SQ Officers Sue Radio-Canada for Defamation over Val d’Or Report

More than 40 Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers based in Val d’Or, a city in northern Quebec, are seeking nearly $3 million in damages from Radio-Canada and one of its reporters for a report that aired in 2015, alleging that they abused and exploited Indigenous women. The civil court defamation trial began on Monday in Montreal, and is expected to last for more than three months.


The Report that Sparked Controversy and Outrage

The report in question was broadcasted on Enquête, Radio-Canada’s investigative show, in October 2015. It featured interviews with several Indigenous women, who claimed that they were subjected to violence, harassment, and sexual assault by SQ officers in Val d’Or. The women also alleged that the officers paid them for sex with money and drugs, and threatened them with arrest if they refused.

The report caused a public outcry and a political crisis, as it exposed the systemic racism and discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples in Quebec and Canada. The report also prompted the Montreal police to launch an investigation into the allegations, and the Quebec government to create a commission of inquiry into the relations between Indigenous peoples and public services.

The Lawsuit that Claims Reputational Damage and False Accusations

The lawsuit was filed in October 2016 by 42 SQ officers, who were stationed in Val d’Or at the time of the report. The officers claim that the report was defamatory, false, and biased, and that it damaged their reputations and careers. The officers are seeking $2.8 million in damages from Radio-Canada and reporter Josée Dupuis, who conducted the interviews and produced the report.

The officers argue that the report did not verify the information or the credibility of the sources, and that it presented the allegations as facts, without giving them a chance to respond or defend themselves. The officers also contend that the report violated the journalistic standards and ethics of Radio-Canada, and that it caused them emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of income.

The Defence that Stands by the Report and Its Impact

The defence is represented by Radio-Canada and Dupuis, who maintain that the report was accurate, fair, and in the public interest. The defence argues that the report was based on extensive research and verification, and that it followed the rules and guidelines of Radio-Canada. The defence also asserts that the report did not name or identify any individual officer, and that it did not accuse them of any specific crime or misconduct.

The defence also highlights the positive and significant impact of the report, which sparked a social and political change in Quebec and Canada, and raised awareness and understanding of the issues and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples. The defence also points out that the report won several awards and recognitions, such as the Grand Prix Judith Jasmin Award in 2016, for its journalistic excellence and contribution.

The Trial that Will Hear from Various Witnesses and Experts

The trial, which is presided by Superior Court Justice Babak Barin, will hear from various witnesses and experts, who will testify on behalf of both parties. Some of the witnesses include the Indigenous women who appeared in the report, the Montreal police officers who investigated the allegations, the Radio-Canada executives and editors who approved the report, and the experts on journalism, defamation, and Indigenous issues.

The trial is expected to be long and complex, as it will deal with sensitive and controversial topics, such as the rights and responsibilities of the media, the credibility and reliability of the sources, the reputation and integrity of the officers, and the plight and dignity of the Indigenous peoples. The trial will also have implications for the future of journalism and public service in Quebec and Canada.

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