UPDATE: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DECISION DISMISSING POLICE RACE BIAS CASE TO STAND
Montreal, May 2, 2014 --- There is a new development regarding a recent Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission decision in a case of race discrimination in policing that cites a court-invalidated decision from another agency.
In a decision rendered last month, the Commission rejected a complaint filed by CRARR on behalf of an English-speaking Black couple in NDG in Summer 2012. The couple went to Police Station 11 to ask for a police ethics complaint form after their home was the target of what they believed to be an abusive and discriminatory police intervention. The female officer at the counter told the couple that no form was available, despite official police guidelines clearly indicating that the form could be downloaded from the Police Ethics Commissioner’s website. The officer instructed the couple to call a downtown police station. Since they had previously obtained a form from that station, the couple believed that they had been denied a form and discriminated against, and left the station without the form. Earlier, their son went to the station and was arrested on the spot due to mistaken identity.
There is no statutory requirement in the Police Act to provide such forms to citizens who request them at the police station. However, Montreal Police Service policy stipulates that officers provide them to people who want to file ethics complaints against officers. In recent years, CRARR has received numerous complaints from racialized people in different parts of the city who were turned away from the police front desk when they wanted to file police ethics complaints.
Feeling unfairly treated, the couple asked for CRARR’s help in filing a police ethics complaint and a civil rights complaint. What comes next was only the beginning of the couple’s nightmare in dealing with the justice system.
First, as previously reported (see Police Ethics Tribunal Reverses Commissioner’s Decision Due to Problematic Investigation, http://crarr.org/?q=node/19586), Police Ethics Commissioner Paul Simard rejected the couple’s complaint against the officer. However, his investigation’s findings differed from those of the Human Rights Commission. In addition, Commissioner Simard’s investigator interviewed as a “witness” a West Island police commander (instead of the one from NDG) who turned out to be the officer the couple had cited in a separate complaint relating to the police intervention at their home.
However, in his decision, Commissioner Simard did not clearly mention this commander’s true status, which the couple only discovered later. Due to these problems, the Police Ethics Committee (an administrative tribunal) invalidated Commissioner Simard’s decision and ordered a new investigation.
The tribunal’s decision, rendered on February 13, was brought to the attention of the Human Rights Commission the day after. However, the Commission met and decided on February 12 to dismiss the couple’s complaint due to lack of evidence of discrimination on the part of the front desk officer. The excerpt of the Commission's decision (or “Resolution”) was approved on March 17, 2014 and sent to the parties after that date.
Technically speaking, as the Commission indicated in its response to CRARR's concern, the tribunal decision is thus considered posterior to the day when the Commission formally met and took its decision. Even if it was informed on February 14 that the Police Ethics Commissioner's decision was struck down, and that it only issued its decision on March 17, 2014, the Commission does not legally have any power to internally revise its decision of February 12.
It should also be noted that one week before the human rights commission met on February 12 to adjudicate, its President was informed in writing by the couple of problems with factual inconsistencies in its own inquiry and the Police Ethics Commissioner's investigation. The Commission did not clarify its options it had between February 12 and March 17, when it was fully informed of the court-invalidated decision.
As a result, the couple is left with two decisions issued by two different administrative agencies, which contain serious factual gaps and inconsistent investigation outcomes, not to mention an evident error in the human rights commission's decision that is allowed to stand [the error being a mention that there was a police ethics “hearing” (“audience”) with the couple, when no such hearing took place because there are no “hearings“ in the Police Ethics Commissioner's complaint-handling process].
“Of course, the factual error and other inconsistencies makes us ask serious questions about the human rights commission’s investigations of complaints of police racism, especially when it comes to those from English-speaking Black people like us”, says the couple. “The commission rushed through our case, ignoring evidence. This should throw the administration of justice into disrepute.”
The case inevitably raises questions about civil rights protection for English-speaking Black Montrealers. Despite a large number of complaints of racial profiling from English-speaking and French-speaking Black and other racialized persons that have been filed with the Human Rights Commission in recent years, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has not rendered any decision involving English-speaking Black Montrealers.
CRARR still has several racial profiling cases before the human rights commission that involve English-speaking Black Montrealers and that languish over the years (it should be noted that some of the delays in investigating complaints of racial profiling involving the Montreal Police were caused by multiple procedural wrangles launched by the City of Montreal between 2009 and 2011 to prevent these cases from going forward). Some of these cases include: