Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montréal, October 29, 2020 – An English-speaking Black resident of Laval, whose brutal arrest in May 2017 was recorded on video, has just scored the first civil rights victory against the City of Laval and its officers.

Last week, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission ruled in favor of Pradel Content and demanded that he be paid $24,000 in moral and punitive damages. The Commission also recommended that measures be adopted to prevent racial profiling.

On May 14, 2017, at around 10:30 am in Laval, Content, a disabled English-speaking Black man who was then 39 and who has a physical disability, was driving home in his Cadillac Escalade.

A Laval Police Service vehicle drove by and quickly made a U-turn to tail him. Content drove into a gas station, came out of his car and used his cell phone to film the police car, which suddenly reversed and drove towards him.

Officer Michael Boutin came out of the car and rushed towards Content, at which point he slapped the phone out of his hands, violently threw him against his car, and proceeded to handcuff him, without so much as informing him of the grounds of his arrest.

During the intervention, Boutin and his partner Sophie Savoie repeatedly threatened and verbally harassed Content, telling him that he would go to jail for having filmed Boutin, that he was lucking to live in Quebec since he would be shot at in Florida, and that his disability was “only in his head.”

After searching his cell phone and erasing video recordings, the officers gave him a fine of $127 for using a telephone while driving. They later filed a report in which they falsely stated that he did not seem to have a disability and that he was behaving in an exaggerated, aggressive and arrogant manner— a claim that was not supported by the evidence.

Content’s violent arrest was captured by the gas station’s video. In August 2017, the city court dismissed the penal charge against him.

“It was a totally violent and abusive act, as revolting as what we see on American TV. I was afraid for my life at that time, because they used excessive force on someone who has a visible physical disability without any regard for my safety,” Content said.

With CRARR’s help, he filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission.

The Commission concluded last week that Content was a victim of “racial profiling based on race, color, gender and language” and that he was discriminated against based on disability. It also ruled that his rights as protected by ten articles of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, were violated by the two officers.

The Commission recommends that the City of Montreal and both officers pay Content $18,000 in moral damages, and that Boutin and Savoie pay him $4,000 and $2,000 in punitive damages respectively.

In addition, the Commission asks the Laval Police Service to adopt a policy against racial profiling and to call on an expert on the topic for train officers and demystify biases. It also asks for race-based collection of data on people stopped by the police, and a policy on the use and seizure of recordings of police interventions on smartphones, cameras and other devices.

“I’m happy to see that the City now has to pay for racial profiling. Racial profiling must carry a huge price tag for the police department and police officers personally,” said Content. “ Making racism expensive is one effective way to help curtail the problem,” he added.

The City and the two officers have until November 6 to comply with the Commission’s recommendation, failing which the case will go to the Human Rights Tribunal.

The Police Ethics Commissioner has filed 12 charges against officer Boutin for multiple violations of the Code of Ethics for Police Officers.

Content has three other racial profiling complaints against the City of Laval, all of which are under CRARR’s care.

“We will accompany him as far as possible, since racial profiling is such a scourge in Laval. We’ve had complaints about the Laval police for more than 10 years, and it’s about time that costly decisions come down on the city,” CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

According to CRARR’s Advisor on racial profiling Alain Babineau, “the City of Laval has a lot of catch-up to do despite the diversity of its population, with more than 25% of its residents being racialized. It has few tools to combat racism in city services, including its police service.”

“More Black residents of Laval need to file complaints to bring about systemic change,” he said.