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Tensions to rise in Montreal North

Community one step further from justice with newly appointed crown prosecutor on Villanueva investigation, says activist

Thirty days after Montreal police shot and killed Freddy Villanueva in Montreal North, the details of the altercation and the investigation into the 18-year-old’s death remain unclear.

François du Canal, a member of the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP), worried about François Brière’s appointment by the government as the Crown Prosecutor in the case.

In 2007, Brière presided over a police investigation in which Quilem Registre, a black Montreal North resident, was killed after he was struck with up to six shots from a taser after police said he hit three parked cars and acted intoxicated. Brière dismissed charges against police.

Since 1987, there have been 43 people killed by police in Montreal. In the same period, only four police teams have been charged of murder. In half the cases, the officers were acquitted.

La Presse’s Jean-Paul Charbonneau was the first to discover and publicize Brière’s appointment, on August 19. COBP challenged the article’s statement that Brière’s experience with the justice system would prove an asset in calming tensions in Montreal North in a letter the newspaper refused to print.

Martine Bérubé, spokesperson for the Quebec Bureau of Criminal and Penal Prosecution, said Brière was selected because he worked with the St. Jérôme jurisdiction, 30 km north of Montreal, and thus could approach the case from an impartial point of view.

“Brière has a lot of experience, and we have no reason to believe that he won’t do a good job,” she said.

The COPB has organized annual marches against police brutality for the past 12 years.

McGill Daily: Are you confident that François Brière’s involvement with the Villanueva case will afford the family justice?

François Du Canal: No. Brière is known for being an anti-Mohawk prosecutor from his involvement with the Oka Crisis in 1990 and the 2004 police coup in Kanehsatake. He is an investigator who seems to enjoy putting Mohawks in jail. What’s even more scandalous is that he was the Crown Prosecutor in the Quilem Registre killing in Saint-Michel in 2007…. [He] decided not to lay charges against the officers involved. La Presse claimed that Brière was experienced and his work with the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) will calm people down, but we think that’s total nonsense. Brière’s nomination is a warning that the Freddy Villaneuva case will conclude the same way his other cases did.

MD: Do you think the SQ will pursue a fair investigation into Villanueva’s death?

FC: The system is always the same even if it is the other police corps who are investigating. Police forces are always in solidarity with each other.

MD: Is the SQ delivering as promised to make the results of their investigation public?

FC: The SQ investigation is always secret. The [Villanueva] family doesn’t have access to the police report. The family only heard about the investigation through the media. They also didn’t interrogate the cops involved. How can we trust this investigation when they’re not doing what they should? The SQ is claiming that they’ll make their conclusions public, but we haven’t seen anything yet.

MD: How do you think Brière’s involvement in the case will impact relations between the police and Montreal North residents?

FC: If people learn that Brière acquitted Registre, it won’t give people confidence in the system. He acquitted the cops in that case…. He’s really arrogant, and he showed no respect to Registre’s family. That will make relations between people in Montreal North and the police even worse.

MD: What action can Villanueva’s family take if they do not agree with the decision made by the SQ and Brière?

FC: They have to go through the coroner to get a public inquiry. The lawyer can then file a civil suit against the police and that will take time.