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


Montreal, April 3, 2012 --- By requiring Montreal bars and clubs to stop playing hip hop and rap music, the Quebec liquor licensing board has achieved something which many authorities in the United States have tried but failed : ban a musical style closely associated with the Black community, institutionalize racial profiling and curtail freedom of expression.

This is CRARR’s position in support of a group of hip hop artists protesting today in front of the Montreal Courthouse.

Last month, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ, Quebec’s liquor and gaming regulatory authority) granted a license to a Montreal bar under the condition that it not hold live hip hop and rap performances. This was not the first time that the board has directly or indirectly banned hip hop and rap music in bars and clubs, often in response to the recommendation or requirement of the Montreal Police Service (MPS), as it has done so in :

• A February 2012 decision to suspend the permit of Club 1234, a downtown club;
• A September 2011 decision to grant a permit to the Parking Club in the Gay Village;
• A September 2010 decision to suspend the permit of a downtown bar, Q-Zone; and
• A May 2008 decision to suspend the permit of Vision Bar Café Lounge, in Lasalle,

Restrictions and prohibitions of hip hop and rap are often imposed in response to risk assessment and public security breaches. Evidence was submitted at regulatory hearings to the effect that disorder, violence and the presence of gang members were often linked to hip hop music and events.

“No one disputes the need to prevent and stop criminal activities in clubs because the safety of customers, employees and local residents is the top priority ” says CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “However, an outright ban or restriction of hip hop and rap is a slippery slope towards racial profiling and violations of basic freedoms protected by national and international law.”

“The ban is the modern version of the Padlock Law, except that today’s hip hop ban is based on race and culture, instead of political convictions,” he added.

(The Padlock Law, officially called "Act to protect the Province Against Communistic Propaganda"), was enacted in 1937 by then Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis to prevent the dissemination of communist or Bolshevik propaganda; it allowed the police to close down and padlock any premise suspected of promoting such information.)

Other Black groups and civil rights leaders in and outside Quebec also condemn such a ban.

“This decision is no different than the race-based case in the USA that points to an underlying reason Trayvon Martin was assumedly gunned down and killed - because he committed the crime of being a Black man wearing a hoodie. The common denominator is Black men and the need of the state and community to unfairly and unconstitutionally curtail their activities,” said Lynn Jones, chair of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Global African Congress.

“The decision further suggests that if we stop playing “their” music, no crime will be committed or better yet – maybe “the Blacks” will magically disappear and become invisible and not a threat to society”, she added.

According to Wesley Crichlow, an Ontario university professor specializing in Black cultural studies, “By banning hip hop, the police and the Liquor Licensing Board are by extension criminalizing all Black cultural forms of expression - demonizing black youth culture in general and the contributions of young black men in particular. According to bell hooks, we need to counter this demonization of black males by insisting that rap does not appear in a cultural vacuum, but, rather, is expressive of the cultural crossing, mixings, and engagement of black youth culture with the values, attitudes, and concerns of the white majority.”

For Sandra Aigbinode, a spokesperson of the Black Law Student’s Association of McGill University, which stands in solidarity with CRARR, “What appears to be a colourblind justice system in fact discriminates successfully via institutional design. By targeting hip hop and rap, the justice system is targeting Blacks, and relegating them to second class citizens whose preferences and interests are worthless.”

CRARR is calling on RACJ Chair Christine Ellefsen and Mayor Gérald Tremblay to explain their respective institutions’ decision, as well as their position on hip hop and rap music. It also calls for the creation of a working committee composed of law enforcement, hip hop industry, entertainment industry and Black community representatives to find ways to stop banning hip hop music in bars and clubs, and to balance freedom of expression and safety protection in these commercial establishments.