The law firm representing Mamadi Camara, a man who was mistakenly arrested in the attempted murder of a Montreal police officer in January 2021, announced Wednesday that a settlement has been reached between the victim, his family and the City of Montreal.
Camara sued the City of Montreal and the Quebec Crown prosecutor’s office for faults committed by officers with the Montreal police (SPVM), as well as criminal and penal prosecuting attorneys.
The firm of Arsenault Dufresne Wee says the agreement puts an end to legal proceedings. The agreement only mentions the City of Montreal, because you can’t sue the police force.
“When you want to sue the SPVM, you have to sue the city because it is employees of the city,” said lawyer Virginie Dufresne-Lemire.
Camara, 31, was arrested on Jan. 28, 2021 after he was accused of attacking a Montreal police officer, stealing his service weapon and shooting at him.
Camara was then held in detention for six days. Montreal police announced on Feb.5 that he had been exonerated and the charges against him were dropped — a move that came two days after the province’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) had filed a stay of proceedings.
Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron met with Camara on Feb. 8 to apologize on behalf of the police force.
In late March, police arrested Ali Ngarukiye in connection with the alleged assault of the officer.
Dufresne-Lemire said Camara does not wish to disclose the amount of the settlement and will not comment further. Camara and his relatives are satisfied since the agreement allows them to end the legal proceedings, according to his lawyers.
“What I can say is that it’s a relief for Mr. Camara and his family that the case can be closed because it was a burden, an emotional burden to be in these procedures,” Dufresne-Lemire said.
Alain Vaillancourt, City of Montreal executive committee member for public security, said the amount of the settlement would be made public on Friday, but confirmed reports it is around $350,000.
“We really wanted to focus on more the outcome and the settlement,” he said.
“As soon as we could, we contacted the family and the goal was really to try and find a settlement with them that would satisfy them, satisfy the city so that everyone can move beyond that.”
Vaillancourt said that through the settlement the city acknowledged its responsibility and owned up to its mistakes.
Concordia University professor Ted Rutland agreed reaching a settlement was the least the city could do.
“This is really good news for Mamadi Camara and his family,” he said. “He suffered enormously because of this incident, which was unnecessarily violent, was extremely badly handled.”
But at the same time, Rutland doesn’t believe it’s an optimal solution.
“I would much rather that we had a government that was willing to massively reduce rates of racial profiling and police violence rather than just paying it, cutting a cheque when these happen,” he said.
When asked by Global News whether justice had been served in the case, Dufresne-Lemire hesitated.
“That’s a complicated question,” she said. “I’m repeating myself. I think relief is the word.”
Dufresne-Lemire pointed to a report by Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne following an inquiry into the Camara affair that identified several mistakes and included many recommendations.
“I think the main mistakes with that is that it was precipitated and that it was not planned correctly,” said Dufresne-Lemire. “There was a lot of witnesses and different evidence that Mr. Camara was not guilty but they were not taken into account.”
The report, according to Dufresne-Lemire, also stated that many officers who didn’t believe Camara was guilty didn’t feel comfortable speaking out.
“They didn’t believe in themselves,” she said.
What Dufresne-Lemire hopes, going forward, is that the same mistakes won’t be repeated.
“Let’s hope that it never happens again and that all parties that were sued learn from this,” she said.
In an email statement to Global News, Montreal police said they would be following up on the recommendations contained in Dionne’s report by end of year.
Vaillancourt acknowledged there was room for improvement, but expressed confidence the police force would implement the 18 recommendations in the report.
Rutland, for his part, was less confident that meaningful change would ensue.
“Usually we keep implementing the same solutions over and over and over again, which is usually more and more training,” he said. “The research on police training around the world shows that at best, it achieves very small changes.”
As for Camara, the law firm said he was thankful to the public for their support during the ordeal, describing it as an important source of comfort for both himself and his family.
Dufresne-Lemire said with the proceedings finally over, Camara will now have time to “focus his energy on his recovery and on his family, because we know (his partner) had twins this year.”
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector and The Canadian Press