ANGLOPHONE BLACK WOMAN'S RACE BIAS CASE REJECTED BY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AFTER 5 YEARS
Montreal, February 14, 2015 — An English-speaking Black mother in the Cote Des Neiges district finally receives the decision from the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission five years after she filed a complaint about being denied a police ethics complaint from at the local police station.
The Commission dismissed her complaint due to lack of evidence of discrimination.
The case involves Marcia, an English-speaking Black woman who lives in a social housing unit who, in September 2009, went to local police station 26 to request a police ethics complaint form in order to file a complaint against two police officers who came into her home and conducted a search the previous night.
When she went to the front desk and asked for the form, a female officer checked the computer and asked Marcia whether her children were known to the police and whether they had a police record. The officer then gave her a card with a telephone number and told her to call the supervisors of the officers she wanted to complain against. When Marcia asked again for the form, the female officer told her that there was none available and that she should talk to the supervisor first. Knowing that she was denied something to which she was entitled, Marcia left the station afterwards without receiving the form.
The police ethics complaint form can be downloaded from the Police Ethics Commissioner’s website. However, Marcia had no access to a computer at home. In 2009 and 2010, CRARR received numerous complaints from Black and Asian Montrealers in the Cote Des Neiges-NDG borough and the downtown area who were denied this form when they went to their local police station to file complaints.
Marcia sought CRARR's help to file a complaint of discrimination, which was filed in October 2009. Voluntary mediation for early settlement was declined by Marcia in February 2010. The file was assigned to an investigator in March 2010. It took the investigator 1.5 years, in December 2011, to contact CRARR for additional information (many files involved English-speaking Black victims filed by CRARR during 2009 and 2010 experienced similar problems).
Despite regular contact for updates, it was not until November 2012 that the investigator contacted CRARR to once again propose mediation. After Marcia declined mediation the second time in March 2013, the file was sent back for investigation. It was only in March 2013, that the City identified and provided the name of the female officer to the Commission.
During 2011 and 2012, the only investigative activity by the Commission that took place was communications with the Police Ethics Commissioner’s office to enquire about the policy and procedure of providing complaint forms to citizens who request them at a police station.
In June 2014, the female office provided her version in an affidavit. Contrary to the Commission’s own investigation procedures, the officer was never met and interviewed by the Commission’s investigator.
The flaws in the inquiry did not end there. The investigation report reveals that the officer never mentioned in her affidavit the Montreal Police’s policy on the provision of police ethics complaint forms to citizens, and that the sergeants involved in the case were never interviewed by the Commission. Furthermore, the policy in question, which the Commission obtained during the investigation, carries neither the date of adoption nor explanations as to how it is implemented.
In short, there is a major disconnect in the officer’s testimony and the police’s policy that is left unexamined by the Commission. In other words, the investigation fails to answer whether the policy even existed when the officer denied Marcia the form; whether there was a standard practice at the station where citizen complainants were channelled to police sergeants to discuss their grievances; or whether the officer’s version in her affidavit was corroborated.
In a recent complaint involving an English-speaking Black couple in the NDG district who was denied in 2012 the same form at the front desk of Police Station 11, the Commission described the same policy and despite CRARR’s questioning, remains mum on the policy’s date of adoption and implementation procedure. The Commission closed that file despite gaps in its investigation (including the fact that no police supervisor at the station was ever interviewed).
The investigation is flawed in several other ways. Notwithstanding a formal undertaking the Commission made in its 2011 report on racial profiling, the investigation report provides no contextual information on the case. There is no mention of the fact that Marcia lives in a social housing unit consisting primarily of racialized tenants, and where a violent police intervention with the neighbours three months before her going to the police station, led her to being pepper sprayed by the police.
As well, the report makes no mention of the fact that between 2009 and 2010, CRARR raised in several other complaints of race discrimination in policing, the problem of racialized Montrealers who were denied the police ethics complaint form in different downtown and NDG police stations.
“The way my case was handled clearly shows that I was not treated with respect and fairness by the Commission. Four years to investigate a simple case like mine?”, said Marcia. “As a low-income Anglophone Black woman in my fifties, I was not begging for my rights to be protected; I was only exercising my legal right to be protected from discrimination,” she added.
Problems identified in this case raised additional questions regarding the Commission's persistent refusal to take into consideration social context and to adopt proper policies and tools to address systemic racism and intersectional discrimination.
“What is the point of investigating a policy or a procedure when there is no information on when the policy is adopted, how it’s implemented, and who’s accountable when it’s not followed on the ground?”, asked CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi. “And why did the Commission allow the City three years to identify the officer implicated?”
“There is an increasingly visible pattern of questionable investigative practices at the Commission for cases of racial discrimination and racial profiling, especially when these cases involving intersecting grounds of race, language and the like,” he noted.