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Montreal, July 26, 2012 --- The mother of Michaëlla Bassey, the young Black girl who was violently dragged off a Montreal bus last month, has filed civil rights complaints against the Montreal police and public transit authorities for discrimination based on race and disability.

Sofia Bassey, whose daughter’s case made national headlines, mandated CRARR to file the complaint on her behalf. She is seeking more than $60,000 in damages and is demanding changes in the way the city’s police and public transit employees treat people living with disabilities and racialized youth.

In mid-June, Michaëlla, a 12-year old student at Lauren Hill Academy who is Black and who has some disabilities including dyslexia and ADHD, took the bus in front of her high school to go home. As a result of her dyslexia it is very difficult for Michaëlla to decipher the bus schedule. After paying her fare and boarding the bus, she sought assistance from a Montreal Transit Authority (MTA) bus driver. The driver ignored her and told her to go sit down, Michaëlla complied. Minutes later, the bus suddenly stopped and an STM supervisor boarded the bus. He told Michaella she had to get off the bus. Michaella politely refused, she was scared and did not know where she was. Later, a spokesperson for the STM claimed, she was acting in an arrogant manner.

Within minutes of Michaëlla’s exchange with the STM supervisor, two male police officers boarded the bus. After mistakenly grabbing another Black female passenger, who is much older then Michaëlla, one officer violently pulled Michaëlla by the arm and pushed her out of the bus, without giving her a chance to finish explaining her side of the story.

Fortunately for the Basseys, several witnesses on the bus have accepted to testify in Michaëlla’s defense concerning the MTA and STM employee’s bias, as well as the Montreal Police officers’ excessive use of force, bias and lack of competencies to deal with youths with intellectual disabilities.

“It is clear that had my daughter not been a young Black girl, she would not have been treated with such violence, disrespect and insensitivity”, said Ms. Bassey. “Sixty years ago, some people were systematically ordered to the back of the bus for being Black without any question asked. Today, they are ordered off the bus for being Black and daring to ask questions.”

“We have ample evidence that the police and public transit officials involved were neither willing nor able to recognize the needs and rights of young persons with intellectual disabilities, especially those of a young Black girl”, added Brady Donehue, a University of Windsor law student, who works at CRARR on the Bassey file. “Disability is too often pathologized and met with excessive force when manifested with race and youth, and that’s discrimination”, she said.

An additional complaint has also been filed with the Police Ethics Commissioner against the two police officers for discriminatory conduct and excessive use of force without justification.

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