Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality

ADVISORY - BACK TO SCHOOL: YOUNG BLACK STUDENTS GOING TO DOWNTOWN CLUBS SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR RACIAL PROFILING


Montreal, September 5, 2010 --- As a new school year is about to begin, CRARR urges all university and college students, who are Black or Brown and male and who frequent downtown Montreal clubs and bars, to be very vigilant when approached by Montreal Police officers, especially those who are part of the department’s Eclipse squad.

Set up in 2008 with provincial funding as part of the police department’s strategy to combat street gangs, the Eclipse unit is known for specifically targeting young Black and Brown men for ID checks in downtown bars, clubs and other commercial establishments. The word “Eclipse” is often written on the police vehicle.

Based on reported incidents and cases brought to the Quebec human rights commission, CRARR has identified a pattern of racial profling in several Eclipse interception techniques of the Montreal Police Service. This pattern includes disproportionately stopping young Black men for ID checks in bars and clubs without providing a valid motive. This personal information is then recorded without their awareness, much less consent. Black young men are also often searched without being informed of the grounds or reason. Failure to show ID after several police requests may result in an arrest and being charged with obstruction of justice.

In some instances, young Black men may be fined for violations of by-laws such as not walking on the sidewalks, talking loudly in the street, obstruction of pedestrian circulation, etc. These fines are used by the police to identify and tag these young men, as their names, addresses and whereabouts are recorded in the fines and entered into an internal police database. In some cases, police officers explicitly told Black customers that the reason why they singled out Black men was because this group composed the majority of street gang members in Montreal.

Recent studies have shown that the Montreal Police disproportionately stop Black men, especially in city districts considered to have a high crime rate. According to anecdotal evidence, in the downtown areas, on streets such as Crescent, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Denis, and Ontario, Black and Brown men are particularly vulnerable to abusive police stops.

Two weeks ago, an internal Montreal police report leaked to the press revealed that in Montreal North, for instance, the stop (maybe use “detention”) rate of Blacks in 2006-2007 was 38% compared to 6% for Whites. Despite increasing evidence of racial profiling officially, the Mayor of Montreal and the Montreal Police deny that racial profiling exists.

“For many Black and Brown students from out-of-town who come here to study, and for college students who have turned 18 and go to clubs and bars for the first time, it is often a rude awakening of how their freedoms and civil rights are systemically curtailed by the police in this city,” said CRARR Counsel Aymar Missakila.

“Back to school celebrations can be painful and costly for many young Black and Brown male students in Montreal because of racial profiling,” he added. “Black visitors should also take heed.”


GENERAL ADVICE

  • In Montreal, your race is equated by the police with crime. Being Black, Brown, and male exposes you to systematic racial profiling, especially in the downtown core. Racial profiling is not only about being stopped and required to produce ID, but also about what happens after first contact. You must act calmly. If you feel discriminated against, take legal action afterwards and complain to your elected representatives.
  • A criminal charge requiring legal defense will cost you thousands of dollars if you are not entitled to legal aid. If you retain a legal aid lawyer, make sure of the quality of legal representation.
  • A criminal conviction may result in significant problems finding employment in fields requiring background checks, including the public service. You may not be able to travel to the United States years after the conviction unless you obtain a special permit to enter the country.


  • WHEN STOPPED FOR ID IN A CLUB

  • Do not argue, use calm and polite language to ask police for the reason behind an ID check;
  • Once the officer gives you a reason for the ID check, and asks for your ID, you must provide it. Otherwise, you may get charged with obstruction of justice. You can still file civil rights or police ethics complaints afterwards;
  • Surround yourself with friends who can act as witnesses to protect you;
  • Quietly remember the officer’s badge number, name and physical description (as sometimes, their names and badges are not visible);
  • Do not physically resist or touch the officer if you are physically grabbed or searched. Doing so can result in being charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest;
  • Once the officer gives you a reason for the ID check, and asks for your ID, you must provide it. Otherwise, you may be charged with obstruction of justice;
  • Do not say anything that resembles a threat. You may be charged with intimidation or using death threats;


  • WHEN STOPPED IN A CAR

  • Under the Highway Safety Code, and due to Supreme Court decisions, the police have almost absolute authority to stop you when you are in a vehicle in a public domain. You are only required to provide ID and car registration papers if you are the driver; passengers are not required to identify themselves. Even if you receive a fine for reasons deemed abusive or discriminatory, do not argue. Remain quiet and polite.


  • IF YOU WANT TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION

  • Write down all information about the incident, including witness names and phone numbers. Every detail matters should you decide to sue, or if you have to defend yourself against criminal charges.
  • If you want to file racial profiling complaints with the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner, the independent provincial civilian agency handling citizens’ complaints against the police, take into account that the Commissioner has not adopted policy guidelines on racial profiling despite CRARR’s urging since 2004. Due to different official definitions of racial profiling in Quebec, it is difficult to determine how the Commissioner handles racial profiling complaints.
  • If you want to file complaints with the Quebec human rights commission which has a comprehensive racial profiling policy, be mindful of long delays that can run up to four years (caused in part by police procedural challenges).
  • For more information and assistance, contact your university’s legal information clinic or CRARR at crarr@primus.ca

    This Advisory is part of CRARR’s Student Civil Rights Information Project (SCRIP), an initiative set up in 2010 in partnership with Concordia and McGill university student associations to inform students of their civil rights and to ensure a safe urban learning environment.

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