Quebec Public Security Minister Lise Thériault broke down in tears on Friday as she announced to members of the press that eight members of the Sûreté du Québec have been suspended. Just one day previous, Thériault was reported to back the Quebec provincial police force, reports the Globe and Mail.
The CBC aired an episode of the radio program Enquête featuring interviews with a host of women who claim that Sûreté du Québec police officers physically and sexually assaulted them, which was reported to cause Thériault’s turnaround.
“I’m in shock, like all Quebeckers,” Thériault was quoted. “It’s time we do something – and that’s what we are doing.”
Enquête‘s attention was first drawn to the treatment of the disappearance of an Aboriginal woman, Sindy Ruperthouse, in Val-d’Or, a northern Quebec gold mining town, in 2014. The journalists claimed that they wished to “test the diligence of police investigations” amid what has been reported to be a growing number of calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The investigative news show reports of a roundtable held with six friends of Sindy Ruperthouse who described sexual assaults and dangerous strandings in remote, sometimes cold locations. A man from Saskatoon, Darrell Night, reported very similar treatment in January 2000, when he was left in a situation that could have resulted in his death had he not been able to find help at a power plant, reports Cracked.
The procedure is reportedly called a “midnight blue tour” or “starlight tour.”
Montreal city police will be handling the cases concerning the Sûreté du Québec officers, circumventing a process that would normally be handled by the provincial police agency themselves.
“A national emergency is taking place at our doorstep and we have to do something. Women are terrorized,” Edith Cloutier with the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre was quoted. “They have paved the way.”
First Nations or Aboriginal women make up 4.3 percent of the Canadian population. Yet between 1980 and 2012, Aboriginal women made up 16 percent of murders. Overall murders of females have decreased in Canada, from about 250 per year in the 1980s to 154 in 2012, while the number of Aboriginal women dying has remained steady. Many people, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, want to know why this is. The RCMP notes that this trend of overall homicides decreasing, while Aboriginal homicides remaining steady results in the ratio of Aboriginal women murdered to all women murdered skyrocketing to over 27 percent from closer to 10 percent in the early 1980s.
Families of women missing along a stretch of northern British Columbia road known as the “Highway of Tears” have started a website with resources. Sometimes leads, such as Bobby Jack Fowler, as reported by the Vancouver Sun, appear, but none ever explain with completeness why so many Aboriginal women disappear in Canada.
An inquiry was held into the victims of Robert Pickton, who admitted to single-handedly murdering 49 women, reports the Globe and Mail, more than the total number of Aboriginal women murdered most years.
Canadian Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau is reported to be moving ahead with a formal inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women, according to the Globe and Mail. Trudeau is expected to name a cabinet on November 4.
Perhaps the timing of the Canadian election, as well as the decision of Enquête to investigate the situation in Val-d’Or, has given Lise Thériault the motivation, and perhaps the political currency, to start the process of getting to the bottom of what is really happening with Aboriginal women and what part the Sûreté du Québec and other police agencies may have possibly played.
[Feature Screenshot Courtesy of CBC/YouTube]