Coroner investigating death of Quebec officer charged after native abuse probe

The Sûreté du Québec is still investigating. Sunday, June 19, 2016.
The coroner's office in Quebec is investigating the death of a retired police officer recently charged with sexual assault in connection with an investigation into claims of abuse against native women. Thursday, Jan. 5, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The coroner’s office in Quebec confirmed Wednesday it is investigating the death of a retired officer recently charged with sexual assault in connection with an investigation into claims of abuse against native women.

Alain Juneau, 56, died in his home Jan. 1 in Rimouski, Que, 300 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, coroner’s office spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault said by email.

“His death is currently under investigation by a coroner and any information related to the probable cause and circumstances surrounding his death will be included in the coroner’s report, which will be made public in the coming months,” she said.

Juneau, a retired provincial police officer, was charged in November with sexual assault and assault, allegedly committed between 1992 and 1994 in Schefferville, Que., a remote northeastern
part of the province near the Newfoundland and Labrador border.

READ MORE: No charges against SQ officers for alleged sexual abuse

He was one of two retired officers charged after Montreal police concluded a high-profile investigation into claims that indigenous women in northern Quebec were abused by police.

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Originally six provincial police officers in the northern town of Val d’Or, Que., were accused of physically and sexually abusing indigenous women following an investigative report by Radio-Canada in 2015.

READ MORE: Allegations police abused First Nations women in Val d’Or part of a national problem, observers say

Quebec’s Public Security Department mandated the Montreal police force to investigate the allegations.

By April 2016, Montreal police had 38 cases of complaints of police abuse, including rape, sexual assault, harassment and so-called “starlight tours,” where police would allegedly take people against their will and drive them far outside town and abandon them.

READ MORE: Possible systemic racism against First Nations by Quebec police: report

In November, Crown prosecutors concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to charge any of the six provincial police officers originally accused, but brought charges against Juneau and another
officer for alleged assault committed in a separate northern town.

Premier Philippe Couillard announced in December the creation of a provincial inquiry into relations between First Nations peoples and various government-run bodies, including the police.

WATCH BELOW: First Nations women relieved by public commission announcement in Quebec

Click to play video: 'First nations react to planned inquiry' First nations react to planned inquiry
First nations react to planned inquiry – Dec 22, 2016

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