Evasive Justice for Aboriginal Women
"There were 37 complaints here. You can't tell me that in all of these cases not one of them was credible, that not one of them could be taken seriously."
"What worries me are the people who didn't come forward. We have people who were abused and they never came forward because they were afraid of the repercussions."
"Well, now they've seen this investigation play out, they've seen nothing come of it and they'll probably suffer in silence for the rest of their lives."
David Kistabich, grand chief, Abitibiwinni First Nation, Val-d'Or, Quebec
"I heard the news yesterday and I didn't sleep last night, I was up at 3 a.m. thinking about this."
"We really don't know what to think. I'm worried about any aboriginal person going to Val-d'Or, I'm worried about what it's like for them in that city right now."
Johnny Wylde, Val-d'Or, Quebec
"We fear the return of the suspended police officers. We fear reprisals. We fear for our own safety. Imagine, we’re in a group right now and we’re afraid. So what will it be like when we’re alone?"
"We thought we’d see justice done … but today we learn that won’t be the case. It provokes in us profound and contradictory feelings: rage, discouragement, fear, fears that we’ll be judged and called liars. We feel betrayed, humiliated and our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces."
"It is as though, in the eyes of this country’s justice system, we’re not important, we don’t count, we weren’t listened to. It’s like fear will never cease to haunt us."
Jacqueline Michel, Val-d'Or, Quebec
"We trusted the Canadian justice system and took part with goodwill in this process of a police investigation of police officers. It had the results we saw today."
"Aboriginal women have fallen victim yet again to this system, which has failed to protect them. It is shameful."
Edith Cloutier, executive director, Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre
A Crown spokesperson stated that prosecutors plan to meet with the complainants shortly but the provincial prosecutor's bureau is not prepared to comment until the end of the week. A police investigation was launched by the then-Quebec Minister of Public Security thirteen months ago. A Radio-Canada report had highlighted widespread abuse of aboriginal women in Val-d'Or. The minister had chosen to permit the Surete du Quebec to take the matter into their own hands in an internal investigation.
Once the Radio-Canada program had aired, the then-minister proposed to the Montreal police that they launch a criminal investigation. There were six officers of the Surete du Quebec who were charged by the complainants of intimidation, threats and violence; those six officers were put on temporary leave while the investigation was in progress. That investigation, however, at completion does not appear to be of a nature that would lead to formal charges and a trial, leaving the complainants and their supporters in shocked disbelief.
What launched the entire proceedings was the 2014 disappearance of Johnny Wilde's daughter. He had taken part in the Radio-Canada report, as an aboriginal activist looking for justice. His daughter, Sindy Ruperthouse, struggled with addiction, and was a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. The parents of the-then 44-year-old woman in desperate straits approached the Surete du Quebec for help, but soon discovered that investigators appeared to have no interest whatever in becoming involved.
Her unsolved disappearance has since been declared a homicide, by police. But in response to the Radio-Canada report, 41 Surete du Quebec officers whose workplace is Val-d'Or, filed a $2.3-million lawsuit for defamation, against the public broadcaster, the officers claiming the report that was aired was biased and defamatory, even while Radio-Canada insists it will stand by the story and the claims of aboriginal women of being systematically abused.
Once the news broke that no charges would be brought against the officers involved, aboriginal leaders and provincial politicians faced a perhaps predictable response relating to the decision by authorities to allow one police force to investigate the charges of wrong-doing discharged by another police force for which forces professional allegiance is an obvious hindrance to perceived unbiased fairness of neutrality and justice.