Chilling statement

Sûreté du Québec officers sue Radio-Canada for defamation

Forty two Sûreté du Québec officers from Val-d’Or, Que. are suing Radio-Canada and Radio-Canada journalist Josée Dupuis for defamation in relation to an October 2015 report in which Indigenous women described systemic abuse by police.

Police officers filed the lawsuit in Oct. 2016, a year after Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête broadcast the report, but the trial did not begin until February 2024. The officers are seeking $2.9 million in damages

Radio-Canada has stood by Enquête’s reporting, which it insists was fair and accurate: “The report was of great public interest. We intend to demonstrate the seriousness and rigour of our team’s journalistic methods,” Radio-Canada spokesperson Marc Pichette said

The Radio-Canada report quoted Indigenous women who described widespread violence, discrimination and abuse of power by police officers, including sexual assaults and “starlight tours” in which women were driven far out of town and abandoned. Women who spoke with Radio-Canada also said police paid or traded drugs for sex

The report led to a provincial public inquiry which found “systemic discrimination” by public services, including police, against Indigenous people in Quebec. The report also prompted an investigation of the Val-d’Or SQ led by Montreal police. The investigation looked at 37 allegations; eight officers were suspended, but no criminal charges were filed. Several police officers were later charged after the provincial government expanded the investigation’s mandate to other parts of Quebec. 

No individual officer was named in Dupuis’ Oct. 2015 report. But in court filings, lawyers for police described Radio-Canada’s reporting as “biased and misleading” and said that the story had damaged the officers’ reputation and created an environment in Val-d’Or which the officers found “personally hostile,” reported Le Devoir. At the defamation trial in March 2024, one officer described the report as a “bomb,” which left him “stressed, devastated.”

At the trial, police lawyers focused on how Dupuis, who is now retired, verified the credibility of women quoted in the report, and tried to cast doubt on the report’s allegations. The trial is scheduled to continue until May 2024.