Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, April 11, 2013 --- The Canadian Human Rights Commission has begun investigating the complaint filed by CRARR last summer on behalf of L.S., a Black BMO client who was the victim of racial profiling and what is also known as the “Any Negro Will Do” practice when he went to the bank to withdraw money.

In April 2012, L.S., a Black professional in his early thirties, was suddenly stopped by a police vehicle near a BMO branch location in Laval, after having withdrawn money from its ATM machine. The police officer pulled out his gun, ordered L.S to remain still in his car, and called for backup. The police was acting on information provided by a BMO employee, who had mistaken L.S for a bank robber, who is suspected in a string of bank robberies in the Laval area.

Despite the fact that L.S bore little resemblance to the Black male suspect – having a bigger build, an older appearance, and a lighter skin tone than the suspect – he was arrested, handcuffed and later detained in a police car for more than 30 minutes for simply sharing the same skin color.

The scenario reflects a sad truth experienced by many Black men in both Canada and United States. Commonly referred to as the “Any Negro Will Do” practice, Black persons are all too often victims of police officers and other authorities, acting on vague and incomplete race-based suspect descriptions in which race operates as a leading factor and effectively leads to race-based discrimination. In other instances, there is no distinctive physical resemblance other than race or skin color, but a person is rounded up and arrested just the same merely because of race and gender.

The omission of other pertinent physical descriptions as well as sweeping race-based “they all look the same” generalizations often produce disproportionate adverse effects on Black men including but not limited to: unjustified detention, wrongful arrest, imprisonment, excessive use of force, and at times fatalities. Since victims of race-based mistaken identities often face firearms pointed at them, serious psychological traumas can also occur; in many instances, no apologies or offers of assistance are made by the police after realizing the mistake.

Though L.S was released, he was understandably shaken by the incident. Both the absence of a formal apology from BMO or its employee as well as the experience of fearing for his life prompted L.S to take action. Furthermore, the arrest may result in his being tagged in the police data base as a suspect.

He mandated CRARR to file a racial discrimination complaint against BMO with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, thereby setting the stage for an important test case in subconscious racial bias, racial discrimination in banking services and how the Commission deals with the issue.

In 2009, CRARR produced a report on the “Any Negro Will Do” practice, calling public attention to the problem of vague race-based suspect description that often leads to innocent Black persons being subjected to dangerous and violent police interventions. The report puts forward numerous recommendations to law enforcement agencies and public civil rights agencies; to date, none of these agencies have adopted policies or measures to this effect.