Quebec’s black community wants police to be held to account

Members of Quebec’s black community say they are hurt by the images of recent violent police interventions with two young blacks, but not necessarily surprised.

Quebec historian Ali Ndiaye, who is also a rapper by the stage name Webster, says the way police in the provincial capital treat minorities has been a long-standing problem.

“It’s something that we knew, something that we have seen all of our lives,” he said. “The only difference from the last two decades is that it was filmed, everyone could see it.”

Over the weekend, cellphone footage of altercations between police officers and two black youths outside the Dagobert nightclub were shared widely online.

Five police officers were suspended with pay and the Quebec Minister of Public Security requested an investigation from the province’s police ethics commissioner.

Police officers can be seen hitting and kicking in the snow in the face of Pacifique Niyokwizera, 18, as he is immobilized and in another intervention at around the same time, a young black woman can be heard screaming as the police drag her through the snow, at one point pulling her by the hair.

The Quebec City Police Department (SPVQ) says it is also investigating a separate incident that occurred hours earlier at a restaurant.

A white man was pinned to the ground by the police and left bloody by the glass and injured by police blows to the ribs. The SPVQ claims that three members of its squad who work in bars and nightclubs were involved in both situations.

sadly familiar

Ndiaye says he has regularly witnessed and experienced the mistreatment of blacks by Quebec police over the years.

He says he has friends who have been detained, beaten and left to fend for themselves in remote areas of the city and he himself has often been arrested, arrested on the streets and asked to show identification, on his way to work.

Police officers left Pacifique Niyokwizera, 18, with a bloody eye during a police intervention in Quebec City early Saturday morning. (Submitted by Fernando Belton)

He says the police have recognized that they need to do better, but they can’t do it alone.

“My confidence was shattered a long time ago,” he said. “I had to work hard to be able to make a difference and understand that not all police officers act this way, but… by their non-action, they always tolerate what is happening.”

“It’s one thing to say it, but they have to act on it. They have to give better training… and they have to recognize racial profiling, it has been going on for decades now.”

Ndiaye says only meaningful action can restore trust between the local police and the black community – adding that it is not only blacks who have had negative experiences with the local police.

“People of color, Aboriginal people who have been beaten, who have been profiled. We have to see some action, ”he said.

Police need to do more than just hire people of color and Indigenous people, he said, “they have to be in. [positions of] Power.”

Ndiaye says putting body cameras in place would be another step towards police transparency and accountability, providing yet another piece of evidence when their actions are called into question.

“[Right now] the burden of filming falls on the young people, ”he said. “They must have been brave to get their phones out and film… the burden of proof should be on the officers. “

The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, says it is not the mayor’s job to investigate the police and that he will leave that to the police ethics commissioner. (Sylvain Roy Roussel / CBC)

Mayor defers to inquiries, says diversity is priority

The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, addressed the media Wednesday, the day after the announcement by the police of five police officers suspended with pay.

Marchand says he is keeping away from the SPVQ’s investigations into the actions of its agents as well as from two investigations by the Quebec police ethics commissioner that were ordered by the Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault.

He says it is not for the mayor to tell the police how to do their job, and once the investigations are completed he will decide whether to take any further action, adding that the police are also working to remedy the situation. lack of diversity in its ranks.

“Our police department, they’re working hard on this and I think they’re going to have results very soon,” he said. “I saw the plan. The plan is good but my main concern is with our city, we need our people – we need in our city – more room for everyone.”

Newly elected mayor says he wants to focus on live together – French expression for an environment of conviviality and inclusion.

“We will put more action in this area for these families and others,” he said. “We’re going to build a place for everyone. No one will be left behind, no matter where they come from.”

Local basketball star Samuel Audet-Sow tried to improve relations between black youth and the police in Quebec. (Camille Simard / Radio-Canada)

Bridging the gap

Samuel Audet-Sow is a former professional basketball player who tried to bridge the gap between young blacks and the police in Quebec through sport.

Audet-Sow played basketball for the Rouge et Or at Laval University and a few years ago he organized a basketball tournament to build trust between black youth and the police, some of whom he knows personally.

“I love the city, this is where I want my kids to grow up,” he said. “[But] I’m worried about it now … It happens far too often in Quebec. ”

Audet-Sow says that in the past, police in Quebec argued that violent confrontations with blacks were a problem elsewhere and not at home.

“Now it’s pretty clear that it could happen in our city too,” he said.

When asked how he felt about the five agent suspension, Audet-Sow said he was encouraged but also curious to find out more.

“I think it’s a good first step … it’s going in the right direction,” he said.

“I really want to know what happened, why this kid was arrested this way. It doesn’t look good,” he said, adding that he was doing his best to stay. objective until the results of investigations into the conduct of officers are rendered. Public.

Audet-Sow urged the SPVQ to be fair with the black community and said that if it is proven that the police were irrelevant, it is important that they are subject to disciplinary action and additional police sanctions.

“At the end of the day, these are the only things that will really show everyone that they care,” he said.

“We can solve this problem and find solutions. But it will be much more difficult now.”

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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