New squads with a mix of police and community workers to serve four cities in Quebec

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GATINEAU, QUE. – Four new intervention teams, made up of a mix of police officers and community workers, will be set up in Quebec to work with Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals struggling with certain social problems.

These teams will first touch the ground in Roberval, Chibougamau, Joliette and Maniwaki, municipalities served by the Sûreté du Québec.

The Legault government plans to invest nearly $ 11.7 million over four years in the project.

Quebec Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault and Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière made the announcement on Monday in Gatineau.

“We are going to have police officers from the Sûreté du Québec who will work jointly with community workers who will be associated with either the Native Friendship Centers,” [regional health authorities] or which will also come from the native police forces, ”explained Guilbault.

The new patrols will intervene with people struggling with a particular problem – for example, alcohol and drug use, social disruption, frequent arrests and homelessness.

These mixed teams, which are inspired by a formula that already exists in Quebec and elsewhere in North America, will aim to direct these vulnerable people to resources suited to their needs and to intervene better in a crisis situation.

The presence of community interveners or Native civilian liaison officers within these teams aims to make the interventions “more appropriate”, “safer” and “more useful,” said Guilbault.

“Because arresting and then prosecuting people who have mental health or other social problems is both ineffective and counterproductive,” she argued.

The mixed teams are intended to play a preventive role in matters of drug addiction, violence and sexual exploitation, in addition to improving relations between homeless people and local populations.

“It does not replace the police that we know, it is an addition. And what is interesting is that it is the wish of the communities”, declared Lafrenière.

These teams will be put in place “as soon as possible,” said Guilbault. Maniwaki could be in place by March 31, then the other three teams will follow.

The project stems from one of the recommendations of the report of the Viens commission on relations between Aboriginals and certain public services in Quebec. It aims to strengthen the bonds of trust between the First Nations and the police.

The initiative also responds to a recommendation of the Action Group against Racism.

The chief of the Kitigan Zibi band council in the Outaouais, Dylan Whiteduck, said the mixed patrols were a “start”.

“I think this addresses some of the issues we are facing,” said Whiteduck, who called on Quebec to work on increasing cases of fentanyl use.

This report by La Presse Canadienne was first published in French on December 13, 2021.

(The Canadian Press)


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