ANGLOPHONE BLACK WOMAN'S RACE BIAS COMPLAINT REJECTED BY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AFTER SIX YEARS
Montreal, July 30, 2015 — After six years, an English-speaking Black single mother finally received, in June 2015, the decision by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission in response to a complaint of racial bias in policing, filed by CRARR on her behalf back in June 2009.
The Commission dismissed her complaint due to insufficient evidence.
The facts of the case are simple: In April 2009, Ms. BG was the victim of what she considered to be an illegal, abusive, and discriminatory police intervention in her home. On the day in question, a woman came to her door and claimed to have previously lived in her home (which she never did, according to Ms. BG’s landlord). This woman accused Ms. BG of stealing her mail and her welfare cheques. According to Ms. BG, the police officers who came to her home sided with the other woman and treated Ms. BG unprofessionally as they presumed her to be guilty from the start. At one point, one of the officers even threatened Ms. BG with jail time if she had indeed stolen the woman’s cheques
CRARR helped Ms. BG file a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner and another complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
From this moment on, her case took a radically different turn. What started six years ago as a complaint of race-based discrimination in law enforcement, became one in which public authorities, including officers of the court, have expressly flaunted legal rules.
In 2009, BG participated in a conciliation session with the two police officers at the Police Ethics Commissioner’s office. Like any mediation, conciliation is supposed to be private and confidential. S. 164 of the Quebec Police Act, which governs the police ethics system, specifically states that “No answer or statement made, in the course of the conciliation, by the complainant or the police officer whose conduct is the subject-matter of the complaint shall be used or admissible as evidence in any criminal, civil or administrative proceedings other than a hearing before the Comité de déontologie policière.”
However, the two police officers later used information obtained during the conciliation for their defense during the human rights commission’s investigation into BG’s civil rights complaint. The officers, through their lawyer, who is a senior staff lawyer with the City of Montreal, deliberately referred to information provided by Ms. BG or obtained during police ethics conciliation to rebutt her version before the human rights commission and to attack her credibility.
The commission’s investigation report, which was sent to Ms. BG and the officers for review, contains numerous references to information exchanged during the supposedly confidential police ethics conciliation process.
When faced with the use of such confidential information, CRARR objected in writing to the Commission, requesting that “All information listed in para. (…) of the (Investigation) Report must be rejected by the Commission not only because it is not admissible, but also because such use constitutes a serious violation of the terms of the settlement before the Police Ethics Commissioner.” It is not clear what the Commission did with CRARR’s position in its deliberations.
Due to this blatant disregard for the law, Ms. BG filed a new complaint, in 2012, against the same two police officers for having failed to respect the legal requirement concerning the use of information obtained during the conciliation process and having breached the Code of Ethics for Police Officers. This appears to be the first time in the history of the police ethics system in Quebec that such a breach of conciliation confidentiality occurred.
CRARR had to make numerous submissions for the Commissioner to proceed since thePolice Actdoes not contain provisions on sanctions for a breach of the confidentiality of conciliation. Her case is still under investigation by the Police Ethics Commissioner.
Ms. BG’s next action consists of a request to the Quebec Bar to investigate the role of the lawyers involved to determine their responsibility regarding the use of information obtained by the officers during police ethics conciliation.
“It is clear that different sectors of the justice system treated my case without any regard for the rule of law, maybe because I am a poor English-speaking Black single mother,” said Ms. BG.
“Worse, the fact that it took the Human Rights Commission six years to render a decision just reinforces the notion that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’”, she added.