CRARR SEEKS BAN OF POLICE UNFORMS AND WEAPONS AT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEDIATION SESSIONS
Montreal, October 28, 2013 --- The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission should forbid police officers cited in discrimination and profiling complaints from coming to mediation in full uniform with their weapons.
This was a request made by CRARR last week to Commission Chair Jacques Frémont.
The request was made following an incident in which a Black man in his sixties, who filed a complaint of race discrimination against Montreal Police Department (SPVM) officers, felt highly intimidated and reacted very negatively to the presence of the officers named in the complaint who came to the mediation at the Commission’s office, in full uniform and with firearms.
The man complained of an abusive and discriminatory arrest in December 2012 in the center-north district of Montreal, following an assault by a violent neighbor who also hurled anti-Black insults at him. The two officers who arrested him did not want to hear his version. The man ended up with criminal charges.
Due to the nature of the police intervention, the man experienced important psychological and financial consequences, with his integrity and dignity seriously hurt.
“A uniform and a firearm in particular represent intimidating power symbols for a victim-complainant [who complains about police discrimination and abuse]”, wrote CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi in its letter to the Commission.
CRARR reminds the Commission of the principle articulated at s. 157 of the Quebec Police Act, which requires police officers named in a complaint to the Police Ethics Commissioner to participate in conciliation sessions in civilian clothing. This requirement aims to “prevent the imbalance in the power relationship during conciliation and any possibility of intimidation.” Such an obligation should also logically extend to mediation sessions at the Human Rights Commission.
CRARR also raises concern over the fact that police respondents in a complaint often come accompanied by a lawyer from the City of Montreal (in its capacity of employer); a lawyer from the SPVM as well as a senior manager of the department, while the victim-complainant comes alone, or accompanied by only one person.
“Power is about numbers, and this imbalance necessarily creates a situation that puts the victim-complainant in a position of inferiority and subordination from the beginning”, wrote CRARR.
CRARR calls upon victim-complainants to refuse to attend mediation when faced with officers in uniform, carrying firearms, batons and handcuffs.