Rotrand motion calling for halt to unfounded police checks passes at council

Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand

Montreal council unanimously passed a motion put forward by Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand calling on the Montreal police to halt routine random police checks and on the Quebec government to pass a law prohibiting such checks.

The motion’s co-presenter was Councillor Giuliana Fumagalli.

According to media reports, the wording of the original motion was changed by council members, including the word “moratorium” being taken out, as was a reference to street checks being “routine.”

“The text isn’t exactly what the groups want, but it represents a big step forward,” the councillor said.

Before Monday night’s meeting, Rotrand was joined at a press conference that afternoon at Montreal city hall by a coalition of some 20 groups reiterating their demand. They included the Black Coalition of Quebec, the National Council of Muslims, CRARR, the Jamaica Association of Montreal, Montreal En Action, the Association des juristes progressistes, the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, the Coloured Women’s Club, and many others.

The motion and recent demands were sparked by a recent report identifying systemic discrimination by Montreal police, and which said visible minorities, such as young Arabs, members of the black community and indigenous women, are much more likely to be stopped by police than whites. The SPVM is expected to respond to the report in March, with new measures.

Rotrand has cited laws passed by Ontario and Nova Scotia, and on Monday, he cited former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s apology for that city’s “stop and frisk” policy.

Human rights lawyer, and former federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Irwin Cotler lent his support to the motion Monday.

“The report [on the SPVM] demonstrated that police checks are arbitrary, selective and discriminatory,” Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, told the CBC. “It undermines confidence in the administration of justice, it increases alienation between visible minorities and the police and it tends to result in criminalization of these vulnerable groups.”

Cotler also called on Montreal City Council to “provide the political leadership to assure all Montrealers regardless of origin that racial and ethnic minorities will not be targeted.”

Rotrand’s motion also:

• Asks that council “demands that the SPVM provide a written response to the report on random street checks and that it describes the solutions that will be implemented to address the problems of racial profiling.

• Asks that council “mandate the executive committee to provide a written response describing the measures the municipality will take to address racial profiling issues within its police department.”

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