Ten years ago, they were arrested in the context of mass demonstrations by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM). A decade later, the effects of this attack on their fundamental rights – as recognized by the Superior Court in February – still leaves them with scars. Today, these victims are demanding a public apology from the City of Montreal and, above all, a change in police practices.
“We don’t want cheap excuses,” said Sandrine Ricci at a press conference on Tuesday morning. She is the representative of one of the 16 class actions that won their case against the City of Montreal by an amicable agreement on February 23.
On Tuesday, for the first time since the conclusion of the agreement, several representatives joined in asking Mayor Valérie Plante and SPVM chief Fady Dagher to recognize the wrongs perpetrated by the authorities during these mass arrests, considered illegal, from 2011 to 2015.
They are asking for a more “sincere” public apology than those attached on the City of Montreal’s website, in a hard-to-find one-paragraph statement.
“That evening, it was among other things my right to safety and my right to integrity that were violated, but also our right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and association, which been bullied,” testifies Isabelle Matton. On May 20, 2012, the then daycare educator participated in a nighttime demonstration at the corner of Sherbrooke and Saint-Denis streets in Montreal.
The demonstration took place within the framework of the maple spring on tuition fees, but also in opposition to the new special law 78 of the Charest government, adopted two days earlier. This controversial law limited, among other things, the right to demonstrate.
In front of the media, Isabelle Matton affirmed that she still lives with the consequences of the illegal arrest suffered that evening: “I feared for my safety. I was blinded by cayenne pepper, I breathed tear gas for the first time, I heard a sound bomb explode right next to me. I was scared. […] I received shield blows, while I cried, in tears, to the police to stop hurting me, ”she describes.
“We were detained for hours, overnight, without access to water, toilets, food, while the police taunted us, threatened some of them to give us a ticket if they urinated on the public road, she continues. We were told that we deserved how we were treated. »
Today, she still has nightmares. “I was afraid to go out to protest. I’m still afraid to protest,” she said.
The six representatives of different class actions decided to speak on Tuesday, because they believe that the City of Montreal must also share what it plans to do to ensure that the SPVM changes its practices.
Remember that under the agreement signed in February, nearly 3,200 people will share $6 million, or compensation of approximately $1,500 per person.
Beyond the financial amount, it is the symbolic significance of this legal victory that matters, explain several representatives gathered at UQAM.
“The purpose of the class action was not to reduce our fundamental rights to a sum of money, but to bring the City to fully assume the consequences of its undemocratic management of the demonstrations. Apologies only make sense if they are clearly, explicitly and publicly expressed and taken on board.”
Representatives referenced the public apology in 2017 by ex-Montreal mayor Denis Coderre regarding police roundups of LGBTQ communities from 1960 to 1990.