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Montreal, November 10, 2012 --- The Police Ethics Committee has ordered that the two City of Longueuil police officers involved in the Joel Debellefeuille case be suspended for five days without pay for racial profiling and violating the Code of Police Ethics.

In a decision rendered last week, the Committee ruled that officers Salim Ojeil and Catherine Brunet be suspended for five days without pay for having acted in a racially discriminatory manner when they stopped Mr. Debellefeuille in 2009. A further five-day suspension, to be served concurrently, was ordered for the illegal interception and detention of Mr. Debellefeuille and for not respecting the law.

“I am very glad to have waged this three-year battle against racial profiling,” said Mr. Debellefeuille. “Since I can afford the high costs of justice, I decided to fight not just for me or my family, but also for all Black and other racialized people in this city and province who are too often victims of racial profiling but who can't afford to or who dare not fight all the way.”

The Committee concluded: “The seriousness of the police officers' misconduct is characterized by the fact that the real motive for intercepting Mr. Debellefeuille was the absence of correlation between his skin color and the “Québécois” name of the vehicle owner... Such behaviors go against the objectives of the Code for they jeopardize human rights and freedoms ... and compromise the confidence and consideration that must exist between the population and police officers.”

Both officers admitted having acted on the basis of Mr. Debellefeuille's race in stopping him, which would mark one of the very few times such an admission was made by police officers in court.

Mr. Debellefeuille, a resident of Montréal's South Shore, was intercepted in July 2009 by the Longueuil police while driving his family in his black BMW. After a short exchange with the two officers, the situation degenerated and he eventually received two fines under the Highway Safety Code for refusing to provide documents to a peace officer when requested and for failing to have his car insurance papers.

In June 2010, when contesting the fine related to his refusal to produce ID in Longueuil Municipal Court, he noted that, in the police report, the intercepting officer wrote that “the vehicle belongs to a certain Debellefeuille, Joel. It was a Black man who did not correspond at first sight to the owner. Debellefeuille sounds like a Québécois family name and not of another origin.”

Despite raising the fact that he was a victim of racial profiling and highlighting the intercepting officer's statement regarding Mr. Debellefeuille's race being the “primary reason” for his interception, Judge Marc Gravel found him guilty and dismissed his racial bias charge.

In a decision rendered in November 2011, Judge Jerry Zigman of Quebec Superior Court ruled that trial judges must take into account racial profiling as a defense and a factor that could influence police action in an interception. It also ordered a new trial for Mr. Debellefeuille, thus returning the case to the Municipal Court.

In the new Municipal Court decision rendered in September 2012, Judge Pierre-Armand Tremblay ruled that Mr. Debellefeuille was indeed a victim of racial profiling and acquitted him. As well, he issued a firm rebuke of the racial stereotypes that led the officers to believe that a Black man could not have a Québécois-sounding family name.

“On this International Human Rights Day, I urge every Black and racialized person in this province to stand up and take action whenever they feel they have been discriminated against and profiled. Victory is possible, change can happen and justice will ultimately prevail when people rise to demand full civil rights,” Mr. Debellefeuille said.

Read the Decision (in French only):

CDP Décision Debellefeuille 12-12.pdf82.07 KB