The leader’s hands were tied

Montreal Police Commissioner Sylvain Caron has often had his hands tied against Mayor Valérie Plante and the Quebec government during the shortened term he is ending today.

Reform of Neighborhood Police Stations, Police Funding, Addressing the Firearms Crisis; Sylvain Caron was often said no and rarely had a free hand during his tenure, which was meant to last five years but ultimately lasted less than three and a half years.

This is the finding of several police and political sources who have confided in our Office of Investigation in recent weeks.

These individuals, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, described how difficult it was for the chief to work together with provincial and municipal political bodies:

-In the spring of 2021, the Plante administration held talks with Mr. Caron to slash the budget of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) by several million dollars, but the boss opposed it, state our sources within the police and the town.

As the October 2021 municipal elections approached, “the mayor tried to please voters who were campaigning for the police to be fired,” says one of our informants.

-M Caron and Ms. Plante also shared differing opinions on the subject of neighborhood stations. In a March 11, 2020 presentation to the city council, the director of the SPVM wanted to close four positions in a merger. He wanted to cut costs and put more police on the ground.



On September 2, shots were fired in the Pierrefonds district.  Chief Caron had suggested to the mayor to merge neighborhood stations, especially in this sector, to get more police on the streets again.



Photo archive, agency QMI

On September 2, shots were fired in the Pierrefonds district. Chief Caron had suggested to the mayor to merge neighborhood stations, especially in this sector, to get more police on the streets again.

The merger of substations 3 (Île-Bizard and Pierrefonds-Roxboro) and 4 (Dollard-Des Ormeaux) in the west of the metropolis would have been particularly badly received, we were told.

-The Montreal Police Director also had to contend with the presence of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Legault government in his rearview mirror.

According to our sources, the creation of Operation Centaure to combat the outbreak of violence on the streets of Montreal, announced in September 2021 by Public Safety Minister Geneviève Guilbault, is a will of Quebec.

The command of this unit is also carried out by Chief Inspector Benoit Dubé of the SQ.

At the SPVM, several police officers had also reacted badly to the fact that the SQ had come to manage what was happening on Montreal territory. They say that unlike the provincial police, his department had experience with street gangs.

When Chief Caron announced his resignation last March, he admitted some communication problems with the Plante administration.

“There is a wall between politics and police action,” he admitted, adding that the situation has now been “settled”.



Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault unveiled Operation Centaur in September.



Screenshot, TVA Nouvelles

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault unveiled Operation Centaur in September.

At his side, Valérie Plante assured “that by working together we have found a balance”.

Sylvain Caron, who made a career primarily at the Sûreté du Québec, was brought to the SPVM in March 2018 by Martin Prud’homme, who was then the big boss of the SQ and also managed the Montreal service on an interim basis.

Mr. Caron never hid it from those close to him: he never wanted to become director of the SPVM in November 2018. At the insistence of Martin Prud’homme, he accepted.

Privately, Mr Caron told his colleagues that he did not want to stay longer than three years.

The early departure also avoids Chief Caron entering into negotiations for the next contract with the Brotherhood of Police Officers, which expired December 31.

The talks would have put him in a delicate situation because, according to our sources, he gets along very well with the President of the Brotherhood, Yves Francoeur.

Do you have any information of public interest about the police? Contact me confidentially: 514 212-3937 or marc.sandreschi@quebecormedia.com

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