QUEBEC — Investigations into allegations of sexual assault by Quebec police officers against native women are nearly finished and the files will soon be sent to Crown prosecutors, the government said Thursday.
Public Security Minister Lise Theriault told the legislature her office first heard about the allegations last May.
Theriault said provincial police conducted "independent" investigations even though the alleged brutality and sexual assault was perpetrated by members of the force in Val-d'Or, in northwestern Quebec.
"I want to reassure people - it is not Val-d'Or police (in charge of the probes)," she said.
The story broke ahead of the broadcast on Thursday night of "Enquete," a Radio-Canada investigative program that looked into the allegations.
The CBC's French-language network reported that eight officers are under investigation.
Premier Philippe Couillard was forced into defending the government's decision to have provincial police investigate their own.
"The inquiry was launched quickly by people who are in the police but who are independent from the detachment or the territory where the incidents allegedly happened," Couillard said.
Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau urged the government to hand the investigation over to a new body whose mandate is to look into incidents or allegations involving a peace officer.
"Does the premier consider that provincial police inquiries into their own officers will reassure the population? Peladeau asked. ''An independent inquiry is the only thing that can re-establish the public's confidence."
Couillard responded by saying the new agency is not yet up and running and that the government would have been criticized had it not acted last May.
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