The Senegalese diplomat involved in an allegedly violent Gatineau Police Service intervention later deemed “totally unacceptable” by Global Affairs Canada was embroiled in a rental dispute in the leadup to last week’s incident.
In a June 2022 decision by Quebec’s provincial rental tribunal, the diplomat was ordered to pay more than $45,000, plus interest, to a landlord who claimed his home in Gatineau’s Aylmer sector was damaged during the diplomat’s stay there.
Tribunal database information obtained by Radio-Canada also indicates a “notice of execution” was filed in the case on July 29, followed by a notice to “enter a place” on Aug. 2 — the same day the altercation took place between Gatineau police officers and the Embassy of Senegal diplomat, who was working from home.
Last week, Senegal’s government issued a statement alleging that “Canadian police exercised humiliating physical and moral violence on the diplomat in front of witnesses and in the presence of her minor children.”
When reached by CBC News at the embassy in Ottawa on Monday, Senegal’s ambassador in Ottawa, Viviane Laure Elisabeth Bampassy, declined to comment on the incident while an investigation is underway.
In its own version of events, the Gatineau Police Service said officers were accompanying a bailiff executing an order. Police arrested an aggressive person after one officer was punched, and a second officer was bitten while the person resisted arrest, according to that account.
Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security announced the province’s police watchdog is investigating the actions of officers and that a police complaint against the arrested person has been dropped “due to the applicable diplomatic immunity.”
The incident involved the First Counsellor of the Embassy of Senegal in Ottawa, the ministry added.
The list of people from Senegal accredited with Global Affairs Canada includes only one female first counsellor. That same person is named in the tribunal decision and a later record indicating the Aug. 2 visit.
CBC News is not naming her because it has not been able to reach her to respond to the allegations.
Landlord cited water, mould issues
It remains unclear what else may have happened in the two months between the provincial rental tribunal’s decision to fine the diplomat and the bailiff’s visit to her home last Tuesday — or what exactly the bailiff was doing at the home last week.
But in a June 2 decision, an administrative judge with the tribunal described the rental dispute between the diplomat and her landlord, following an April 26 hearing the diplomat reportedly did not attend.
According to the decision, the diplomat rented the home from November 2018 to October 2020.
In the summer of 2019, the landlord found the basement floor soaked and mould on the walls and learned of other unspecified issues later that year, when the diplomat’s spouse allegedly refused to let the landlord inspect rooms and called police, according to the decision.
“The landlord [left] the premises to prevent the situation from degenerating,” the administrative judge wrote.
The landlord was ultimately granted damages including costs for replacing furniture, repair work to the home and housecleaning as well as “moral damages.”
“The landlord has convinced the court that all the hazards experienced with the tenant exceed the foreseeable hazards and normal conditions of owning a building for rental purposes,” according to the decision.
4 watchdog investigators assigned
In its release about last week’s altercation, the Gatineau Police Service said the person who allegedly committed assault against an officer was “brought to the ground to be subdued [and] was detained in the back of the patrol vehicle under the supervision of a policewoman until the bailiff carried out his order and the situation returned to calm.”
Senegal’s government called the police intervention a “racist and barbaric act” and a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
In a statement over the weekend, Global Affairs Canada said it was “extremely concerned” by the alleged treatment of the diplomat, calling the incident “simply unacceptable.”
On Monday, Quebec’s law enforcement watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), confirmed it has assigned four investigators to the case.
None of those people is a former officer of the Gatineau Police Service, a spokesperson said.
“The investigation’s objective is to determine the exact sequence of events with as much precision as possible,” the spokesperson said.
“At the conclusion of the investigation, the file will be transferred to the directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, whose role and prerogative are to determine if charges should be filed against the officers involved.”