SEVEN YEARS AND STILL WAITING: BLACK COMPLAINANTS CALL ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO EXPLAIN DELAYS IN HANDLING RACIAL PROFILING CASES
Montréal, October 4, 2016 - The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission must be more accountable and explain the excessive delays in its investigation of racial profiling cases, because the delays have disastrous consequences on victims' civil rights and the broader fight against racial profiling in Montreal.
More than five years after the Commission released its public consultation report on racial profiling, CRARR is sounding alarm on major problems with the Commission's handling of profiling complaints, notably the abnormally excessive delays in rendering decisions on these cases.
Several English-speaking Montrealers of color have been waiting up between five and seven years for a decision. For instance,
❐ In 2009, Heather mandated CRARR to file a complaint for her then 15-year old son, who was violently arrested at a Lasalle bus stop and charged with obstruction of justice (the youth was acquitted in 2011). The Commission's investigation was completed in 2014;
❐ In 2011, Marcus, a young multimedia professional, was stopped and fined by the police for jaywalking after coming from a tribute for Bad News Brown (a local hip hop artist who was killed) at the Metropolis. The complaint was filed in May 2011. The Commission completed its investigation in January 2015;
❐ Natalie, an English-speaking Black woman who was stopped in the North end while being in a car with her spouse, and then arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, and Amal, an Arab Concordia University student who was violently arrested and fined more than $1,000 by the police for sitting on a sidewalk bench downtown, both asked CRARR to file their complaints in 2010. The Commission's investigation was completed in July 2014 and January 2015 respectively.
In the above mentioned cases, there is no decision in sight. As of last week, the Commission is unable and unwilling to give a reason for this excessive delay. The Commission’s official figure for the average delay is 398 days to render a decision.
“The delay perpetuates the pain, the costs and the effects of racism on my son and my family,” said Heather. “Is it because we're Black and anglophone, we are not entitled to justice, or at least, an answer?”
“The Commission owes us an answer, because it's about accountability,” said Marcus.
CRARR is particularly concerned with excessive delays, since they cause loss of evidence and give police respondents the possibility of arguing that undue delays can amount to denial of fundamental justice, in order to seek the dismissal of the case against them.
“There seems to be a culture of delay, which leads to a culture of denial and dismissal,” noted Mr. Niemi. “The disturbing thing is nobody in government, or in the National Assembly, is paying attention to this problem.”
Three weeks ago, CRARR addressed a letter to the Commission's investigation division head to seek answers for the above mentioned cases. It is still waiting for a reply.
Presently, it can take up to five months to get a response on a complaint filed with the Commission, and more than a year to get an investigator appointed to the case.