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DRIVING WHILE BLACK IN LONGUEUIL: BLACK MAN STOPPED FOR HAVING A “QUÉBÉCOIS” NAME


Montreal, July 27, 2010 --- The City of Longueuil is the target of racial profiling complaints after its two police officers stopped, in 2009, a Black man driving his wife, his step-daughter and two other family friends in his BMW near Montreal.

Mr. Joel Debellefeuille is a Black resident of Saint-Constant. He is a manager of a freight transportation company and drives a black BMW. He is frequently pulled over by the police for “routine checks.”

On the evening of July 10, 2009, Mr. Debellefeuille was driving his wife, step-daughter and two other family friends (all of whom are White) to get ice cream in Greenfield Park, a small municipality south of Montreal. As he was driving, Mr. Debellefeuille saw a police car in the opposite lane, and noticed the officer (who is of Middle-Eastern descent) looking at him as he passed. After he turned, the police car did a u-turn to follow him.

After following him for several blocks, the police car put on its siren. Mr. Debellefeuille immediately pulled over and got out of his car, feeling anxious and frustrated as this was the third time he has been pulled over that week. The two police officers, one Middle-Eastern male and one white female, came over to him. The male officer asked, “Hey guy, is this your car?” Mr. Debellefeuille, startled, replied that, first, his name was not guy; second, his wife, daughter and two other people are in the car so of course it was his car. He suggested that the officer check the plates. The officer replied that they could not be sure the car belonged to him just by checking the plates. He asked for ID and car registration. When Mr. Debellefeuille asked why he had been pulled over, the officer again asked for ID and car registration.

At this point, Mr. Debellefeuille’s wife got out of the car and lit a cigarette. The female officer then said that she had seen a cigarette butt tossed out of the window, but could not tell who had thrown it. Mr. Debellefeuille explained that that was impossible because no one is allowed to smoke inside the car. Feeling the police were fishing for excuses to explain why they had pulled him over, and insulted by the male officer’s disrespectful way of addressing him, Mr. Debellefeuille told them he wanted to see a supervisor before giving his ID and registration.

The officers eventually called a supervisor. On the supervisor’s arrival, Mr. Debellefeuille immediately handed over his ID and registration and explained that the officer had been disrespectful and seemed to have no reason for stopping him. To Mr. Debellefeuille’s frustration and disappointment, the supervisor replied, “Mr. Debellefeuille, it is a privilege for you to drive in Quebec. You are lucky it was (this officer) and not me who stopped you.”

Mr. Debellefeuille received two tickets, four months later, delivered by bailiff: one for having lapsed car insurance (his insurance had expired 2 days previous to the incident, on July 8, 2009) and one for not showing his identification. He contested the second ticket.

At the Municipal Court hearing, on June 1st, 2010, Mr. Debellefeuille received for the first time a copy of the police report for the incident. The report stated that the officer was suspicious because the driver was a Black man but the vehicle was registered under a “Québécois name.”

Realizing he was a victim of “Driving While Black”, Mr. Debellefeuille mandated CRARR to assist him in filing complaints to the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Police Ethics Commissioner for racial profiling, discriminatory and abusive policing through an unjustified stop, the officers’ rude and dismissive tone, and an unjust fine.

For Media Coverage:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_While_Black

http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/seeks+damages+racial+profiling+compl...

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/07/28/racial-profiling.html

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100729/quebec-man-...

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/black-man-says-quebec-polic...

http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/canadaworld/article/1154283

http://www.thestarphoenix.com/life/seeks+damages+racial+profiling+compla...

http://www.cjad.com/node/1178842

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/justice-et-faits-dive...

CRARR Counselor Adrienne Gibson and Joel Debellefeuille