MONTREAL — The Senegalese Embassy in Ottawa has come to the defence of one of its diplomats allegedly beaten by police in Quebec, characterizing a provincial rental board ruling against her as one-sided and asserting media coverage of the case has distracted from harms she purportedly faced.
The embassy released a statement on Twitter on Friday questioning media reports based on court documents ordering Niang Oumou Kalsoum Sall to pay a former landlord more than $45,000 for damage to a furnished home she occupied from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2020.
"It was noted that media reported false and shocking information on her," the release stated.
"However, the interested party was a victim in her home of inadmissible police brutality, in the presence of her underage children, including one with special needs."
Kalsoum Sall, a first counsellor at the embassy of the Republic of Senegal in Ottawa, was detained and allegedly beaten by police on Aug. 2 in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa.
Gatineau police said they arrested a woman with diplomatic status after she allegedly hit a police officer in the face, adding she was tackled to the ground after allegedly biting another officer. The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the diplomat had to be hospitalized after being handcuffed and beaten by police.
The incident came as officers were called to the residence to assist a bailiff who was attempting to seize property in connection with a court judgment against her, police said.
Quebec's rental board had previously ruled Kalsoum Sall caused flooding that led to structural damage and her use of the property forced its owner, Michel Lemay, to replace most of his furniture.
But the embassy, responding to the ruling for the first time since details came to light, said the "false and shocking" information reported so far is based solely on the landlord's version of events.
"These allegations betray a clear intention to dilute the seriousness of the (police) incident," the embassy said.
The embassy's account alleged Kalsoum Sall and her family struggled with humidity and heating system issues at the property from the outset and contended the allegations contained in the court documents don't stand up.
It said the landlord "insisted" that water damage was caused by excessive use of the bathroom, while Kalsoum Sall claimed a plumber noticed condensation issues and a blocked pipe.
In addition to water damage, the ruling said the furniture was full of cockroaches, "pieces of furniture are scratched and scuffed. Some are missing. Everything is dirty.''
The embassy, however, said Kalsoum Sall found a hidden cupboard behind the fridge in which two cereal boxes had previously been left open and were now home to "colonies of cockroaches."
"It's this negligence which explained the proliferation of these insects in spite of numerous treatments carried out by the person concerned, at her own expense," the embassy said.
It said it will closely monitor Quebec's independent police watchdog investigation into her interaction with Gatineau police.
"Nothing, in this case, can justify the violence suffered by Mrs. Niang and her underage children who are still suffering from physical and moral pain," the embassy said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 14, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press