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Calls for police accountability as officers who fatally shot Jean René Olivier face no charges

By Felisha Adam, Posted Feb 18, 2023, 4:55PM EST, Last Updated Feb 18, 2023, 6:45PM EST.

After an investigation by Quebec’s independent police watchdog, Quebec’s Crown prosecutors office announced that police officers in Repentigny, northeast of Montreal, who fatally shot 37-year-old Jean René Olivier in 2021, will not face charges.
“This is very straightforwardly communicating that their life or their son wasn’t important enough to be considered a crime when it was extinguished,” said Ted Rutland, Associate Professor, Geography Planning And Environment at Concordia University.
This decision leaves many in Quebec asking for more to be done to hold police accountable.
“They get to go back to their families and live their lives fulfilled as they so choose. But here you have the Olivier and Bence family that are never going to see their loved one again,” added Joel DeBellefeuille of Red Coalition.
Oliver’s Mother Marie-Mireille Bence called 911 in 2021, worried about the safety of her son who was in mental distress hallucinating, and holding a knife. She hoped to get him to a hospital, but instead he was fatally shot three times in the stomach by officers.
DeBellefeuille added that “it just sends a message to the black community that, you know, if you do something wrong or if your life gets taken away by one of our officers, it’s business as usual after a couple years.”
Olivier’s family in a statement to media say they are deeply disappointed by the decision. Olivier’s Mother says, “I will be overwhelmed forever by the loss of my son, because no one will ever be held responsible for the untimely death of my child”.
The statement continues to say, “This decision further damages the family’s confidence in the Repentigny police. The taking of this decision expressly during Black History Month is interpreted as a message that black life is not taken seriously in Quebec. It is also important to put in place adequate mechanisms to investigate police-related deaths and establish real accountability and transparency in the whole process.”
Something Rutland says the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes has not been providing since its mandate begun in 2016.
“Not one of their investigations about police killing has resulted any charges being laid against a police officer. So we’re not even talking about convictions here. We’re talking about there hasn’t even been any charges laid.”
DeBellefeuille, says close to 50% of calls to 911 in Repentigny often revolve around cases where an individual is in Mental health distress.
“You would think that this particular municipality would be more eager to sensitize their officers in to particular situations where it may involve an individual that that, you know, has a mental health disorders or is in some form of a distress they need to be able to recognize those signals without pulling the trigger first.”
Rutland adding there needs to be alternative intervention options available to avoid tragedies like this one.
“Lots of cities are moving towards a specialized civilian squads where people are unarmed. They’re well-trained to deal with distress like this. And those people deal with these cases all the time. And they don’t kill people.
“They deal with people with knives. And they’re able to de-escalate the situation and disarm the person with a knife. The only question in a city like Montreal or Repentigny is whether that happens 20 years from now after a bunch more people have been killed or whether it happens in the next couple of years.”
CityNews reached out to Me Marie-Livia Beaugé, lawyer for Olivier’s family who said in a statement she could not comment but that a letter of formal notice will be sent to the City of Repentigny.

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