Judgment of the Court of Appeal | Municipal police officers will be able to remain silent during BEI investigations

(Montreal) Municipal police officers will be able to remain silent and will not be obliged to submit reports as part of an investigation by the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI).

The Federation of Municipal Police Officers of Quebec and the Brotherhood of Police Officers of Montreal won their case against the Government of Quebec under a judgment rendered on April 30, 2024 by Judge Robert M. Mainville, of the Court call.

The municipal police officers had already received a favorable judgment in Superior Court in 2022, but the Quebec government decided to appeal its case.

Police unions argued that forcing police officers to speak or share their reports violated their right to silence and not incriminate themselves.

For the submission of the documents to the BEI, the judge rules that as the police officer involved is himself the subject of the investigation, “he cannot be forced to serve as a source of information on his own criminal actions”.

Judge Mainville emphasizes that if he has a professional obligation to produce this report, he should not be forced to provide it to the BEI, even if he can do so voluntarily.

Regarding the meeting with the investigators, the judge says that the police officer involved has the right to silence and that he should be informed of this at the start.

The Bureau of Independent Investigations, established by the Marois government in 2013, has the mandate to investigate when a person or a police officer dies or is seriously injured during a police intervention or detention by the police.

The government rejected

The judge therefore rejected the government’s argument according to which the submission of the report to the BEI and the absence of warnings during the meetings were necessary to ensure an investigation carried out “with speed, efficiency, impartiality, independence or transparency and to preserve public confidence in the justice system.

“Other provinces that have adopted similar investigative measures do not impose such obligations on the officer involved and there is no evidence in the record to suggest that this would harm these investigations or undermine public confidence” , notes Judge Minville.

To justify his decision, the judge emphasizes that the BEI’s investigations are criminal in nature, therefore they must be governed by the Criminal Code and common law – which are under federal jurisdiction.

“That being said, this does not mean that the provincial legislator cannot legislate with regard to investigations carried out by a police force, such as the BEI. He can certainly do it,” underlines the judge.

“However, provincial legislation cannot contradict or cancel the rules and principles of criminal law and criminal procedure, which fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal legislator. »

In an email, a spokesperson for the Brotherhood of Police Officers of Montreal indicated that President Yves Francoeur was happy with this decision.

“For him, it is a great victory which preserves the fundamental rights of police officers,” said Isabelle Lewis, director of communications and public relations at the Fraternity.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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