Quebec’s, public security minister has announced a formal investigation into how and why a PhD candidate from Guinea was arrested, charged with attempted murder and then kept in detention for six nights before being told at a bail hearing that he was free to go.
In a statement Tuesday, Geneviève Guilbault said the inquiry, set to begin Feb. 22, will be charged with “allowing us to better understand events, identify the difficulties that may arise in this type of investigation and, above all, if necessary, find concrete solutions to correct the shortcomings.”
Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne will preside over the inquiry that will try to find out what went wrong after 31-year-old Mamadi III Fara Camara, a Montreal resident, was pulled in the city’s Parc-Extension district for using his phone while driving.
Hours later, police came to his home and arrested him, because, they said, he had attacked the officer who had pulled him over, Sanjay Vig, taken Vig’s gun, and fired some shots during a heated confrontation.
Camara, an engineer by training who oversees a laboratory at École polytechnique de Montréal, maintained he had had nothing to do with the confrontation–that it was another man.
Camara, whose wife is expecting twins, was taken to jail that Thursday night.
Camara’s arrest, according to his niece Manty Keita, was ugly.
She told Haitian comedian Renzel Dashington in a live Instagram interview that both her uncle and his wife, who is expecting twins, had been traumatized.
“They ransacked his house, they searched it from top to bottom. She is in an impossible state,” alleged Keita, saying that Camara’s wife went to her sister’s house.
“He was wounded in the face when the police put him on the ground,” she said.
When Camara showed up for what he thought was a bail hearing the following Wednesday, six days after his arrest, he was told that charges against him were being stayed because new evidence–from a traffic surveillance video–showed a third man at the scene.
Two days later, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa he was “troubled” by Camara’s arrest and detention, Montreal Police Director Sylvain Caron issued Camara a formal apology and exonerated him.
“I want Montrealers to know that he has nothing to be ashamed of,” Caron told a press conference in Montreal.
Caron did not answer reporters’ questions, saying an information session will be held for the public and the media to explain the police investigation process but did not say when the session would be held.
Montreal police say Camara’s arrest and detention, which drew attention across a wide swath of Quebec media, had nothing to do with Camara being racially profiled.
But in a city that has been grappling with what critics say is a culture of systemic racism by members of the police department, that may not be an easy sell.
And, as (now-requited) demands for an inquiry grew, so did anger.
Last Friday, about 100 people gathered in front of a subway station in the neighbourhood where Camara was stopped.
Protesters condemned the arrest and called for an end to systemic racism, with many saying they didn’t believe Camara would have been arrested if he was white.
On Sunday night Camara’s lawyer, Cédric Materne, told the popular Radio-Canada television talk show Tout le monde en parle that Camara was “extremely scared” during his detention and was considering a lawsuit against the Montreal Police Department for wrongful arrest.
“He didn’t know what was going to happen,” Materne said.
Meanwhile, the man who allegedly attacked Const. Sanjay Vig on Jan. 28 remains at large.
The search to find him continues.
With files from CBC News (Isaac Olson), Radio-Canada, The Canadian Press, RCI