Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, September 7, 2012 --- A biracial minor visiting Montreal from Ontario has filed police ethics and civil rights complaints against three Montreal Police officers for abusive arrest and taking him on a “starlight tour” for no obvious reasons.

Zach, a 17 year old youth with light brown skin, was approaching a bar on Crescent Street with his uncle and another white male friend at 2:00 a.m. on an early Sunday last August when they saw a large crowd in front of the bar. Suddenly, a male officer told him to get off the sidewalk; startled, he told the officer that he was waiting for a family member (his uncle) who was coming up behind him.

Before he could say anything else, he was grabbed by the officer and pushed against a police car, handcuffed and called an “a-hole.” He was then searched and placed in the police vehicle by two officers, who then drove off for about 10 minutes before stopping. They then gave him a fine of $118 for obstructing the circulation of pedestrians and released him in an area completely unfamiliar to the youth. Even though Zach told the officer he did not know where he was, the officers ignored and drove off, leaving him alone in the street.

His cellphone being dead and not having enough money, he managed to find a bus and an understanding bus driver who let him ride without fare. The bus took him to the Cote des Neiges metro station, where he got off and walked to his grandmother’s home in the area. He arrived at her home at 5:00 a.m.

A “starlight tour” is the police practice of picking up individuals, mostly First Nations peoples, the homeless or other such marginalized people, and taking them outside of town where they would be beaten and/or abandoned on the side of the road. The practice gained national headlines in the 1990s when Neil Stonechild, an Aboriginal youth in Saskatoon, died of hypothermia when he was left by the police at the outskirts of town on a winter night.

Zach's uncle was also roughed up and fined by the police, while his white friend was not.

The human rights commission was already seized with a similar complaint from a Black male who was violently arrested, handcuffed and fined with the same offense when he left a Crescent St. club one early Sunday morning, when club goers started to leave clubs and bars in great numbers. As he leaned against the building at the corner of Crescent and Saint-Catherine to wait for his friends, he was accosted by two police officers and told to move on. As he told them that he was waiting for his friends who were coming out of the club, he was violently arrested and then fined for the same city by-law violation. The Commission dismissed the complaint, ruling that the police had a valid motive to intercept and arrest the man; it did not examine whether there was a police pattern of treating racialized men in a similar manner.