For the first time since its creation three years ago, Quebec police officers have been charged following an investigation by the province’s independent police oversight body.
The Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes, or BEI, quietly charged two officers in recent months, both with sexual assault.
Whereas police departments often send out a news release when a suspect is arrested, the BEI simply updated numbers on its website to show that criminal charges had been laid.
A media officer provided the names of the two officers only after a request from CBC News.
On May 14, a decorated veteran police constable with the Kativik Regional Police Force, Timothy Sangoya, was accused of sexual assault by summons.
The assaults allegedly occurred between 2003 and 2008 in Tasiujaq, a village in eastern Nunavik where Sangoya works, as well as elsewhere in the province.
In 2016, Sangoya was awarded a medal at the Quebec Aboriginal Chiefs of Police annual meeting, citing his “extraordinary commitment to the law and to Nunavimmiut.”
The Kativik police chief, Jean-Pierre Larose, declined to comment but wrote in an e-mail that Sangoya has been suspended with pay.
More than 30 complaints of sexual assault by police under investigation
In July, an arrest warrant was issued for a second officer, Roger Barnaby, a constable with the Listuguj Police Department, which is on the south shore of the Gaspé.
The warrant followed a BEI investigation into an incident in February 2017 on the Listuguj First Nation.
Following allegations of police misconduct against Indigenous women in Val-d’Or, which surfaced in 2015, the BEI was mandated to investigate all suspected criminal acts by police where the complainant is First Nation or Inuit.
The two sexual assault charges laid in recent months stem from lower-profile elements of the BEI’s mandate.
The watchdog is usually in the public eye for investigating incidents where civilians are killed or injured during a police operation.
But the BEI also investigates allegations of other forms of misconduct levied at on-duty officers, in particular incidents of a sexual nature.
According to numbers recently added to its website, the BEI is still investigating more than 30 allegations of sexual assault by police, out of a total of 77 complaints files since its creation in 2016.