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SUSPICION OF A BLACK MAN WITH A QUÉBÉCOIS NAME REASONABLE: POLICE ETHICS TRIBUNAL DECISION ON RACE WILL BE APPEALED


Montreal, January 27, 2010 - At CRARR's urging, the Police Ethics Commissioner will appeal the decision of the Police Ethics Committee, released on January 11, which rejected a race-based complaint filed by David Lévêque, a biracial young man, on the grounds that the decision misinterprets the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and creates a dangerous precedent for victims of biased policing.

In October 2008, Mr. Lévêque went to move his car parked on Guy St. near St-Antoine, in downtown Montreal, due to parking time restriction. As he left his car to go back to the office, police officer Nancy Pelletier drove by, spotted his car and decided to check its license plate as she believed the car was parked in a restricted area. She also saw Mr. Lévêque leaving the vehicle in a hurry. The computer check revealed that the car was under restriction and that the name of the owner was David Lévêque.

The combination of this information, in addition to the fact that the car owner's name seemed Québécois whereas according to her experience it was unlikely for a Black man to carry this name, made her decide to call for back up before intercepting Mr. Lévêque as she suspected him of being a car thief. She got out of the car and pulled out her firearm (she claimed that she placed the gun along her right thigh, whereas Mr. Lévêque stated that she pointed the weapon at his face). She forced him to lie down on the ground and handcuffed him. After checking his ID, she found out that Mr. Lévêque's car was under restriction because he had not paid his license registration fees. When Mr. Lévêque asked for her name and badge number, she refused to provide it to him; furthermore, she did not read him his constitutional rights.

Although the officer herself admitted that a Black man with a Québécois name made her become suspicious and was a factor in her decision to intercept him, the Committee (an administrative tribunal) did not find her conduct to be influenced by Mr. Lévêque's race. It even ruled that the Commissioner must prove that the interception was based on race rather than the Highway Safety Code and did not doubt the officer's good faith in believing in the slim probability of a Black man with a Québécois name. While the Committee did address the danger of relying on stereotypes, it was not considered an issue in this case. The Committee then dismissed this portion of the complaint, as well as the other aspects related to illegal detention and arrest, failure to inform Mr. Lévêque of his rights, and careless use of her weapon.

“This is the most disturbing display of racial bias on the part of a Quebec tribunal”, said CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, who assisted Mr. Lévêque in his complaint. “For a tribunal in 2010 to hold that to be suspicious of a Black man because of his Québécois name is an acceptable honest belief, is, at best a reprehensible approval of racial profiling and a total disregard of Canadian and Quebec human rights jurisprudence on race discrimination.”

Upon analyzing the decision, CRARR and Mr. Lévêque called on Police Ethics Commissioner Claude Simard to appeal the decision. By law, the Commissioner has 20 days to appeal the decision.

  • To read the decision (in French only):
  • http://www.canlii.org/fr/qc/qccdp/doc/2010/2010canlii232/2010canlii232.html

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Ethics+head+appeals+case+racist/2502...

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