Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montréal, March 7, 2019 — A Laval Judge has ruled that two police officers in that city abused their authority and violated a Black man’s constitutional rights, by mocking him and then issuing him a fine for having insulted them.

In a lengthy decision issued last February 21, Justice Chantal Paré of the Laval Municipal Court threw out the charge against Pradel Content, a 40 year-old English-speaking disabled Black man, who was fined $77 for insulting police officers when he said “Bitch” as the officers were driving away.

The case involved Content, who was sitting at night in front of his residential building and chatting with his neighbors, back in July 2018. A police car drove by on the dead-end street and made a u-turn in front of his building. Since he had been often stopped and checked by Laval police officers, which he considered to be a form of harassment, Content took out his cellphone to film the police car.

The two officers asked him in French if he had a problem with his phone, to which Content replied, “Excuse me?” as he does not speak French. A back-and-forth exchange followed, during which Content talked about recording to “protect his human rights” and the officers, sitting in their police car, using a sarcastic tone to mock him. At one point, the officers said “bye bye” to Content, without leaving the area. Finally, as the officers began to drive away, Content, at this moment exasperated, said, “Bitch” out of exasperation.

The next evening, Content’s mother, Marie-Rose Théodore, saw the same police car parked in front of her building, One of the officers from the previous evening was seen near the door of the building. The officer quickly left in his car as she and he made eye contact. A week later, Content received in the mail a ticket for having insulted a police officer during the “exercise of his functions.”

Thanks to his video recording, Justice Paré notes that the officers approached Content without a valid reason, shined a light at him, and ridiculed him. She adds that no infraction in violation of either the Highway Safety or Criminal Code was committed. In her opinion, once Content replied to the police that he had no questions, their presence on the scene no longer had a purpose, provided there had been one at the beginning.

Justice Paré also notes the officers’ version being contradicted by the video, and concludes that the police intervention and subsequent ticket constitute an abuse of power, and thus a violation of Content’s Charter rights to life, security and liberty.

Justice Paré also ruled that in refusing to leave, questioning Content regarding his rights, laughing at him and only leaving after exasperating him (all of which constitutes psychological intimidation) the officers were not in the execution of their functions and thus did not have the power under Laval’s bylaw to fine Content.

“I’m happy and relieved that the Court clearly repudiated the officers' conduct and violation of my constitutional rights,” Content said. “This conduct, which the Court refers to as harassment and intimidation, and an abuse of authority, is reprehensible and should be firmly sanctioned,” he added.

“However, I'm disappointed and perplexed that the Court ruled out racial profiling, because there was not much discussion in court, about racial profiling. I don't know how she arrived at that conclusion,” Content noted.

“We believe that the judge erroneously referred to an outdated Montreal Police Service's definition of racial profiling being based “essentially” on race,” CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi said. “The Supreme Court of Canada stated that one needs only to prove that race is a factor, not “essential” in an official’s action.”

“For this reason, we are discussing the option of appealing the decision, in order to avoid creating contradictory case law on racial profiling at the trial level,” Niemi added.

Last Fall, CRARR helped Content file complaints about this incident with the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. Content now has three complaints before each agency against the Laval Police, as a result of two other incidents in 2017. In one case, one officer has been cited by the Police Ethics Commissioner for a dozen police ethics code violations.