Quebec police watchdog asked to investigate alleged beating of Senegalese diplomat

Quebec’s law enforcement watchdog has been asked to investigate an incident in which the Republic of Senegal says one of its on-duty diplomats in Ottawa was beaten at her home by police earlier this week

Quebec’s Gatineau Police Service, meanwhile, says its members subdued and arrested a person who was violent toward officers.

The Embassy of Senegal posted a French-language news release from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad about the Tuesday incident on the embassy’s Facebook page on Friday afternoon. The release did not cite the police agency involved. 

“During this operation, the Canadian police exercised humiliating physical and moral violence on the diplomat in front of witnesses and in the presence of her minor children,” according to the release.

“Despite being reminded of the victim’s status as a diplomat and of the inviolability of her home, the Canadian police officers handcuffed her and savagely beat her to the point that she had difficulty breathing, which led to … evacuation by ambulance to the hospital.”

The ministry’s release did not name the diplomat or specify the location of the home, but a French-language release Saturday from Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security said the embassy’s “first counselor” was the subject of a police intervention.

CBC has reached out to the Senegalese embassy and its ministry for comment. 

Police say person was aggressive

Quebec Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety Geneviève Guilbeault announced she had asked the province’s police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, to investigate.

In its own French-language news release issued late Friday night, the Gatineau Police Service said its members were helping a bailiff execute an order and arrived at the scene at around 1:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. 

A police spokesperson later confirmed it happened in Gatineau, Que. 

“The police verified that … the legal officer who authorized the court order had been informed that the person had diplomatic status,” according to the release. “Faced with an aggressive person who refused to co-operate, the police intervened to explain the process and to ensure that everything went smoothly.”

The police service did not specify whether the person was a diplomat with the embassy. 

According to the police release, a policewoman was punched in the face during the intervention, prompting police to arrest the person “for the safety of those present.”

“The person resisted arrest and bit a second officer. The person was then brought to the ground to be subdued [and] was detained in the back of the patrol vehicle, under the supervision of a policewoman, until the bailiff carried out his order and the situation returned to calm,” the release continued. 

“At no time did the person mention having been injured or having pain when questioned.”

The police release went on to state that, later that day, shortly after 3 p.m., “paramedics called the [Gatineau Police Service] for assistance when they were working with this person and about 10 people were present.”

Call for investigation

In its release, the Government of Senegal said it has called for an investigation to be carried out without delay and that “proceedings be brought against the perpetrators of this unacceptable aggression, which constitutes a serious attack on the physical integrity of the person and on human dignity.”

The government also called the incident a “flagrant” violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

“Faced with this situation, the government of Senegal immediately summoned …. the Canadian Embassy in [Senegal’s capital] Dakar to vigorously denounce and strongly condemn this racist and barbaric act,” the government said in its release. 

In its own statement Saturday, Global Affairs Canada called the incident “unacceptable” and “regrettable.”

“Canada takes its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations very seriously. We are extremely concerned by the alleged treatment of a Senegalese diplomat by the [Gatineau police]. What happened was simply unacceptable,” the statement said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has been in contact with her Senegalese counterpart about the incident, the department said, and the Canadian government would “continue to fully co-operate with Senegal to address this regrettable situation.”

The Gatineau Police Service said that, in line with the province’s Police Act, Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DCPP) was asked on Thursday to weigh in on whether a criminal investigation of officers’ actions should take place.

“The [Gatineau Police Service] management will collaborate in any subsequent process or investigation in complete transparency,” according to the release. 

The police service also asked the DCPP to determine whether charges of assault of an officer and obstruction of police are warranted against the person.

But on Saturday, the DCPP confirmed to Quebec’s public security ministry that — due to diplomatic immunity — the investigation against the embassy staff member had been closed.

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