October 22, 2016 5:32 pm
Updated: October 23, 2016 11:53 am

Vigil for victims of police violence held in Montreal

WATCH ABOVE: The seventh annual protest and vigil against police killings was held in front of the police union in Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal borough Saturday. Family members remembered loved ones and denounced what they describe as systemic police brutality in Quebec.

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A commemorative vigil was held Saturday afternoon in front of the Montreal police union office on Laurier Street.

The ceremony was held not only to remember those who have lost their lives at the hands of police but also to offer support to the victims’ families who, according to organizers, “face an uphill battle in uncovering the truth and obtaining justice for their loved ones.”

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“It’s been 15 years,” said Bridget Tolley, a founding member of Justice for Victims of Police Killings. “My mother Gladys Tolley was struck and killed by the Quebec police in 2001.”

But 15 years later, her message hasn’t changed.

“We want justice, we want our cases reopened, re-examined,” she said. “I want justice for my mother. I want her respect and dignity given back to her.”

Rain fell on the small crowd gathered outside the union headquarters but Tolley said it was fitting.

“I feel it’s tears from up above,” she said. “Happy tears because we’re here and sad tears because our cases are not being done right by the Quebec police, the RCMP and native police.”

On this, the seventh year of the vigil, organizers are calling attention to Quebec’s independent investigations unit.

READ MORE: Fatal police shootings spark protests, riots in Montreal North

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), which investigates serious or fatal incidents involving police, began its operations in June 2016, after an amendment to the Police Act in May 2013.

Prior to the creation of the bureau, an independent investigation would be launched by the public security minister and one of three police forces –Montreal, Quebec City or provincial police –would take charge, leading to criticism and accusations of conflict of interest and lack of transparency.

But according to Justice for Victims of Police Killings, the new bureau lacks diversity and the group is calling into question its independence.

“We denounce the creation of the of the ‘independent’ police investigation bureau that is made up of 14 of 18 ex-police employees, and 11 former police officers,” reads a statement by the group.

Tolley called for a meeting with Quebec’s justice minister, asking her to meet with victims’ families and to hear their stories in the hopes that one day they will get closure.

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