Quebecers have become accustomed to egregious manoeuvres by labour leaders in the name of "solidarity." Most are relatively harmless. Juvenile pressure tactics by, among others, Montreal police are more embarrassing than dangerous. But this week, the concept of union solidarity became warped to a point that is undeniably dangerous.
"I've known six or seven SQ (Sûreté du Québec) officers who asked me for oral sex," said one aboriginal woman in Val-d'Or interviewed by Radio-Canada's investigative news program Enquête. "I was so high that I didn't feel anything, I didn't care. I wanted money to buy dope."
She said officers would pay for the acts in cash and/or drugs, and even communicate that an extra $100 was to "shut your mouth."
Others, all indigenous women, alleged systematic, prolonged abuse; the women say they would be driven to the outskirts of Val-d'Or, made to perform oral sex on male officers and, if they refused, left stranded in the woods. There were allegations, also, of beatings by police. Complaints to the SQ, in some cases, went unanswered for years.
So now, the SQ finds itself engulfed in allegations that paint a rather disturbing picture: A vulnerable group of young, marginalized women preyed on by members of the only police force in the region available to protect them — a crisis of confidence in law enforcement, by any reasonable person's definition.
"To say we are in crisis, no, I don't think so," declared SQ director general Martin Prud'homme this week, adding "but we have to do something."
Not to be outdone in insensitivity, the head of the SQ's union said that calling a public inquiry into the abuse would be an exercise in "burning money" (their views are on the matter aren't pertinent since their colleagues are suspects).
Pierre Veilleux, president of the Association des policiers provinciaux du Québec (APPQ), added that public security minister Lise Thériault "helped to increase the anger of the population toward the police in Quebec" after an emotional press conference where she teared up, as if anger needed to be stoked.
What's far more irrational than Thériault's tears is the solidarity exhibited by the SQ and union leadership in the face of multiple allegations, multiple suspects and compelling testimony. Even faced with graphic, detailed accounts, SQ leaders choose to repeat tropes about the presumption of innocence and due process.
Veilleux and Prud'homme's stances actually lack solidarity with the majority of SQ officers who are not predators, and who are presumably hoping for swift justice and the forging of a more cooperative relationship with Quebec's indigenous population. And Veilleux's stance certainly lacks solidarity with the greater labour movement, which should be a progressive, feminist force in any society.