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Jean-Félix Chénier June 14, 2012
Original French Text: http://voir.ca/jean-felix-chenier/2012/06/14/la-politisation-de-la-police/
Those who are capable of extricating themselves from the opinion-makers’ opinions on the youth uprising have long understood that the Charest government has decided to break the student movement.
The actual strategy is to link the red square to violence and intimidation or to associate those wearing the squares to those who endorse chaos. The Minister of Culture Christine St-Pierre is therefore partly excused for her demagogic and malicious proposals about how to treat the infamous square-wearers. The Premier Mr. Charest is amongst the most malicious; as he won’t stop accusing Pauline Marois of treating the red square as though it were a symbol of fascism. This discourse even seems to be at the heart of the election strategy that the Liberal Party is following.
The problem is that this strategy is starting to take hold: it’s apparent to those using condemnation that they’re in it as well. These people are known as pyromaniacal firefighters. Their tactics unfortunately have the same extremism as those whose politics they are condemning. Their tools to get to their goals - to win elections using fear and the restoration of order - are the same as those of the vilest political regimes in history.
The most harmful tool in the Charest government’s harmful tool chest is the special law that grants police forces immense power to decide and implement the many parts of the law that threaten our fundamental liberties. This law grants police forces powers that they may use very poorly given the circumstances. From guardians of order, too many police have slid toward battle and have chosen their side: they are against the “dirty” students. Their foul language, their heightened violence, their abusive and inadequate use of the tools at their disposal have done nothing but fan the flames of this conflict. This may also illustrate that the police chiefs have abandoned their fundamental mission: to assure safety and order. They have instead chosen to serve the ambition of a corrupted government that dreams of crushing its youth.
This is more than sad. It’s worrying. Our very political foundations are being affected by this slide into a police state. The dominating idea of the state since Tomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is that the state holds a monopoly on legitimate violence: it is therefore the only one with the power to acceptably restrain people as this is done in the name of security for all… It’s this legitimization of violence that is now being contested in the missing judgment of the police and their chiefs. As a result it is the foundations of modern politics that crumble when the political powers and the big arm of the state (our police forces) seem joined in battle against a protesting but by and large pacifist majority.
On top of numerous preventative arrests, political profiling, the interrogation of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois seemingly ordered by the Minister of Public Safety, and the abusive treatment of protesters, a recent event witnessed by this sentinel of the battle that has overwhelmed the polices forces: the Monday June 11 arrest of a student at Maisonneuve College, Mathieu B. Girard, going with his family towards Chicoutimi to prepare for the funeral of his sister who he himself found dead a few days earlier.
Is it necessary to say more to point out the awfulness of this situation? What was the purpose of this arrest when, in similar cases, it is usually enough to get from the apprehended individual a promise of appearance, or even to contact the person’s lawyer? Is it possible that the goal of this arrest was to capitalize on the emotional fragility of this student so as to get him to implicate others? If this was the case, these strategies are those of psychological torture and they deserve to be denounced.
Whatever reprehensible acts Mathieu’s been accused of; he has the right to dignity and respect. It seems backwards that he instead faced contempt and the lack of judgment that increasingly characterizes a growing number of police forces in the context of an extended student strike. The Montreal Metro Police Force (SPVM) that ordered this arrest as well as the Provincial Police (SQ) that proceeded without judgment in this arrest must have an inquiry to address what appears in this instance to be a gross lack of humanity and an abuse of power.
Just so that you clearly understand me, if these criminal acts were committed by militants in the cause of the students, or by a small group that profited from the crisis for their own gain, they should be arrested and tried. But we don’t need a special law to fight against these groups. The normal powers of and tools at the disposal of the police are more than sufficient.
The direction of the Charest government and the choice of a special law that strengthens select police powers created the conditions that led to the politicization of the police that we’re noticing. While we must condemn the violence of certain protesters, why not condemn the police violence that has hurt eyes, bruised ribs, lacerated faces, stunned individuals, humiliated protesters?
To ease this worrying slide towards police politicization and to end the complacent investigations on scummy police a permanent independent commission must be put into place to investigate the complaints raised against the police forces, a commission that would comprise citizens, representatives from community groups, and experts.
For now, the SPVM and the SQ owe apologies to Mathieu B. Girard and to his family.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.