Launch of an alternative and critical review of the first 3 years of BEI activity

First alternative assessment of the first three years of activity of the BEI which includes 10 key findings and 46 recommendations to reform the BEI.

Press Release
For immediate release

Version française

Montreal, September 21, 2020 – On the eve of the tabling of a bill on the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) and the Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC) announced by the Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, the Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL) and the Coalition contre la répression et les abus policiers (CRAP) are releasing an alternative assessment of the first three years of activity of the BEI, the result of research and analytical work ongoing since 2019. This is the first time in Québec that a comprehensive critical assessment of the BEI has been carried out by civil society organizations.

« The BEI is not truly independent of the police community, nor is it transparent or impartial. This is the conclusion of the report we are presenting today: Regards critiques sur les trois premières années d’activité du Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes. To remedy the situation, we make 46 recommendations for a thorough reform of this legislation. It is imperative that
Ms. Guilbault take them into account in her bill, » says Eve-Marie Lacasse, spokesperson for the LDL.

Independence compromised

The balance sheet shows that the BEI’s independence is compromised for 6 reasons : 1) the BEI depends on the police force involved to launch an independent investigation; 2) the majority of BEI investigators are from the police community; 3) the BEI depends on the support services of the SQ, the SPVM and the SPVQ in almost all of its independent investigations; 4) representatives of the police community are involved in the appointment process of BEI’s management; 5) the SQ is involved in the process of appointing investigators for the BEI; and 6) the only source of information for press releases announcing the launch of an independent investigation comes from the police force involved in the injury or death of a person during a police intervention.

« Ultimately, it is the police who continue to investigate the police! Minister Guilbault’s bill must put an end to this apparent conflict of interest, which has the potential to greatly undermine citizens’ confidence in the BEI. Moreover, talking about independent investigations is a red herring in a context where almost 100% of the support services required by the BEI are provided by police forces. Minister Guilbault must seize this opportunity to give the BEI the independence worthy of its name by endowing it with its own specialized resources, » said Ms. Lacasse.

Lack of transparency

Lynda Khelil, from LDL, recalls that since the beginning of the BEI ‘s activities in 2016, its management has vaunted their transparency at every opportunity. « When we compare the level of information that the BEI makes public and the information it keeps to itself, we quickly realize that opacity is still the watchword when it comes to police investigations. The information made available to the public when the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales decides not to lay charges is fragmentary. It doesn’t allow for an understanding of how the event unfolded, nor does it allow for an assessment of the thoroughness and impartiality of the investigation.

Ms. Khelil reminds that « The BEI ‘s most serious transparency deficit is its refusal to make public the contents of its so-called independent investigation reports when no charges are laid against the police officer(s) involved. Yet in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, organizations similar to the BEI are releasing anonymized, comprehensive summaries of their investigation reports. Québec has no excuse not to do the same! « .

Police impunity persists

In November 2018, letters sent by BEI management to the heads of certain police forces revealed that police officers and police force directors were not complying with their obligations under the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes regulations. These obligations are intended to ensure the independence and credibility of BEI investigations.

« Any violation of the Regulations that are disclosed are serious impediments to the BEI’s investigations and the only thing the BEI Director has done is to send these letters. Why did she do it? Because the Regulation does not provide for any sanctions for non-compliance, nor does it give the BEI the power to compel individuals to comply with its obligations. The lack of sanctions for violations of the Regulations is nothing less than an invitation to re-offend! Police impunity must end… and to do so, it is essential that Minister Guilbault include a sanction mechanism in the bill she is about to introduce, which we are eagerly awaiting, » continued Ms. Khelil.

A lack of impartiality

Alexandre Popovic, spokesman for CRAP, raises serious doubts as to the impartiality of the BEI’s investigations. « The draft law on the BEI should provide that a former police officer should never be assigned to an investigation into an event involving the police force from which he or she came, as was in fact the wish of Minister Stéphane Bergeron, who is at the origin of the creation of the BEI. If the Police Act provides that an investigator of the Police Ethics Commissioner cannot be assigned to a case involving the police force to which he or she once belonged, why should the same logic not also apply to the BEI investigators? The bill must also provide for a time limit so that one day the BEI would be limited to civilians with no police background, as in the British Columbia legislation. There is no better way to ensure the impartiality of the BEI, » says Popovic.

In conclusion, this assessment leads both organizations to state unequivocally that fundamental reform of the BEI is essential.

« In terms of problems, there are a lot. The next bill is very timely, as there is an urgent need to reform the BEI. At a time when the role and actions of the police are being scrutinized and the police culture is being heavily criticized, the need for a completely independent, impartial, and transparent Bureau des enquêtes is paramount, » Lacasse concluded.


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