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Five Quebec City police officers suspended after violent arrest of Black youth

Pacifique Niyokwizera was violently restrained by Quebec City police Friday night outside a bar.

In footage posted to social media, a Quebec City police officer is seen shoving snow in the face of a Black youth while they are pinned on the ground.

Five officers from the Quebec City police have been suspended following the violent detainment of Black youths , the force announced Tuesday.

The suspensions were announced amid an investigation into a video taken Friday night showing a man kneeling on one of the youths and an officer shoving snow in his face while he was being arrested on the ground outside of a bar. On Saturday, the Service de police de la Ville de Québec said it would be opening an investigation after the videos of the arrest came to management’s attention, saying the behaviour of the officers “greatly concerns” them.

The commissioner of police ethics examines complaints of violations of the code of conduct governing police officers, whereas the BEI is called in to investigate whenever a death or serious injury occurs during a police operation.

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said Tuesday the incident would be dealt with in a more open and independent manner if investigated by the BEI.

Niyokwizera’s lawyer, Fernando Belton, said an investigation by anyone other than the BEI would make no sense.

“We want an independent investigation to be done because what we’ve heard so far is that the police will be investigating the police, which is nonsense, especially for a case such as this one,” Belton said. “The BEI is there for that. That’s the reason why we created that bureau, so why don’t we want to use it?”

In light of the incident, Québec solidaire is calling for an independent study on racial profiling in the province. Sol Zanetti, the MNA for Jean-Lesage, tabled a motion in the National Assembly for such a study on Tuesday, but the party said in a statement that the Legault government blocked it.

“The brutal arrest of Pacifique Niyokwizera … is unfortunately not an isolated case,” Zanetti said. “We have taken note of numerous testimonies from racialized people residing in Quebec City who denounce the racial profiling of which they are victims.”

Belton said Niyokwizera is considering suing the city over his treatment.

“The city is responsible for the actions of its police,” Belton said. “In our opinion, there is a serious fault that has been committed on the part of the police, in the way they treated Pacifique. And we’re talking about the question of brutal arrests, but also about an arrest that was motivated and based on racial profiling.”

Belton said it’s unclear why Niyokwizera was arrested. According to the lawyer, Niyokwizera and his friends were outside the bar following an altercation indoors that didn’t involve him when the group came into contact with police officers who pepper-sprayed everyone.

“What’s notable is the police at a certain point took (Niyokwizera’s) phone, threw it, handcuffed him, searched him,” Belton said. “They drove with him for several minutes and then abandoned him somewhere in the street without a phone, without a wallet, without cards, and they told him to go home.

“I didn’t know that in Quebec we still did that kind of thing.”

With files from The Canadian Press

  1. In footage posted to social media, a Quebec City police officer is seen shoving snow in the face of a Black youth while they are pinned on the ground.

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