MONTREAL, March 21, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is urging the Québec government to review Bill 46 so that that investigations of incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury are truly impartial, transparent and accountable and help restore public confidence in the process.
"This bill offers only the status quo, and that is unacceptable," today said Gaétan Cousineau, the president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. He was presenting his comments to the National Assembly's Commission des institutions which is holding hearings on Bill 46, which would create a Bureau of civilian observers.
"The investigations covered by Bill 46 will be independent in name only," said Mr. Cousineau explaining that the measures set out in the draft legislation will not address the issue of lack of confidence which has been raised for decades as the result of police investigating the police, nor will they help improve the credibility of such investigations. He reminded MNAs that a majority of participants in the Commission's 2009-2010 public consultation on racial profiling and its consequences stated that they had no confidence in investigations conducted by police officers who are asked to judge their peers.
In its May 2011 Report on Racial Profiling and Systemic Discrimination of Racialized Youth, the Commission called on the government to overhaul laws, rules and practices that regulate police investigations in Québec in particular, the setting up of a Special Investigations Bureau. This independent agency, made up of civilians and former police officers, as needed, would investigate incidents involving police officers that cause death or serious injury. Its staff would reflect the ethnocultural diversity of Québec and gender balance.
Mr. Cousineau rejected the suggestion by police representatives that civilians do not have the expertise to oversee such investigations. Several professions, he said, allow civilians to develop the necessary qualifications to conduct investigation. Moreover, civilians are already playing a key role in training police officers at the École nationale de police du Québec.
The Commission underlined that the proposed model in Bill 46, which is essentially the same as the one presently applied through the departmental policy - police-on-police investigations - runs counter to the strong trend in Québec as elsewhere in Canada, in favour of civilian investigations.
"Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and more recently Nova Scotia and British Columbia, have adopted legislative reforms to set up new mechanisms to investigate police. While there are differences between the models, all have opted for a bureau which has an exclusive investigative mandate based, to a different degree, on the work of civilian investigators," said the Commission.
"Except for representatives of the police, almost all those who presented briefs before the Commission des institutions have called for the creation of an investigation bureau with real powers rather than a surveillance bureau. The message is clear: the status is not a solution," said Mr. Cousineau.
He insisted that a new transparent mechanism would allow the public to appreciate the integrity, the honesty and the efficiency of investigations involving police by guaranteeing permanent and public rules of operation. It would also ensure that the findings of the investigations are explained and communicated to the public at large as well as to the civilians involved and their families.
The Commission said: "Deaths or serious injury sustained by a civilian as a result of a police intervention or detention underlines the importance to review the existing investigatory procedure in line with the rights guaranteed by the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms"
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse's comments are available on its website at : www.cdpdj.qc.ca
(514) 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477 ext. 358
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