No Charges Against Val-d’Or Police For Sexual Harassment of Native Women

by Frank Larue

 Sindy Ruperthouse was an Algoquin woman who disappeared in 2014. She was last seen in a hospital in Val-d’Or, and her parents still continue the search for her. They have travelled to Montreal, Ottawa, and all little towns in-between, but they have not found any clues that would lead them to their daughter. The Grand Council of the Cree are offering a $50,000- reward for information that would lead to Sindy’s where-abouts. Unfortunately, this rewards has not been given away. Sindy still remains missing. Over the past two-years, the Police have had to change the missing to a homicide. There is nobody to support the belief that Sindy was the victim of foul play, but considering the time-frame of her disappearance, police believe Sindy Ruperhouse is another victim in the long list of missing and murdered native women.

Downtown Val d’Or north of Montreal. Indigenous communities lose faith in system after no charges filed against Val-d’Or SQ officers. Photo: Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette

Downtown Val d’Or north of Montreal. Indigenous communities lose faith in system after no charges filed against Val-d’Or SQ officers. Photo: Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette

Sindy was recovering from a beating in a hospital before she disappeared. She may have become a cold case to the police, but to her own people, she is remembered. Her disappearance has inspired native women living in Val-d’Or to go public with claims of abuse by the city’s police. Radio Canada’s French investigative show Enquete spoke to several of the women, and they were shocked at some of the women’s claims. Enquete referred to the police behaviour as the culture of violence against women in northern Quebec. In response, these women told of the Val-d’Or police officers who would pick native-women up when leaving bars. They would make sure the women had been drinking. If she was, they’d either rough her up, or take her to the outskirts of the city. Here, the women would be forced to perform sexual acts, and then left to walk home.

An investigation by the police in Montreal was initiated to clear-up the situation. Native leaders and female organizations were expecting charges to be laid,  but the six officers who had been suspended had all charges against them dropped. They are now suing Radio Canada. Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief for the Quebec Grand Council of the Cree, told the CBC. “The allegations are about specific abuses committed by specific individuals of the SQ against specific Cree and Algonquin women. These are accusations of rape… When does a rapist become a scapegoat? There are accusations of assault… How does an assailant become a scapegoat? There are accusations of supplying drugs and alcohol… How does a drug dealer, or a bootlegger, become a scapegoat? Wanting justice is not searching for a scapegoat.”

Native leaders are seething, but no one should be surprised because when the police investigate the police, no matter what the charge, the police are never charged. The Val-d’Or police have introduced cameras on all police vehicles, and police will be sometimes accompanied by a social worker. This seems to be a sensible prevention attempt. But what about the women who were already abused? Are they not deserving of justice? The Val-d’Or police walk away without even a slap-on-the-wrist. This reminds me of Neil Stonechild, a young native man left to freeze on a cold Saskatchewan night by policemen who escaped any form of punishment. Human rights are respected if you are white, but if you are an Aboriginal woman, you are stripped of these rights by sadistic racists who are not only protected by the police, but are the police themselves.