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


Montréal, September 28, 2020 - A 30-year-old Concordia University PhD student has filed two police ethics complaints against a total of five Montreal police officers following the egregious mistreatment and mishandling of her criminal harassment complaint.

Throughout the months of October and November 2019, Anna (not her real name) was harassed by a man on Concordia University’s downtown campus. Following a physical confrontation between her and the man in November, and fearing for her life, she went to Police Station 20 near the university’s downtown campus to file a criminal harassment complaint against him.

Throughout the process, Anna’s case was not taken seriously by police officers. When she first arrived at the station, she was told to come back later or tomorrow. When she later returned, escorted by a Concordia security officer, she was asked to fill out the required paperwork from behind a glass screen, which she felt was dehumanizing as she was not given any explanation about the process.

After filling out a document marked “report”, she was asked a series of questions, including a description of her attacker. She obliged and provided the two officers present with a physical description. In response, the supervising officer stated: “Sounds like a good-looking man, why don’t you go out with him.” He then laughed. Anna, in a state of shock and disbelief, responded saying “why don’t you go on a date with him?”.

“I don’t know what’s more heinous, the fact that the supervising officer did not take my case seriously, or the fact that he suggested I go on a date with my attacker,” said Anna.

“I was shocked at this callous and offensive conduct. If this is the way Montreal police officers treat women, especially Anglophones, when they report sexual violence, we should all worry. Just think of the number of English-speaking students in Montreal. My experience of reporting neither encourages a safe place to report nor a place where non-French speakers are welcome,” she added.

Anna completed her report and, still feeling very fearful, asked the officer if she could get an escort home, to which he replied mockingly “is he (the attacker) there now?”. She responded that she was scared for her life. The officer then asked, “Don’t you have any friends?”. Anna explained that she is not originally from Montreal and does not have a support system here and was told an investigator would contact her. She then left the station, without an escort, feeling deeply helpless and appalled by the officers’ conduct.

Several days later, Anna arrived home late one evening and noticed that the door to her apartment was open. She called 911 and more than an hour later, two officers arrived.

The officers spoke to Anna briefly and asked her to fill out another report, while doing this, the female officer said in French, “It’s not that serious, it’s just a bit of anxiety.” The police then told her to go back to Station 20 to follow up, and then left.
She later found out about his history of sexual assault when searching online about her harasser.

“It hit me at that moment that the police had a record on him and yet still did nothing to protect me or even inform me of his record,” said Anna.

Anna called Station 20 in a panic, hoping they would send an officer back to her apartment. They did not send an officer back to her home and she was told to wait until a detective would follow up with her case.

Anna tried to follow up with her initial police complaint nine separate times (four times in person, one phone call and one email) with no success. In fact, on one occasion, a second supervisor from Station 20 called her and asked her what happened. After she told him, he swore at her in French (“tabarnak”) and hung up the phone. He never followed up.

Fearing for her life, Anna consulted a lawyer who advised her to go the Police Operations Center on Guy street. She waited at the center and would not leave until a detective opened her case.

She then filed two separate complaints with the Police Ethics Commissioner, who sent one case to investigation and another to conciliation. Exasperated by the lack of adequate police response and support, she mandated CRARR to assist her.

“The police officers’ practices and conduct are troubling. Some could be qualified as a form of systemic discrimination based on gender,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi,” he added. “We need to remove these systemic barriers to justice for victims of sexual violence.”