Indigenous people and Quebec law enforcement have of always been rocky
A criminal lawyer laments that his native client was brought to court while he was only in his underwear. “I am revolted. When we arrest a Mafioso or a Hells Angel, we give him time to get dressed” protests lawyer Pierre Gauthier. “My client, we ripped him off his couch with no clothes on. He was treated like a circus beast. This is not an isolated case of the treatment of Aboriginal people.”
A version of the facts that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) completely denies.
At dawn last Friday, a 22-year-old Cree from Waswanipi, Northern Quebec, was arrested in connection with a history of assault and mischief. SQ police handcuffed him while he was in underwear, before taking him to Chibougamau police station.
Stéphane Ratté would not have been cooperative with his arrest, according to the SQ, which would explain the state in which he was brought to the station. His lawyer doesn’t believe a word of it. “At 300 pounds, if he had resisted, he would have been accused of hindrances,” argues Gauthier.
At around 11 a.m., the suspect nevertheless appeared before a judge by videoconference. He could still be seen in his underwear, covered with a simple blanket. His lawyer asked the judge to postpone the case until 2 p.m., time to remedy the situation. However, his request was refused.
“It was very humiliating for the accused. The court clerk must have asked for his shoulders to be covered before providing him with a blanket” says the criminal lawyer. “ I have never seen that.”
SQ lieutenant Hugo Fournier said the agents “stepped up to the plate” for the man to appear “properly”. They also reportedly did not have access to his clothes during the arrest. A sweater was also offered to the one who usually wears XXXL. However, he refused to put it on because of the too small size of the garment, explains Lawyer Gauthier.
Outraged by the treatment of his First Nations client, he intends to file an ethics complaint against the two officers, as well as with the Human Rights Commission.
“They asked me if I had a solution. They thought it was funny, knowing full well that I was hundreds of miles away, he continues. They were arrogant. It was hard. “
“For sure [my client] is not an angel,” he continues. But he is a human being who has rights. Nothing can justify how he was treated. “
“It’s deplorable when something like this happens,” said Waswanpani Chief Marcel Happyjack, who says he’s not surprised. “I hear stories like this quite often. It’s a cultural problem that we have. I discuss this frequently with the SQ. We have yet to find any solutions. “
Image sources wiki and Gauthier web page