Montreal's Chinese community demands answers after man was killed by police

The square at Sun Yat-sen Park in Chinatown was filled with people rallying to pressure authorities to provide the Kay family and public with answers. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
The square at Sun Yat-sen Park in Chinatown was filled with people rallying to pressure authorities to provide the Kay family and public with answers. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

Two months after her brother Ronny was shot and killed by Montreal police, Michelle Kay and her family are still waiting for answers and condolences from authorities.

"The system is not made for the family to have normal grieving," Kay told CBC at a rally Sunday that drew dozens of people to Sun Yat-sen Park in Chinatown.

"You don't just kill somebody then leave the family on their own."

In the initial report from Quebec's police watchdog, a 911 caller said a man was walking around with what appeared to be a handgun.

The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officer who responded to the call shot Ronny after he pointed the object in the direction of the officer, the report said.

He died shortly after being transported to hospital.

Guy Lapointe, a spokesperson for the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), later said the man was carrying an imitation gun.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

The 38-year-old's death is being investigated by the BEI, who say they have been in touch with the family but cannot give any information as their inquiry is ongoing.

But that excuse isn't good enough for the Kay family, who say they don't know what happened during the police intervention.

"It's normal we're asking questions. You cannot just steal somebody from us and not give us any information," said Michelle Kay.

She says Montreal police only contacted her family once, right after her brother's death, and since then she hasn't heard from anyone other than a BEI investigator.

Kay said she was told it would take at least three months to complete the watchdog's report, and even longer if a coroner's inquest is launched.

Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, the family's lawyer, said a lack of transparency in investigations and an unwillingness to acknowledge trauma causes families of those killed by police to lose trust in the authorities.

That mistrust only grows as they wait for answers that seemingly aren't coming, she said.

"There could be a lot more transparency. But it's easier to say, 'Oh, the inquiry is ongoing, so we're not going to say anything,'" said Dufresne-Lemire.

"I think we should — and could — do better."

Community rallies for answers

The square at Sun Yat-sen Park was filled with people rallying to pressure authorities to provide both the Kay family and the public with answers.

The family is calling for a public coroner's investigation and reforms to how police intervene with people in distress.

"You have to be human and talk to the person. I think they need to change, I'm not the first person to say that," Kay said.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

The ad hoc committee with Justice for Ronny Kay, the group that organized the rally, is demanding that a public coroner's inquiry on the causes and circumstances of Ronny's death be launched right away, and that the family be provided with psychosocial services and a formal apology from the SPVM.

"We have the feeling that the authorities are trying to bury the death of Ronny Kay," said committee member May Chiu.

"That's why we have to be very visible and mobilize. And we're doing a public action to make sure that Ronny Kay's memory stays alive and there is accountability for his death."

'A great soul'

Michelle Kay said she wants her brother to be remembered as someone who loved life and strived to make things better around him, not just for his death.

"He is the one who would ask questions and learn a lot of stuff. He [was] a curious person," she said.

"People told me stories about Ronny. He was very kind, a great soul, and the fact that his life was taken away in a few minutes — it's frustrating."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Jimmy Chan, president of the Chan Associations of Montreal, said that when he was the director of a youth program at the Chinatown cultural centre, he got to know Ronny Kay as a volunteer.

"When I found out what happened through the news, I was really extremely in shock and very emotional," Chan said.

"Why take away a life from someone who has so much to offer the community?"