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Montreal, Canada, November 11, 2008 --- Last week, CRARR filed an appeal with the Police Ethics Committee seeking the reversal of a decision of the Police Ethics Commissioner of Quebec that rejected a complaint by a Chinese student over police misconduct and excessive use of force against him.

In August 2007, Mr. Jinwu Yang, a Chinese-born student of Concordia University, was violently arrested by two female officers at the Shadd Business Center, a local vocational school, over a disagreement over course fees. School officials called the police as a result of the disagreement. Mr. Yang decided to wait for the police to explain his version of the story. Three hours after the call, two officers came and spoke to the school representatives, in French, and to Mr. Yang in English. After listening to the school officials, the officers then asked Mr. Yang to pay the fees or leave. Before Mr. Yang could finish his story, one officer tried to grab a receipt from his hand, due to a school official's request. Due to his spontaneous reaction, the police officers pushed him out of the school, resulting in a scuffle and Mr. Yang being handcuffed, pepper sprayed, beaten and arrested. Mr. Yang has been charged with four criminal offenses, including assaulting a police officer.

Mr. Yang filed a complaint with the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner within days of the incident, in which he complained about the treatment. The Commissioner is an independent provincial civilian agency in charge of public complaints against the police in Quebec for not respecting the Code of Police Ethics, a provincial law. If the Commissioner upholds a citizen's complaint against the police after an inquiry, it will bring the case before the Police Ethics Committee, an independent tribunal, to seek sanctions against the officers. CRARR intervened to help Mr. Yang after he filed his complaint on his own and needed assistance.

In July 2008, the Commissioner dismissed his complaint. Due to an address change, he received the Commissioner's decision only in October. After reviewing the decision, CRARR helped Mr. Yang immediately file an appeal to the Police Ethics Committee to review and reverse the Commissioner's decision since it contains numerous problems such as:

  • Incomplete information and contradictions (such as the fact that all three school witnesses gave contradictory statements about the incident but that the Commissioner ignored these contradictions);
    • Errors (for instance, the Commissioner got both female officers mixed up); and
      • Bias (for example, Mr. Yang's evident lack of verbal fluency in English, which could be at the heart of how he was treated by the police, was not taken into consideration; the Commission readily accepted the police’s version on the basis of the officers’s reports which in turn contain some inconsistencies).
      • CRARR also questioned the Commissioner's understanding of Mr. Yang's complaint since his original complaint lacked clarity yet the Commissioner did not seek to clarify where Mr. Yang had to reproach the officers. Note that under the present system, police officers who are the object of citizen complaints have the right to refuse to cooperate with the Commissioner's inquiry.

        According to CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, “As a Chinese immigrant with obvious difficulties expressing himself in English, Mr. Yang deserves special attention from the Commissioner, in addition to his right to a full and fair investigation into his complaint. Since this was not the case, we hope that the Police Ethics Committee will cast aside the Commissioner's decision and order a new or additional investigation.”

        CRARR strongly recommends that members of the Chinese community, especially those who do not master English or French well, should contact their local community organizations or CRARR directly before they file complaints against police officers for misconduct such as lack of professionalism, civil rights violations, abuse of power,
        and excessive use of force.

        A person does not have to be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to file complaints with the Police Ethics Commissioner, as long as the incident takes place in Quebec and involves a police officer. The deadline to file a complaint with the Commissioner is one year from the date of the incident; however, the faster a complaint is filed, the better, to avoid loss of crucial evidence.

        CRARR is also helping Mr. Yang file his civil rights complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. CRARR’s counsel René Saint-Léger defends Mr. Yang in the criminal trial.