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Montreal, April 12, 2013 --- A Black mother and her 13-year old daughter, who was roughed up by the police last year on a Montreal Transit Authority (MTA) bus, came out of the recent mediation at the Quebec human rights commission feeling more disappointed yet more determined to pursue their civil rights complaint.

Ms. Sofia Bassey, her daughter Michaëlla, and her other daughter participated in a mediation with MTA and Montreal Police Service (SPVM) representatives earlier this week, at the commission’s office.

The mediation was held as all parties agreed to attempt to resolve the complaint in an amicable manner. The case involves an incident in June 2012 when Michaëlla, who was then 12, came out of her school, Lauren Hill Academy, and boarded a bus to go home during lunch time. As she was writing exams, Michaëlla was riding the bus at an unfamiliar time. As a result of her dyslexia and other learning disabilities, she is unable to decipher the bus schedule. Feeling slightly overwhelmed and wanting to assure her mother that she had in fact boarded the bus safely, Michaëlla asked the bus driver to confirm when the bus was leaving.

The bus driver, who was on the phone, responded by telling her to read the schedule. When she explained that she was unable to do so as a result of her disability, he slammed the door in her face. She eventually got on the bus.

The situation went downhill from that moment, leading the driver to stop the bus and call a supervisor to the scene as Michaëlla was sitting quietly in the rear of the bus, listening to her mother’s instructions on the phone. Upon arrival, the supervisor demanded that Michaëlla got off the bus. Panicked and confused, Michaëlla listened to her mother on her cell phone who was telling her to wait for her arrival to pick her up and not to get off the bus with a stranger.

The supervisor eventually called the police. Two officers came on the bus and within a less than minute, one officer pulled her arm behind her back and pushed her head down as she was hauled off the bus. Both Ms. Bassey and her other daughter could her Michaëlla scream in pain as she was violently pulled off the bus. Other passengers on the bus, who offered to act as witnesses, were openly critical of the way the girl was treated.

Ms. Bassey mandated CRARR in July 2012 to file complaints on her and her daughter’s behalf, against the MTA and the SPVM, with discriminatory treatments based on disability, race and age, including the police use of excessive force on a slight black girl. After the incident, Michaëlla was so deeply affected by the ordeal that she had to follow psychological therapy.

“We went into mediation with the best of intentions to resolve the complaint, repair the damages and prevent this situation from happening again, because the heart of the issue is how to deal with invisible disabilities and not to criminalize them”, said Ms. Bassey.

“Unfortunately, we did not obtain what we expected, so we held our heads high and politely put an end to mediation,”, added Ms. Bassey. “We need to ensure that what happened to my daughter will not happen to other children of all colors with disabilities.”

The case is now sent to investigation at the human rights commission. The police ethics complaint against one of the officers is also following its course.