Quebec's minister for combatting racism 'very relieved' by verdict in George Floyd murder

The Legault government is welcoming the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, handed down Tuesday by a jury in the U.S. in the death of George Floyd.

Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

The death of George Floyd last year sparked protests around the world, including in Quebec, where the plight of racialized people has come to the forefront.

In a press scrum at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Benoit Charette, the minister responsible for the fight against racism, said he was "very relieved."

"It was the judgment that was desired. We know very well that it will not bring back Mr. Floyd to his family, but ... the whole world ... has been able to realize that the civil rights struggle is not yet over," the minister said. 

"At the Quebec level, for us, it is also a signal that there is work to be done," he added.

Charette recalled that an action group against racism was formed in June in Quebec in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Some 20 recommendations were presented in December.

The appointment of a minister responsible for the fight against racism was one of those recommendations and Charette was appointed to the position in February.

Quebecers now expect more results, the minister said, assuring that a first assessment of the government's actions would be made "within a few weeks."

Already, he said, the government has announced that it is improving the training of police techniques, to better equip future police officers in their interventions with cultural communities.

MINISTER SUPPORTS FILMING POLICE INTERACTIONS

Derek Chauvin held his knee against George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes while the 46-year-old Black man struggled to breathe.

"One thing is certain: this case sends a message to Quebec police forces that behaviour of this nature is not acceptable and is punishable," Charette said.

He said he even encourages citizens to film police brutality. Without the video of Mr. Floyd's murder, "we can take it for granted that there would not have been charges," he said.

"Citizens who think they are witnessing inappropriate actions are well within their rights to film them... It serves justice," he said, adding that he is in favour of the use of body cameras by police officers.

However, the minister specified that, according to him, the majority of the police officers in Quebec do excellent work.

The body cameras will be tested by the Surete du Quebec (SQ) in four pilot projects, announced his colleague, Genevieve Guilbault, the Minister of Public Security.

She explained that the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) has already tested these cameras but have encountered "certain problems."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021. 

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