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Montreal-North Police Fatal Intervention. The Quebec Government Should Cover Legal Fees, says CRARR

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Montréal - The Quebec Government must immediately reconsider its decision to not cover the legal fees for the youths required to appear before the coroner's public inquiry into the fatal police intervention in Montreal-North on August 9, 2008. According to CRARR, to deprive these youths of color and their families of adequate resources to prepare for and testify at the public inquiry next month is a violation of their constitutional rights.

It compromises fundamental Quebec values of justice and fairness and will lead to serious consequences for these individuals, the Montreal-North community, public confidence in our justice system, and social cohesion in general.

Therefore, CRARR supports these youths’ decision to not participate in the public inquiry without legal representation, notwithstanding the subpoenas which have already been issued.

While we are marking Black History Month, a time to celebrate past significant struggles for civil rights and against racism, CRARR regrets that the authorities have seriously diminished one of the most fundamental rights, the right to legal representation when required to testify in court and when faced with the possibility of self-incrimination.

This is particularly serious as they will be cross-examined by six lawyers representing the police officers involved in the shooting, the police union, and their employer, the City of Montreal. The official decision to deprive these young men of color of adequate means to defend themselves, and to create this shamefully disproportionate resource allocation, perpetuates the conditions of discrimination, exclusion and insecurity they have lived in since the incident.

CRARR is also concerned that the terms and mandate of the coroner's public inquiry, which is set to commence in three weeks, have still not been made public. Publicizing these details would promote transparency and maximum participation of those directly affected in the collective search for answers and for the prevention of future incidents similar to that of last August.

Two weeks from now, on February 3rd, the United Nations will review Canada's human rights record in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In CRARR's submission to this international review, the situation in Montreal-North, and Quebec's archaic system of the police investigating the police in cases of fatal intervention, have already been mentioned. The emerging problems with the public inquiry may raise news questions about justice in Canada and particularly in Quebec.

CRARR joins with the families and community groups in Montreal-North and citywide to press for (a) adequate means to ensure the youths can fully protect and exercise their constitutional rights; and (b) the specification of the public inquiry's mandate and the adoption of terms and procedures to foster the full participation and inclusion of citizens, and not only police officers.

Information: Fo Niemi, Executive Director, CRARR: (514) 939-3342

January 28, 2009

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