QUEBEC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: THE CITY OF MONTREAL MUST PAY BLACK MAN $33,000 FOR RACIAL PROFILING
Montreal, June 17, 2014 --- The City of Montreal and its two police employees must pay a Black Anglophone former teacher from Lasalle $33,000 in moral and punitive damages for racial profiling and subjecting him to an illegal detention and arrest, and the issuance of an abusive fine, stated the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission in a decision released last month.
In a precedent-setting decision, the Commission also asks the Montreal Police Service to hold, in the coming year, training to prevent racial profiling and to report to the Commission on the outcomes.
After midnight on April 9, 2010, Mr. Farid Charles, then 26, was waiting as a passenger in his friend's car while said friend went to order food at a Caribbean take-out restaurant in a shopping center in Lasalle, a South West district of Montreal. Officer Christopher Brault suddenly opened the driver's side door and asked for Mr. Charles' driver's license and car papers. When Mr. Charles told officer Brault that he had no right to open the door, the latter told him that he could do whatever he wanted. Officer Brault then insisted that Mr. Charles show his ID, without telling him why; he only told Mr. Charles to sit still and be quiet, due to break-ins in the area.
When Mr. Charles asked the officer why he wanted to see ID, yet again, the latter moved quickly to the passenger side, and grabbed Mr. Charles' arm. When Mr. Charles told the officer to let go, as the officer had no right to to do what he did, the latter grabbed Mr. Charles, dragged him out of the car, punched him in the face and dragged him to the ground. Mr. Charles was then handcuffed and searched by Officer Brault and his colleague Officer Mathieu Boucher-Bacon.
Mr. Charles was then released with a $144 fine for being “found wandering without being able to justify his presence.” The fine was withdrawn in 2012 by the City as the shopping center is private property and the police cannot enforce city by-laws on it.
With CRARR's help, Mr. Charles launched a police ethics complaint against the two officers for racial profiling, use of excessive force, abuse of authority and bringing a charge without grounds. CRARR also filed a civil rights complaint against the officers and their employer, the City of Montreal, seeking $30,000 in damages.
In the first decision issued in February 2013, the Police Ethics Committee, a specialized tribunal, concluded that both officers acted illegally from the moment they intercepted Mr. Charles.
In a second decision issued in May 2013 on the sanctions, the Committee ruled that each of the two officers should be suspended for five days without pay for illegally intercepting, arresting and using unjustified force on Mr. Charles, and for five more days without pay for issuing a ticket to Mr. Charles (the Committee actually ordered a suspension without pay for each of the four charges, but decided that the first three should be served concurrently (thus the five days for all three), while the fourth, for the fine, separately.
However, the Committee rejected the racial profiling claim, stating that the officers intercepted Mr. Charles before realizing his “Blackness” and that there was insufficient evidence that their treatment of Mr. Charles was linked to race.
However, the Human Rights Commission concluded that Mr. Charles was a victim of race discrimination and recommended that the City pay him $25,000 in moral damages, and that the two officers pay him $8,000 in punitive damages. The deadline to comply was last Friday.
“I am pleased with the Commission's decision, and hope that this will serve an effective deterrent to the ever-present practice of racial profiling in Montreal, ” says Mr. Charles, who believes that the City and the Police Department will ignore the Commission's ruling and drag the case out in court.
“Mayor Coderre and Chief Parent must explain to Montrealers how much racial profiling costs taxpayers after all these years, because their legal fight will cost the public purse more than what they could have paid me for discrimination,” he added. “Last year, I called on every Black person in Montreal to stand tall and take legal action against racial profiling. I repeat the same message today: stand up for your rights.”
Mr. Charles' case signals a new milestone in the ongoing battle against racial profiling in Montreal. It is the first time that the Commission recommends $25,000 in moral damages in a CRARR-assisted case, which sends a warning signal to the City.
The case also points towards the need for the Coderre administration to recognize that more effective measures are required to address race-based violations of civil rights in police services. These measures should include annual reporting on the number and nature of cases of discrimination and profiling involving the City and its services, including the police department, and a full review by the City's Intercultural Relations Committee of City actions and programs against racial profiling.
“After the 2012 student protests, we see regress instead of progress in terms of city action against racial profiling: data are less available, speeches and public positions less heard, and tangible initiatives less seen,” noted CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.
In addition to Mr. Charles' case, CRARR has three other racial profiling cases implicating the City of Montreal that are heading to the Human Rights Tribunal, all involving Black persons; these cases will be made public in the coming weeks.