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Canada suspends police over aboriginal sexual abuse allegations

Several aboriginal women have accused Quebec police of physically abusing them if they refused to perform sexual acts. Canada's public security minister has suspended eight police officers tied to the case.

Several campaigns have attempted to raise awareness about the systemic abuse aboriginal women and girls face in Canada

Several campaigns have attempted to raise awareness about the systemic abuse aboriginal women and girls face in Canada

Officials in Canada's Quebec province said on Friday that at least nine police officers were suspected of sexually assaulting and abusing aboriginal women.

Eight of the police officers were put suspended, while one of them has died since the allegations emerged in May.

On Wednesday, new information emerged on public broadcaster Radio-Canada's investigative "Enquete" program, which aired interviews of 12 victims.

One of the women allegedly assaulted by the police officers said she was taken to a remote area in northwestern Quebec and forced to perform oral sex for money. Others said the police routinely tried to pay for the sex acts with cash or drugs.

If the women refused, the police officers would resort to physical assault or abandoning them in remote areas after destroying their mobile phones, forcing them to walk to their residences in cold temperatures, the victims testified, according to the news agency AFP.

'Disturbing revelations'

Meanwhile, Canadian Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said Montreal police launched an internal investigation into the allegations in May "out of a concern for transparency," adding that officers were allowed to remain on duty.

"We cannot remain insensitive to these shocking and disturbing revelations," Theriault said during a press conference on Friday.

"The government will not tolerate any deviations in police conduct and [we] intend to support the population of Val-d'Or," Theriault added, referring to the rural town where many of the aboriginal women in the case reside.

Systemic abuse?

Canada has been criticized for its past policies towards aboriginal communities, with research published in June saying the country

committed "cultural genocide,"

lasting from the 1840s to the 1990s.

Canada's policies, including its residential school system, attempted to "eradicate aboriginal culture and assimilate children into mainstream society," said the report published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

The investigation, lasting six years, documented the horrific physical abuse, rape and malnutrition suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended schools under the program.

ls/bw (AFP, AP)

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