Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montréal, February 20, 2009 --- The City of Montreal will indirectly promote racial discrimination and other civil rights violations by the police if it goes ahead with its plan to adopt a by-law to ban face coverings during demonstrations and another to sanction insults directed at police officers.

CRARR calls for the withdrawal of these two by-laws which the City intends to adopt as a response to requests from its police service and the police union, without any public input or consultation.

In the case of banning face coverings, the City’s by-law may allow the police to intercept, detain, question and charge individuals at peaceful demonstrations who cover their face “without reasonable cause”... “with a scarf, a hood or a mask” even if hey are doing so as a political statement or as part of a religious practice. This provision should be of key concern to members of the Muslim and Arab communities, youths, labor activists and environmentalists. Furthermore, the term “without reasonable cause” will open a legal can of worms and increase the police’s discretionary powers to intervene in a peaceful demonstration to arrest and charge demonstrators.

CRARR is also very concerned with the proposed by-law to penalize people for insulting the police, as it will greatly promote the criminalization of youths (particularly youths of color), people with disabilities and other citizens who have the right to publicly criticize police officers. CRARR has already been seized with many complaints from Black, Hispanic, Arab and Asian young males of being fined by the police for “incivilities” such as using “blasphemous” words and “emitting an audible noise” in the streets.

Both by-laws would conflict with international and domestic civil rights laws, including the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Rights, as well as the City’s own Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, where free speech and non-discrimination are concerned.

“In a modern, multicultural urban city like Montreal, these two by-laws will further erode our national human rights culture and become added amunition for the police to regulate public conduct and commit racial, religious, disability-based and age-based discrimination as well as other civil rights violations,” said Fo Niemi, CRARR’s Executive Director.

CRARR deplores not only the substance of the by-laws, especially as laws already exist to address such practices, but also the process leading to their possible adoption due to the lack of public consultation and debate on the matter.

“Due to already inadequate police training and other existing practices conducive to civil rights violations, these by-laws will certainly encourage more police-citizen tensions and jeopardize the City’s standing in national and international coalitions of municipalities against racial discrimination,” said Mr. Niemi.

CRARR joins a coalition of groups that oppose these by-laws, which include the Quebec Civil Liberties Union (which took the lead), Project Genesis, FRAPPU (a social housing advocacy group), Heads and Hands, the Muslim Council of Montreal, RAPSIM (a coalition of agencies serving homeless persons), Montréal-Nord Républik, Action Autonomie Montreal (a disability rights advocacy group) and the Central Council of the CSN (one of Quebec’s largest unions).

Due to widespread opposition, City Hall withdrew the draft by-law on masks the day of the press conference and shelved the idea of the other by-law as well.