(First Nation leaders meeting at the Val d’Or Native Friendship Centre, pictured, Tuesday to discuss response to allegations SQ abused Indigenous women. APTN/Tom Fennario)
APTN National News
Val d’Or, QC—The aftershocks of last week’s allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Quebec’s provincial police against First Nations women continues to reverberate across the province.
On Tuesday, 40 chiefs and delegates, as well as dozens of observers from First Nations all over Quebec gathered to meet at the Val d’Or Native Friendship Centre to discuss next steps in the wake of the allegations Surete du Quebec (SQ) officers abused Indigenous women.
“I just want to be able to understand where everybody is coming from and how everybody is affected by this, not only the Cree nation but all other nations, and the city of Val d’Or too,” said Greg Jolly, deputy chief of the Cree Nation of Nemaska, before the meeting.
The meeting is being organized by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), who have demanded an independent investigation in to the allegations, which are currently being investigated by Montreal Police.
The allegations involve 10 different SQ officers over the last 20 years. So far, at least a dozen Indigenous women have come forward, claiming that they were driven to the outskirts of the city and abandoned in freezing weather, and in some cases, physically and sexually assaulted.
The SQ held a press conference Thursday morning to announce changes on how they intend to police Val d’Or.
“We need to respond to the needs in (Val d’Or),” said SQ Director General Martin Prud’homme.
The SQ announced that it intends to add more police officers and social workers to its Val d’Or detachment. They also plan to install cameras in SQ patrol cars by December.
However, not everyone in Val d’Or feels that the need to change lays solely at the feet of the SQ.
“The true Aboriginal reality in Val d’Or is that nobody (Val d’Or residents) dares walk the sidewalks at night, because they’re afraid,” says Val d’Or resident Sylvain Picard. “I understand why they (SQ) drive them (First Nation women) down the airport road, it’s to get a little bit of peace for a couple of hours.”
When asked about the allegations of sexual abuse, Picard says he thinks the women are “pretending”.
“Now that they know that you’re (the media) here, they’ll calm down and hide at night. But that’s not the real Aboriginal reality of Val d’Or,” he said.
Jimmy Papatie is here as a delegate for the nearby Algonquin community of Kitcisakik. He says three of his cousins are among those who have laid allegations against the SQ.
“We have to face it, deal with it. You know, those who are responsible need to be brought to justice,” he said before the meeting began. “We need to find peace, peace for our women.”
The AFNQL meeting is scheduled to last until about 5 p.m. local time Tuesday and a press conference is expected to follow announcing its findings and recommendations.