Videos circulating on social media over the weekend of Quebec City police involved in a violent arrest with Black teenagers prompted reactions across the province, including from the Premier.
François Legault issued a tweet on Sunday, saying he was made aware of the troubling footage.
“We need to shed light on the event,” Mr. Legault said.
Quebec City police said they are investigating the violent arrest after videos showing officers dragging, hitting and pinning down Black youths in the snow began circulating on social media on Saturday.
Police issued a news release saying the videos are from an interaction that took place between Nov. 26 and 27. The release said they’re deeply concerned by the behaviour of the officers and are looking into the circumstances.
“The SPVQ has been made aware of videos circulating on social networks involving police officers who allegedly intervened in a way that greatly concerns the management of the police service,” spokeswoman Marie-Pier Rivard with the Quebec City police said in a statement.
Chief of Quebec City’s police force Denis Turcotte told reporters on Sunday police intervened in a fight outside a bar after the staff requested the help of officers patrolling nearby.
Chief Turcotte said he would not tolerate discrimination, but that it was too early to say whether or not the officers involved in the arrest would face sanctions.
“Thousands of interventions take place each year,” Chief Turcotte said during a news conference along with newly elected Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand.
“This intervention caught our attention. It strikes our imagination. We will make sure to shed light and obtain concrete results.”
Police didn’t provide further details on the identity of the people involved in the videos.
Professional boxer Eric Martel-Bahoeli, however, said he recognized one of the young Black men in the video.
“First of all, I was extremely surprised to see the youngster I know, and secondly I was shocked not to say extremely scandalized when I saw the gesture the police officer made, which was gratuitous,” Mr. Martel-Bahoeli said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Mr. Martel-Bahoeli said the police have no excuse for such behaviour.
“Clearly you can see he’s immobilized with his arm behind his back,” he said, adding he was still waiting for news on the young man’s condition. “To do that to a young person, so gratuitously, it has no place.”
The arrest only adds fuel to racial tensions between police officers and the Black community, continued Mr. Martel-Bahoeli.
“It’s not normal in 2021, when you look at Quebec City and you look at the police force, which is supposed to be representative of the population, and that there are zero Black police officers in Quebec,” Mr. Martel-Bahoeli said.
Robert Pigeon, former chief of Quebec City’s police force, said in 2020 that the force had no people of colour among its officers.
Benoit Charette, the Quebec minister responsible for fighting racism, also reacted to the videos.
Mr. Charette said the footage undeniably raises questions.
“I will follow the conclusions of the investigation with great attention,” Mr. Charette said.
Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade is requesting an independent investigation but the Quebec police watchdog has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
Mr. Marchand called the footage “shocking” at the news conference, but he reiterated his trust in Quebec City’s police force and said he doesn’t see the interest in having an independent probe.
“You can see how transparent they acted,” Mr. Marchand said. “They acted rapidly. They have the capacity to tell us rapidly what are the conclusion to their investigation.”
With files from Ugo Giguere
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