The Amber Alert issued across Quebec yesterday, searching for Dayana Di Menna, 7, and Liana Di Menna, 2 from Terrebonne, was quickly cancelled after an officer found the minors 35 minutes after the alert was sent out.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) published a tweet at 6:09 p.m. on Sunday evening notifying citizens of the cancellation, stating "The missing child[ren] were located safe and sound."
Mamadi III Fadi Camara, members of his family and two neighbours are suing the Montreal police (via the City of Montreal) and prosecutors (via Quebec's Attorney General) for damages amounting to $1.2 million. Camara is a Montrealer who was wrongfully arrested by the SPVM for attempted murder in January 2021.
This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.
Camara, who is Black, says that he was the target of "racial profiling" and "abusive force" by Montreal police, according to court documents shared with MTL Blog.
On January 28, 2021, Camara was stopped by SPVM officer Sanjay Vig off Highway 40 in Parc-Extension for allegedly using his cell phone while driving, the document states. Camara denies the accusation.
During the stop, officer Vig was attacked by an unknown assailant.
More police arrived on the scene after Camara dialled 911 for help and he was allowed to leave, the filing continues.
After trying to return home, however, Camara was apprehended by police.
The document describes a forceful arrest in which officers are alleged to have dragged Camara through his car window and "[thrown] him to the ground."
One officer is said to have "placed his boot on Mr. Camara's head and pushed it into the snow."
Camara was placed in detention for six days.
He was cleared of all charges and released on February 3.
The document states that Camara has experienced "a deep sense of humiliation" and "post-traumatic shock" as a result of his experience with police and in detention.
What else does the court document allege?
The document states that "the only reason that explains the persecution of Mr. Camara despite corroborating evidence and the opinion of three officers that he was only a witness is the colour of his skin and his ethnic origin."
It also claims that officer Vig gave a false statement about the traffic stop and wrongfully accused Camara of the assault.
The document further states that "from the first minutes of the investigation, the SPVM plunged into a tunnel vision, leaving out crucial evidence."
The SPVM declined to comment on the lawsuit for this story, citing a desire to not "interfere with or compromise the ongoing process."
The lawsuit amounts to $1.2 million in damages sought among all plaintiffs, including a total of $940,000 sought by Camara for financial damages, "damage to his reputation," "the unlawful detention of six days," "moral damages" and "punitive damages."
This article's cover image is used for illustrative purposes only.
The duties of the officer include conducting, coordinating and directing investigations that target specific subjects or countries, conducting research and analyzing information related to Canada's national security.
To apply for this position, applicants only need a completed bachelor's degree from a recognized Canadian institution.
Candidates should have good interpersonal skills, analytical skills, good oral and written communication skills, good judgment, and the ability to adapt. Knowledge of at least one foreign or indigenous language is considered an asset.
To accommodate diversity, CSIS gives priority to visible minorities and Indigenous peoples. Training will be provided for those who meet the hiring criteria except for bilingualism.
If selected, you will also be required to "successfully complete the Intelligence Officer Training Program (IOTP) which is offered in Ottawa," says the CSIS.
And finally, make sure to be very discreet about your application process. In fact, a polygraph security interview and background investigation are required to obtain an "Enhanced Top Secret" security clearance.
A video taken on June 10 appears to show a Montreal police officer kneeling on the neck and back of a Black teenager while conducting an arrest.
The SPVM told MTL Blog that officers were responding to a 911 call at the George-Vanier High School, in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood, "because a fight was in progress involving about fifteen individuals."
This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.
In a statement sent to MTL Blog, police claimed the teenager in the video was in possession of a taser.
The SPVM said "several statements of offence were issued" during its intervention in the alleged altercation between the 15 individuals. Another individual was allegedly in possession of bear repellent, according to the police report.
"Individuals were arrested for obstructing the work of a peace officer and for possession of a weapon, then released via summons, since they are minors," it continued.
The SPVM said that though "the neck control technique [was] not involved in this situation, it is part of the National Use of Force Model and that the ÉNPQ [École nationale de police du Québec] teaches it to police officers during their initial training."
Regarding the action of kneeling on the teenager's neck, the SPVM added that "certain types of use of force require that police officers write a report and submit it to their supervisor and then to their unit manager, who must then verify whether the use of force was justified."
Police also said a "review of the police response and use of force in this event is currently underway" with "support from the Use of Force Unit and its master instructors."
"Following the review," the SPVM continued, "the [neighbourhood post unit] manager will take the appropriate follow-up actions, as required."
Five months later, McGill has issued one statement and launched three investigations. But the accusers — who asked to be called "the girls" to protect their safety — told MTL Blog they've been left in the dark.
They said they received no updates on how investigations are progressing or whether the accused is facing any penalties.
Meanwhile, they said the student has continued attending classes.
McGill has been following its protocol for investigations into allegations of sexual assault — but this protocol has left the girls and other students in limbo for the majority of the school year.
"We can't feel safe on campus with him lurking around, viewing us as prey," one of the girls, Eva*, told MTL Blog.
Most of the girls were minors at the time of the alleged assaults, as was the accused student, whose name has not been released by the university or the police.
Eva told MTL Blog the accused student frequented bars near McGill residences where he would "talk to, touch and kiss [girls] who were drunk," and that he would persistently "beg" female students to "hook up."
In written testimonies shared with MTL Blog, each of the girls outlined how the accused student sexually assaulted them both off and on campus.
One of them said the accused sexually assaulted her when she was "completely blacked out" from alcohol.
What was McGill's reaction?
McGill responded to the December petition within three days. A statement written by Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning Fabrice Labeau assured the student body and the general public that McGill was "looking into the matter."
"Our foremost concern right now is student wellbeing," Labeau wrote. He expressed what he called a "steadfast commitment to a campus community where everyone feels safe."
Though none of the girls had formally reported their assaults to McGill at the time — something Eva said was because "the resources weren't publicized and the social consequences for reporting were immense" — that changed by the end of December.
Eva said one of the girls filed a police report, and three of the girls filed complaints with McGill, initiating three internal investigations. However, neither the police nor the university was able to confirm details of these investigations to MTL Blog.
A month later, the university had not issued any new statements nor updated the girls involved, Eva said.
MTL Blog asked Cynthia Lee, McGill's associate director of media relations, to confirm the status of the investigations in February. She said that according to McGill's Policy Against Sexual Violence, "when a formal report is made, the University must immediately appoint an external Special Investigator to conduct a full and impartial investigation."
She also said "the entirety of this process is covered by confidentiality regulations," and that she could not disclose any further information.
The silence surrounding the allegations began to disturb other McGill students who said they had to interact with the accused student in their classes.
Anna Ni told MTL Blog she attended an online psychology course with the accused student, where she said he would participate in group discussions while he was part of the ongoing investigations.
She said McGill's ambiguous response to the allegations made her feel "small and voiceless."
"I am grateful for the fact that McGill has resources that can help students struggling with this situation, but McGill's vagueness in their [statement] gave me the impression that they were not actively taking care of this situation," she said.
In a screenshot Ni took of her classmates discussing the accused student's presence in the course via group chat — which she shared with MTL Blog — one student asked, "I thought the school took care of this? Why is he still allowed to study?"
Amrita Kaur, a first-year student unaffiliated with the girls, told MTL Blog that McGill's communications to the student body following the incident — mainly emails consisting of links to support resources — felt "empty."
She emailed the Office of the Dean of Students to express her "extreme disappointment" in the school for allowing the accused student to attend classes "as if nothing ever happened."
"Now I wonder if it's true [...] all great institutions sweep sexual assault under the rug," she wrote in her email to McGill, which she forwarded to MTL Blog.
She said she did not receive a response from the university.
Lee told MTL Blog that at McGill, until an investigation is complete, "disciplinary actions cannot be taken pre-emptively […] however, interim measures are put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those directly affected."
Possible accommodations include late withdrawal from a course or a change in residence — but they only apply to survivors.
MTL Blog found that according to the Policy against Sexual Violence, the university can take pre-emptive disciplinary action if "there may be a risk of harm to any Member of the University Community."
MTL Blog asked Lee if the fact that the accused student was still attending classes meant that the university did not see him as posing a threat to university community members.
She did not directly respond to the question.
What is the 'Code of Silence'?
There is a legal reason why the university claims it is limited regarding what it can divulge about sexual assault investigations.
Brooklyn Frizzle, vice-president of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU), told MTL Blog they believe universities use this law as a "scapegoat" to justify a lack of transparency in cases of sexual violence.
Frizzle said this wasn't the first time students' questions about a case involving sexual misconduct were left unanswered.
"I've lost track of how many emails to the Dean of Students or to the Provost that I've seen, to which there was no response because the university can't legally give a response," they said.
Last year, representatives from l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) started a petition to amend the Act so post-secondary institutions could "inform victims of the disciplinary measures taken against their aggressors."
"Evidence shows that [the Act] contributes to victims' lack of trust in institutional channels, since it keeps the person most affected by the complaint from accessing crucial information for their healing process and to their sense of safety at school and/or work," the petition read.
McGill's Policy states that all investigations should be conducted within 90 days. According to this timeline, the girls' investigations should have ended by April.
But even when the investigations are complete, the Code of Silence means the girls cannot be informed of the penalties that may or may not be imposed on the accused student.
As Lee told MTL Blog, "details or updates concerning particular cases cannot be provided to anyone outside those immediately involved."
This means other students won't know if they can expect to see the accused student in their classes again next semester.
Could the 'Code of Silence' change?
While the public may never know if and how the accused student has been disciplined, McGill's Annual Report on the Policy against Sexual Violence gives some indication of the number of investigations the school has conducted.
McGill provided MTL Blog with a copy of the Annual Report, which specifies that, in 2020, eight of nine completed investigations yielding "a finding of sexual violence" resulted in disciplinary action.
These actions included "admonishment and conduct probation, formal reprimand [and/or] cease and desist communication and contact orders," but it's unclear which actions applied to which investigations.
Out of 18 incidents of sexual violence reported to the university in 2020, 83% were submitted by women. Just one report was submitted by a man, while two were submitted anonymously.
In May, a National Assembly committee presented its findings on possibly amending Bill 64. However, whether the amendments pass remains to be seen. For now, those involved can only know that the investigations are finished.
A 2016 Université Laval study found that 36.9% of Quebec students, faculty and staff experienced some form of sexual violence by another person affiliated with their university.
"It feels constant, like there's [always] some big allegation of sexual violence that we're talking about that we're trying to pressure the university to respond to," Frizzle said.
"It's just the name [that] changes every semester."
*The source's name has been changed at their request to protect their safety.
With files from Ilana Belfer, MTL Blog.
If you require resources or assistance surrounding sexual assault in Quebec, the CAVAC helpline is available 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-532-2822. Other crisis lines and 24/7 options can be found at The Lifeline Canada.