A Quebec court ruled on Friday ex-Montreal police officer Stéfanie Trudeau, better known as ‘Agent 728,’ is guilty for an assault during an arrest she made in October 2012, according to the Montreal Gazette. In January, a court ruled that Toronto police Const. James Forcillo was guilty of attempted murder after he shot 18-year-old Sammy Yatim nine times because Yatim was holding a knife while on an empty streetcar, according to the CBC News. In October of last year, The Concordian covered the sixth-annual vigil for the more than 60 people killed by Montreal police since 1987.
It’s easy for police brutality in Canada to be overlooked when compared to the shock and extreme nature of violence by police in the U.S., like the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland for playing with a toy gun in 2014 or the shooting of seven-year-old Aiyana Jones during a raid in Detroit in 2010. Problems with Canada’s police brutality gets lost when compared to the towering issues coming out of the south, but violence playing out in our own backyard is just as serious with life-and death consequences.
Turning back to Trudeau’s case, the atmosphere of police brutality becomes clear. This was an officer already known on the Internet for liberally pepper-spraying protesters during the Spring 2012 student protests. That is, dousing a male protester in a chemical vomiting agent for protesting the proposed increase in tuition fees.
The incident in October 2012 started off with Trudeau attempting to ticket Rudi Occhietti for having an open bottle of beer in hand while letting friends into his studio in the Plateau, according to the Montreal Gazette. This lead to Occhietti’s friend, Serge Lavoie, being arrested for obstruction. That included Trudeau running after Lavoie as he fled back indoors, illegally entering the apartment and dragging Lavoie back out to the street in a choke-hold. A judge later found these two arrests to be illegal.
Now, when dealing with police brutality it is always important to remember that the few bad apples do not represent the whole force. But in Montreal there seems to be a sick atmosphere of cops protecting cops, which is dragging the officers who are trying to serve and protect down with those who are here to abuse and violate. The several cops who arrived as backup to the scene wrote reports saying Lavoie was “heavily intoxicated” according to the Montreal Gazette, which was later found to be unsupported by evidence. The judge said Lavoie seems sober enough while his face was being crushed against a stairwell and while he was crying for help while in a chokehold in the video of the arrest.
So here’s the question: why didn’t those several officers, who arrived as backup, file honest reports on Trudeau’s use of force instead of reports lying about the victim being drunk?
Montrealers are well known for their willingness to protest what they deem unfair, and police brutality is no exception. But municipal bylaw P-6 forces protesters to present their itinerary to police 24 hours before any protest. Not submitting an itinerary, or straying from that itinerary, can lead police to kettle and mass-arrest protesters and slap them with $600 tickets, according to Vice. However, the Montreal Gazette reported judges throwing a large amount of these tickets out because individual protestors were not found to be directly involved in the organization of the event in question. This clearly makes bylaw P-6 look like it’s just an intimidation tactic used by police to restrict protesters from voicing their discontentment about police brutality, alongside any other political issue going against the state.
Even at the Oct. 22, 2015 vigil for victims of police killings, The Concordian’s news editor Gregory Todaro saw police officers snickering amongst themselves as they looked out at the gathered crowd.
Police officers are here to serve and protect. Without them there would be violence, chaos and no rule of law. But the current system of police not policing their own is flawed and in desperate need of change. Police officers need to be reminded that their power comes from citizens agreeing to give them power. And right now, citizens aren’t being shown that their investment is paying off. Police officers need to straighten up right now—or we’re going to start calling for a much bigger change.