Tag Archives: Montreal-police

Flats happen to the best of us

Flat tire

Flat tire at Union and de Maisonneuve

I was biking home the other day and stopped to take a picture of an empty BIXI station when I heard a pop coming from a few feet away. A police car had turned the corner onto de Maisonneuve Blvd. and its rear wheel went up on the curb.

Well, kinda. The pop was followed by a loud pulsating hissing sound as the car kept driving, and within seconds the tire was a write-off.

The two officers in the car were good-natured about their predicament (probably because it happened while they were on the clock and on patrol), joking with a passer-by.

Need some help with that?

Need some help with that?

They also got some good-natured ribbing from a couple of fellow officers who passed by on foot patrol.

Keep up the good work

Keep up the good work

The four officers quickly assembled the standard civil service work crew formation: One person working, and three supervising.

Officer Anonymous

By law, I am now required to obscure this officer's face in this photo taken from last month's police brutality protest

By law, I am now required to obscure this officer's face in this photo taken from last month's police brutality protest

I have sympathy for Montreal police officers Jean-Loup Lapointe and Stéphanie Pilote. On August 10, 2008, they were patrolling in Montreal North when they spotted some young people engaging in a benign but illegal activity. Doing their duty, they proceeded to arrest one of them, who was breaking a bail condition. The situation quickly got out of control, and fearing for their safety (combined perhaps with inadequate training), they fired at their attackers, mortally wounding one of them, a kid named Fredy Villanueva.

Activists saw this as yet another evil police shooting by bloodthirsty cops. The Villanueva family quickly found that police were more interested in protecting their own than getting answers. And Lapointe and Pilote not only have the death of a young boy on their conscience, but live in fear that they might become the target for revenge because of a situation they never asked to become involved in.

The officers in question took what seemed to me to be a rather odd move in response to this fear: they petitioned the court to issue a publication ban on their names and images, arguing that there were credible threats on their lives and leaving their identities public would make them vulnerable to attack. Perhaps even more shocking, the court agreed and banned publication of their photos (but not their names). Newspapers, TV stations and websites had to scramble to remove the photos from any publicly-accessible archives and add warnings that the photos are not to be published until the ban is lifted.

Even I had to act. The photo above was taken during the police brutality protest last month. One of the protesters took a photo of Lapointe and made a wanted poster which was turned into a picket sign. I’ve deleted the photo from my Flickr collection and obscured his face in this post, because otherwise I could have been found guilty of contempt of court.

I knew about the publication ban because I read the newspaper (and I take a keen interest in media issues). But plenty of others aren’t aware of it yet (or perhaps just choose to ignore it) and so there are still plenty of copies of these photos online. A quick Google search will turn them up pretty quickly, and they’re no doubt part of many photo collections taken from the protest.

This just serves to underscore the absurdity of it all. The photos are already out there, and even the long arm of the law won’t be able to wipe out all traces of them. Those who would do harm to these officers could easily find copies.

More importantly, though, this isn’t about protecting the identity of an underage rape victim, or a police informant, or a child involved in a divorce custody hearing. These are police officers. They have to wear their names on their uniforms when they’re on duty for a reason. They have some expectation of privacy in their private lives, but in a professional capacity they don’t have that freedom.

Again, I have sympathy for the fear Lapointe and Pilote feel. But the threats against them are hardly conclusive, and even if you include the Mafia, premeditated attacks on off-duty police officers are extremely rare here.

I disagree with the decision to impose a publication ban in this case. Of course, in the end it doesn’t matter. The public can live without pictures of these officers for a few months, and anyone who really needs a copy probably already has one.

I can just imagine what will happen if that picket sign makes another appearance at a protest and officers try to arrest the person carrying it for breaking a publication ban.


Sunday was the annual march against police brutality, traditionally the most violent of the year. It’s when people who want to break things and yell “FUCK THA PO-LICE” gather to do exactly that. Then, when some of them are arrested for vandalism or throwing rocks at police officers, they yell “POLICE BRUTALITY!” because they were roughed up a bit during the arrest.

Here’s a slideshow of photos I took (I was late because someone – probably a protester – killed power to the tracks just before it was to begin, but Luc Lavigne has better photos from the beginning of the protest anyway).

The Collectif opposé à la brutalité policière, which organizes the protest, is outraged (OUTRAGED!) that the city and police are now demanding that they be provided with the route the protest takes so that streets can be closed ahead of time. They say they did their best to minimize violence and property destruction because they asked people not to break things when the protest started.

Of course, just as the police protect their colleagues who surpass their authority, protesters protect the masked vandals who are more interested in getting away with what they can than they are making a point. So we get wanton property destruction (which only serves to sway public opinion away from one’s cause) and mass arrests (which no doubt caught a bunch of innocent bystanders in its huge net – La Presse is trying to track them down).

What’s sad, of course, is that police abuse of power is a real issue that deserves attention. The Fredy Villanueva case is already the subject of a public inquiry (which makes me wonder what exactly the protesters want in this case) and the death of Robert Dziekanski brought police procedure and Taser use to strong public criticism.

In the end, the public sympathy for victims of police brutality is undermined by protests such as these, because they show that when properly prepared for an onslaught of rock-throwing anarchists, cops (for the most part) keep their cool and keep the peace.

Similar thoughts from Patrick Lagacé,

Villanuevas take their message to YouTube

In a video message that was posted on Friday (via No One is Illegal), the family of Fredy Villanueva, who was fatally shot by Montreal police in August, ask why Fredy was killed and why, in the public inquiry that was called to determine the underlying causes of his death, the family (including brother Dany, who was also involved in the altercation) is not being offered the services of a lawyer they’ve been promised.

There are two sides to the shooting of Villanueva: either the police were defending themselves against young men who were reaching for their guns, or police officers panicked and shot at unarmed men when less lethal force was called for. The inquiry probably won’t answer the question, whose truth probably lies somewhere in between.

But why they’re not being given a lawyer, when the police have plenty at their disposal, is a question the government should answer.

A rally is being held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Henri-Bourassa Park (corner of Rolland Blvd. and Pascal St. in Montreal North) in the hope that the two questions will be answered.

Killer cops

Thank you, No One is Illegal Montreal, for setting the record straight on the shooting of Fredy Villanueva. It wasn’t an accident, nor the actions of a frightened police officer with inadequate training. It was obviously the expression of the “killer cop’s” blood lust for murdering brown people in cold blood.

Oh, and the riot was justified and rioters aren’t criminals.

“No justice, no peace” indeed. (Doesn’t that just mean “wage war until you get what you think you deserve?”)

The metro car ice cream parlor, and other Just for Laughs outdoor fun

The other day (you know, back when it wasn’t raining), I wandered on to the Just for Laughs outdoor fun zone. For those of you who have never been here, it’s not so much funny ha-ha (the comics are saved for shows people pay for), it’s more about having fun with games, clowns, mimes and other amusing things.

The most amusing thing for me was this: a metro car, pulled out of the garage and parked on the street to be turned into an ice cream parlor.

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Street sale mania

I pity people who have to drive around downtown this weekend. It’s worse than usual because of all the street closures:

  • Ste. Catherine Street is closed between St. Marc and Jeanne-Mance because of a street sale this weekend
  • St. Hubert is closed between Bellechasse and Jean-Talon because of a street sale
  • The area around Place des Arts on Ste. Catherine Street is closed… just ’cause there’s a giant stage there and no point in moving it between festivals
  • St. Catherine Street is closed between Berri (really St. André) and Papineau for the summer
  • The Latin Quarter (St. Denis and de Maisonneuve and the streets around it) is closed for the Just for Laughs festival
  • Notre Dame was closed last night near de Lorimier because of the fireworks
  • Crescent Street is closed between de Maisonneuve and Ste. Catherine for expanded terrasses and entertainment

And I’m sure there’s plenty I missed. It all adds up to one giant headache for downtown drivers.

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TWIM: Racial profiling, dream listener and dancing!

This week was a productive one here at Fagstein WorldMedia Ltd., so much so that I’m three days behind on reading my newspapers. Here’s what’s in Saturday’s paper from yours truly:

No racial profiling here

First up is an interview with Paul Chablo, the communications director at the Montreal police department. He’s the first anglophone to hold the job and has been trying to reach out to anglophone media. He’s also a really nice, charismatic fellow.

But we weren’t talking about him. Instead, the interview is about the police’s response to allegations of racial profiling. It was prompted by allegations from Kamrol Joseph, a 25-year-old black man who was questioned by police after stepping into the street to hail a cab in Cote-Saint-Luc last month. He refused to provide ID and was arrested so he could be ticketed. He was released after his identity was established, with a ticket for jaywalking. He went to the press.

Chablo says this wasn’t a case of racial profiling, and that Joseph only told the officers he was trying to hail a cab after he was arrested. Instead of targetting a black man in an affluent neighbourhood, they were responding to a man in the street sticking his hand out, thinking he was gesturing at police to get their attention.

Believe it or not, that’s the explanation. There were some other insightful comments he gave during the interview:

  • No Montreal police officer has ever been found guilty of racial profiling. There are about 20 complaints per year, but they’re all either shown to be unfounded or inconclusive.
  • A case that went in front of the ethics committee involving Gemma Raeburn, a woman who got a visit from police after neighbours mistook two black men helping her clean her garage for burglars, also wasn’t racial profiling, even though the officers who responded were sanctioned. The police ethics committee ruled against the officers and imposed short suspensions for the comments made to Raeburn, which included “bullets don’t see colour” and “why don’t you go back to your country?” Though the comments were racist, the committee said, the initial reason for the intervention was apparently considered justified from the police’s perspective.
  • In addition to lots of training of new recruits, the police are outreaching to the community, employing the services of Community Contact editor Egbert Gaye as a mediator. (Despite an email asking me to verify, some well-meaning copy editor changed his email address to a grammatically correct but factually incorrect spelling. It’s comtact@bellnet.ca)
  • In all cases where a complaint is brought against officers, the department likes to have sit-down meetings with the citizens and officers involved to solve the matter informally. And such meetings often work, giving people a chance to vent and clear up misunderstandings. A lot of these complaints, Chablo says, come from people who think they’ve been singled out for minor offenses, only to later learn that dozens of other people were ticketed for the same offense on the same day.

UPDATE (Oct. 23): Gemma Raeburn has a response opinion in Saturday’s paper, which takes issue with the “criminal profiling” vs. “racial profiling” comments Chablo made about her case. Some of her outrage I feel might have been my fault, as she understood from my article that Chablo supported the officers in this case. To be clear, he didn’t condone the racist remarks (and freely labelled them as such). His point was simply that this wasn’t “racial profiling” because the police were acting based on a phone call.

I dreamt I read this weird blog

This week’s blog is dream listener, a blog about the hand-painted cardboard signs being posted around the city by its author. It’s a project that started last November and runs for a year, with the author (who wants to remain anonymous due to her quasi-legal activities) writing about her dreams. An audiobook of the project is being released next Friday, with all proceeds going to the St. James Drop-in Centre.

So You Think You Can Pun?

Finally, an explainer about U.S. TV series (mostly reality shows) having their formats licensed to Canadian companies who create Canadian versions and sell them to the CRTC as Canadian content. It was based, of course, on this blog post where I wonder what this is doing to Canadian television. That, in turn, was based on news that CTV has secured the rights to make So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Apparently the Idol franchise is worth more than $2 billion.