Johanna Pellus, Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 06, 2022 3:05 PM EDT
Last updated Saturday, August 6, 2022 4:44 PM EDT
GATINEAU, Que. – Global Affairs Canada says it is “extremely concerned” by allegations that a Senegalese diplomat was detained and beaten by police in an Ottawa suburb last week.
“What happened was simply unacceptable,” Sabrine Barakat, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs, wrote in an email Saturday.
The Senegalese foreign ministry said the diplomat, who works at the West African nation’s embassy in Ottawa, was detained and assaulted at his home in Gatineau, Que., on Aug. 2.
She was “handcuffed and severely beaten, to the point that she had difficulty breathing, which led to her being taken to the hospital by ambulance,” the ministry said in a statement dated Thursday but not released until Friday.
The ministry did not immediately provide further information on her condition.
The Gatineau Police Service said in a press release issued Friday night in response to the allegations by the Senegalese government that officers were called to assist a bailiff who was trying to execute a court order Tuesday afternoon.
Police said the subject of the warrant, identified only as a woman with diplomatic status, was “aggressive and refused to cooperate.”
They claimed that when the officers tried to explain the process, the woman punched a female police officer in the face.
Officers then decided to arrest the woman “for the safety of everyone present,” according to the release. Police alleged the woman resisted arrest, bit another officer and was then tackled to the ground where she was restrained.
The bailiff then executed the warrant while the woman was “detained in the back of a patrol vehicle, under the supervision of a police officer,” the police statement said. “At no time did the individual mention being injured or in pain when he was questioned.”
Police say they were called back to the same location, about an hour and a half after they first arrived, by paramedics who treated the woman, but did not provide further details, saying only about 10 people were present.
The Senegalese government said the charge d’affairs at the Canadian embassy in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, was summoned to the foreign ministry so officials could “strongly condemn and strongly condemn this racist and barbaric act.”
A protest memo has been sent to the Canadian government, it said.
“The Government of Senegal has demanded an immediate investigation and the prosecution of the perpetrators of this unacceptable attack, which constitutes a serious violation of the physical integrity and human dignity of the person and a flagrant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” said the ministry.
Barakat said Canada takes its obligations under the convention — which gives diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest — very seriously.
“We are working diligently with the various levels of government involved and look forward to a thorough investigation,” she wrote. “Minister Joly is in contact with his Senegalese counterpart. Canada will continue to cooperate fully with Senegal to resolve this regrettable situation.”
Gatineau police said they have notified provincial and federal authorities of the incident and have asked the provincial prosecutor’s office to lay charges of assault on a police officer and obstructing a police officer. In Quebec, the decision on whether to lay charges is made by the public prosecutor.
Police said they will not comment further because of the possibility of a lawsuit, but will cooperate with any investigations.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2022.