Or – less eloquently – Quebec Police: You can’t fix Stupid.
We’re going to go back to some very old cases and see just how little the Quebec police have learned over the last 40 years. We’ll look at the 1971 murder of Alice Pare, then the 1972 murder of Ursula Schulze to shed some light on more recent cases. I am less interested in linking these murders to cases I’ve recently been discussing. I think they serve a greater point in demonstrating the lack of growth in Quebec criminal investigation in the past 40 years.
2015 was quite a year for law enforcement in the United States with questions of accountability and transparency in places like Baltimore and Chicago and Ferguson. There is no reason why this wave shouldn’t transfer itself north of the border to Quebec, not forgetting Fredy Villanueva who’s death trailblazed and foreshadowed events of last year.
So let’s ride that wave. First some background:
Pare was 14 when she disappeared walking home from a music lesson in Drummondville, Quebec on February 17, 1971. Around 5:30 pm that evening she left the Pavillion de Musique at 466 rue Saint Jean and crossed the street with the intention of using a phone booth to call her mother to pick her up, but she thought better of it and decided to walk the 1/2 mile home to her parents’ at 667 boulevard Mercure.
Pare was missing for 68 days. SQ investigators Aime Allard, M Saint Cyr, and M Bibeau were in charge of the “missing persons” investigation. But while the police were no doubt fumbling around looking for a runaway, the family got it right. Within two weeks of her disappearance her parents were convinced she had been abducted and that her body would be found in the snow.
They were right.
On the morning of April 26, 1971 Three workers (Andre Camirand, Yvon Lampron, Lucien Paquin) from the farm of Alphege Leclerc on the 3e rang de Sainte-Clothilde de Horton, near Victoriaville, spotted a pair of white boots in a field about 60 feet from the gravel road. When they got closer they discovered the clothed body of Alice Pare lying under a tree.
Called to the scene were detectives Fernand Pepin, Andre Cerutti, Denis Via, Marcel Vigneault, Andre Menard of the Victoriaville Surete du Quebec, and Jacques Gaboury detached from the SQ headquarters in Montreal. Also on the scene was Dr. Jean-Paul Valcourt of the SQ’s Montreal Laboratoire Médecine Légale.
Alice Pare was found fully clothed in her school uniform, her white winter coat had been removed and was near the body. She had been strangled. There was no evidence of sexual assault. Missing was her musical instrument from the day she disappeared, a flute in a black case. The flute was recovered 3 days later next to route 20 between Sainte Clothilde and Saint Albert, about a 10 minute drive from where the body was found.
The case was eventually handed over to Normand Bergeron of SQ Victoriaville, but very little information came forward in the aftermath. Someone claimed they saw Pare getting into a vehicle, a 1970s two door Chevrolet the evening of her disappearance.
Jump forward to October 28, 1975. Allo Police publishes an article that basically states that the police are fishing for information (“the police learned of certain persons who know the identity of the assassin”). By now the case has been moved to the SQ in Trois Rivieres (if you are counting that is at least three jurisdictions touching the case) and is now under the command of Raymond Hebert. Hebert expresses the all too familiar SQ refrain that he felt certain that someone would come forward after all these years, but no one ever did. However he believes that things are moving rapidly now. He is certain it will be resolved.
To my knowledge, the case was never solved.
It is curious that the police waited so long to follow up on the case. Why 1975? Perhaps they were getting nervous. Just that Spring 16-year-old Sharon Prior was found brutally murdered in Longeueil. The crime scenes were not dissimilar. Did they sense they were on the brink of something out of control?
Alice Pare came from a very prominent legal family in Quebec. Her grandfather Joseph Marier was a judge. Her uncle Marcel Marier was a Montreal municipal court judge. Her other uncle Elphege Marier was a superiour court judge. Her step-father Paul Chasse was a lawyer in Drummondville. With that kind of clout you’d think there might have been enough influence to bring the matter to justice. Perhaps it speaks to the disconnect between law enforcement and the court system, a dysfunction not uncommon in many places.
Now let’s jump to another case from that era. The murder or Ursula Shulze:
19-year-old Ursula Schulz was abducted at a bus stop in broad daylight the morning of July 13, 1972 in Brossard, Quebec, which is on the South shore of Montreal very near Longueuil. The incident was witnessed by many people who watched a man force Schulze into the back seat of a car, pin her down and attack her, and then quickly drive away across the Champlain Bridge into Montreal (you can read the article here – many thanks to Dale for bringing this to my attention).
Incredibly, no police agency pursues the matter. Schulze’s body is found the next day. She had been strangled.
An inquiry is called. The following year the Quebec Police Commission, who had oversight of all police forces, issues its report. While praising the efforts of on-the-ground constables the report faulted the force director Marcel Renauld and his Assistant Director Paul-Emile Blain for “”learning nothing” from the incident and failing to instruct force members on how to handle major crimes.”. The report goes on to say, “…the “off-hand” manner of force superiors, coupled with the ignorance of force members on procedures and how to use regional communications system, severely hampered the investigation.”
Hold on. It gets better. In fact, I think I need to quote the whole thing:
“…[the duty officer at the time] did not order roadblocks or inform Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) (recall that in that era the QPP were the Surete du Quebec) because this was not “standard practice” in fact, there were no directives on what standard practice was in such a case.
Other duty officers said they did not know that QPP headquarters was not cut in on the regional network used by municipal forces and thought “somebody else” had informed the QPP directly.
… The QPP were informed of the kidnapping 18 hours after it occurred.
Blain and the officer in charge of criminal investigations, spent the day investigating a report of a robbery by four prison escapees which he told the commission he judged the more serious of the cases.
Both he and Director Renaud thought the QPP had been informed of the kidnapping and were investigating it.
The girl’s father testified that when he visited police headquarters the day of the kidnapping, he was told by Director Renaud that the criminal investigation branch had no time to investigate the kidnapping because they were occupied “with more important matters.””
I know. What a fuck up, right?
Ready for the punchline? Despite the lack of communication. Despite the QPP not being informed. The QPP beat Renaud, Blain and the rest of the Brossard force to the crime scene.
So what was the outcome?
Well I can tell you that shortly thereafter there was a wave of consolidation of regional Quebec forces. Most, like Lennoxville and Coaticook, got swallowed up under the umbrella of the Surete du Quebec. Brossard was merged with the Longeueil police: You need only talk to the family of Sharon Prior to understand their special brand of dysfunction.
Quite seriously, lack of communication very clearly was the issue, especially in the initial phases of a missing persons investigation. One would have hoped the Quebec Police Commission would have made recommendations to address this failure.
So did they? Apparently not. As I am sure you are by now all aware this case (and that of Alice Pare) sounds very familiar.
Let’s jump forward to July 31st, 2007. 9-year-old Cédrika Provencher disappears one afternoon from her neighborhood in Trois Rivieres, and while the police merely declare that she is “missing”, the media believe she has been kidnapped. Despite reports that Cédrika was seen with a man searching for his lost dog, despite overwhelming evidence that she had been abducted, over a week later, on August 8th, the Sûreté du Québec issued a wanted notice for Cédrika, suggesting that she had voluntarily run away.
36 years after Alice Pare, 35 years after Ursula Schulze. The Quebec police had learned absolutely nothing.
In fact one of the initial outcomes of the Provencher disappearance was a concerted effort by people like Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu to call on the Surete du Quebec to create a special squad to deal with missing persons in the first 48-hours of disappearance so that communication errors like this didn’t happen again.
Wait a minute. Back up. Shouldn’t that have been an outcome of the Schulze inquiry?
Let’s look again at the Pare case.
Look I am all for redundancy, everyone needs a back-up. But in my experience too much oversight means no one is accountable or responsible for anything. How many investigators does it take for the Quebec police to solve a murder? How many investigators were called to the Pare crime scene? I counted at least seven. Here is a photo of the body recovery from the Pare site (I will spare you the more graphic photos, I have them. Very disturbing) . it looks like a football scrum:
And here is a photo from the recovery site of Provencher’s remains:
The SQ might think the public is impressed with this, but please believe, it doesn’t give me a warm-and-fuzzy. All I see is evidence being trampled and destroyed by a bunch of amateurs who don’t know a thing about criminal investigation.
Now this is the part where someone tries to tell me I just don’t get it. I don’t get police culture. I don’t understand Quebec police culture. I just don’t get it. They are working hard. Very hard. They’ve changed. Just trust us, we’ve changed.
Did you think I was sitting idle these past 13 years? I was biding my time, raising my children. Waiting. Just hoping the Quebec police would do something right – and we all knew they would fall back on old habits – before I spoke out again.
Oh I get it, man. I’ve been working with police forces for over a decade in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. I got my Masters in Public Administration, with a focus on Justice Administration. I’ve read all the literature. I’ve worked with police here in Durham every day for the past 17-years. I know all about deployment, patrol, community policing, crime abatement… all of it. I help budget $50 million annually in police salaries, I get it.
And every police agency I talk to? They think the Quebec police are a laughing-stock. A complete joke. Remember that book, Criminal Investigative Failures? For the last 2 months its been passed around the criminal investigative unit of the Durham police force. Know why?
- Because they actually think they could learn something from it.
- They can’t believe the incompetence of the Quebec police.
So I know police. Basically there are two types of police officers:
- Those that are dedicated and do their jobs.
- Those that ride the promotion gravy train, padding their pensions until retirement. Doing the least amount of work possible.
Quebec law enforcement has an overabundance of category 2. And with a powerful union that empowers and enables this behavior. We all know it. So let’s just say it.
I want to return one final time to the Pare case. Remember when I said I wasn’t interested in linking these cases to the portfolio of cases I’ve been looking at (Allore, Camirand, Monast, etc…)?
Alice Pare is definitely of interest to a case like Sharon Prior in terms of it’s proximity in time (1971 and 1975), and proximity in victim age (14 and 16). Ursula Schulze is also of interest to Prior in terms of the proximity in time (1972 and 1975), but also the proximity of location (Brossard which is adjacent to Longueuil). By the way, none of what I am disclosing is news to Yvonne Prior, the mother of Sharon Prior. She’s been tracking this for years in a paper file (which she’s shown me), she simply doesn’t have a website.
I’ve thought a lot about the Pare murder. Was this a test case by the perpetrator for things to follow? There are many similarities.
- Found in wooded area: Allore, Prior, Camirand, Houle, Dorion, Dube
- Partially clothed (or clothing removed but close to body): Prior, Dube, Camirand, Bazinet
- Missing identification: Camirand, Monast, Hawkes, Blais, Allore, Basinet
- Identification tossed by roadside: Allore
So what is Pare’s identification? Her flute is her identification:
Think about it.
I’ll give you an example. I have a daughter a little older than Alice Pare. She has a wallet because she has things to carry in it: Drivers license, debit card. The wallet has a little monkey on it.
Now I also have a daughter a little younger than Alice Pare. She does not have a purse or wallet. What she does have is a saxophone and case which she carries with her every day to school. When I’m driving home if I want to distinguish her from all the other kids let out of school, I look for the sax case. It is her identification.
This is similar to Provencher and her bike. Provencher (9) is separated from her bike. The bike is found later leaning against a fire hydrant. Elizabeth Bodzy (14) and Claudette Poirier (15) are also separated from their bikes, which are found some distance from the site of disappearance or remains. And not forgetting the very practical fact that a bike is cumbersome, you don’t take it with you. It at least gives you some indication of where the victim was abducted.
Like other victims, perhaps the perpetrator separated Alice Pare from an easy means to identify her, he discarded the flute case several miles from where he disposed of the body.
The more I think of this, I believe it has less to do with evading capture and more to do with depersonalizing the crime. Identification is symbolic and powerful.
Some things to ponder. More than the police ever offered.