Supporters joined the family and friends of a man fatally shot by police on Nun’s Island in Montreal in September as they marched through Montreal’s Chinatown demanding answers.
About 150 people gathered at the march in Sun-Yat-Sen Park on Sunday to demand a coroner’s inquest into the killing of Ronny Kay, 38, and reforms to how authorities handle cases of people in distress.
“We have the feeling that the authorities are trying to bury the death of Ronny Kay,” said May Chiu, a rally organizer and member of the ad hoc committee Justice for Ronny Kay. “That’s why we have to be very visible and mobilize. And we’re doing a public action to make sure that Ronny Kay’s memory stays alive and there is accountability for his death.”
Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officers arrived near the intersection of René-Lévesque Boulevard and Berlioz Street on Nuns’ Island at around 12:30 p.m. after receiving reports of a man holding what seemed to be a gun.
A responding officer fired at least one shot at Kay after he allegedly pointed an imitation gun in their direction, police watchdog Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) said in a statement that day.
The BEI also said it had assigned five investigators to look into the case and that the Quebec provincial police would assist the investigators.
Speaking at the rally, Debola Kay, the man’s grieving older sister, shared the final phone call she had with her brother, saying an argument erupted after Kay’s ex-girlfriend came by his condo unannounced to pick up her belongings.
Debola recalled her brother telling her that he was frightened after the police had been called into his condo after the argument. The woman noted Kay’s past traumatic experience with the authorities while addressing the attendees at the rally.
Upon arriving at his home on Nun’s Island, Debola said the police informed her that her brother was missing, and she implored them not to shoot her brother and let her know once they found him, explaining that she needed to be with him to help him calm down.
Despite her efforts, the responding officers allegedly brushed off her request and ordered her to remain in her car. Debola said authorities eventually found her brother and took him to a hospital. A doctor informed the woman hours later that her brother was dead.
“Ronny did not have a police record,” his sister said at the march. “He hadn’t committed a crime. My brother was in distress. My brother was vulnerable. My brother simply needed help.”
Michelle Kay, the man’s other sister, said the Montreal police only contacted them once following her brother’s death and that they have not heard anything from the authorities aside from the BEI investigators. She also noted that no one from the SPVM has offered condolences to her family.
The police watchdog informed the family that the investigation could last up to three months and possibly even longer once a coroner’s inquest is started.
“There could be a lot more transparency. But it’s easier to say, ‘Oh, the inquiry is ongoing, so we’re not going to say anything,'” Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, the family’s lawyer, said. “I think we should — and could — do better.”
Michelle also shared an incident that occurred at a pharmacy when people called the police on her mother after she suffered a breakdown, possibly related to the death of Kay, three weeks after the fatal shooting. She recalled seeing her mother, who she described as being in her 60s, handcuffed and pressed against a wall crying in pain.
The woman was accused of “disturbing the peace” and “will have to go to court in the next few weeks,” Michelle said.
“For us, this is simply abuse of power by the police against vulnerable people,” she added. “Things have to change. Not just for my brother, but for this society. We can’t live in fear of the police.”
The Kay family has issued an open letter addressed to BEI Director Pierre Goulet, Quebec’s chief coroner Pascale Descary and interim SPVM Chief Sophie Roy, among others, demanding an inquest, access to psychosocial services for the family and condolences from the SPVM.
Hundreds of individuals and around three dozen rights groups have reportedly signed the letter.