BLACK MAN FILES COMPLAINT WITH FEDERAL PRIVACY COMMISSIONER OVER BANK'S VIDEO SURVEILLANCE
Montreal, March 18, 2014 --- A Black Montrealer whose racial profiling case is now before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has filed a complaint with the federal Privacy Commissioner against BMO Bank of Montreal, in which he alleges that BMO subjected him to non-consensual video surveillance and then used images it obtained of him in its defence.
The case could well be the first of its kind in Canada involving racial profiling by video surveillance.
In response to a string of bank heists, in early 2012, BMO provided its employees at a Laval branch with photographs of the suspects—both Black men. During a visit to the branch, a BMO employee misapprehended Mr. Wayne Foster as the robbery suspect, which culminated in police detaining him at gunpoint. However, Mr. Foster does not share any resemblance with the suspects other than the fact of being male and Black; the police quickly released after viewing the evidence and realized that he was the mistaken for the robbery suspect.
As a result of the treatment he experienced, Mr. Foster enlisted CRARR’s help in filing a complaint against BMO before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In its defence, the bank included his photographs which were taken by video surveillance without his consent, notably, nearly five months after the incident at the Laval branch, when he was using the ATM machine in a branch in Montreal.
Mr. Foster considers the bank’s decision to use and disclose the photograph of himself as arbitrary and abusive, and a violation of his privacy right. With CRARR’s support, he filed a complaint with the federal Privacy Commissioner last week.
“BMO’s actions led to [Mr. Foster] being unreasonably monitored … as a result of his complaint to the [Canadian Human Rights Commission] and consequently, being subjected, without his knowledge and consent, to heightened and abusive scrutiny over an extended period of time until such time that BMO obtained a photo of [himself] dressed in a manner that resembled the photographs of the suspects,” reads the complaint.
Mr. Foster hopes that his case may set a precedent for racial profiling by video surveillance in the private sector. In addition to an individual remedy, he has asked the Privacy Commissioner to inquire into BMO’s practices related to the collection and disclosure of photographs of its clients from video surveillance footage.