It IS too soon to talk about a public inquiry
Allow me to be the contrarian on the Fredy Villanueva incident. It has been less then a week since the young man was shot dead by police in a scuffle over a game of dice. In less than a week we have seen:
1. A full scale riot in Montreal North, as only Montreal can do it, with burning cars and looting (not sure how this helps the Villanueva family).
2. Quebec’s Minister of Justice, Jacques Dupuis’ reaffirmation that there will be a police inquiry conducted by police from different agencies (in this case the Surete du Quebec investigating the Montreal Police) that will look very seriously into the matter.
3. The establishment of a trust fund for the Villanueva family to defray the cost of funeral expenses with any excesses going toward a scholarship fund for youth in the impoverished- read: minority dominated – Montreal North neighborhood.
All this in less than a week. But that’s not good enough for some people. Instead we have rival political parties (ADQ and Parti Quebecois) making political hay of the matter. We have the media salivating over the topical hot-button issues of racial profiling and police brutality. We have citizens demanding instant reform, asking Dupuis to open up the inquiry to include a citizens panel. And now we have talk of the need for a full-on public inquiry.
People of Quebec, please read your history. Look at the millions of dollars and years of effort you spent over your last public inquiry into the police, The Poitras Commission. I hesitate to say wasted-effort because some reform did come out of that inquiry (organizational reform for the SQ, implementation of strategic planning, shoring up of ethical considerations). But Poitras came with considerable emotional costs to citizens that I believe are still not fully appreciated by Quebec society. What in this shooting incident at this moment justifies more citizen oversight? If anything, possibly an investigation of the societal pressures that impinge on the Montreal North community – of which the police is but one element – need to be investigated. Separating out the police from that community, and merely looking at their actions will not accomplish reform, that is a witch hunt. Let Dupuis’ inquiry run its course and see what happens.
I am not one for cosying up to the police. Do I suspect the police acted brash and may have incited the violence? Without question. You only have to look at the Montebello incident two years ago and this to get a flavor for how subversive and hostile a paramilitary agency can be. But because I know that, I also know this: I fear the police. I would never do anything to provoke them, anger them, or get in their way. Fredy Villanueva’s death is a tragedy because he was young, and all his promise is lost. But I will not place the blame squarely on the police for the loss of his life.