This past Monday Montreal city council voted unanimously to accept the motion of council dean Marvin Rotrand calling on the SPVM to stop “unfounded and random” police checks of Montrealers. The motion arose out of a finding of an independent report that found many “arbitrary checks that disproportionately target minorities.”

Researchers working on the report analyzed the police force’s own statistics, gathered between 2014 and 2017, and found that black and indigenous people were between four and five times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people. Young Arab Montrealers were also targeted four times more than white Montrealers. Indigenous women were 11 times more likely than white women to be subjected to a police street check.

The power to give teeth to Monday’s motion however rests with the provincial government. Only it can change the law and forbid police from engaging in these random checks. Nova Scotia has implemented just such a provincial “moratorium” on routine police checks following a report that found that police there were unfairly targeting Afro-Canadians. Montreal’s councillors have called on Quebec to follow Nova Scotia’s lead.

The motion also requires the city’s executive committee to present a report to the city council detailing how the city will address racial profiling issues inside the SPVM.

Though the vote was a clear victory for Rotrand and the community coalition that had called for action on racial profiling, they were disappointed that the words “moratorium” and “routine” were taken out of the wording of the original motion. We would urge the Plante administration to act in the spirit of the resolution and not in any watered-down manner. It is also to be hoped that Rotrand’s coalition of community groups be part of the process in rectifying the attitudes and actions of Montreal police.

We have seen and reported on almost weekly instances of prejudice in relations between police and visible minorities. In the current climate in Quebec, this is an important step in reforming police behavior on this pressing issue.

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