The Quebec Human Rights Commission has released a report tackling racial profiling in Quebec, but whether it’ll make a difference depends on the political will to implement the recommendations, says Fo Niemi,executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.
The report notes that racial profiling is often viewed as aproblem exclusive to Montreal, and Niemi says that’s because of the city’s racial diversity.
Residents in areas with a higher concentration of minorities, and a high perception that minorities lead to crime, are more likely to be stopped by the police, Niemiexplains.
He says that data shows “if you are a young male ofcolour, mostly black or Latino…your chances of being intercepted increase 100 per cent, or 150 per cent in some areas, such Côte des Neiges, Little Burgundy, NDG, in LaSalle, in Pierrefonds.”
The report contains two recommendations that, if implemented, would make an immediate difference in people’s lives, Niemi says.
The first is the recommendation that the Montreal police revise the tactics used by Eclipse, the anti-gang unit, which, he says, has been known to target young black men because they are suspected of being gang members.
“The other recommendation is that the city change its policy against incivilities – any public conduct deemed to be uncivil, like talking loud, jaywalking, spitting in the street, walking on the grass,” he says. “All of these supposed incivilities… give police technically a carte blanche to stop and fine a lot of people.”
The report, released on May 11, focuses on racial profiling by police, in schools, and in the youth protection system.It makes 93 recommendations, aimed at the government as well as those institutions, including calling on the government to take action to prevent and eliminate racial profiling.
It defines racial profiling as an action towards a person or a group, taken by someone in authority “for reasons of safety, security or public order, that is based on actual or presumed membership in a group defined by race, colour, ethnic or national origin or religion, without factual grounds or reasonable suspicion, that results in the person or group being exposed to differential treatment or scrutiny.”
Amal Asmar, a profiling victim whose story the Suburban covered last year, says that “there’s a lot of work that needs to be done” in order to improve the situation in Montreal.
Asmar was resting on a bench in front of Alexis Nihon Plaza when two police officers stopped and began questioning her.
They told her that because she had placed her bag on the bench, she was using the bench improperly. After pinningher arms behind her, they handcuffed her and gave her $1000 worth of tickets.
She says the incident changed the way she viewed the justice system.
“I’d never thought I would be a victim of something, and when it did happen to me, my whole perception, my whole belief system, has been very altered. I used to have faith in our justice system, in our police force.”