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Montréal, July 3, 2018 — One year after being arrested and handcuffed while shopping at The Brick in the West Island, an English-speaking Black woman still experiences intense trauma as her complaints of consumer racial profiling proceed through formal channels.

In March 2017, Monica (whose surname will remain anonymous due to her present position), who was then 22 years old and a staffer for an airline company, went to The Brick located on the Trans-Canada Highway in Kirkland to browse for furniture. While shopping, she noticed the presence of multiple police cars outside the store and shortly after, she saw a white female police officer pointing at her and saying, “Is that her?”. The officer soon approached Monica and asked her to follow her outside.

Monica was then told by the officer that she had been involved with “the other suspect” in a crime inside the store. Surprised by the accusation, Monica told the officer that she came to The Brick alone. Still, the officer placed her against the police car, handcuffed her, and proceeded to search Monica and her purse.

Monica then saw a Black male sitting in the back of another police car and assuming that he was “the other suspect” that the officer accused her of being complicit with, Monica asked him to tell the police that they did not know each other as she was being placed in a police car by two police officers.

While still handcuffed inside the car, she was informed by the female officer and another officer that they had received a call from the store that she was with the suspect. The female officer then went inside the store to check the surveillance camera recording. Shortly after, she came out and informed Monica that she was seen entering the store alone. The officers then released Monica and invited her to go see the store manager.

Monica met the store manager who simply said, in a casual and dismissive manner, that she felt bad that happened to her and that someone could assist Monica if she needed anything. Monica left the store, still shocked and humiliated for being arrested and handcuffed in full public view, with no reason other than being Black like the suspect and being released without even a formal apology from The Brick.

She was so distraught by her public arrest that when she attended school the following day, her teacher who had noticed her distress, told her to go home. She failed her accounting exam, shortly after the incident. She never set foot back into The Brick.

“Being perceived as inherently suspicious, falsely accused of a crime, arrested and handcuffed by the police simply because I happen to share the same race with a suspect is about criminalizing my Blackness” said Monica, still traumatized speaking about her nightmare.

CRARR helped her file a police ethics complaint against the female officer, and a civil rights complaint against The Brick, for consumer racial profiling or “shopping while Black”. In the civil rights complaint, CRARR seeks $20,000 in moral and punitive damages for her and demands that The Brick adopt a policy and train staff on consumer racial profiling.

In January 2018, the Police Ethics Commissioner decided to investigate her complaint against the female officer, bypassing the standard conciliation process. The civil rights complaint to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission will go to mediation.

In the last two years, CRARR has helped bring forward numerous consumer racial profiling cases, including a case involving a Black man in his seventies who was detained on suspicion of stealing shoes in a major department store (case settled); a Black mother and her daughter who were expelled by the police from a supermarket for being suspected of stealing (case settled); a Black mother and her teenage son who were detained and accused of stealing sausages in a supermarket; three Arab men who were expelled from a Tim Horton’s for no reason; and a Black man who was wrongly accused of stealing a stamp from a bank branch where he frequented.
CRARR is presently working on a case involving a Black senior and her daughter who were expelled from a downtown thrift store by the manager and the police.

“There is still little discussion and action in Quebec against consumer racial profiling, contrary to Ontario and Nova Scotia, where the courts have come down harshly on businesses that profile Black customers and treat them like suspects or second-class customers undeserving of respect,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“It is in the interest of all businesses operating in a multiracial and diverse environment to have policies against consumer racial profiling and related bias, in order to avoid lawsuits and bad publicity due to differential treatment of racialized customers,” he stressed.