Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, March 29, 2012 --- There should be an inquiry into patterns of public transit racism by Montreal Transit Authority (MTA or STM) inspectors, said several Black Montrealers who have been the target of these practices.

At a news conference held today in Côte Des Neiges, one of the Montreal’s most multiracial districts, some Black public transit riders denounced the MTA for resorting to a pattern of selective interception, excessive use of force, violent detention and arrest, and abuse of authority that point to systematic racial profiling.

Disturbing practices include the aggressive interceptions and the rapid excessive use of physical force by MTA inspectors, that result in serious injuries and penalties for Black riders. These practices have been frequently reported since the coming into force in 2009 of the MTA’s policy on proof of payment (POP) checks, which empowers inspectors to stop riders and which can lead to fines of $124 for failure to show POP and $324 for obstruction of inspectors’ work.

The most recent case is that of Glenroy Valantine Rice, a well-known 50-year old English-speaking Black professional who works in tourism industry. Last month, while on his way to work, Mr. Rice was stopped, detained and assaulted in February at the Plamondon metro station by three MTA inspectors, and then fined $327 for obstructing the inspectors’ work.

“What they did to me was nothing short of racial profiling and assault. I am not even a Black youth who wears hoodies, said Mr. Rice, who has asked CRARR to file a civil rights complaint on his behalf. “It’s time to demand accountability from the MTA’s Chairman and Director General, as well as a public inquiry about the POP check policy and practices because they are a license to profile, assault and penalize Black public transit users.”

For Patrick, a disabled Black man in his 60s who was intercepted by MTA inspectors and then violently arrested last month by the police at the Côte Vertu metro station despite having his bus ticket in his jacket. During the arrest, the police officers tried to pull his natural arm and his artificial arm backward to handcuff him.

“I don’t know whether the violence and the utter lack of sensitivity towards my being an amputee on the part of inspectors and police officers was due to my Black skin, my Ghanaian accent or my English language, or all three”, he said.

In the case of Chantal, who was stopped on the sidewalk by an inspector in March 2010 as she got off the 55 bus on Saint-Laurent boulevard, the 40-something Haitian woman, who is obese, was detained, arrested, handcuffed and searched in the middle of the street by more than 8 police officers and inspectors, despite showing no resistance. When she told them her name, one officer laughed at her, telling his colleagues that a Black woman like her could not have such a French name.

“The number of officers called to arrest a slow, heavy and quiet Black woman with Jamaican dreadlocks and three bags says a lot about how they viewed Black people. Because we are seen as a threat, and as having lesser dignity and rights, excessive force is used without justification and sadly, without penalty”, she added. (Despite such evidence, the human rights commission has strangely recommended the dismissal of her complaint, preferring to accept the MTA's version without further investigation and reviewing police records of the incident).

Two months ago, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled that an English-speaking Black metro rider in his 50s who was stopped at the Lionel Groulx metro station in February 2010 was indeed a victim of racial profiling, and other civil rights violations such as excessive use of force, detention, illegal search of his coat and bag, and abusive fine. It ordered the MTA and four inspectors to pay $15,000 in moral damages and the four inspectors involved to pay $8,000 in punitive damages.

“Excessive and unjustified use of force, and the wanton disregard for riders’ physical safety or integrity, are essential elements of racial profiling, especially when it involves Black people,” said CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi. “We are very concerned that cases of excessive force and racial profiling like these keep taking place in Montreal and that there are no effective protections for riders.”

In addition to those mentioned above, CRARR has five more cases before the human rights commission involving Black riders being the selective target of POP checks in the metro. These cases were filed in 2010 and a decision is not expected before 2013 or 2014.

In 2006, the human rights commission issued the first decision on racial profiling involving a 14 year-old Black youth who was violently arrested in 2002 Laurier metro station when he refused to board a crowded metro car at the order of an inspector; in that case, the commission ordered the STM to pay him $15,000. In 2007, the Quebec Court ruled in the Valkov case that an Asian woman was a victim of racial profiling at Lionel Groulx metro station when the inspectors who detained and fined her for giving a transfer to another rider, contacted her bank and immigration authorities to check her background information.