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


Montreal, January 30, 2014 --- A retired nurse and teacher who is among the 12 Black Montrealers honored in this year’s Black History Month calendar, is taking on the Montreal Transit Authority (MTA, or STM in French) after being intercepted by two inspectors and fined last summer in an incident she described as racial profiling.

In June 2012, at around 11:00 pm, Ms. Yvonne Sam, who is also a recipient of the 2013 Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award and a volunteer contributor to Community Contact (a local Black community newspaper), took the MTA bus from the Casino to the Jean Drapeau metro station to go home. Other than the bus driver who was Black, she was the only Black person on the bus with a dozen other riders. When the bus let people off in front of the subway station, Ms. Sam was the last person to step out of the vehicle and was walking towards the station when she stopped by a young white male MTA inspector who asked for her proof of fare payment. No other riders were stopped.

She produced her Opus card, which she used to board the bus. The inspector scanned her card, and then accused her of not paying the bus fare. Although she told him that she had earlier filled her card, that there were 13 tickets on it and that she had it read when she boarded the bus, the inspector told her loudly that he would charge her with the offense of riding the bus without payment. When she told him to check with the bus driver, since in her mind, she would not be allowed on the bus had she not paid the fare, the inspector dismissively told her that “the driver is new and he does not know everything.” He added that it was not the driver’s job to ensure proper scanning of Opus cards.

Despite being told by another passenger who was on the bus with Ms. Sam that she was indeed scanned her Opus card and got on the bus without any problem, the inspector and another inspector, who arrived during the exchange, ended up fining her for riding without paying her fare. The fine was $217.

Unhappy with the way she was singled out, accused of cheating and fined, Ms. Sam went the next day to the Lionel-Groulx metro station to check her Opus card, and was told that the chip on the card was slightly damaged, which could result in the inaccurate reading of the card, hence the inspector’s fine. She was given a replacement card and a courtesy ticket.

In April 2013, Ms. Sam went to the Municipal Court to defend herself against the charge. A MTA representative met her before the hearing, listened to her account and then told that she was free to go. Her fine was cancelled.

Believing that she was singled out for fare check and fined, she mandated CRARR to file a civil rights complaint on her behalf with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. A mediation was held last November but failed as she rejected the MTA settlement offer. The case is now sent to investigation.

“This case will be a test of the MTA’s actions against racial profiling, because despite at least two previous Commission’s decisions against the agency for racial profiling, no one knows what concrete measures have been set up,” said Ms. Sam.

Ms. Sam referred to previous human rights commission’s decisions on racial profiling and the MTA in which CRARR acted for Black metro riders, including one made public in February 2012. Previously, the commission required the MTA to, among other things :

❏ Adopt policies to prohibit racial profiling in checking public transit users for proof of payment;

❏ Collect and publish, in a systematic fashion, data based on the race of individuals implicated in inspectors’ interventions;

❏ Enact measures to ensure that the hiring, evaluation and promotion of inspectors take into account cultural competencies.

“What has the MTA done about these recommended measures? Have they been implemented and evaluated? Who’s doing the training, monitoring and evaluation?” said Ms. Sam. “The MTA must be publicly accountable and show us what it has done concretely against racial profiling, because that information is nowhere to be found on its website.”

“I ask the same thing of the human rights commission. What has the Commission done to ensure that its own recommendations are implemented by the MTA? Does it ever and how does it require reporting and monitor results? Show us the data,” added Ms. Sam.

With CRARR and other groups, Ms. Sam will formally raise these questions with Mayor Denis Coderre and MTA Chair Philip Schnobb. The official launch of Black History Month will take place at 6:00 pm tonight at City Hall.

To read more about Ms. Sam and Black History Month: