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Val-d’Or police officers against Radio-Canada: the defamation trial opens Monday

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The main post of the Sûreté du Québec of the MRC La Vallée-de-l'Or, in Val-d'Or. (Archive photo)

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The defamation trial of around forty Val-d'Or police officers against Radio-Canada and journalist Josée Dupuis opens Monday at the Montreal courthouse.

These police officers from the Sûreté du Québec claim that the report Abuse of the SQ : women break the silence, broadcast during the fall of 2015 on the show Enquête, was “biased and misleading”, according to what we can read in the application initiating proceedings.

Radio-Canada maintains, on the contrary, that the report was carried out with rigor and seriousness.

Both parties will present their arguments before the Superior Court of Quebec.

On the 22nd October 2015, journalist Josée Dupuis presents her report on the show Enquête. We hear from Indigenous women from Val-d'Or who claim to have been victims of abuse of power and even sexual abuse at the hands of Sûreté du Québec police officers.

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The next day, Lise Thériault, then Minister of Public Security, announced that an investigation into these allegations had been entrusted to the City Police Department de Montréal (SPVM).

Eight police officers are also subject to administrative withdrawal, “five patrol officers from the MRC de la Vallée-de-l'Or station and three others working elsewhere in Quebec”, indicated the spokesperson for the SQ at the time. , Captain Guy Lapointe.

The SPVM issued its report one year after the broadcast of the report and the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) announced, in November 2016, that he would not lay charges against the Val-d'Or police officers.

DPCP representatives clarified that the absence of accusations does not mean that the allegations were unfounded, but that the evidence is insufficient to bring criminal charges.

The eight suspended police officers also returned to their post and reached an agreement with the management of the SQ to settle grievances.

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The report from the show Enquête broadcast in October 2015 on Radio-Canada Télé is at the center of this lawsuit. (Archive photo)

Also in 2016, the Sûreté du Québec announced the creation of a mixed police station in Val-d'Or, made up of indigenous and non-indigenous police officers as well as psychosocial workers. This model will subsequently be implemented in other cities in Quebec.

Faced with pressure from numerous indigenous communities and several organizations, the Couillard government announced in December 2016 the creation of a commission of inquiry responsible for studying the events in Val-d'Or, but more broadly all relations between Indigenous Peoples and Public Services.

Two and a half years later, the Viens Commission released its report, which contained 142 calls to action.< /p>

One year after the broadcast of the Enquête report, in October 2016, 42 Val-d'Or police officers filed a defamation suit worth nearly $3 million against Radio-Canada and journalist Josée Dupuis.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In court documents, the plaintiffs maintain that the report conveys a biased and defamatory portrait of Val-d'Or police officers, which is based entirely on the perceptions of alleged victims of abuse as well as those of people offering hearing testimonies. – to say, all amplified by the comments of Josée Dupuis.

We criticize the fact that journalistic standards were not respected in producing and publishing this report, adds Mr. Marco Gaggino, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, in an interview.

Radio-Canada, for its part, reiterates that the report was of great public interest. We intend to demonstrate the seriousness and rigor of our team's journalistic approach, indicates in writing Marc Pichette, first director, Marketing Communications and Media Relations, at the state corporation.

The case will be debated before the Superior Court of Quebec, at the Montreal courthouse, starting Monday. The trial is expected to last 16 weeks.

There are a large number of witnesses who will appear. Notably, we have 42 applicants on file. These people must all testify because they will share the individual damage they suffered as a result of the reporting. Also, witnesses will appear for Radio-Canada and experts will testify, so that's a large number of testimonies to be heard by the court, underlines Mr. Gaggino.

Each of the 42 police officers is seeking between $30,000 and $50,000 in damages.

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