Gouvernement du Québec

Premier

Restore text sizeIncrease text size

Public inquiry examining relations between Aboriginals and certain public services “To ensure better communication, reconciliation and improved relations” – Philippe Couillard

Québec City, December 21, 2016 – The Québec government officially established today the public inquiry examining relations between Aboriginals and certain public services. Premier Philippe Couillard made the announcement, accompanied by the Minister of Justice, Stéphanie Vallée, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Land Occupancy and Minister of Public Security, Martin Coiteux, the Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, Lucie Charlebois, and the Minister responsible for Native Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley.

The committee will have a mandate to investigate, address facts, and conduct analyses in order to make recommendations concerning concrete, effective, lasting remedial measures to be implemented by the Government of Québec and Aboriginal officials to prevent or eliminate, regardless of their origin or cause, all forms of violence, discriminatory practices and differential treatment in the delivery of health and social services, youth protection, correctional, police and legal services to Québec’s Aboriginal peoples.

The committee’s deliberations will focus on the last 15 years. It will hold hearings in Val-d’Or and in the Aboriginal communities affected, and in other regions of Québec if the committee deems it necessary. Retired Québec Superior Court judge Jacques Viens, who, during his career as a jurist, was responsible for the judicial district of Abitibi for more than 25 years, will chair the committee.

“Our desire to fight intolerance, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization is one of the social causes which unite Quebecers from all walks of life and all regions. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to achieve self-fulfilment. Regardless of our race, our beliefs or who we love, no one deserves to be humiliated and belittled. In the wake of extensive discussions, and given the limitations of the national public inquiry (of which we were recently made aware) we are proposing a forum that will enable us to examine these issues and evaluate, without prejudice or complacency and in an independent manner, which steps must be taken so that everyone can live in a climate of trust, openness, and progress,” the Premier said.

Pursuing dialogue

“The Government of Québec’s decision stems from an ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal representatives, whose concerns and expectations it reflects. We have always maintained that we want to find the best means of acting in complementarity with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. However, the limitations of its mandate prove that it is now necessary to hold our own public inquiry. The challenges that we are facing, highlighted in a recent university research report, are indeed complex in Québec, and we must examine them comprehensively. I am convinced that it is by pursuing our dialogue and collaboration with the Aboriginal chiefs and leaders that we will continue to improve the quality of life of the Aboriginal peoples, and will be able to initiate a genuine process of lasting reconciliation with them,” Minister Kelley said.

Seeking reconciliation “The committee can conduct its inquiry by means of informal processes in order to enable Aboriginal women, members of the Aboriginal communities, the police and other stakeholders to share their experiences and concerns in a less rigid framework, and to propose solutions to enhance the public services offered to the Aboriginal peoples. The committee will still hold public hearings, but can meet in camera, if necessary, to protect the identity of witnesses and private information. In addition, the inquiry must not impede ongoing or impending investigations. The committee does not have a mandate to find guilty parties. We are seeking reconciliation, not blame,” Minister Vallée added.

Restoring trust “With the establishment today of the public inquiry examining relations between Aboriginals and certain public services, the Government of Québec wishes to assess much more thoroughly the root causes of the problems encountered in relations between certain public services and the Aboriginal peoples. It should be noted that the committee will have a much broader mandate than to merely analyze relations between policing services and the Aboriginal peoples. Certain conclusions of Me Fannie Lafontaine’s report, made public last November, and the recent research report on the prosecution of homelessness in Val-d’Or, have highlighted a social issue that goes well beyond the issue of how police services are provided. As the study on the prosecution of the homeless in Val-d’Or showed, the police often act as the sole interveners, and must contend with complex social problems. As a result, the committee will examine Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal police forces, the justice system, correctional services, health and social services and youth protection. We hope that the committee will assist us in finding long-term solutions which will restore trust between public service stakeholders and the Aboriginal communities,” Minister Coiteux emphasized.

Building strong partnerships The Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, Lucie Charlebois added: “The committee will enable us to build strong partnerships. Therefore, we are creating an appropriate forum to enable individuals to express themselves and be heard in a genuine climate of trust. We will be extremely vigilant to identify individuals requiring specific social services. We will ensure, in this respect, a high-quality, timely response to individual needs. While we have acted proactively and undertaken various initiatives, we are aware that we must strengthen and adapt our approach in order to satisfy the specific needs of the Aboriginal communities.”

Measures adopted following allegations of police violence in Val-d’Or

Since the revelation of events involving Aboriginal women and police forces in Val-d’Or, the Government of Québec has implemented several support measures, and initiatives have been launched to enhance the delivery of police services. Québec’s Ministry of Justice is offering both legal and psychological support. Women have access to a toll-free line to denounce acts of violence, or to safely, confidentially file a complaint. The crime victims' assistance centres in the field have been mobilized, and continue to offer free, confidential front-line services adapted to the needs and circumstances of the Aboriginal women affected.

It should also be noted that the Government of Québec wishes to immediately establish, in collaboration with the Aboriginal communities, a task force to determine and quickly find solutions to address the problems encountered. The process can be carried out promptly, before the conclusion of the public inquiry, yet without impeding its deliberations. The Government of Québec is also committed to implementing an evaluation and follow-up mechanism to respond to the committee’s recommendations.

“The most recent meetings between the Government of Québec and the Aboriginal chiefs have demonstrated the need to act rapidly to restore the relationship of trust broken since the events in Val-d’Or. Our common desire is that Aboriginal women and all members of the Aboriginal communities can live freely and feel safe in Québec, and trust various government authorities, including the police. We are pursuing this path in a manner that is consistent with the values of tolerance, respect, openness and dignity that are specific to Québec society, and I am convinced that our responses will provide a solid foundation to continue to live harmoniously together, for the benefit of both the Aboriginal communities and all Quebecers,” the Premier concluded.

-30-


Online as of: December 21, 2016


Accessibility   |   Privacy Policy   |   Copyrights

Gouvernement du Québec
© Gouvernement du Québec, 2017