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


Montreal, September 9, 2011 --- A Muslim educator has mandated CRARR to file a complaint against La Ronde for racial profiling after the amusement park accused her of fraud, detained and interrogated her for more than one hour and then, before completing its investigation, banned her for one year.

In July, Ms. N.W. went to La Ronde with two friends and their children. After a picnic in the park on Ile Sainte-Hélène, the group of eight took the bus to the La Ronde amusement park, which Ms. N.W has been visiting with her family for five years. In March, her husband had bought her and her eight-year-old daughter, season passes for the 2011 season.

As she passed her pass through the electronic reader at the gate, a beep was heard. Within seconds, two male security guards approached Ms. N.W. and asked her to follow them to a room, where she was detained and interrogated for more than hour behind closed doors. She was told that the park’s surveillance camera had captured the scene of three Muslim women wearing a hijab, one of whom apparently used her pass. The guards refused her request to see the video and there was no description of the suspect other than the wearing of a hijab.

In spite of Ms. N.W.’s insistence that she was still at the other side of park when the incident happened at La Ronde, the two guards and another female employee continued to interrogate her. They pressured her into admitting that she had committed fraud. Outside, her friends became concerned and called 9-1-1 for police assistance. The police told them that the matter was between La Ronde and Ms. N.W. and that it could not intervene.

When Ms. N.W. was finally released, she was issued with a “Civil Demand Customer Notice” informing her that an investigation would continue into the “infraction” and that she “may receive a letter in the future, explaining the amount of monetary damages we will be seeking”. In the mean time, she was forbidden to return to La Ronde for one year, effective immediately, and her season pass was confiscated. In tears and shock, she left with her friends and their daughters after first filing a written complaint about her ordeal.

The next day, her husband phoned the park to file a complaint. He went to La Ronde and met one of the security guards, who reiterated their position against his wife. Ms N.W. also wrote an email to La Ronde to complain about the treatment. A customer service supervisor replied, almost a week after the incident, that “the investigation was ongoing and that resource protection officers would contact her once the investigation completed”.

Believing that she was a victim of racial and religious profiling, Ms N.W mandated CRARR to take the matter to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. In the complaint, CRARR also cites numerous violations of N.W.’s civil rights and freedoms, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to examine evidence used against her.

CRARR is claiming $25,000 in damages against Parc Six Flags Montreal, the owner of La Ronde, and the three employees who detained and interrogated Ms. N.W. without due respect for her legal rights. CRARR asks that Parc Six Flags be required to review and change its interception, interrogation and sanction techniques, such as the practice of immediately withholding park passes and banning suspects for a year or more before the investigation has even been completed.

Like her friends, Ms. N.W. has been traumatized by the incident and vowed to use every means possible to clear her reputation. “As a mother, an educator and a practicing Muslim, this is an ultimate assault on my honour, dignity and human rights,” she says.

“This is pure racial and religious profiling. I happened to be a hijab-wearing woman like the suspect, but, the fact remains, I didn’t even have the right to see the video images used against me,” she said. “I don’t even know whether the suspect looked like me, was wearing the same colours or if the other hijab-wearing women looked like my friends.”