Josée Dupuis testifies on the stand at the defamation trial of the Val-d’Or police officers

“We were in a particular context in Canada, there was a very strong demand for a commission of inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, indigenous women were disappearing at an astonishing rate. So we wanted to know: what makes these women disappear? That these young girls disappear? Why did they disappear? That was our initial intention, to find out what was happening, why these women are so vulnerable. »

During her first day on the witness stand Thursday, in the trial brought by Val-d’Or police officers against Radio-Canada and journalist Josée Dupuis, she returned to the context which led her to take an interest in police abuse of indigenous women in Val-d’Or.

“I wanted to try to understand vulnerability — I’m going to repeat that term often because that’s the situation — she explained to Superior Court Judge Babak Barin. [Je voulais] understand why they disappear a hundred times more than white women. This is not normal, it is scandalous. Even on a global scale, we single out Canada for this. »

Josée Dupuis, who has more than 40 years of experience as a journalist and whose work has been honored on numerous occasions, both in Quebec and internationally, had often worked with indigenous communities in the past. Describing herself as a “field journalist”, she went to ask the question to the main stakeholders.

“Contact with indigenous women was not always easy, there were some who were much more reticent and closed and others who were much more open […] These are women who spoke to me about their parents, their families, who spoke to me about prostitution, homelessness, fear for their daughters, [de leur peur] to disappear. These are women who opened their hearts to me and I opened mine. As a white woman, they trusted me and they talked to me. »

From Montreal to Val-d’Or

It was at the Montreal Indigenous Center that it all began. It was there that, for the first time, she heard about Sindy Ruperthouse, an indigenous woman who had been missing for over a year and whom no one in the general public had ever heard of. It was there, too, that it was suggested to him that he go to Val-d’Or, a place that was described to him as a “crossroads” for different indigenous communities.

During a first exploratory stay in Val-d’Or, the journalist met workers who had received confidences from women and young girls in the world of prostitution. We told him about the cross-country ski chalet and the “blowjobs” that took place there. We also talk to him about the “geographic cures” carried out by the police and which are described, in the report, as a practice which consists of taking women far into the woods so that they sober up, thus putting their safety at risk.

She will consolidate this information during subsequent stays and will go to meet Sindy Ruperthouse’s parents. “It was a couple who were quite distraught, quite saddened,” said Dupuis. We talked about her daughter, the last call, the violent partner, the fact that they felt alone, that the investigators had never come to see them.”

After a first visit to their residence, the journalist accompanied them to the family camp, a “place of contemplation” more than an hour from Val-d’Or, where she shared a meal with the whole family. “Usually, we don’t do that, we don’t eat on our filming locations, but here, we were quite far away in the woods and it was also a way of being polite to the family,” she said. precise.

Journalistic neutrality

Earlier in the morning, the defendants’ lawyer, Me Geneviève Gagnon took the lead on questions which will certainly be addressed in cross-examination next Tuesday, by questioning her client on the notion of journalistic neutrality. “One of the criticisms we hear about investigative journalism is that by wanting to change things, it can lead the journalist to lose objectivity or neutrality or lead them towards an objective. How do you respect these journalistic values ​​by doing investigative journalism? »

Josée Dupuis took the opportunity to highlight the importance and rigor of the work of investigative journalists. “We meet so many people, we need to corroborate what they tell us. We don’t go out there in public to make a scene like that. We need evidence, we need interviews, corroborations. This takes the version of the party who is liable. It’s not a show. It is journalism that is important and, for sure, can hit hard when there is something to denounce. And that’s what journalism is there for. »

“And neutrality remains there if we reveal the truth,” she continued. And that’s what the investigation does: it reveals the flaws and reveals the truth by corroborating with everyone and giving the chance to those who are targeted to give their point of view. »

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