to have equal representation, whether it’s for women, LGBTQ,” she said. “Everyone needs to be represented. The more there’s equal representation, the more there will be justice.”
Last Sunday, approximately 10 000 people took to the streets of Montreal demanding justice for George Floyd and all the other victims of racist police violence. This Sunday there’s another local protest against police brutality.
Before we go any further, I’d like to address what I knew every newscast would lead with the following day right after it happened: Yes, there was some looting. A bit of looting and some broken windows, nothing that should detract from the valid and necessary reason so many people were out, social distancing as much as possible during a pandemic.
Lenny Lanteigne, owner of Steve’s Music Store, the main target of the looters last Sunday, gets it. He told CTV that he thinks the protest was necessary and while he’s obviously not thrilled people stole his inventory, he knows what’s important. “They’re guitars, not human lives.”
In the US currently, there’s a strong argument that some of the rioting is actually quite necessary to be heard and affect change. In just over a week, the story changed from “the cops are fired” to “we’ve arrested one cop and charged him with third-degree murder” to (just yesterday) “we’re charging him with second-degree murder and the three cops who stood by with aiding and abetting second degree murder”.
The looting last Sunday in Montreal, though, came across more like a mini hockey riot with mostly white dudes using the opportunity to steal stuff than something tied into the message of police racism. The SPVM officers kneeling to put on their riot gear before teargassing the crowd (which preceded the looting), though, was a small reminder that the police here aren’t really all that different than those in the states.
We’ve Got A Long List Too
The protest last Sunday may have been in solidarity with demonstrations across the US and now across the world, but it was also demanding justice for victims of racist police violence in Canada and Montreal too. For every George Floyd or Eric Garner, there’s a Regis Korchinski-Paquet or Fredy Villanueva.
We also have a serious problem with Canadian police indiscriminately brutalizing Indigenous people. From the so-called “starlight tours” out west to a recent local incident next to Cabot Square where a Native woman in distress had to deal with 17 cops and the SPVM (Montreal Police) canine unit before getting an ambulance, it seems like our police don’t think that Native Lives Matter.
Or Black Lives, apparently.
In a CBC study of fatal encounters with police of all levels across Canada over 17 years, Black and Indigenous people were seriously over-represented when compared to the overall population. Meanwhile a 2019 report commissioned by the City of Montreal revealed that the SPVM was four to five times more likely to stop Black or Indigenous people than whites.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did admit that Canada has a problem with police racism, after 21 seconds of awkward, probably staged, silence, while dodging a question about US President Donald Trump. Of course, anything that came after the 21 seconds, he knew, would get lost in the shuffle.
Quebec Premier François Legault, while supporting the protest, denied that systemic racism exists in Quebec. This from the man that, pre-pandemic, was all about systemically discriminating against minorities through Bill 21.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, to her credit, admitted that systemic discrimination does exist in our city. The question now becomes what she is going to do to fight it.
After initially opposing outfitting police with body cameras, she now says it will happen as soon as possible. This is largely due to pressure from boroughs like Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce and the public.
The Spotlight and the Shadows
Body cameras on police would be a welcome improvement, because unlike their counterparts south of the border, our police are camera-shy when it comes to race-based brutality. This helps our political leaders propagate the lie that violent and murderous police racism is a shameful American problem, but there are only a few bad apples here.
In the US, violent racist cops are brazen and kill in the daylight, either not caring who is watching or filming or hoping to be the next white supremacist champion or MAGA hero. George Zimmerman has fans and he wasn’t even trained.
Here, they’re just as brutal, but know to avoid the spotlight as much as possible. For the person on the receiving end, though, the result is the same.
With the only real-world empire most of us have ever known burning before our eyes and crumbling into a failed state, the kind the US would usually think of invading, it’s easy to get distracted. When we see peaceful protesters teargassed and assaulted by gleeful cops, it’s easy to forget that we have problems here too,
Solidarity with those fighting to get out from under Trump’s boot is essential, but remember that the underlying problem of racist police violence is a Canadian one, too.
The next Montreal Anti-Police Brutality Protests starts Sunday, June 14th at 11am at Place Emilie-Gamelin
Photos by IK (see the album)
Protesters in Montreal are no longer required to provide a route to police. The Quebec Superior Court invalidated section 2.1 of Municipal Bylaw P-6 which was added at the height of the Maple Spring student protests in 2012 by then-Mayor Gerald Tremblay.
Over the past few years, Montreal Police (SPVM) used this provision to kettle and ticket protesters and to stop marches minutes after they started. The annual Anti-Police Brutality March being a frequent target.
The Quebec Superior Court had already invalidated Section 3.2 of the bylaw, the provision banning masks at protests, back in 2016. In the same ruling, the court put some restrictions on 2.1, but didn’t eliminate it entirely.
Not content with a partial victory, the plaintiffs, which included protest mascot Anarchopanda, decided to appeal. Today they won and the problematic parts of P-6 are gone and the court’s decision is effective immediately.
“Let’s not forget that this victory belongs to our comrades who take to the streets and risk police and judicial repression to fight for all our rights,” Sibel Ataogul, one of the lawyers fighting the appeal said in a Facebook post, adding: “Despite victories, judiciarisation is not the solution. Only the struggle pays.”
* Featured image by Chris Zacchia
When it comes to issues of racism and police brutality, Canadians suffer from a bad case of denial. We think these are the problems of people in the United States despite evidence of cops brutalizing Indigenous Canadians and spraying peaceful protesters in the face with pepper spray. It is particularly clear when attacks by authorities come completely unprovoked and the perpetrators scramble to protect their own while the victim is left permanently damaged.
No case demonstrates this so clearly as that of Majiza Philip.
“I was charging them with excessive force and misconduct,” Majiza said of her latest court battle with the Montreal Police (SPVM), a case she is now demanding be reopened. This followed a judge throwing out charges of assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice levied against Majiza by the police in 2014.
Majiza Philip was not looking for trouble. She had been warned by family members in the past to comply with the police who have a habit of thinking the worst of people of colour.
What happened to her was not only a display of police brutality, but of gross injustice. It demonstrates the need for an Ethics Commissioner truly independent from our province’s police forces and the abolition of laws that protect the authorities when they deliberately hurt those they have sworn to protect.
This article will tell Majiza’s story and point out all the mistakes made by those who abused their authority to hurt her. This is her version of events. Since the burden of proof in criminal cases is so high and her account was the one deemed credible by the courts, there is no reason to doubt her story.
One night in November 2014 Majiza and her friend were at a rap concert. Security was high that night due to the rapper’s reputation for drugs and violence.
After the concert her friend was forced to wait outside while she got their coats. He was soon arrested and put in a police car.
Majiza went to check on him and was informed by authorities that he’d been arrested for loitering and public drunkenness. She asked which station they would bring him to and then lightly tapped on the window of the back seat of the police car to get her friend’s attention and see if he was ok.
Suddenly, she felt a push from behind. It was a large white male officer who accused her of assaulting another officer. Majiza backed away in fear and self-defense, rightfully stating that the officer had no right to touch her.
She pleaded with onlookers for help as undeterred, the officer slammed her down on the hood of a police car. With the help of other cops, he began wrenching her arms behind her back. At one point she felt pressure followed by her left arm going limp.
Majiza was shoved into a police car and was only spared the pain of her broken arm in the short time that followed due to the adrenaline from trying to protect herself. She pleaded with the police for help as the pain kicked in and her hands numbed, but they were dismissive.
“They laughed at me a couple of times,” she recalled, noting that they were more interested in discussing their dinner plans.
“It’s REALLY hurting,” she remembers telling the officers, “and they were like ‘Oh, whatever.’ I kept telling them there was pain.”
At this point Majiza didn’t know her arm was broken. All she wanted was the cuffs off so when it finally occurred to the police to ask if she wanted medical attention, she refused.
Prosecutors would later try and use this refusal against her at trial when any medical professional would testify that you have at least fifteen minutes before the pain and extent of your injuries finally kicks in.
It eventually occurred to the police to call an ambulance where EMTs confirmed Majiza’s arm was broken. Before she was lifted into the ambulance, the police attempted to have her sign a notice to appear at her hearing but high on pain and concerned that the document was actually a waiver exonerating those who arrested her, she refused to sign it.
“I’m not signing anything,” she told the police at the time, “I don’t know why I’m here. You never told me I was under arrest.”
She told them to send it to her by mail, and though she was legally entitled to it, she never received anything.
After a disastrous attempt to get care at Saint Luc Hospital – they denied her care because her pain interfered with her ability to speak to medical professionals in French – she was given a sling and a painkiller and sent home. She went to Saint Mary’s hospital in the morning where doctors immediately put her in a cast and booked her for surgery in the following weeks.
She now has a massive scar and pins holding her arm together, the pain returning when the weather is damp. It took over three months before she could go back to work.
Majiza has no criminal record.
In addition to managing a small café in Montreal, she teaches tap-dancing to children and works in her community. The latter jobs require police checks, which she clears every time.
The night she was arrested the only reason the cops had to believe she was a danger was the colour of her skin and the fact that she was at a rap concert. Though the arresting officers made no racial slurs, Majiza points out that though her friend was also arrested that night, he – a white male – was treated far less roughly by police and with a great deal more courtesy than she was. She believes the police have a racism problem as many of them come from places in rural Quebec where attitudes towards ethnic diversity are less than enlightened.
“I just spoke up for him,” Majiza said referring to her friend, “I didn’t assault anybody, didn’t do anything and I got my arm broken and I got hit with a bunch of charges. I can’t say it was racially motivated but I do feel like they treated me differently because I was black.”
When she was able, Majiza Philip contacted the Center for Research- Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a non-profit that works towards diversity and racial equality in Montreal. They helped her file a report with the police Ethics Commissioner who allegedly took her complaint seriously and filed a year-long investigation. Unfortunately, as per the current Loi sur la Police, officers are not legally obligated to cooperate with investigations of complaints against them.
According to Majiza Philip and CRARR, this needs to change as it affords citizens no real justice against police who abuse their power, protecting the cops over the people they hurt.
At her trial she was represented pro-bono by criminal justice lawyer Arij Riahi, facing charges of assault, obstruction of justice, and resisting arrest. Prosecutors tried to argue that Philip had weak bones, making them more susceptible to breaking. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, as Canadian law has long since recognized the “Thin Skull Rule” making a defendant liable for a victim’s injuries even if they’re especially severe due to a pre-existing yet stable condition.
The trial concluded last month with the judge throwing out all charges against her, finding Majiza’s testimony far more credible than that of the officers who mostly spent the trial scrambling to protect themselves with the one responsible for her broken arm conveniently suffering from concussion-induced amnesia. The police never even mentioned at trial that they broke her arm – a fact the judge found outrageous.
Majiza is now demanding that the new Ethics Commissioner reopen her case. With the Ethics Commissioner who handled her complaint now suspended, perhaps she now has a chance of getting justice.
Though the Commissioner has never reopened cases, Majiza can demand it in the face of new evidence. She knows that incidents like hers are more likely to be avoided with the introduction of body cameras on officers, as well mandatory ethnic diversity quotas on the police force. In addition, she calls on the government to change the law and make a police Ethics Commissioner who is truly independent of the people they are charged to investigate.
The Quebec government has two choices here.
They can confirm the stereotypes that Quebec is racist and hostile to ethnic and religious diversity, or they can give victims like Majiza Philip the justice they deserve.
* Featured image by Kym Dominique Ferguson courtesy of Majiza Philip
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) will investigate allegations that the Montreal Police (SPVM) Internal Affairs division falsified evidence and reports in an effort to discredit officers who tried to blow the whistle on their corrupt peers. Neither the opposition parties nor the Montreal Police Brotherhood are satisfied with this solution.
Earlier this week, three ex-policemen came forward on TVA’s investigative journalism show J.E, accusing the SPVM of fabricating evidence against them after they tried to denounce malpractice and corruption within the service. The reporters uncovered evidence that the internal affairs investigations on ex-officers Roger Larivière, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione were launched under false pretenses and based on fabricated evidence.
It is not the first scandal sparked by the SPVM’s endeavour to keep its dirty laundry from being aired in public. Only a few months ago we learned that they had no qualms about spying on journalists to uncover their confidential sources.
J.E’s findings were convincing enough that SPVM Director Paul Pichet claims he pressed the SQ to investigate them immediately after the show aired on Tuesday night. The SQ confirmed on Wednesday that a special team will be mandated to review the three cases, including past investigations and new elements.
Suspicious timing and non-existent godsons
In June 2013, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione informed their superiors that they intended to write a letter to the Ministry and the media to denounce corruption and dishonest practices within the SPVM. Their long careers were brought to an abrupt end shortly after that, when an internal affair investigation turned up various charges against them, from complaints about their disrespect to superiors to suspicious connections with organized crime.
Both were two highly ranked officers of Italian origin who had served as double agents in the mafia and the Hells Angels. “For 28 years, we’ve been highly regarded for the quality of our sources, but then they became «suspicious connections»” says Cacchione.
In 2012, Di Feo and Cacchione had started pressing SPVM administration to address cases of “recurrent corruption that have lasted for several years.” Unbeknown to them, they were put under investigation instead.
The RCMP recorded multiple phone conversations that suggested suspicious friendliness between Di Feo and Luigi Coretti, a businessman accused of criminal fraud (charges were dropped due to exaggerated delays in procedures). Di Feo reportedly offered to pick up Coretti’s son from school several times. The SPVM even suggested that Di Feo might be the godfather of the child.
Coretti doesn’t even have children.
Di Feo and Cacchione’s case seems to be one of many. Ex SPVM inspector Roger Larivière told Radio-Canada on Wednesday: “the division of special investigations in SPVM are doing phony investigations. That is to say investigations that are directed by the headquarters, in order to target some individuals, like I’ve been targeted.”
In October 2014, Larivière tried to blow the whistle on internal affairs’ questionable practices. He wrote a letter to the SPVM then director Marc Parent and met with journalist Stéphane Berthomet. He was promptly investigated for leaking confidential information to the press. He was put under surveillance and his residence was searched – illegally, perhaps, as the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs, Costa Labos was suspected of, although not charged with, lying to the judge in order to get the search warrant.
On Wednesday, a fourth ex-officer from Montreal brought a similar story to the Journal de Montréal. Ex-inspector Pietro Poletti claims that internal affairs destroyed his career with a falsified report.
SQ investigation raises controversy
SPVM Director Paul Pichet mandated the SQ to investigate. Premier Philippe Couillard and Minister of Security Martin Coîteux are both satisfied with this outcome, but the three opposition parties are rejecting the police-investigating-police route. They are unanimously calling for the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes to handle the investigation.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Pichet said that the situation was more aligned with the SQ’s mandate than with the BEI’s. “Honestly I think [the SQ] is well equipped and they have experienced investigators to do the job,” he claimed. He added that if, for whatever reason, the investigation was to be handled by the BEI or any other such institution, he would readily cooperate and do what he could “to shed some light on this.” Pichet insisted that it was important to preserve the trust of the people and of the 4600 SPVM officers in the Internal Affairs division.
For the Fraternité des Policiers et Policières de Montréal (the union representing SPVM officers), the director still has a very long way to go before they can talk about trust. The reopening of three cases by the SQ will not suffice to correct the course, the union warned in a press release. They are calling for the immediate resignation of the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs and for the Ministry of Security’s direct intervention to correct the practices of the division.
* Featured image by Cem Ertekin
Last month, Montreal’s international reputation took a hit thanks to Denis Coderre’s pit bull ban. This was amplified by celebrities speaking out against it. Now, we’ve caught the attention of famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted this:
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 31, 2016
Snowden linked to a Montreal Gazette article about the Montreal Police (SPVM) spying on La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé’s cellphone. Lagacé had been looking into Escouade, the police task force dealing with street gangs and drugs, and the possibility that they were fabricating evidence.
The SPVM wanted to know who the journalist’s sources were. They asked for and received 24 warrants to monitor Lagacé iPhone, record its metadata and track his GPS location between January and July of this year.
These came out in the investigation into Costa Labos. The former head of Internal Affairs at the SPVM confirmed that they had been spying on Lagacé.
For Snowden, this story serves as a warning for journalists everywhere: if you don’t protect your phone data and GPS location, you may be putting your sources at risk. It’s also an indictment of the fundamental disrespect some police forces have for freedom of the press.
For Montreal, though, it means that once again, we are a shining example to the world of the wrong way to do things. And the ultimate culprit may just be the same one as the pit bull ban, or at least quite close.
As Alex Norris, City Councillor with Official Oppositon party Projet Montreal said in the same Gazette article Snowden tweeted: “We believe that it is inconceivable that an operation this sensitive would not have been approved by Philippe Pichet. If he wasn’t advised of this operation then it means he has lost control of his organization.”
If it goes as high as Pichet, then it’s not that far from the office of the man who appointed him: Mayor Denis Coderre. The sad thing is, spying on police is not out of character for Coderre, either.
For the second time in as many months, Montreal is in the international spotlight. And we don’t look good.
* Featured image of an SPVM officer going through a protester’s bag in July 2015 by Cem Ertekin
Forty police officers will be equipped with body cameras this autumn in the Montreal boroughs of Montréal-Nord, Plateau Mont-Royal and Lachine. This is the second phase of the SPVM’s portable camera pilot project.
The first phase saw around 30 SPVM agents wearing body cams in public locations (mostly in the metro) where they frequently intervened in civil violations.
The pilot project is a test run, limited in numbers and time. According to Journal Métro, an unspecified number of officers will wear body cameras starting September 29th and 12 officers in Montréal-Nord will do the same as of October 15th. Lachine is also going to participate.
The total number of officers involved in the project will be around forty. All cameras will be removed in February 2017. The SPVM will then proceed to public consultations to hear what citizens think of the experiment.
Police organizations hope that the installation of body cameras will provide court evidence and give a fuller picture than the “partial” videos circulating on social media. Those who are worried by police abuse hope it will improve accountability and transparency in law enforcement.
The Minister of Public Safety approved the project and officially designated the SPVM as the leader of the pilot experiment for the province, according to the SPVM’s website. In other words, the results will be communicated to the Ministry of Public Safety and possibly serve as inspiration for similar projects across the province.*
How it works
The SPVM officers with body cameras will be identified by special badges. They also must verbally warn people that they are being filmed as soon as possible. Officers can deactivate or deviate the camera at the demand of a person who wants to protect her privacy, but they are under no obligation to do so.
Footage of an intervention will be accessible to courts and to the police officers, once they have submitted their general report about the filmed intervention. Any person or media who wants to see the footage can make a demand through the provincial Access to Information law.
The cameras will not be rolling the entire time. The officers wearing them will be responsible for starting the recording when the “rules of engagement are met”, which means before an intervention. The SPVM website says that the deactivation of the camera should be an exceptional measure only, but there is no clear rule about what constitutes an exceptional situation. A spokesperson for the SPVM, contacted by phone, specified that strip-searches will never be filmed. Officers can also choose to stop recording in order to de-escalate a conflict with a subject who doesn’t want to be filmed. Although there is no formal rule, “the key words to take into consideration are the dignity and vulnerability of the citizens”.*
Available data and the importance of correct usage
Although this is the first initiative of the sort in the province, similar projects were implemented elsewhere in Canada, while some American police forces have adopted body cameras on a definitive basis.
The city of Victoria in BC started the first Canadian project in 2009. Toronto Police have been running one for just about a year and used their experience to give a few pointers to the SPVM.
Calgary also started a pilot project in November, with the confessed ambition of becoming the first Canadian city whose police force is fully equipped with body cameras. However, Calgary’s enthusiasm and program were cut short due to equipment problems and concerns over its cost.
The cost of the equipment remains one of the major concerns for all cities. Toronto estimates that getting body cams on roughly 3000 officers could cost around $85 million over 10 years.
Despite this, the projects have all yielded some very positive results. Research across US and Canada showed that cameras seem to reduce violence from both citizens and police officers. In some cases, the usage of force by police decreased by 60% when they were wearing the cams.
A study published in September 2015 examined 3 698 field reports in Mesa, Arizona to compare the situations with body cameras and situations with no body cameras. They found that officers with cams performed fewer Stop-and-Frisks and fewer arrests, but initiated interaction with citizens more often than their counterparts.
Researchers at Cambridge and RAND Europe brought an important nuance to the positive results with a study on 2122 officers across the U.S. and U.K.
Their results were puzzling as they seemed to associate the use of body cameras with an increase in violent interactions. However deeper analysis revealed that the increase in violence was associated with officers using the cameras at their own discretion.
The officers were instructed to keep the cameras on at all times and to immediately warn subjects that they were filmed. When those rules were followed, use of force decreased by 37% on average. When they weren’t, the use of force was significantly more frequent than when there was no camera at all.
Recent laws around the accessibility of these footage have also raised concerns. As this WIRED article nicely explains, filming police but not allowing the public to see the footage is becoming more and more frequent. That is not what transparency is.
In other words, body cameras work if their use is properly supervised and regulated. But leaving too much discretionary power to the officers wearing them can have the opposite effect.
Police officers want them
The Fraternité des Policiers de Montréal has been advocating for the use of body cameras since 2013. The idea came in the aftermath of the student protests of 2012, when citizens started routinely filming police interventions. Many such videos made the rounds on social media, arousing public scrutiny and criticism of police methods.
Yves Francoeur, president of the Fraternité des Policiers de Montréal, had previously stated that his organization was “always favorable to this” since they would rather have their own footage then the “partially taken videos” often filmed on smart phones. Other groups of police officers, including the Quebec City Fraternity and the SQ syndicate, have expressed their support for similar reasons.
The SPVM says that the project’s two primary goals are increasing the transparency of police interventions and ameliorating the public’s trust in the police service.
* The article was updated after SPVM’s public relations team called back with additional information on September 21st.
Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.
Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.
It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.
If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”
Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.
Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”
The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.
Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”
She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.
Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.
Discussing Canadian Racism
Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”
However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”
How Different is it Really?
In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.
Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.
Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.
“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.
Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.
“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”
* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)
Montreal Police (SPVM) Inspector Costa Labos will be the subject of an investigation by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) according to TVA. While one police force investigating another is common practice, what’s notable here is that Labos is the officer in charge of Internal Affairs and responsible for internal police investigations at the SPVM.
In 2014, SPVM officer Roger Larivière was allegedly seen by fellow officers meeting in a restaurant with journalist Stéphane Berthomet. Fear that Larivière was sharing confidential information prompted an internal investigation.
According to TVA, Labos is being charged with “rigging the truth” in order to obtain a search warrant to go after Larivière. He allegedly told a judge that Larivière had been accessing documents he wasn’t supposed to see, when, in fact, they were documents he would consult as part of his daily routine.
The SQ’s Guy Lapointe declined to comment or confirm the investigation when asked by TVA.
Labos still has his job as the head of internal police investigations and is not suspended currently. He was suspended for four days in 1998, though.
He was in the home of Evripidis Georgiou with five other officers looking for Georgiou’s son. When Georgiou’s wife told them that their son was not in the home, Labos yelled “Shut up you bitch!” (not a translation, that’s what he said) at her and then pointed his gun at Georgiou.
This was before Labos was put in charge of Internal Affairs, making him responsible for maintaining the internal integrity of the force. A job that would make him the principal officer investigating fellow officers for all sorts of missteps and crimes, like yelling “Shut up you bitch!” at the mother of a subject before pointing a gun at her husband or lying to a judge.
This is when I would usually offer a comment or put my own spin on things. But sometimes the facts do truly speak for themselves and drive my point home much more than any commentary or analysis could.
What do you think of the head of internal police investigations being investigated? What do you think about one police department investigating another? What do you think about promotion practices at the SPVM?
* Featured image: SPVM officers detaining a protester in July 2015. Photo by Cem Ertekin
2015 was quite a year. As we prepare to welcome in the next 365 days, it is time, once again, to take a look back at some of our favourite posts from the previous 365. We asked our contributors to suggest some of their top choices from their own contributions and those of their fellow FTB writers. Here are the results in no particular order:
Dumpster Diving Meets Haute Cuisine at the United Nations by Joshua Davidson (October 2) The title pretty much says it all. Is dumpster dived food really haute cuisine for the world’s diplomats? Yes, it was this year. Josh Davidson explains and talks about what this could mean for food sustainability.
Montreal Police are Out of Control by Jason C. McLean (December 20) After undercover SPVM officers hospitalize a protester for identifying them, Jason C. McLean argues that what many have known for a long time is now, once again, crystal clear for all to see: Montreal Police are out of control!
Leurs Guerres, Nos Morts: Paris, Beirut, Syria and Beyond by Niall Clapham Ricardo (November 17) In the wake of a spate of terrorist attacks, Niall Ricardo looks at our differing reaction to the similar events and argues that we need to see who really benefits.
Girl Gush: The Joy of Female Ejaculation and Sleeping in the Wet Spot by Cat McCarthy (November 12) It’s a rather sticky subject, but sex columnist Cat McCarthy dives right into female ejaculation (conceptually, that is – and yes, all puns very much intended).
M For Montreal: The Celebration of a Musical Scene by Ford Donovan (November 25) Montreal has a vibrant local music scene. That much is clear. Ford Donovan takes a look at just how that shone through this year at the annual M for Montreal music festival.
Beyond the Veil: The Illegitimacy of the Niqab Ban by Samantha Gold (September 27) In the height of this year’s Canadian Federal Election campaign, the woman who fought for the right to wear her niqab at a citizenship ceremony finally gets to take the oath. Samantha Gold takes a look at the legal aspects of the ban itself.
If We Can’t Protest, Then the Terrorists Win! by Jason C. McLean (November 22) With protest marches banned at the Paris Climate Conference (or COP21) as a security measure, how do we protect our right to protest in a time of terror attacks? Jason C. McLean argues that we need to look to, of all people, George W. Bush.
The JFL Ethnic Show Comedians Talk Ethnic Comedy [AUDIO] by Cem Ertekin (July 13) Just what is Ethnic Comedy? Cem Ertekin asks that question of the comedians performing under the banner of the Just for Laughs Ethnic Show.
Are Supermarkets Slowly Coming Back Down to Earth? by Joshua Davidson (March 18) Food that is still edible discarded by supermarkets for cosmetic reasons? It happens all the time. However, as Josh Davidson notes, that trend may be changing.
PorchFest NDG: Ringing in the Summer Community-Style by Jason C. McLean (May 3) It may not be your typical Montreal music festival, but, then again, what’s typical in Montreal music? Looks like PorchFest NDG is here to stay!
Put It In Your Mouth: Oral Sex Reciprocation and Hair Down There by Cat McCarthy (October 8) FTB’s sex columnist Cat McCarthy took a look at many people’s favourite topic: oral sex. More importantly, though, she talks about the importance of reciprocation.
Why I’m Not Voting for Stephen Harper by Johnny Scott (August 16) A rather different take on the election. Not exactly fact-based, but, then again, most politics isn’t.
Orientation on Your First Day As A Pirate by Johnny Scott (September 22) First day on the job can be a tough experience. That doesn’t change if you’re a pirate.
UPDATE: Noted Misogynist Roosh V Welcomed Montreal-Style, with Beer in the Face by Jason C. McLean (August 9) So-called pickup artist Roosh V, a man who thinks rape should be legal on private property, didn’t get the Montreal reception he was expecting. It was the splash felt around the world!
Employment DOs and DON’Ts: Your Rights as an Employee in Quebec by Samantha Gold (October 23) In a tough economy, employees can’t forget about their rights. Samantha Gold takes a look at the legal aspects, rights and restrictions of employment in Quebec.
There are plenty more where these came from. Be on the lookout for new, original content beginning January 2nd, 2016 (we’re going to take tomorrow off)! Happy New Year’s from Forget the Box!
Our 16th podcast is our holiday/2015 Year-in-Review Special. Regualr panelists Jerry Gabriel and Josh Davidson discuss some of the top events and stories of 2015 including the Canadian Election and the rise of Justin Trudeau, Just for Laughs, the Quebec anti-austerity movement and police repression, Bernie, Hillary and Trump, the Montreal music scene and more! Plus the Community Calendar, Sergakis Report and Predictions for 2016!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor
Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist
Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons
It’s not a new thing, really. In fact, it’s something people who participate in protests with less than a hundred thousand marchers have known for a while. It’s also something that numerous people (frequently visible minorities) who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time have been painfully aware of. Montreal police are out of control.
On Friday night, we got more proof that this, sadly, is very much the case.
Agent Provocateurs Get Identified and Violent
It was a night time anti-austerity demo. Montreal Police (SPVM), as usual, were out in full force. This time, though, some of them were part of the crowd, dressed as hardcore protesters ready to employ Black Bloc tactics. The police even admitted, after the fact, that there were undercover officers present.
One protester, Katie Nelson, who is well known to police because she is suing the department, the city and certain officers for political profiling, saw some of these fake activists trying to stir things up and make the crowd more rowdy and violent. A standard agent provocateur tactic: give the uniformed police and riot squad a justification to stop the protest and make arrests.
The thing is, Nelson recognized one of the undercover officers as someone who is a defendant in her lawsuit. As she told The Gazette, she confronted him with this and started to let her fellow protesters know that this man was a cop. He has since been identified by people who were there as Phillip Touchette, badge number 5886 (see featured image).
A few minutes later, she was on the ground. Someone wearing a mask had pushed her from behind before joining a group of police officers. She was released from the hospital early in the morning after suffering a concussion, a knee injury and a large contusion to the left arm which is now in a splint.
There are also reports of an officer brandishing a service revolver in front of a group of protesters.
A Threat to Society
One thing is clear. A police officer who decides to seriously injure someone who poses no threat to them physically and is not behaving in a violent manner clearly has unresolved rage issues. You get called out as an undercover cop, you walk over to the uniformed riot squad officers and disappear behind their shields. You don’t lash out or have your colleague lash out for you.
Maybe it was out of fear of looking like a failure to superiors or maybe anger over Nelson’s case. It doesn’t matter really. These cops should be given counselling at best, not a badge and a gun.
But is it really that simple? Can we simply chalk this up to a few bad apples? Will taking away their authority solve the problem? No, not at all. Though for the sake of society as a whole, they should be stripped of any authority.
Bad Choices at the Top: Laziness or Intimidation?
Forget for a moment the systemic problems inherent in an oppressive, militarized force used as defenders of the state. Instead take a look at the specific case of the SPVM and the decisions at the upper levels that went into what happened on Friday.
Nelson was able to identify the undercover officers because they were defendants in her case. The defendants in her case are all officers who were regular uniformed fixtures during the 2012 student protests in Montreal.
Think about that for a moment. Someone part of the SPVM brass thought it would be a good idea to use police whose faces are known to protestors as undercovers among those very same protestors. Can they really be surprised that someone identified one of them?
Are they really that careless? It’s possible. After all, the reason all those P-6 tickets got thrown out of court wasn’t because of the unconstitutional nature of the law itself, but the grossly unprofessional way the SPVM decided to issue the tickets.
Maybe they disrespect the protestors so much that they don’t think any of them will remember the faces that were wearing uniforms the other time they marched. Wouldn’t surprise me considering the kind of officers they hire.
This corner-cutting, half-assed attempt at a police state seems to be the Hallmark of the SPVM. Guess no one told them that totalitarianism is an all or nothing sort of thing. The word itself even starts with the word total.
Or, possibly, is there something else at play here. Something intentional. A special kind of asshole bravado, an intimidation tactic that boasts: “We don’t care if you can identify our undercovers, we’re going to send them anyways and if you call them out, you will be dealt with. Complain to the media all you want, people will ignore you.”
It seemed like that was going to be the case this time. Original reports from all media, except Concordia’s The Link (which did some really good on the spot reporting this time) treated Friday night’s events as routine: some violence, some arrests. It was only after Nelson’s story started making the rounds on social media that they started reporting the real story: undercover cops physically assaulting protesters for identifying them.
Whether the SPVM brass’ decision came from a place of laziness or arrogance, our response, as a public should come from a place of outrage. They let officers who clearly had violent tendencies they could not contain work undercover at a protest and as a result, someone ended up with serious injuries for merely performing a community service by identifying police who were in the protest to cause trouble.
The Montreal Police are out of control and something needs to be done.
* Featured image by Martin Ouellet
Panelists Pamela Fillion and Cem Ertekin discuss Fantasia (includes a segment from a forthcoming interview with the director and star of We Are All Still Here), zombie movies, a zombie apocalypse, the very real actions of Montreal police stopping a Unist’ot’en solidarity protest and Just for Laughs. Plus the Community Calendar.
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Pamela Fillion: FTB music and film contributor
Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor
Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons
Panelists Jordan Arseneault and Cem Ertekin discuss the potential ramifications of Bill C-51 becoming law, summer protests in Montreal and what artistic events they’re looking forward to. Plus the Community Calendar.
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor
Sit-in protest segment by Cem Ertekin
Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer Hannah Besseau
Sit-in protest segment by Cem Ertekin