RACIAL PROFILING: MONTREAL POLICE AND BLACK OFFICER ASKED BY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO PAY $17,000 TO BLACK YOUTH
Montreal, February 16, 2017 — The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has asked the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) and a Black police officer to pay $17,000 in damages to a Black youth who was violently grabbed and thrown off of a bus in Lasalle in February 2009.
In a decision transmitted to the parties two weeks ago, the Commission also asks the SPVM and officer Mathieu Hypolite to pay Victor Whyte, who was then 15 years old, $15,000 in moral damages; officer Hypolite is asked to personally pay Mr. Whyte $2,000 in punitive damages for deliberately violating his civil rights. In addition, the Commission proposes that the SPVM ensure the consistency of its operational definition of racial profiling with that approved by the courts.
More importantly, the Commission also asks the SPVM to adopt a policy on intervention and the use of force adapted to minors. This is the first time that the Commission addresses the issue of the police's use of excessive force on minors and the possible adverse and discriminatory impact that such excessive force can have on youths. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is also addressing the link between race and the discriminatory use of police force, in a test case before the courts in that province.
In February 2009, Mr. Whyte and a group of approximately 20 Black friends went to the McDonald's on Newman Blvd. in Lasalle. They had come from a basketball game at the Boys and Girls Club of Lasalle. Because the group was considered too noisy, all the Black youths were asked to leave, including Mr. Whyte who had already ordered his food.
Under the officers’ order to get on the bus and leave otherwise they would get a fine, the youths took different buses in front of the McDonald's. Mr. Whyte and some of his friends got on the 106 bus through the back door. Drivers tended to let passengers board through the back door when there were too many people waiting in line, especially during Winter, as was the case when Mr. Whyte and his friends boarded the bus.
Inside the bus, as he was talking with his friends, Mr. Whyte felt someone grab him violently from behind. Instinctively, he held on to the bus ramp to keep his balance. He was then pulled more violently and thrown off the bus onto the snow-covered ground. Someone kicked his lower legs to make him fall to the ground and forcefully pulled his left arm and handcuffed him. He was then pulled up and dragged towards the police car before being once again pushed to the ground, on his back, when he felt someone step on his stomach.
Mr. Whyte was fined $118 for boarding a bus without payment, and charged with obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of the criminal charge in 2010. The Crown appealed and the Superior Court of Quebec dismissed the appeal in 2011, ruling that the arrest was illegal since Officer Hypolite did not inform Mr. Whyte of the offense committed before arresting him, among other grounds.
CRARR filed the complaint on behalf of Mr. Whyte's mother in July 2009. The Commission's Complaints Committee met in November 2016 to render decision on the case.
“Of course I am happy that after seven years, the Human Rights Commission sided with me and recommended that amount, ” said Mr. Whyte. “The Montreal Police, and a Black police officer, robbed me of my adolescence, and made my family pay thousands of dollars for my defense, and this should not happen any more to Black youths and families in our city.”
“This decision raises the bar on police racism in Quebec as the issue of police use of force on minors, in a context of racial profiling, can lead to a more serious form of intersectional discrimination based on race, age and gender, which is exactly how we see the case,” added CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “This case will hopefully receive judicial confirmation that a Black police officer can also commit racial profiling and discriminatory excessive force towards a Black youth.”
As with all racial profiling decisions by the Human Rights Commission, the SPVM has not responded to the Commission's order, which means the case will go before the Human Rights Tribunal.
This case is the fourth CRARR case of racial profiling and racial discrimination involving the SPVM that has been brought before the Tribunal. The other pending cases are that of two Black twin brothers who were tailed and fined while driving their Mercedes downtown in 2007 ($22,000 in damages claim), two Black men who were stopped and checked while being in a car with three white female friends in NDG in 2009 ($36,000) and a South Asian man who was singled out for arrest, and on whom the police used excessive force and directed racial slurs in the Plateau in 2012 ($40,000).
“The City of Montreal must renew its Action Plan against racial profiling as soon as possible, since the expiry in 2014 of the previous plan. Racism in policing is still going on, and we call on the SPVM and the Montreal Intercultural Council to address this issue now, especially in terms of the price tag of racial profiling,” said Mr. Niemi.