NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE !
Montreal Police dodge, stifle and bury vital reports - even when it is a matter of life or death !
When Montreal Police kept refusing to file a report of the assault and robbery of which I am the victim, I felt I was in a nightmare - in China or the Soviet Union - not in Canada !
On October 7, 1996, I was sixty years old, living with my elderly parents while fighting breast cancer, when I was attacked and robbed in my home at 4995 Prince of Wales, NDG, Montreal.
At the beginning of October my teenage niece, Dawn McSweeney, and her boyfriend, Alex Lavergne, had suddenly moved in with us.
Within a week of Dawn's arrival, I was suddenly attacked for no apparent reason and without any warning. In shock, I managed to call 911.
The Montreal Police I called to rescue me - helped the thief instead.
In front of my assailant, the officer ordered me never to return to the house. He forbid me to take any of my belongings with me except my purse, my bible and a pair of shoes I had intended to wear in church that day,
The MUC Police officer "helped" me out of the house, - physically by my arm - and just drove away. Widowed, unemployed and fighting cancer, the police abandoned me in the street alone, cold, homeless and destitute. My entire life was locked up behind me in the hands of my teenage niece, Dawn McSweeney and her boyfriend, Alex Lavergne.
This police officer's unilateral decision to evict me and order me never to return home, gave all my most precious belongings, and my aged parents' lives and property into the hands of Dawn McSweeney.
This action was taken without any investigation. There was no legal procedure. No hearing. No court procedure. No trial. No judgment. No background to support such an action. No justification.
The officer just decided to do it. And then - he did not file a report.
I went to the police station on Mariette in NDG and pleaded with the police to file a report, to go to the house and see for themselves the proof of what I was saying. All my boxes and cases stored in the house, many since 1988, were clearly marked with my name and inventory numbers. A full, detailed inventory was in my files.
But the Montreal Police refused again and again. For more than five months, the police refused repeatedly to file a report of this crime. At 60 years of age and suffering from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I had to start life again - from scratch.
Police officers are very reluctant to write reports. If there is any way they can avoid doing so, they will. It is just too much bother for them. If they take the trouble to write a report, they will be expected to follow through. That means spending time on paper work and time-consuming court appearances. When things finally do get to court - if they ever do, there are usually delays and postponements and the officers may be subjected to cross-examination and have to answer for any mistakes they might have made. So police officers avoid filing a report whenever possible. This is the dilemma the poor victim has to face.
NO POLICE REPORT - NO JUSTICE
The victim can do absolutely nothing about it. If the officers refuse to take a report, it is up to the already beleaguered victim to try to figure out the injustice system and find help.
Reviewing some of my files, I was reminded of another case in which a crime victim was denied the right to a police report when she was trapped, detained and threatened by criminals. In that case, the MUC Police detectives suspected attempted murder.
In a suburb of Montreal, Quebec in 1989, a woman - let's call her Sabrina - living with her handicapped husband in one of the apartments in the tenement building called Crestview Gardens at 12210 Pierrefonds Blvd., tried to start a tenants' association with her neighbours. Strong fumes from the garage were entering some of the apartments and there were other problems. Tenants peeking out from behind their apartment doors said they were afraid to act.
Twenty two tenants signed Sabrina's petition, but their fears were justified. Sabrina's efforts didn't sit well with the building managers and the janitor and his wife, Therese Santerre, took steps to make life miserable for her. Sabrina and a tenant who dared to help her were followed in the hallways when they called on neighbours. Bags of garbage were tied to her apartment door handle. On three occasions someone turned in false alarms using the device closest to her apartment, bringing the firemen to her door and casting a shadow on her character.
As reported in the Montreal Gazette on April 5, 1990, Sabrina claimed "Santer threatened in April to hurt her if she continued putting up tenants' association posters in hallways. Police laid a charge of making threats. Sabrina said, 'They would bang on my door in the middle of the night or would ring my bell endlessly ... On October 13 ... she was hit on the back in the garage while she was carrying groceries to her apartment. Santer was charged with assault. Later that month, the phone in Sabrina's apartment began ringing day and night. Police charged Santerre with making anonymous calls but Pierrefond's prosecutor declined to proceed with the charge. 'She (Sabrina) is the one who harassed me', Santerre said, ' She called the cops because someone dropped some water on her balcony. Even the cops are scared of her....' "
Finally in the summer of 1989, after health department tests proved that gasoline and exhaust fumes were indeed seeping into Sabrina's apartment from the garage, the janitor and a second man, not known to Sabrina, trapped her in her car in the underground garage as she was trying to go out.
She looked back and saw the men at the electric power box. She was trapped and paralysed with fear, alone in the dimly lit garage with the two men just a few steps away to her right by the switch box.
Hot panic ! Stop ! Think !
From her left side, a glint of light struck her eye. A side door was slightly ajar! Terrified, she decided her only hope was to make a run for it. She bolted from her car and escaped into the street.
Immediately, in the bright sunlight, Sabrina saw a very heavy man sitting on the big boulder on the lawn by the bus stop and she ran to him and told him what had just happened. At that moment she saw a police van coming along Pierrefonds Blvd from the west.
Sabrina ran to the curb and yelled and chased and flagged down the van and told the two officers what had happened.
As Sabrina led the police officers toward the front entrance of the building, a fire truck pulled up and firemen started rushing ahead of them toward the entrance.
Back in the garage, one of the police officers told Sabrina that the janitor said she had tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire in her car.
The police found no sign of fire in the car - not a cinder, an ash or a singe. But a burnt packet of paper matches was given to the police by the janitor.
Charring and three burnt paper matches were soon found by the police on the garage floor UNDER Sabrina's car.
Sabrina's husband, unable to walk on his own, and so many other innocent people were at home in their apartments during the afternoon. She was shocked by the events and stunned at the suggestion that she would start a fire and risk their lives.
Finally, the police did a little test and found that Sabrina, a non-smoker - was not able to light paper matches.
There was no follow-up.
When Sabrina called for the police report, she was told that there was no record whatever of these events and the police said they could not identify the officers she had summoned to the scene, even though she provided all the details, descriptions, time and place.
Now she and her dear husband were left on their own at Crestview Gardens with neighbours mute behind closed doors. She did not dare to park her car in the garage again and there was no parking on the nearby streets. She soon found her windshield smashed.
Sabrina approached the secretary at St. Barnabas Anglican Church next door to Crestview Gardens and Fr. Bob Smith, hearing of her plight, allowed her to park her car on the church lot for the remainder of her lease.
Before long, Montreal Police detectives took an interest in these events. They told us that the janitors had planned to get rid of their problems by setting fire to Sabrina's car while she was trapped, thus squelching any further attempts by anyone to start a tenants' association in their buildings.
The detectives told us that, while the men detained Sabrina in the garage, the janitor's wife, Therese Santerre, called the fire department to provide the gang with an alibi. They did not expect her to escape.
With the encouragement of friends and the help and support of these police detectives, and one brave tenant in particular - Sabrina helped the police press criminal charges in court in Montreal in March, 1990.
The accused - who customarily dressed in black leather and rode motorbikes flying Confederate flags - came to court transformed in pressed slacks and fresh shirts. Therese Santerre traded her fringed leather jacket for a demure beige skirt, a dainty white blouse and baby doll shoes.
The detectives who were providing protection for Sabrina and her husband were not happy with the outcome of the case against these individuals they had told us were known criminals.
Without a police report by the officers who examined the crime scene, the tenant was unable to prove her case.
The perpetrators walked away smiling.
However, later, in civil court, Sabrina was granted $1,000.00 in damages. A very small compensation for all the pain and suffering.
I know all this to be true because, I am "Sabrina."
This case resulted in the formation of the West island Tenants' Association headed by that one brave tenant who stood by my side throughout this ordeal, Mr. Brian Curnock.
Years passed. My darling husband died in 1992. A friend led me to a healing service - "coincidentally" - at St. Barnabas Church in Pierrefonds. I moved to Ontario looking for work. I fell ill with breast cancer. But I kept returning to Montreal to attend services at St. Barnabas.
At Epiphany, 1994, Fr. Bob Smith baptized me in St. Barnabas Church.
These events were first reported in Phyllis Carter's newsletter,
I am Phyllis Carter