(Quebec Chiefs meet with Premier Phillipe Couillard in Montreal about the crisis in Val D’Or. Photo: Tom Fennario/APTN)
APTN National News
MONTREAL–An early morning meeting between Quebec Premier Phillip Couillard and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) in Montreal brought some funding promises, but failed to meet the demands for a provincial inquiry into the provincial police following allegations of physical and sexual abuse of First Nations women in Val d’Or.
30 chiefs attended the meeting Wednesday that was arranged by AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard.
“Many of our chiefs around the table are still wanting that this be addressed by an independent inquiry in Quebec, into allegations of misconduct by the Sûréte du Québec,” said Picard at a news conference after the meeting.
While it was announced that human rights lawyer Fanny Lafontaine will act as an independent observer on the investigation into the SQ currently being undertaken by Montreal police, what chiefs were looking for was an inquiry.
The 14 allegations come from 12 women, and are being made against eight current S Sûréte du Québec (SQ) officers as well as one retired and one deceased officer.
All the allegations involve officers from the same SQ station in Val d’Or, about 500 km northwest of Montreal. The active officers are currently on leave.
“I’m not at all happy with the kind of approach that the Premier is using,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton. “I’ll use an analogy, he’s a doctor by profession and what he’s done is examined the patient, given us a prescription, and said come back in six months,”
While Couillard, who used to be a surgeon, didn’t dismiss the idea of an inquiry outright, he said the province will wait until the federal government launches a national inquiry before Quebec follows suit.
“I suggest that this new commission that has been announced before on missing and murdered Indigenous women should include as part of the mandate, looking at the relations between security organizations and the First Nations across this country,” said Couillard after the meeting.
Anishinabeg Elder Rose Wawatie Beaudoin attended the meeting as an observer.
“I don’t think we should have to wait, this is an emergency,” she said. “We need to take actions right away. We need justice now, not tomorrow, today.”
Couillard announced the province will increase funding for services in Val d’Or including spending on social housing for Indigenous tenants, as well as a day centre catering to the Aboriginal homeless population.
As Executive Director of the Val d’Or Native Friendship Centre, Edith Cloutier applauds the funding, but would also like to see a Quebec inquiry into the allegations.
“We see it as a complement to what will most likely be announced by the new Prime Minister in regards to a broader national inquiry,” Cloutier said.
Grand Chief Joseph Norton sees it as a missed opportunity.
“Be a leader, Quebec. Be the ones to move forward at this time. Don`t wait for something to happen at the federal level.”