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Family of Black man injured in violent arrest sues Quebec City, police force for $180K

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2022-05-21 CBC/Radio-Canada

The family of Pacifique Niyokwizera is suing the City of Quebec and its police force for $180,000 after the young Black man was injured during a police intervention last fall. 

On Nov. 27, Service de police de la ville de Québec (SPVQ) officers were filmed striking and kicking snow in the face of then 18-year-old Niyokwizara while he was being restrained on the ground outside the Dagobert night club. 

His family alleges the officers held Niyokwizera down and "beat him until he suffered a concussion and significant swelling in the face, including a bloody and swollen eye," according to the statement of claim obtained by Radio-Canada. 

Niyokwizera's mother and two sisters are claiming a total of $180,000 from Quebec City and the SPVQ for injuries, troubles, stress and inconveniences thar resulted from the arrest, according to the statement of claim.

The video of the altercation was shared widely on social media at the time, reigniting discussions of racial profiling and the use of force during police interventions.

After the incident, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault asked Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner Marc-André Dowd to investigate the police officers involved in the arrest. 

In December, the five officers were suspended with pay as part of an "evolving investigation." All have since returned to work.


Video: Former troopers charged in Black motorist beating (The Canadian Press)

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Lawyer says racial profiling was involved

Niyokwizera's family lawyer, Fernando Belton, believes the police had no valid reason to arrest the young man last fall.

"We are talking about an arrest that is unfounded. An arrest that is unjustified in the facts. An arrest for which a police officer has neither reasonable suspicion nor reasonable cause to believe that an offence has been committed," he said.

Pacifique Niyokwizera's lawyer Fernando Belton says his client was victim of racial profiling. © Radio-Canada Pacifique Niyokwizera's lawyer Fernando Belton says his client was victim of racial profiling.

Belton also argues that the young Black man was harmed because of the colour of his skin, having said in December the arrest was "definitely a case of racial profiling." 

Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand refused an interview with Radio-Canada, but his press secretary confirmed the city has been informed of the legal action. 

"We will take the time to evaluate the cases filed with our teams and we will not comment given the legal nature of the case," Thomas Gaudreault said in a statement.

The SPVQ would not comment on the lawsuit, as the Police Ethics Commissioner is still investigating.

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