News  Police launch controversial surveillance project

Activists speak out against SPVM project mandated to monitor marginal groups

Activists across Montreal are protesting a new Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) project, calling it a breach of fundamental human rights.

The project, made public in May, is called Guet des activités et des mouvements marginaux et anarchists (surveillance of marginal and anarchist groups’ activities), or GAMMA.

According to an SPVM press release, it was launched in response to the May 1st anti-capitalist demonstration in downtown Montreal at which six police officers were injured.

However, it is unclear when exactly the project began. Jacques Robinette, assistant Montreal police chief and head of special investigations, told the Gazette the project has been in existence since January.

Leftist student advocacy group Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) has filed a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission about the alleged involvement of GAMMA in four student arrests, three of whom were ASSÉ executives.

The students were arrested for their involvement in protest activities on March 24 and 31, including the occupation of Finance Minister Raymond Bachand’s office.

ASSÉ has argued that the arrests stand in direct violation of section 10 of the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states: “Every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on…political convictions.”

The SPVM responded in a press release, saying that “when crimes are being committed, however, SPVM officers must clearly take steps to stop them,” while reiterating their full support for the freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

Coalition contre la repression et abus policier member Alexandre Popovic has filed similar complaints.

“In the provincial [charter] we have this protection against discrimination, including discrimination based on political conviction,” said Popovic.

“It’s not only an attack against anarchists and anyone else who defines themselves as an anarchist, but it’s also an attack against this section of the charter.”

Université du Québec à Montréal professor and anti-police brutality advocate, Francis Dupuis-Déri, told The Daily in an interview, “In principle, you are not supposed to be targeted for your political beliefs – that is not supposed to happen in a liberal society like Canada. That would not be fair according to the idea that the legal system is blind with regard to race, religion and political opinions.”

“The problem is not that you are an anarchist, but that you are smashing a window. So targeting a specific political ideology is problematic from this perspective,” he continued.

Speaking about recent protests, Dupuis-Déri said, “What should be known is that the reaction of police with regards to social movements is generally not motivated by what people do in the streets, but by who they are.”