Officers accused of inciting violence to testify before police ethics panel

Bill Curry

Ottawa — From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Oct. 23, 2009 9:15PM EDT Last updated on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 10:24AM EDT

Three undercover officers accused of inciting protesters to attack riot police at the 2007 North American leaders summit in Montebello are being summoned to testify before Quebec's independent police ethics committee.

The decision from the committee released this week overrules an independent review that exonerated the officers. It also comes more than two years after the black-clad trio were first exposed on YouTube.

Dave Coles, the union leader who confronted the men at the time and filed a complaint against the police, said a public inquiry is needed to determine whether they were acting on orders from federal officials.

Mr. Coles said he suspects an inquiry would find there was political involvement, predicting a repeat of the findings of an inquiry into the police pepper spray tactics at Vancouver's 1997 APEC summit. That inquiry led to the resignation of solicitor-general Andy Scott, and concluded that Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien's office played an “improper role” in instructing police to use force on protesters.

“This is the big question: Who sent them in?” asked Mr. Coles, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. “And don't give me some lame excuse that it was a low-level officer.”

Security at the summit was ultimately the responsibility of the RCMP and then-minister of public safety Stockwell Day. However, Quebec's police force, the Sûreté du Québec, was given the responsibility for managing the protesters.

The international gathering of the Security and Prosperity Partnership took place at a resort in the small Quebec town of Montebello, about an hour east of Gatineau. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was host to U.S. president George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Shortly after the incident, Mr. Day dismissed calls for an inquiry. His successor, Peter Van Loan, said through a spokesperson Friday that it is up to Quebec to decide whether an inquiry is needed.

Video images of the incident posted on YouTube showed three officers disguised as protesters wearing black tops and camouflage pants.

Their faces were covered by black and white bandanas. One of them, wearing a sideways ball cap marked with graffiti, held a large stone in his hand.

Mr. Coles yelled at them to show their faces and the officer carrying the rock responded with a two-handed shove.

“Although infiltration by police officers in order to arrest criminal offenders is acceptable, all acts committed by these officers towards this end are not necessarily legitimate,” a report by the Police Ethics Committee said.

The committee, which has the power to issue binding rulings on the Quebec police, will hold public hearings on the issue within the next six months. The three officers – Jean-François Boucher, Joey Laflamme and Patrick Tremblay – are required to appear. The hearings will determine whether the officers breached the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers by using obscene language, refusing to identify themselves and inciting others to violence.

This week's decision overrules an earlier finding by Quebec's Police Ethics Commissioner. The commissioner concluded in May of this year that while the incident was “unfortunate,” the actions of the officers did not entail malice, nor did they justify a citation against the officers.

When the images first appeared on YouTube, it took several days before the SQ confirmed the men were police officers. The SQ has consistently denied that the officers incited violence.