content warning: police brutality, anti-Black racism, death
Nicholas Gibbs was a 23-year-old father of four and a resident of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. His family described him as quiet and reserved. Close friends thought of him as a loving father and partner.
On August 21, Nicholas Gibbs was killed by Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) officers on the corner of Montclair and De Maisonneuve, in another instance of police violence against Black people. According to the Quebec Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI), Gibbs was shot after police were called to the scene to break up a fight between two men. Allegedly, the police used a taser on the men before opening fire.
The BEI is currently investigating the actions taken by the police on August 21. Meanwhile, coverage from local news journals has largely focused on Gibbs’ past criminal record and the fact that he yelled “shoot me” at the officers. The press has framed these details as justification for the violent measures taken by the police. An SVPM officer interviewed by the Gazette argued that the police had no choice but to shoot; Gibbs was allegedly holding a knife, and tasers require close range. Nevertheless, Gibbs’ family stated that the police did not consider the mental distress Gibbs was experiencing, and that they escalated violence without intermediary non-lethal techniques, such as tackling or shooting in the leg, and handcuffing.
Local coverage has failed to situate the killing of Nicholas Gibbs in the broader context of police violence against Indigenous and Black people, especially those who are neurodivergent.* According to Alex Tyrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec, police in Quebec have shot and killed 136 people since 1987. However, in June, the SPVM quit conducting Indigenous sensitivity trainings developed and led by the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network, which had been running since 2015. These exercises were meant to address police violence against Indigenous people in Montreal by increasing awareness of the reality of colonialism and the history of anti-Indigenous violence in Canada. Nakuset, the Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter, said that she and others who worked on this training were not consulted when the police decided to scrap it and instate a new training program.
While the results of the ongoing BEI investigation remain undisclosed, it is unclear how the SPVM will address this injustice, or if they will address it at all. It is our responsibility to be aware of the biases that cloud the understanding of this case and to offer support however we can. On our website is a link to a GoFundMe page for Gibbs’ family.
Rest in Power, Nicholas Gibbs.