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Montreal, June 9, 2010 --- CRARR presented 28 recommendations to combat racial profiling in Montreal to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

The presentation took place as part of the Commission’s public consultation hearings on racial profiling, which have been taking place since the end of May. The Commission is seeking public input on ways and means to address racial profiling of youth (ages 14 to 25) in law enforcement, education and youth protection institutions.

CRARR proposes a systemic and intersectional approach to racial profiling. It characterizes the practice not only as a civil rights violation but also a violation of racialized persons’ right to the city and to citizenship and a practice that undermines police efficiency and social cohesion.

CRARR reviewed practices by police, public transit inspectors and private security guards, distilled from CRARR’s more than 100 complaints filed with the Human Rights Commission and Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner over the last decade. CRARR then identified 11 recurrent practices closely associated with racial profiling. These include explicitly discriminatory words and statements; excessive use of force without justification; deliberate violations of the law by police in attempts to identify a person (such as requiring car passengers to provide ID, contrary to Quebec law); taking pictures of youths in schools and subway stations, and carding and requiring them to produce their IDs in the street without valid motives.

CRARR also recommends conceptualizing racial profiling as a consequence of inadequate institutional accountability on the part of elected city officials and other public agencies. It lists 13 documented practices to illustrate incoherencies, contradictions and failed accountability in municipal decision-making—including the Public Security Commission’s secretive, behind-closed-doors workings to oversee the city’s police; the secretive Police Chief appointment process; police policies and practices on zero tolerance, incivilities and street gangs, adopted without public debate or evaluation; and the failure to disclose data on police arrests and fines that are based on race and related factors—information that would allow the public to assess the scope of criminalization of racialized citizens.

CRARR specifically questions City Hall’s decision to let its lawyers employ endless legal procedures (at taxpayers’ expense) to obstruct the Human Rights Commission’s work and prevent legal judgments on racial profiling. Since 2007, the City of Montreal has initiated over 15 legal actions against the Human Rights Commission and CRARR concerning five racial profiling cases and other racial profiling investigations, all to prevent judicial confirmation of racial profiling in Montreal. (One case will be heard by the Court of Appeal this fall).

CRARR concludes that many of these municipal practices violate 11 of the 14 fundamental rights recognized by the City of Montreal in its own Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

CRARR's brief also documents serious deficiencies in the Human Rights Commission’s handling of racial profiling complaints in particular, and complaints of racial discrimination in general. It identifies more than 15 recurring problems in the Commission’s investigation and decision-making process. In CRARR’s opinion, these issues deprive profiling and discrimination victims of basic protection and access to justice to which they are legally entitled. Some of these obstacles include: inadequate training and knowledge of racism, resulting in systemic and direct bias against complainants; inadequate monetary and non-monetary claims for victims; excessive delays (of up to six years, even for simple cases); lack of fairness and responsiveness towards complainants; and the Commission’s new practice of referring fewer cases to the Human Rights Tribunal—even after finding the complainant suffered discrimination.

Other key issues raised in CRARR’s presentation include:

  • Allegations of systematic inadequate legal representation of minority youth in the youth criminal justice system by lawyers with legal aid mandates;
  • Youth protection and criminal justice agencies’ failure to keep appropriate data and revise institutional practices responsively, despite the over-representation of racialized youths;
  • The Montreal public transit authority’s failure to adopt an anti-discrimination policy and train its subway inspector on racial profiling, despite a major 2006 human rights decision against it (in a case filed by CRARR) and a court decision in 2007;
  • The police’s recurrent attempt to uphold police officers’ rights at the expense of citizens’ rights, by arguing that the provincial Police Act should supercede the quasi-constitutional Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms;
  • The “incestuous” system by which investigations of police interventions resulting in death or serious injury are undertaken by another police department.
  • CRARR’s presentation does not address challenges with the Quebec Police Ethics system as these will be the focus of a separate study to be released later this year. The civil rights group does identify three factors, which in its opinion, reflect the fundamental flaws within that system and further explains its decision not to automatically refer citizens to the Police Ethics Commissioner to file complaints; namely, the lack of policy guidelines on investigations into complaints of racial profiling; the fact that police officers subject to a police ethics complaint have the right not to cooperate with the Commissioner’s investigation (per the Police Act); and the fact that, over the past ten years, the Police Ethics Committee (an independent administrative tribunal) has rendered only one decision on racial profiling (in 2006).

    CRARR was represented at the consultation by Fo Niemi, Executive Director; Aymar Missakila, lawyer; Adrienne Gibson, Civil Rights Advocate and René Saint-Léger, lawyer.

  • Read CRARR's brief (in French only)
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