In an “important precedent,” the Quebec Court of Appeal held that Ottawa and Quebec breached their duty to act honourably after it refused to adequately finance the police department of a First Nation to ensure that its services were equal in quality to those offered to non-Indigenous communities, according to aboriginal law experts.
The ruling, deemed by pundits as a “pretty striking way of reading” Canada’s agreements with First Nations on programs and services, ordered both the federal and the Quebec government to pay the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan First Nation, located in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, $1.6 million to cover years of underfunding of its police force. A year ago, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal concluded in Dominique (on behalf of the members of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation) v. Public Safety Canada, 2022 CHRT 4 that the same First Nation were victims of discrimination due to inadequate police funding, a decision Canada is seeking judicial review.
A 2017 fatal Montreal police shooting of a man underlined a lack of sufficient training to de-escalate situations when faced with people in the midst of a mental health crisis, found Quebec coroner Luc Malouin.
Pierre Coriolan, 58, was tasered, struck with a rubber bullet and shot three times. Malouin castigated police for using rapid-response tactical training, whose aim is to isolate and control the threatening person. But it is not appropriate approach to deal with people whose mental state is “disturbed,” said Malouin in his 33-page report.
“This intervention does not meet what is expected of police officers trained in recent years. And, in my humble opinion, this is the biggest problem of this intervention: police officers who have not had the most recent training in intervention with people in crisis (and) therefore acted with outdated methods that were in no way up to date with current knowledge.”
Those in the line of duty recognize that training is deficient. According to a 2021 report by an expert panel on Quebec policing, nearly 40 per cent of police consider mental health crisis management training to be inadequate. More than 70 per cent of patrol officers working for the Quebec provincial police believe their training is “deficient” to deal with people facing mental health issues. At present, about 480 hours of training in the police college training program are devoted to “interventions of a social nature.”
From the report:
On-duty police officers “lack the tools, resources and training to fulfil their social role, particularly in terms of intervention with people with mental health problems, sexual violence, domestic violence, or to make effective contact with members of ethnocultural communities.
From a police perspective, the gap between training and the challenges encountered on the street is based on the fact that many of the skills and behaviours adapted to the new realities are not easily acquired in schools or through refresher training, but rather are the result of the experience acquired or the basic temperament of the police officer. (my underlining)
In 2019 Quebec police received more than 80,000 calls to deal with people facing mental distress.