Montreal must follow lead of cities that ban chokeholds, tear gas use: coalition

Sharon Nelson, First Vice President of the Jamaica Association of Montreal.

A large coalition of local groups are calling on Montreal to “follow the lead of dozens of cities across North America which have in the past weeks tightened police use of force policies and which have specifically banned chokeholds and the use of tear gas,” Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand announced.

The coalition includes the Ligue des Noirs du Quebec, Jamaica Association, CDN BCA, Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS), Black Community Resource Centre (BCRC), Lasalle Multicultural Resource Centre, Filipino Golden Agers, Barbados House, Cornucopia Association, Grenada Nationals; elected officials Montreal North councillor Renee Chantal Belinga, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli and Rotrand; the Alliance of South Asian Communities, Himalaya Seniors, Pangasinan Association, Montreal En Action,Canadians for Co-Existence, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, The Women’s Group, Caribbean Pioneer Women, Guyana Association, CRARR, Playmas, the Federation of Filipino Canadian Associations of Quebec, Cornucopia Association, Bangladesh Society, Tamil Elders, Guyana Association, and the Montreal Council of Women.

Rotrand said the coalition “came together after last October’s report on police street checks, which showed that indigenous persons and visible minorities are stopped far more often by police than anyone else. The coalition’s assertion of bias and demands for change was reflected in last week’s report of the Office de Consultation Publique de Montreal which wrote ‘The Commission esteems that racial and social profiling prevails within the SPVM and that it constitutes violence directed toward certain racialized groups and Indigenous persons.’”

“Let’s start with what we can do immediately,” stated Tiffany Callender of the Côte des Neiges Black Community Association. “In the last few weeks, New York City, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Denver, Louisville, Salt Lake City, and Washington, among others, have enacted new rules to ban chokeholds. There are simply too many deaths. The ban shines the light on police violence and means police must use less brutal means of restraint.”

The coalition pointed out that New York City adopted the motion of Councillor Rory Lancman to end chokeholds, which was first proposed after the death of Eric Garner following his interaction with police.

“It took the death of George Floyd to convince New York that chokeholds are too dangerous.”

The coalition is also asking for tear gas to be removed from the SPVM’s arsenal.

“The coalition believes that the widespread use of tear gas against peaceful demonstrations in over 100 American cities show that tear gas is a danger to democracy. It has long been established to be a health risk.”

“We want the city to immediately commit to withdrawing tear gas from use in Montreal,” said Sharon Nelson, First Vice President of the Jamaica Association of Montreal. “City councils in Seattle, Portland, Pittsburgh and New Orleans have banned or severely restricted tear gas use. In fact, riot-control agents like tear gas are banned from use in warfare under the Chemical Weapons Convention, yet they may still be used for law enforcement despite its proven detriment to health of those exposed.”

The coalition is also demanding a review of the SPVM’s intermediate weapons policy “ranging from rubber bullets to pepper spray to electric pistols.”

Councillor Belinga said the coalition’s demands are modest, but she is concerned “civilian oversight of police in our city has been eroded over the past two years.

“It is as if the SPVM no longer listens to the Public Security Commission,” she added. “There are more public meetings, but less substance and no change. Deadlines promised on dossiers like street checks are missed and a date only set after enormous public pressure. In dossiers such as the use of invasive mass surveillance technologies like facial recognition, neither we or the elected officials yet know if the SPVM uses the technology. The secrecy must stop.”

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