Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montréal, August 2, 2017 — The Police Ethics Commissioner's dismissal of a complaint filed by an English Black mother against a Châteauguay police officer for having recklessly pepper-sprayed her two young daughters raises major questions about how the justice system deals with racialized children.

John Chilcott is an Anglophone Black man who was intercepted in December 2015 by police officer Matthew Vill of the Châteauguay Police while on his way to pick up his two daughters for school, who were then aged 6 and 10. When Vill stopped him in front of his apartment building, his daughters got in their father's car. After a few exchanges with Chilcott over the reasons for the former's ID request, Vill pepper-sprayed Chilcott, who was still in the driver's seat, with one of his daughters right behind him and the other, to his right.

His two daughters were hit by the pepper-spray, and had to be taken by Chilcott and his wife, Rosemarie Edwards, to the hospital afterwards for treatment. Days after the incident, the girls continued to experience negative physical and psychological effects of the incident. Both girls had to take time off from school afterwards. The girls and their parents have yet to receive any word of concern or apology from the Châteauguay Police or City Hall.

Chilcott fought the fines in court but lost last May (the decision has been appealed to the Quebec Superior Court). He and his wife also mandated CRARR to help them file civil rights and police ethics complaints against the officer and the City of Châteauguay, for racial profiling, illegal arrest, excessive force and reckless disregard for the children's well-being, among others.

Regarding Edwards' complaint of police misconduct, the Police Ethics Commissioner referred her file to conciliation.

The couple had expected that the officer's reckless action would constitute a case of “public interest” and warrant an investigation. Conciliation took place in June and failed. On July 24, Edwards received the Commissioner's decision to close her case since he “does not consider it advisable to initiate further steps; the police officer having notified about the criticisms made.”

“At no time from the moment the complaint was filed to the moment I received the Commissioner's decision were my children heard, ” said Edwards.

“We have never been asked by any authority about what exactly happened inside the car,” said Emilyrose, now 11. “I still remember exactly what the officer said and did,” she explained, by physically illustrating the officer's action.

“The Commissioner's decision is so grossly unfair that even though I'm only 11, I can't stay silent anymore,” added Emilyrose. “I have to speak out.”

”I don't know how the Commissioner could callously say that he had all the information required to make his decision to close the file,” added Edwards. “Is this systemic racism? Do Black children matter? Does their health and safety matter?” she asked.

For CRARR, the issue is not only about fairness and transparency of the police ethics process, but also about how the latter deals with the best of interests of the child, particularly the child of color who needs and seeks protection.

In 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) made observations on Canada's record on children's rights, and specifically urged Canada to “ensure that the views of the child be a requirement for all official decision-making processes that relate to children - including criminal justice.” The CRC also noted that Canada must “ensure that children have the possibility to voice their complaints if their right to be heard is violated with regard to judicial and administrative proceedings.”

“This case once again raises another red flag on how the Quebec justice system deals with Black children. After some recent well-publicized cases that point to a pattern, we have to be more vigilant and demand more answers,” noted CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.

With CRARR's help, Ms. Edwards has filed for a review of the Commissioner's decision.

CRARR has begun to compile cases, such as Edwards', that involve problematic treatments of children and youths of color in the Quebec justice system, with the goal of submitting a report to the UN CRC when it will examine Canada's record on children's rights in July 2018.

CRARR is anticipating that another case, that of a Black biracial child who encountered barriers of discrimination based on race, gender and language in local youth protection services, will also meet the same fate at the hands of a Quebec government watchdog agency which disregarded elements of systemic bias and declined to interview the child during the investigation into the case.