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Montréal, June 28, 2018 - After her boyfriend was pepper-sprayed at close range and arrested by Montreal police during Grand Prix weekend, a Black woman is now filing formal complaints and calling for an inquiry into the incident, including the link between race and excessive use of force by SPVM officers.

As shown in a video posted online on June 10th, which quickly went viral, Daniel Louis was pepper-sprayed through his car window by an officer, roughly hauled from his car, and detained by at least three police officers, while celebrating the Grand Prix party downtown. The person recording the video was also pepper-sprayed.

Louis' girlfriend, Gertrude Dubois, was sitting in the passenger seat. As she came out of the vehicle to escape the spray and catch her breath, she was immediately grabbed and handcuffed by two officers, thrown against the hood of the car, and detained in a police cruiser, an experience she has called “deeply traumatizing.”

“It took me almost two weeks to come to grips with the fact that what happened was highly abusive,” she added. “It was upon discussing with CRARR that I realized there may be a link between my race and the excessive force against my boyfriend and me.”

“This incident is over the top, especially in the way that my boyfriend was pepper-sprayed and arrested without any justification, and in the way I was treated,” Dubois said.

A police spokesperson stated that Louis was stopped for honking his car horn in heavy traffic. They claimed that he refused to cooperate with officers and that his car struck a police bicycle, both points that Dubois firmly denies. The police spokesperson also explained that officers handcuffed Dubois to “get her under control” because “she was disoriented.” Louis was eventually fined for honking and charged with obstructing police and resisting arrest.

Dubois and CRARR are calling on the City of Montreal to address the systemic issue of police using excessive force against Black and racialized citizens.

While the City undertook public consultations on racial profiling in June 2017, that study did not deal with limits on police excessive use of force. In addition, the status of the recommendations, which were approved in September 2017, is unclear.

“There is growing legal evidence of a link between excessive police force and race, which includes, in this case, how the pepper spray was deployed, and how Ms. Dubois was violently detained and handcuffed in the absence of any factor that would justify such force,” said Alain Babineau, a law intern at CRARR.

“It's time for Quebec to address this issue. All over North America, including Ontario, questions are being raised about the number of Black and Brown people being the target of police use of force that can be often deadly - be it with firearms, tasers or pepper spray,” Babineau noted.

Dubois also expressed her support for a petition calling on the City to hold public consultations on systemic racism, launched by Balarama Holness and supported by CRARR.

“Today, I am asking and encouraging all Montrealers, especially Black Montrealers, to sign this petition and to demand concrete actions from the City against systemic racism in policing,” Dubois said.

“It is our moral, social and legal duty to demand and obtain measures against abusive police practices that I have been the victim of,” she noted.

“The discriminatory use of force in a police intervention involving Black and other racialized citizens is not on the City's nor the province's radar and we hope that the public consultation will address it,” Holness added. “There are too many Black and other marginalized people who have suffered or even died from excessive police force in Montreal,” he concluded.

CRARR is assisting Dubois with her police ethics complaint and her civil rights complaint.