Inuit woman suing cop who left her locked in back of police truck with man who ended up raping her

DSC01378.JPGby Graeme Hamilton, National Post, Jan 29, 2015

There was plenty of drinking in Tasiujaq that weekend in 2011, just as there was whenever a shipment of alcohol arrived in the isolated village in Quebec’s far north.

The lone police officer on duty on the night of Sept. 19 had her hands full. Fresh out of police school, she had been on the job less than a month and was not even authorized to carry a sidearm.

But as she apprehended a 17-year-old girl who had become heavily intoxicated, Const. Danielle Gallant made a decision that would come back to haunt her.

According to court documents, she handcuffed the girl and placed her in the back of her Kativik Regional Police Force vehicle truck. Already in the backseat for having caused a disturbance — but not handcuffed — was Joe Kritik, who at age 24 already had four convictions for sexual assault and was listed on the national sex offender registry.

As the officer made a third stop, she left the two detainees alone, and Mr. Kritik pounced on the girl. “When Constable Gallant came back to her vehicle after a short period of time, she observed Mr. Kritik with his pants down while on top of the plaintiff,” a statement of claim filed by the victim states. “The plaintiff was unable to defend herself, being handcuffed in her back and unable to leave the vehicle, the doors being locked.”

Despite the assault, the girl was kept in a police cell overnight and was not given medical attention, the lawsuit says. Her parents were not contacted.

Kritik pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the girl in 2012 and was sentenced to 39 months in prison.

A lawsuit filed last year in Quebec Superior Court against Ms. Gallant, the Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF) and the Kativik Regional Government is seeking $400,000 in damages for the victim, who cannot be identified.

“The KRPF manifested a serious lack of professionalism and gross negligence by leaving an inexperienced police officer, with no knowledge or life experience of northern Quebec populations, and without the authorization to carry a firearm, to ensure alone the security of the public,” the suit, recently uncovered by La Presse, reads.

The allegations have not been tested in court and none of the defendants has filed a defence. A spokeswoman for the Kativik Regional Government, which oversees the police force, said it would not comment while the matter is before the courts. A message left Thursday for Ms. Gallant was not returned.

The assault has left deep psychological scars, according to documents filed with the court. The victim, now 21, had no history of mental health problems but now displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, psychologist Joseph Beltempo concluded after assessing her last year. She experiences nightmares of the rape and will not leave her home alone. She is drinking more and is afraid of men.

“Her depression, loneliness and isolation are getting worse,” the psychologist wrote.

The incident has also shone a light on the policing problems experienced by northern Quebec’s remote Inuit communities. Formed in 1995 with the intention of creating an aboriginal police force, the KRPF remains staffed almost entirely by non-aboriginal officers from the south and experiences a high turnover rate.

Problems in the past have included a former chief convicted of breach of trust and a constable convicted of sexually assaulting a female colleague in 2010.

“We’re not perfect,” Police Chief Aileen MacKinnon was quoted saying in February 2013 by the Nunatsiaq News. “We’re doing the best with what we have.” A month later, KRPF Const. Steve Dery was shot to death while responding to a domestic dispute in Kuujjuaq, and before the year was half over, nearly half the 66-member force had left.

None of that appeared to discourage Ms. Gallant, who is from Ontario. In June 2011 she announced to her followers on Twitter that she had been hired on a four-month contract as a special constable with the KRPF. “So excited!!!” she wrote.

But young recruits often arrive ill-prepared for life in the North, unable to speak Inuktitut and thrust into an environment where alcohol-fuelled crime is common, and most homes have at least one rifle.

The statement of claim says that Ms. Gallant’s actions on Sept. 19, 2011 “show an incredible lack of concern for the safety of the plaintiff.” She was immediately suspended and filed her resignation a few days later, according to the court documents.

Jacques Stuart, the lawyer for the young victim, acknowledged in an interview that the young constable “was placed in a very difficult situation …. She was alone and unarmed. You have to understand, it’s not a big community but when shipments of alcohol arrive, it creates pretty significant problems of public order.”

Posted on January 29, 2015, in Indigenous Women, State Security Forces and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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