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A police command post vehicle in Montreal North on Oct. 4, 2020, where police shot a man brandishing a knife.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

After a court decision last year, most municipal police officers in Quebec now decline to answer questions from the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, an oversight body investigating civilian deaths and serious injuries during police interventions, according to data and documents shared with The Globe and Mail.

The court case stemmed from a challenge by police unions of BEI investigation rules. Under the regulations, officers who are involved in or witness to an event must write “independently … without consultations and influence, an accurate, detailed and comprehensive account of the facts” of the events under investigation and submit it within 24 hours.

The unions also challenged the obligation for officers to meet with BEI investigators. They argued that those rules infringed on their members’ constitutional rights to stay silent and not incriminate themselves.

In June 2022, the Superior Court said the obligation to meet with BEI investigators should stand, because officers have a right to remain silent during meetings, but invalidated the regulation to submit a report.

The Quebec government appealed, and the Court of Appeal stated in July that the regulation would remain in force while awaiting the appellate decision.

But since the Superior Court’s decision, municipal police officers involved in or witness to an event subject to a BEI investigation “systematically refuse to answer our questions,” wrote BEI director Pierre Goulet in a letter to then-Montreal police chief Sophie Roy in October, 2022.

BEI data reveals that between June 16, 2022, and May 22, 2023, only 46 out of 111 municipal police officers involved in or witness to an event answered the BEI’s questions. The only force where all officers co-operated was Quebec City (22 officers). In Montreal, two-thirds (20 out of 30 officers) declined to answer the bureau’s questions.

This is in sharp contrast with the provincial police, where 45 out of 47 officers answered the BEI’s questions. (The BEI said it did not compile data on co-operation by officers prior to the 2022 court ruling).

The data suggests Quebec is following a trend seen in much of the country. In February, a Globe analysis showed that in British Columbia, police officers rarely co-operate with the Independent Investigations Office, that province’s equivalent to the BEI, while they often only partly co-operate with independent oversight bodies in other provinces.

Mr. Goulet’s letter, obtained through an access-to-information request, describes separate August and September, 2022 incidents where officers would not participate in BEI investigations. Both involved men killed by Montreal police gunfire.

“It is regrettable, to say the least, that police officers who have witnessed events in which people have suffered serious injuries or died refuse to participate in an exercise which seeks to clarify certain details of the police operation,” his letter says. “The population has the right to expect better from our police officers.”

The Sept. 17, 2022 incident resulted in the death of Ronny Kay, a 38-year-old financial adviser “with a big heart, who devoted much of his life to others and was involved in many causes,” according to an open letter from his family, who demanded, to no avail, a public coroner’s inquest into his death.

Debola Kay, Mr. Kay’s older sister, said she did not know that police did not co-operate with the BEI’s investigation before The Globe contacted her.

Mr. Kay was “possibly in possession of a handgun,” according to a BEI news release, and was shot by a Montreal police officer after he allegedly pointed the gun toward him. In their open letter, his family said he was in crisis but was not dangerous, something they tried to convey to the police.

“Ronny Kay is now part of a long list of young men in distress who have been killed by the police during a police intervention,” the letter says. The BEI investigation into this event is continuing.

Spokespeople Martin Desrochers, of the Montreal police union, and Annick Charest, of the Federation of municipal police officers of Quebec, the union representing officers in other cities, both declined to answer The Globe’s questions on members’ co-operation with the BEI, citing solicitor-client privilege.

The Montreal police service said it could not provide comments in time for publication.

Geneviève Major, a spokesperson for Laval police, whose members all decided not to answer the BEI’s questions over the past year, said that “officers who choose to exercise their right to silence do not violate any law or internal directive.”

Only one BEI investigation has led to charges against a police officer after a civilian suffered serious injuries. The officer, Danny Poliquin of the provincial police, was acquitted last year. No charges have been laid against any of the officers involved in 190 civilian deaths since the BEI’s creation in 2016.

As of Thursday, there were 52 investigations either continuing or where the BEI report was sent to the Crown prosecutor, who ultimately determines whether charges are warranted.

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