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


Montreal, January 25, 2010 --- A Black Concordia University student has decided to drop his complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner after waiting for more than 1.5 years without the slightest progress in his complaint.

In January 2008, Mr. R.C., a then 25-year old Montreal-North resident and a relative of one of CRARR's past Chairpersons, was walking home from a university party in the early morning hours, after parking his car a couple of meters from his home. As he was walking towards his house, he was abruptly stopped by two female officers. These officers asked him for his ID; when asked why, they told him that it was for “verification.” As he showed his driver’s license and asked once again why he was being stopped, one officer told him he was under arrest for obstruction of justice. Since he is tall, the two female officers called for back-up. More police cars and six additional officers came to the scene. He was then arrested, handcuffed and charged with three penal offenses under the Highway Safety Code (for not producing his car registration papers) and one criminal offense of obstruction of justice.

During the arrest, certain statements made by the two female officers led him to believe that he was a victim of Walking While Black. With CRARR’s help, he filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Quebec human rights commission in July 2008.

Since the police ethics complaints process involves mandatory conciliation at an early stage, R.C. expected a confirmed conciliation date within 60 days, or by Fall 2008. However, one female police respondent went on maternity leave for one year so conciliation was delayed. When this officer returned, her partner went on sick leave.

By December 2009, R.C., represented by CRARR’s counsel René Saint-Léger for his criminal charges, had already gone through the criminal trial, which resulted in the dismissal of both criminal and penal charges. However, his police ethics complaint still had not gone forward. By January 2010, i.e. 18 months after filing his complaint, R.C. lost faith in the Police Ethics Commissioner and decided to withdraw his complaint.

The case is yet another example of how the process is clearly less sensitive to victims’ rights and needs than that of police officers’. Already, police officers are legally entitled not to cooperate with the Commissioner’s investigation when they are cited as respondents. Furthermore, the Commissioner does have the discretionary power to send the case to investigation instead of waiting for conciliation, but chose not to do so in this case.

”We are concerned that this extraordinary delay constitutes another systemic obstacle to justice for victims of racial profiling, especially given that, since 2006, the entire police ethics system has issued only one positive decision on racial profiling”, said CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.

According to the Police Ethics Commissioner’s 2008-2009 Annual Report, it received last year a total of 1,599 complaints. Of these, 54% were closed for various reasons, 39% were sent to conciliation (80% of which were successfully resolved at this stage) and 6,6% were investigated.

Despite receiving many complaints of racial profiling each year, the Police Ethics Commissioner still does not have policy guidelines on how to investigate and analyze this form of race-based discrimination.

Due to numerous systemic problems in the Commissioner's handling of complaints involving racism, CRARR has launched its own review of the police ethics system, the results of which will be released in March 2010.