Rights group seeks public inquiry into demise of man in Montreal jail

Breadcrumb Trail links

Red Coalition also calls for release of any video of incident, an independent autopsy and creation of a citizens’ oversight board for correctional services.

Published Jan 09, 20235 minutes read

Red Coalition executive director and founder Joel DeBellefeuille, left, with director Alain Babineau at press conference on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Red Coalition executive director and founder Joel DeBellefeuille, left, with director Alain Babineau at press conference on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Photo by Pierre on top /Montreal Gazette

Article content

A rights group supporting the family of the young man who died after an altercation at a Montreal detention center on Christmas Eve is calling on the province to do more to shed light on his death — and to take steps to address the systemic issues it says led to it.

Advertisement 2

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Red Coalition, a group that aims to end racial profiling and discrimination, held a news conference on Saturday to highlight its course of action. In addition to filing a systemic racism complaint with the Quebec ombudsman, the group is calling on Public Security Minister François Bonnardel to launch a public coroner’s inquest into the man’s death. It also wants the immediate release of any footage of the interaction that led to it, an independent autopsy and the creation of a citizens’ oversight board for correctional services in Quebec.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails or any newsletter. Postmedia Network Inc | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Article content

Nicous D’Andre Spring, 21, was being illegally detained at Montreal’s Bordeaux jail when he was pepper-sprayed while wearing a spit hood in an altercation that led to his death. He was supposed to be released a day earlier.

Advertisement 3

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“Nicous was a young aspiring artist … but he was more than that,” said Alain Babineau, a retired RCMP officer and current director on issues of racial profiling and public safety for the Red Coalition. “He was a son, a grandson, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a young mentor and a friend to many. … The Red Coalition will fight to get justice for Nicous by all avenues available. And also to make sure that this will never happen again to anyone.”

The group acknowledged the government has taken some action in the time since Spring’s death, including by launching an internal investigation to determine why the man was still detained, a coroner’s investigation to determine his cause of death and a criminal investigation to see if charges are warranted against those involved in it.

Advertisement 4

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“The Red Coalition will fight to get justice for Nicous by all avenues available,” says Alain Babineau of the Red Coalition. Photo by Pierre on top /Montreal Gazette

“However, the investigation by the (Sûreté du Québec) and the administrative investigation by the public security minister are not public, and their reports will not be made public,” Babineau said. “The investigation by the coroner’s office usually only leads to a … summary report that does not shed light on the actions and possible negligence of the authorities. Therefore, the Red Coalition is calling for more than that.”

Bonnardel’s office refused to comment on the list of requests made by the group Saturday, citing ongoing investigations, but provided a statement saying it “wants full light to be shed on the events surrounding this death, including the aspect of illegal detention.”

“To do this, several investigations are underway and we are not ruling out any future option, including that of launching a public inquiry,” a spokesperson said in an email. “However, we must await the results of the criminal investigation. We will let the authorities do their job. The mistakes made will have to be assumed and answered. The minister of public security will follow up on any recommendations that may be made following the investigations.”

Advertisement 5

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The group said that as a result of similar situations not being taken seriously over the years, the community has lost trust in institutions, which contributed to the decision to demand independent investigations and for the release of the video. The family — who chose not to speak at the news conference Saturday on the advice of their lawyer — has received very little information about Spring’s death during the past two weeks, the group said.

People attend a vigil for Nicous D'Andre Spring at Benny park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area of ​​Montreal Friday, Dec.  30, 2022. People attend a vigil for Nicous D’Andre Spring at Benny park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area of ​​Montreal Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Photo by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

“Now take a moment to reflect on that: This family has still not received any adequate information to temporarily subside their anger, frustration, grief and pain due to the loss of Nicous,” said Joel DeBellefeuille, the executive director of the Red Coalition. “It is inconceivable and unimaginable that they’re being tormented by this anguish on a daily basis without answers. … How are we as a community going to ensure that nothing — I said nothing — like this happens again to any of our loved ones? There is no justification that will appear the devastation Nicous’s family is feeling right now.”

Advertisement 6

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Listing various studies and statistics that highlight how Black people — young men in particular — are overrepresented in prisons in Canada, the group said it believes Spring was a victim of systemic discrimination. Community member David Austin said that while it’s impossible to know what was going through the minds of the guards involved in Spring’s death, the incident was part of a larger pattern.

“This is part of an ongoing pattern of both violence in police custody and in the prisons, which contributes to this overall sense of fear and this palpable sense of dread that, particularly, young Black youth experience on an ongoing, day-to-day base,” he said. “As a member of the Black community in Montreal and in this country, I want to say that we can no longer sit by and watch this unfold. It is absolutely true that the absence of recognition that there’s a systematic, systemic ongoing structural problem to do with race in this country contributes to and facilitates the kind of actions that we’ve seen.”

Advertisement 7

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The hope is that a public inquiry would examine the larger issues that led to Spring’s death, Austin said.

“For me, any public inquiry should not just be looking at the individual case — although that’s the point of departure — but looking at the structural, systemic problems that facilitate this,” he said. “We know that profiling is an ongoing problem, we know that Black folks are disproportionately arrested and detained and incarcerated, all of this is actually true. … The next step is to address the structural problems, or else we’ll be going from one individual case to the next — which has been the ongoing pattern.”

Part of addressing the structural problem would be through the creation of a committee of citizens from diverse backgrounds who could “keep an eye on what’s going on” in Quebec’s correctional facilities, Babineau said.

Advertisement 8

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

To address an issue, however, one must first acknowledge that it exists, the group pointed out.

“We’re also going to repeat that Premier François Legault and the entire (Coalition Avenir Québec) government (need to) recognize the existence of systemic racism in Quebec, which has never, ever stopped flooding the foundations of the province’s institutions, which includes the Bordeaux prison facility,” DeBellefeuille said.

Legault’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

[email protected]

  1. People attend a vigil for Nicous D'Andre Spring at Benny park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area of ​​Montreal Friday, December 30, 2022. D'Andre Spring, 21, died of his injuries following a

    “We can’t let this slide,” supporters say at vigil for man fatally injured in prison

  2. Bordeaux jail is shown in Montreal, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Quebec's Public Security Department says a 21-year-old man who died after suffering injuries at a Montreal jail should have been released the day before.

    Man killed after being injured in Montreal jail was in ‘illegal’ detention

  3. People attend a vigil for Nicous D'Andre Spring at Benny Park in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce on Friday, Dec.  30, 2022. D'Andre Spring, 21, died of his injuries following a

    Family of Montrealers killed while illegally detained wanting systemic racism inquiry

  4. People attend a vigil in memory of Nicous D'Andre Spring in Montreal, Friday, Dec.  30, 2022. Spring died in hospital after reportedly suffering injuries on Saturday, Dec.  24, at the Bordeaux provincial jail.

    Inquiry demanded into Montreal jail death after guards used pepper spray, spit hood

Share this article on your social network

Advertisement 1

This advertisement has not been loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encouraging all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Comments are closed.