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Montréal, November 9, 2017 — The case of a Black woman who was stopped, photographed and expelled from a Concordia University building downtown back in 2013 will head to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Last month, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission released a decision in which it held that Concordia University and Commissionnaires, a private security firm, had subjected Chantal Lapointe, a Haitian woman in her fifties, to racial and social profiling, and that she should be paid $33,000 in damages for violating her civil rights.

The decision will have significant ramifications for all postsecondary institutions, shopping malls, subway stations and private security agencies in Quebec.

“After years of being unjustifiable intercepted, questioned and expelled from buses and downtown businesses, I feel I am now vindicated, ” said Lapointe. “Being Black, heavy, and dressed plainly is not a threat or an offense, and I deserve the same kind of respect and freedom as any other human being.”

A single mother in her fifties, Lapointe has major health conditions that make her walk with great difficulty. She often travels with her heavy backpack and another bag containing documents she needs to work on.

In early July 2013, at approximately 6:30 pm, Lapointe, who had three bags with her including a grocery bag, left Concordia’s library on De Maisonneuve St. and took the underground route to the EV Building, located on Guy St. and St. Catherine West. She headed towards the entrance of the EV building, near the Guy exit of Guy-Concordia metro station, to go to the Pharmaprix across the street.

Barely before arriving at the revolving doors, Lapointe was blocked and detained by a Concordia security officer, who asked her where she was going and to identify herself. She responded with surprise and said that she did not understand why she had to identify herself since this place is accessible to everyone. The security officer responded that she was on Concordia’s property and he therefore had the right to restrict her movements.

As she was talking, one security guard pulled out a camera to take a photo of her. While one security guard demanded that she leave to avoid problems, another security officer called the police.

Two police officers arrived. Lapointe relayed what happened to one of the officers. Soon after, the police officers forced her out of the metro station. She was warned that if the officers were to see her in the subway again, she would be arrested. She left through the escalator and exited on Guy Street, accompanied by the two police officers.

Believing that she was denied access to the premises because of her race and physical appearance, Lapointe sought CRARR’s help in filing a civil rights complaint, alleging a combination of racial and social profiling.

Although Concordia stated to the Human Rights Commission that it expelled approximately 1,000 individuals each year, it also said it does not collect data based on gender or race. The Commission’s investigation found that in the security reports, Lapointe was referred to as "a strange woman", "Mrs. Voodoo ou Vaudoo" and "black female homeless.” She was also described as someone who scared security guards by threatening to cast spells on them and who could create problems for others.

The investigation also revealed that Concordia University has a policy that allows its security officers to request from all persons on its premises to provide identification and to deny access to those unable to do so, thereby excluding all homeless people.

The Commission found that the interception was indeed without valid reason, as she did not have any disturbing conduct, and that Lapointe’s race, color, and social condition played a “determining role” in the discriminatory decision of the security agents to intercept and mistreat her, leading to her expulsion from Concordia’s premises.

As a result, the Commission demands that Concordia and the Montreal Division of Commissionnaires to jointly pay Lapointe $20,000 in moral damages. The Commission also asks the Commissionnaires to pay her $3,000 in punitive damages for unlawful and intentional interference with her rights, while Concordia University has been ordered to pay Lapointe $10,000 in punitive damages.

In addition, the Commission demands Concordia to undertake systemic remedies to reform its polices and practices that lead to racial and social profiling, and to train its security guards on civil rights.

CRARR has previously helped Lapointe win her cases against the Montreal Transit Authority and a fast-food restaurant downtown from expelling her and calling the police on her.

“This is the second decision by the Commission we received in the last three months, with hefty damages recommended to the victim and the systemic remedies claimed against a public institution,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. The other decision was issued in August against the Montreal Police.

“We applaud this new, positive leadership from the Commission in getting tough on racial profiling and social profiling,” Niemi added.

Concordia University and Commissionnaires had until October 27 to comply with the Commission’s recommendations, failing which the case will go to the Human Rights Tribunal. In light of the public interest nature of the case, which can open the door for judicial confirmation of the notions of intersectionality, social profiling and racial profiling in private security services, CRARR will participate in the litigation. It also encourages other groups, including those that defend the rights of the homeless, to intervene in the case.