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Montréal, June 23, 2017 — The credibility of the Police Ethics Commissioner's handling of complaints of excessive police force directed at Black citizens will be tested by the case of two Black children hit with pepper spray meant for their father, by a Châteauguay police officer.

John Chilcott is an Anglophone Black man who was intercepted in December 2015 by police officer Matthew Vill of Châteauguay, a municipality south of Montreal, while on his way to pick up his two young daughters for school, who were then aged 6 and 10. When the officer stopped him in front of his apartment building, his daughters already got in their father's car. After a few exchanges between the officer and Chilcott over the reasons for the former's ID request, officer Vill pepper-sprayed Chilcott, who was still sitting in the driver's seat, with one of his daughter 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. The girls continued to experience negative physical and psychological effects of the incident (video footage of the children's reaction can be seen at

Both girls had to take time off from school afterwards. From the moment they got out of their father's car, in a visible state of distress and pain, the girls and their parents never received any word of concern or apology from the Châteauguay police or City Hall.

Chilcott fought the fines in 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 against her objection, since most cases referred to conciliation end up being closed by the Commissioner. The couple has expected that the officer's action to pepper-spray Chilcott sitting next to his two daughters in his car, which adversely affected the latter's health and safety, was a reckless and dangerous act that would warrant an investigation and eventual citations for the Police Ethics Committee for sanctions.

Last week, conciliation took place and failed. It is expected that the Commissioner will close the file, since there has been no further enquiry about what happened inside the car before and after the pepper-spray hit the children.

“By referring the case to conciliation and very likely closing it, the Commissioner is sending a message, which is, sadly, that Black children's safety doesn't matter,” said Edwards.

“Had they been White children, this would not have happened, from the Officer's pepper-spraying my husband and children to the way my complaint is being handled,” she added.

“This can become a major test of the Police Ethics Commissioner's credibility on race and children as it deals with police conduct that endangers Black children's health and safety,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“We saw last year how the police ethics and civil rights systems failed a young disabled Black child,” Niemi noted, referring to the Bassey case.

The Bassey case involved Michaëlla Bassey, a 12 year-old Black girl with intellectual disability who was violently arrested and dragged off of a Montreal bus by the police when the bus driver called the police on her as he considered her request for help for direction a threat to his safety.

Both the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission dismissed the mother's complaints, the former after conciliation, and the latter, after a three-year investigation that deliberately omitted to interview the girl's witnesses on the bus, and neglected to properly assess the public transit agency's training program as well as the competency of the public transit employees in serving disabled children.

“These cases compel us to document how the Quebec justice, educational and social service systems deal with Black children's lives and civil rights, especially in this International Decade of Action for People of African Descent,” he added. “A pattern of systemic racial bias and disparities in access to services created to serve and protect Black and other racialized children is slowly emerging,” Niemi added.

CRARR is documenting the treatment of Black and other racialized children by the courts, police ethics, human rights and other systems in Quebec, to be submitted in an alternative report to shadow Canada's 5th/6th report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. Canada's report is scheduled for submission to the United Nations by July 2018.