Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, August 12, 2008 --- The Quebec Government must set up an independent public inquiry, as soon as possible, into the circumstances surrounding the police intervention in Montreal-North last Saturday, which resulted in the death of one young Latino-Montrealer, and caused serious injuries to two other youths of racial
minority origins.

CRARR called for an independent public inquiry during a press conference at which its spokespersons asked first for calm, in light of the current tensions and the potential of further unrest, not only in Montreal-North, but also in other ethno-cultural communities in Montreal.

“What happened in Montreal was a tragedy, yet a foreseeable one”, said Fo Niemi,Executive Director of CRARR. “This situation immediately reminds us of the pain and backlash following from the deaths of Anthony Griffin in 1987, Marcellus François in 1990, Martin Suazo in 1995, Rohan Wilson in 2004, and Mohamed Bennis in 2005.Sadly, we can now add Freddy Alberto Villanueva to that list.”

According to Me René Saint-Léger, criminal defense lawyer and former Chair of CRARR, the inquiry being led by the Sûreté du Québec does not guarantee that the results will be swift, nor that they will be made public.

“In light of the circumstances which led up to this tragedy, we believe that only a public, independent, credible inquiry, one led by a commission or an independent investigator with no ties to the police, should be set up by the provincial government.The families of the young men shot by the police deserve, at a minimum, a public inquiry”, Me Saint-Léger stated.

“We therefore call upon the Justice Minister of Quebec in particular to act in the public interest and in the name of human rights, including the right to life, the right to the safety of the person and the right to equality, for he is the Minister responsible for the application of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,” he added.

According to Me Jacky Eric Salvant, CRARR's associate lawyer, only by way of a public and independent inquiry can the loved ones of these three young men upon whom the police opened fire, be assured that justice will be impartial, transparent, and accessible to everyone.

“For the victims, as well as the communities concerned, there must at least seem to be justice. Unfortunately, our clients often tell us that they have no confidence in an investigation into police action which is led by another police agency.”

“What message does the government send if they refuse a public inquiry? It risks being interpreted as a denial of justice,” said Me Salvant.

Franz Benjamin, a Commissioner with the Pointe-aux-Trembles School Board and former Chair of the Montreal Intercultural Council, an advisory body to the City, stated that the feelings of anger and injustice are live within the Black and Latino communities in the north-eastern part of the city.

“For years, we have highlighted the tensions and conflicts that exist between racialized youths and the police: on the one hand, high rates of unemployment, marginalization,racial profiling, violence and exclusion, and on the other hand, problems regarding a lack of training on dealing with diverse populations, and a lack of policies and/or techniques developed regarding intervention involving racialized youths. Taking these
factors together, we have a very precarious situation here,” he said.

Mr. Niemi concluded by calling upon members of the Black and Hispanic communities not to resort to violence as a means of responding to the violence of this past weekend, but rather, to demand an independent public inquiry and to use the available judicial and political recourses to have their concerns heard.

As a non-profit civil rights organization, CRARR is ready to provide assistance and representation to the youths, their families and other families directly affected by this tragedy. Since its inception in 1983, CRARR has been active in police race relations; it has helped many victims of racially discriminatory conduct, including racial
profiling, win their cases before the provincial human rights commission and the police ethics agencies.