Groups demand an end to racial profiling in Quebec
Three years after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a Minnesota police officer, racial profiling continues to wreak havoc, including in Quebec, according to the Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL). The group is leading a collective of organizations demanding profound changes in the practices of police officers in the province.
It will soon be 15 years since 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva died during a police intervention in Montreal North. Cassandra Exumé was the same age as Villanueva. Now 33, the young woman, who works with the youth and community organization Hoodstock, hopes things change once and for all.
“We can no longer be satisfied with reacting when these incidents happen,” she said during a news conference on Thursday. “We need to be proactive and not wait for the next Black or racialized person to die.”
Exumé regularly hears accounts from racialized people who have been targeted because of their skin colour or their clothing, which she says happens far too often.
“For these people, simply existing arouses suspicion from police officers,” she said. “Everything becomes a so-called valid reason for them to be questioned.”
The collective, which includes Hoodstock, Collectif 1629, le Collectif de lutte et d'action contre le racisme and Coalition Rouge, demands that the Quebec government finally recognize systemic racism in the police force, and forbid police stops in public spaces.
Statistics show that between 2014 and 2017, Black or racialized people were four to five times more likely to be stopped by police than whites. In Repentigny, from 2016 to 2019, they were three times more likely to be stopped, said Maxime Fortin, co-ordinator for the Quebec branch of the LDL. To this day, he added, Quebec City and its police force refuse to take part in this statistical exercise.
“We have people who refuse to go to certain neighbourhoods, who develop a way of behaving with police officers and who develop a certain resilience in the face of discrimination because they experience it too often,” he explained.
“It's all well to say that training will be given and that the situation is being taken seriously,” Exumé said. “The fact is racialized people continue to be discriminated against.”
Although the minister of public security, François Bonnardel, promised to tackle the problem with Bill 14, he demonstrated with his words he had “no intention of fighting racial profiling,” said LDL spokesperson Lynda Khelil.
“The minister stated that the project is a big step forward in terms of the fight against racism but that's false, totally false. Bill 14 is the status quo, it's an empty shell and an attempt by the minister to dupe the population.”
Improving representation in the police force by hiring officers of diverse backgrounds will not fix the problem, according to Fortin.
“It's legitimate to want a police force that is more representative of the population, but simply integrating racialized officers into institutions will not be sufficient,” he said. “There have already been cases of racial profiling involving Black, Hispanic or racialized police officers. It's the system that has to be changed.”
The group wants the government to cancel its appeal of the Luamba decision, which forbids random or arbitrary police stops on roadways, so that the decision can be applied. The Luamba decision, from October 2022, overturned the 1990 Supreme Court decision R. v. Ladouceur, which permitted a practice “that is a gateway to racial profiling,” according to Fortin.
To mark the anniversary of the death of George Floyd and to emphasize its demands, the LDL and several partner organizations are holding a protest on Saturday, May 27, at 1 p.m. at Place ÉmilieGamelin.