Montreal, QC – Citizens in Montreal, Canada, released footage of a car hitting an ultra-Orthodox baby carriage driven by his mother, after the police refused to release the footage.
The video depicts a woman pushing a stroller in the middle of an intersection as a dark car approaches, accelerates and collides with the stroller, pushing it down the street and out of the camera frame.
The incident happened around 2:40 p.m. on Nov. 16 at the corner of Bloomfield and Lajoie Aves. in Outremont. It was captured on a home surveillance camera, and the video has gone viral after being posted online Tuesday. The car was driving north on Bloomfield, while the woman was crossing Lajoie from east to west.
The one-year-old child in the stroller was not injured, nor was the woman pushing it. Police say that lack of injury led the force to decide not to immediately publicize the event the day it happened.
Police said on Wednesday that while they had possession of the video, they had not released it because the quality of the image does not allow the make of the car to be identified, and the vehicle’s licence plate is not visible.
The police force, however, confirmed the incident has been under investigation since last week.
Mayer Feig, a resident of the area, said the video was posted on a Facebook group for the Outremont Hasidic community and was passed around. The discussion within the community centred on the apparent lack of follow-up from police.
“We’re concerned with this accident,” said Feig, who is a community activist. “It seemed like police were not taking it seriously. For more than a week, we didn’t hear that they had sent out a notice or a description or that they did anything to find out who this is, so the community was becoming very concerned.
“A lot of people reached out to me to say they felt police were not adequately responding to the situation,” he said. “Maybe somebody dropped the ball somewhere. I know in general they are very good with these things and I’m now reassured that they are actively investigating.”
Feig said the woman who was pushing the stroller wants to remain anonymous, but is relieved that her child wasn’t injured. The baby was taken to a hospital and checked out thoroughly after the incident. Feig said the carriage turned over as a result of the collision, but the child was fastened in properly, so he didn’t fall out.
Still, Feig said, the incident is troubling, especially since the car didn’t slow down before or even after the collision.
“The fact the car was slowing, and then just accelerated right through the intersection (raised questions). Were they distracted? Was it intentional?”
Rani Cruz posted the video on Twitter, hoping public attention would spur the authorities into action.
“It was kind of dismissed,” she said, “so my friend and I put it out there. I got the video on Tuesday and posted it right away.”
Cruz said it’s unfortunate police didn’t distribute information about the incident in the hours or days after it happened, because it could have allowed others with surveillance cameras in the area to check if they also captured the collision.
“What upsets me as a neighbour is not knowing, because we could have maybe been more helpful in finding this car,” she said.
B’nai Brith Canada issued a statement saying it is “deeply disturbed by a video circulating online depicting a vehicle seemingly ramming into a Jewish Orthodox woman and her baby.”
The statement said B’nai Brith and its League for Human Rights are investigating and working closely with the Jewish Hasidic Council of Quebec. The organization also said it’s in contact with law enforcement authorities.
Police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said anyone with information on the person behind the wheel is asked to come forward to a neighbourhood police station or contact the Info-Crime line at 514-393-1133.
“We’re trying, with the information we have at this point, to identify the vehicle in question (but) we don’t have a lot of information on the make and model, as well as the plate of the vehicle,” he explained.
“We want to meet with the driver to know what led to this happening, why they didn’t stop at the stop sign or stop afterward,” Brabant said. “But for the moment, investigators are working to collect information and review images from surveillance cameras to have more details on the vehicle in question.”
After it was posted online, the video caused residents and several politicians to express shock and urge the police to do what they can to locate the driver.
“The images of the driver accelerating in front of a mother and her baby are unspeakably violent,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante tweeted on Wednesday. “Fortunately, they are safe and sound.”
Outremont borough mayor Laurent Desbois said he was as shocked by the video as everyone else.
“I am in communication with the SPVM,” Desbois posted on Twitter, “and I hope that they will be able to quickly identify the driver of the vehicle.”
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Public Security Minister François Bonnardel described the incident as “completely horrible.”