Dominique Bernier got a call Monday, advising her that prosecutors have made a decision on whether to lay charges against the person who shot and killed her son. She will learn the decision on Wednesday.
But Bernier said she has little confidence that justice will prevail.
Her 17-year-old son, Brandon Maurice, was shot and killed by a Sûreté du Québec officer in November after a police chase near Maniwaki, Quebec. His family suspects the officer used excessive force. Under the system in place at the time, an outside force – in this case, Montreal police – investigated cases when a person was killed by a police officer.
“Police officers protect each other,” Bernier said in an interview. And it will be the same with the new system, she added. “It will change nothing. It can’t be impartial if police are investigating police.”
On Monday, a new agency took over investigations of deaths and injuries involving on-duty police officers in Quebec even as some groups questioned whether the body, dominated by former police officers, can provide the neutrality that critics have long demanded.
It’s called the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes but critics – including Justice for Victims of Police Killings, of which Bernier is a member – don’t think it will be independent.
The Bureau has 18 investigators, 11 of whom are former police officers, including the two supervising investigators. Another three of the investigators have held civilian posts in police forces.
That leaves only four of the 18 investigators with no previous direct involvement with police forces, raising questions about the Bureau’s impartiality and independence, the Ligue des droits et libertés, a human rights group, said this month.
“To call it an independent agency is just inaccurate because it’s really a continuation of police investigating police,” Robyn Maynard, a spokesperson for the activist group Montréal Noir, said Monday.
Critics have been pointing to the inherent conflict of interest of such probes since the killing of unarmed black teenager Anthony Griffin by a Montreal police officer in 1987, Maynard said.
The investigative unit is also “nearly 100 per cent white and composed almost entirely of men,” Maynard added. And it does not represent “the communities most affected by police brutality,” including black and aboriginal communities, she said.
An “objective body looking at what may or may not be abusive” would require representation from people who know and understand affected communities, Maynard said.
Two of the 18 investigators are members of cultural communities, Bureau spokesperson Esther Tremblay said. The Bureau would not say which communities are represented, noting investigators were hired based on their expertise, not their race.
Tremblay said two former police officers – Mario Champoux and Alain Gariépy – were hired as supervising investigators because it was “extremely important to have people who had experience in the field.”
In most cases, investigations will be conducted by a team that includes a police officer and a civilian, she said. “The civilians will bring a civilian point of view” and help ensure impartiality, Tremblay said.
Investigates cases where a person dies or is seriously injured during a police intervention or while being detained by a police force.
is overseen by Madeleine Giauque, a former Crown prosecutor.
Reports to Quebec’s Public Security Department but says it will maintain an arm’s length relationship with the government and will not be controlled by the government or by any police force.
Only looks into incidents when Quebec’s public security minister orders an investigation. It can’t launch its own investigations or investigate at the request of a third party.
Has as its role to shed light on events, not to file charges against anyone. Once the investigation is completed, a report will be sent to prosecutors who decide how to proceed.
Relies on police forces to provide specialized expertise such as accident-reconstruction and forensic services.
Will only handle new cases. Investigations that were underway before the Bureau officially began operations on Monday will be completed by police forces.