Quebec bill aims to modernize policing, rebuild public trust

Click to play video: 'Quebec public security minister tables bill to modernize police forces' Quebec public security minister tables bill to modernize police forces
Quebec city police are still embroiled in controversy over multiple allegations of brutality and racial profiling. Now the government has tabled a new bill concerning police ethics. As Raquel Fletcher reports, the aim of this new legislation is to modernize policing – Dec 8, 2021

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbualt tabled an omnibus bill on Wednesday to reform and modernize policing in the province.

Known as Bill 18, the proposed legislation also aims to rebuild trust between police and the communities they serve.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, Guilbualt said the new bill includes around 40 of 138 recommendations issued in a May 2021 report by a Comité consultatif sur la réalité policière put in place to study police reform.

While the bill contains some 140 articles, Guilbault touched on only a few including giving the police’s ethics commissioner and the police watchdog, known as the Bureau des enquêtes indépendentes (BEI), a wider mandate.

Read more: Quebec City police facing another watchdog probe after civilian injured in July

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The BEI currently carries out independent investigations when a person is injured or killed during a police intervention or while in police custody. It can also investigate allegations of a criminal offence of a sexual nature involving an officer.

Under the proposed legislation, the scope would be widened to include any allegation of criminal infraction committed by a police officer.

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Calls for independent inquiry following violent arrest by Quebec City police – Nov 30, 2021

The police ethics commissioner is also being given more powers to make it easier for it to investigate. Some of the proposed changes include allowing people directly affected by a police intervention to lodge a complaint with the commissioner themselves.

Read more: Quebec invests $900,000 to train police to avoid racial profiling

Guilbault also said the ethics commissioner is being a given a “prevention mandate,” part of which will tie in with other sections of the bill to provide continuing education. Currently, additional training is left to the discretion of each police force, but it would become mandatory under the new law — including activities aimed at prevention rather than intervention.

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The bill is also meant to address racism and racial profiling during random police street checks. If adopted, it will allow the public security minister — through a directive — to simply ban the practice.

Read more: Quebec issues provincewide street check guidelines; rights groups raise concerns

While the police practices guide already stipulates it’s not allowed, the guide is not binding.

“What I put in this bill is to make some of those practices mandatory,” she said.

Read more: Coroner: Amber Alert called too late in case of Romy and Norah Carpentier

Another section of the bill pertains to missing persons.

Guilbault referred to a recent coroner’s report into the deaths of Norah and Romy Carpentier, who were kidnapped and killed by their father in July 2020. The report noted how police struggled to obtain information quickly, for example, how hospitals wouldn’t tell police if the girls were there, citing confidentiality.

Amendments to the law would make it faster for investigators to get a judge to allow this kind of information, including phone records or geolocation data, to be shared with them.

“They will have the possibility of getting, of asking anyone, companies, for information, for police officers to be able to locate people who are missing,” Guilbault said. “You understand that every second counts in this kind of situation.”

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Meanwhile, opposition parties say there are other concrete measures the government could put in place to improve policing.

“We’ve been insisting on having a camera on each policeman so that we know what actually happened and we know the full intervention,” said Parti-Québécois Leader Pierre Saint-Paul Plamondon.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade focused on the need for more diversity within the ranks.

“It’s important for the police forces to represent society in general, the society that they serve,” she said. “So the level of diversity obviously has to increase.”

The bill will be studied and debated when MNAs return to the National Assembly in the new year.

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Quebec government takes action to tackle racial profiling by police – Dec 7, 2021

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