MONTREAL — The coroner’s inquiry into the Montreal police shooting death of Alain Magloire started on Monday morning.
Magloire was shot and killed by police in February last year, after police arrived at the scene in downtown Montreal to find him armed with a hammer and exhibiting aggressive behaviour.
Headed by coroner Luc Malouin, there will be two rounds of hearings during the inquiry.
The first, in January, will look into the circumstances surrounding Magloire’s death. The second, which is expected to take place in March, will examine the systemic issues leading up to the incident, and offer recommendations to prevent such a tragedy in the future.
What is the point of such an investigation? Is the inquiry truly going to help prevent police shootings in the future? Why should Montrealers care about Alain Magloire?
“The coroner’s inquest is designed to go deeper than just the surface on issues that lead to the death of someone,” said Matthew Pearce, the director general of the Mission Old Brewery.
“I think it’s a good investment for us to make, because lessons can be drawn by taking a closer look at these issues, and we can reduce the chance that bad things will be repeated.
“That’s the promise that it holds. It doesn’t always deliver on this, but that’s the hope.”
Pearce also spoke passionately about the fact that the death of Magloire might have been prevented if we had better programs in place to support those suffering from a mental illness.
“It’s an illness, not a decision we make, and we should care about that.”
“Mental illness resides in most families. This man was suffering from a mental illness and was not getting the treatment he needed and it resulted in his death.”
Pearce said he would like to see a shift away from the focus on Magloire’s homeless state and more attention paid to the fact that being mentally ill causes homelessness.
“There’s way too many mentally ill people who, because of this, become homeless,” he said.
“Forty per cent of the people we deal with have a mental illness.”
“Homeless organizations were never conceived of as places to resolve issues related to mental illness.”
He said he hopes that if coroner’s inquiry would, at the very least, result in a wider discussion about how we as a society deal with this very complex issue.
“Families are not equipped to deal with mental illness, so society should find a way to support them,” he said.
“I’d like to know that, in my society, if something like that happened to me, I would be treated, and not shot and killed by police.”
WATCH: Matthew Pearce on the homeless situation and initiatives in Montreal
Fo Niemi from the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations agrees.
He told Global News that he believes the needs of many people with mental health issues are not being addressed by the system, noting that this tragic incident is not the first time in the past three years that Montreal police have shot and killed men with mental health issues.
Farshad Mohammadi, 34, was shot by police after an incident in the Bonaventure metro station in January 2012, Jean-Francois Nadreau, 30, was shot by police in February 2012, and Mario Hamel, 40, along with bystander Patrick Limoges, 36, were shot by police in December 2012.
“Montrealers should care because the situation of people with mental health needs and the homeless; especially how their daily needs are, or are not, addressed by the system,” he said.
“And because of how our law enforcement officers deal with this population.”
Niemi also expressed concern over Quebec’s justice system.
“The transparency of the criminal justice system, especially in dealing with police interventions and use of firearms resulting in death or serious injury, is one of the most important social and legal issues facing Montreal,” he noted.
Global News reached out to the Montreal police to ask about its perspective on the importance of such investigations, but as the coroner’s inquiry is ongoing, they said they were unable to comment.
A father of two children, Alain Magloire had a degree in molecular biology from UQAM and was described by his family as a charismatic, well-educated and caring person.
According to his Pierre, Alain slipped through the cracks of the system. He said his brother started living on the streets in November 2013, just three months before his death.
Magloire apparently sought help the same month he was killed. According to Radio-Canada, he told staff at Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur Hospital that he was fighting urges to kill someone and “wanted to talk to a social worker or psychologist.” Magloire was released the next day.
“This guy was a wonderful guy, we knew him here, but we should not have known him,” said Matthew Pearce, the director general of the Mission Old Brewery.
“He should have been treated in an adapted residence where there’s people skilled to deal with mental health issues.”
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