The Red Coalition civil rights lobby group that has been at the forefront of the battle against racial profiling as of late, has filed a request for a contempt-of-court order to appear against the city of Longueuil.
Lawyer Julius Grey filed the motion in Quebec court, alleging that Longueuil, by not adhering to a judgment by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal to collect and publish race-based data and begin racial profiling training of their police officers, is in contempt of court.
The city and its police force (the SPAL), then under the leadership of Montreal's current police director Fady Dagher, received court orders that were very specific: training on racial profiling by within 24 months of the ruling and start collecting race-based data on all police interceptions where the presumed race are members of racialized communities. This information and new program were to be implemented in 2021.
To-date, none were done by the city, despite the order and despite the city being served two demand letters last November by the Coalition, cautioning Mayor Catherine Fournier that they were in breach of court orders.
The ruling was part of the judgment in the case of Coalition founder and executive director Joel DeBellefeuille, who brought the case to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse over his repeated cases of harassment by Longueuil police for “driving while black.”
The city waited, DeBellefeuille told The Suburban, adding that the stunning revelation by way of leaked letters between the commission and police chief, that the Quebec Public Security Ministry may have pressured the city to slow the release of the data or the training in anticipation of its own province-wide rollout is unacceptable. (The Ministry denied allegations that they interfered.)
“They had the golden opportunity to do the right thing,” he says. “They were ordered to do so, they delayed and then we discovered that the city and police force were in discussion with the ministry on a province-wide rollout. They could have announced it at a press conference, they could have asked the court for a delay, they could have acted in good faith, but they didn't respect the court judgement.”
The accumulation of two years of arrest data as well as racial profiling training would have sensitized not only Longueuil’s police force, but other police forces, judges, prosecutors, the public and the media, says DeBellefeuille.
Indeed, Grey’s filing notes that in the judgement, the Tribunal stated that the data collection “is a necessary measure to better document the extent of racial profiling within the (Longueuil Police department) SPAL, to further raise police officers’ awareness of this phenomenon, and to better equip them to fight it.” Moreover, “periodic communication of such data, in a transparent manner that respects the right to privacy of the persons stopped, may help better inform the public and maintain its confidence in its police department.”
“Imagine how many cases in the last two years could have been avoided” says DeBellefeuille, “the injustices that could have been stopped in their tracks,” citing several cases including Brice Dossa being handcuffed by Montreal cops who suspected him of theft of his own car, and then couldn’t find the key to uncuff him.
“This is a deep-rooted problem, with all these institutions directly or indirectly involved and complicit… This is the definition of systemic racism. It started with a judge handing down a ruling, the ministry says slow down, the cops slow down, the city doesn’t comply.
“This is how it persists.”