MONTREAL – Quebec’s premier won’t rule out a provincial inquiry examining the relationship between aboriginals and the police, but will wait to see what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government elects to do before moving forward.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard met with Quebec aboriginal leaders in Montreal on Wednesday, announcing funding for projects and confirming an independent observer into allegations of police abuse of aboriginal women.
“We’ll wait for the mandate of the federal commission,” Couillard told a news conference alongside representatives of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
“I’m sure Mr. Trudeau will not wait long because it’s one of his most significant pledges.”
The government announced that Fannie Lafontaine, a law professor at the Université de Laval, will take on the independent observer role in regards to the Montreal police investigation.
The Montreal force has been called in to probe allegations of assault, sexual misconduct and other abuses of power against eight Quebec provincial police officers based in Val-d’Or, Que.
The investigation was triggered after a report by Radio-Canada on the alleged incidents over several years in Val-d’Or in northwestern Quebec.
Couillard and assembly chief Ghislain Picard lamented that news of Lafontaine’s appointment was leaked in the media before chiefs were consulted.
“I think time is critical and the first and foremost condition is confidence and trust,” Picard said.
In the meantime, Couillard said a working group will address relations between First Nations and police forces in the province, but suggested that an expected federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women should tackle that issue too.
Quebec chiefs still want the issue of provincial police relationship with native communities put to a provincial inquiry.
“Many of our chiefs are still wanting this to be addressed through a national or independent inquiry in Quebec, the allegations of misconduct by the Sûreté du Québec,” Picard said.
“This doesn’t take away from the ongoing (Montreal police) investigation.”
Cree leader Matthew Coon Come said he’d hoped for more, adding the chiefs impressed upon the government to not forget the alleged victims in Val d’Or.
“The call for a national inquiry for the missing and murdered women will deal with missing and murdered and dead women, it does not deal with present, living,” Coon Come said.
“That is why we pushed for a provincial, judicial inquiry.”