Blind Justice Indeed
"We have to be clear. The fact that charges are not being laid doesn't mean the event didn't take place."In the northern Quebec mining town of Val d'Or, Crown prosecutors had the difficult task of confirming that the six provincial police officers whom aboriginal women accused of abuse would not be charged due to lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute successfully. The women involved who were encouraged to come forward with their stories of abuse, ranging from rape to intimidation, threats and other forms of physical abuse, were devastated.
"The burden of proof on the Crown is very high and we have to show that these suspects are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
"And in the cases that we received, unfortunately we don't have enough evidence to show that."
Mathieu Locas, Quebec provincial Crown prosecutor office
There will be no punishment of any kind meted out to those men who they claim abused them. The suspended officers will be permitted to return to duty. The women will be living in the same environment in which they were vulnerable to abuse, and they anticipate that given the circumstances, they will remain victims. They have good cause, under the circumstances, to fear ongoing abusive treatment, some of it reflecting anger and resentment against them for having had the courage to accuse their tormentors.
|The Crown’s decision not to pursue charges against police officers drew protests in Val-d’Or, Que.|
(Courtesy of CBC)
Across town people came out to protest peacefully. The issue comes down to who should logically investigate such allegations? When sixteen aboriginal women in the town presented themselves as victims, accusing and identifying the men who had abused them, the province's Public Security Department tasked the Montreal police force to investigate the allegations mounted against the provincial police operating in Val d'Or.
In their investigation, Montreal police handled 38 cases of police abuse complaints that included rape, sexual assault, harassment, and "starlight tours", a situation where police drove people against their will outside town limits and then abandoned them to find their way back into town, at night and during inclement weather events.
Sufficient evidence was received that two retired officers could be charged for offences committed decades earlier in a town far distanced from Val d'Or. One retired officer was charged with three counts including rape and sexual assault dating back to early 1980; the other with sexual assault and assault dating to the early 1990s.
The story concludes with the province's association of provincial police officers issuing a condemnatory statement focusing on the investigation: "We hope that the government won't cede once again to pressure and won't create a public enquiry", in reference to calls from native groups that an independent investigation be launched which might have a better chance of representing the interests of the vulnerable, and holding the powerful to account.