Quebec City officer didn't violate code of conduct in tear gas incident: new ethics board ruling

·2 min read
Const. Charles-Scott Simard, accompanied by his lawyer Robert DeBlois. Simard fired a tear gas canister into the face of a young woman participating in a protest in 2015.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Const. Charles-Scott Simard, accompanied by his lawyer Robert DeBlois. Simard fired a tear gas canister into the face of a young woman participating in a protest in 2015. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A Quebec City police officer accused of violating his code of conduct by the province's police ethics committee when he struck a protester with a tear gas canister was exonerated Tuesday.

The new ruling says when Charles-Scott Simard fired the canister, he was unaware it was dangerous to do so at point-blank range and he was following orders he was given to disperse a crowd of protesters.

The incident, which took place in March 2015 at a protest over budget cuts at the National Assembly, left Naomie Tremblay-Trudeau injured after Simard fired a tear gas canister that hit her in the face. She was left with significant bruising and burns below her mouth.

In a 2017 ruling, the police ethics committee found Simard did not use proper judgment when he fired the canister. The ruling pointed out that, during his testimony, Simard acknowledged it was dangerous to aim the weapon at someone's face.

Simard was suspended for two days without pay in 2018.

The Court of Quebec quashed the ruling rendered against Simard in 2019, saying his right to a complete defence was violated as he was not privy to all evidence presented by the committee.

During deliberations, the committee examined video evidence from new angles. They also took screenshots and enlarged certain images by 400 per cent, which weren't seen during the nine days of hearings.

The images were used as proof Simard hadn't aimed the weapon below the belt, which a Sûreté Quebec sergeant, Martin Lechasseur, testified to be the safest aim.

Hearings restarted in 2021 with new members of the police ethics committee, who found Simard did not lack proper judgment with how the weapon was used.

The new members opted not to hear from witnesses who testified in 2017.

Simard testified that, before the 2015 incident, he was not taught to respect a minimum distance when firing his weapon or aim for any target areas.

The received training in the use of chemical weapons was based on the efficacy of contamination and only took into account a maximum effective distance, he said.

Simard said he was not informed of any risks of injuries caused by canisters or chemical irritants before the March 26 incident.

This was supported by testimony from an SPVQ instructor.

"Any misconduct and error on the part of a police officer does not automatically constitute an ethical fault," the new ruling reads.

"It is behaviour that markedly deviates from the norm or that reports gross incompetence on the part of the police officer."