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Police watchdog’s statement after Montreal man’s death lacked transparency, impartiality: Judge

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WATCH: A Quebec judge has awarded the family of an Île-Bizard man who died during a police intervention $30,000 in damages in a civil lawsuit. The judge agreed with the family of Koray Celik, that the BEI, Quebec’s police watchdog, lacked transparency and impartiality in its communications. Global's Gloria Henriquez reports. – Jun 10, 2021

A Quebec judge has awarded the family of an Île-Bizard man who died during a police intervention $30,000 in damages in a civil lawsuit.

In a 24-page ruling, Justice Louis Riverin agreed with the family of Koray Celik, that the BEI, Quebec’s police watchdog, lacked transparency and impartiality in its communications.

Koray, 28, died at the home of his parents, June Tyler and Cesur Celik, on March 6, 2017.

Court documents say Tyler called 911 to report her son was intoxicated and agitated after he took prescribed medication for a toothache with some alcohol.

Tyler was trying to prevent her son from driving to the pharmacy when he hit a wall with his fist, prompting the call.

“Koray was in crisis,” Celik told Global News. “He wanted to drive and it could’ve been dangerous for him or anybody who would’ve encountered him on the road and that’s the reason we asked for help.”

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While Celik managed to calm him son, the arrival of police some 20 minutes later renewed his agitation.

Read more: Quebec coroner launching public inquest into fatal 2017 Montreal police intervention

The family said Koray died as police attempted to subdue him, hitting him repeatedly, as they watched on.

“They never stopped beating despite our screams and crying until our son gave his last breath in their hands,” Celik said.

In the case of a fatality, the BEI is tasked with carrying out independent investigations when a civilian is seriously injured or killed during a police intervention or while in police custody, and to then provide a report to the Quebec Crown Prosecutors Office and the coroner.

At the centre of the lawsuit was a press release issued by the BEI on Aug. 9, 2018, relating the events of March 6.

The problem, the Celik family said, was that statement did not include their version of events, only that of police.

Riverin agreed, saying the BEI erred in its responsibility by omitting the parents’ point of view.

“It’s not a neutral text, it doesn’t appear independent or even impartial,” he wrote in French. “A reasonable member of the public could be under the impression that the text is written to justify the intervention by police and that it is a conclusion.”

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Read more: BEI clarifies that teen did not receive CPR after being shot by Quebec police

The press release also failed to show how the investigation was carried out, which is necessary to satisfy the criteria of transparency necessary to maintain public trust, Riverin said.

François Mainguay, a lawyer for the family, said the ruling provides vindication of their contention that the BEI was not impartial and independent in their press release.

“To us, it calls into question the very legitimacy of the investigation that was conducted by the BEI,” he said.

Celik, for his part, said it’s a small step in the right direction.

“This decision hopefully will cause the ministry of public security to look at themselves in the mirror and address the underlying issues. BEI is not an independent organization,” he said, adding he’s prepared to keep on fighting.

I visit with him every single day and I promised to him that I will go to see him every single day until my body doesn’t carry me anymore. I’m going there shortly today I’ll let him know. He will be very proud that we didn’t give up.

Both the BEI and the Crown said they have taken note of the ruling and will be analyzing it but will not be commenting on the matter.

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Meanwhile, Mainguay said the Attorney General now has 30 days to file an appeal in the case.

— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez

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