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Montréal, December 21, 2018 — CRARR has joined a 40-year-old English-speaking Black man with a physical disability in calling on the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to end its practice of allowing police officers to attend mediation with their firearms and other weapons.

CRARR also urges all racialized complainants to walk out of mediation at the human rights commission when they see police officers coming to mediation with their weapons, because the presence of these weapons violates the notion of safe space for citizens.

Since 2017, Pradel Content has filed complaints with the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, against Laval Police officers, over incidents he considers to be race-based profiling and harassment.

The first involved a well-publicized violent incident in May 2017 at a Laval gas station, during which he was physically roughed up by a police officer for filming the police vehicle driving by. The officer then erased the video on his cell phone, an act he admitted in his police report. The case is now before the Commissioner and the Commission.

The second complaint occurred in June 2017, when Content was driving home with his mother, and was tailed and stopped by a police cruiser that suddenly drove around the curve and blocked his car in front of his home. When Content told him that he speaks only English and has a basic knowledge of French, the officer bluntly told him that he lives in Quebec and should speak French. After checking Content’s papers, the officer left without giving his business card as requested.

Last September, Content participated in mediation at the Commission with the view to explore possibilities of settlement in these two cases. Accompanied by his mother and a CRARR representative, Content was shocked to see that the two officers involved in the May 2017 incident attended in civilian clothing with their handguns on their hip holster. Content first objected to the presence of guns which intimidated him. Mediation was suspended afterwards to a later date.

Last month, Content appeared in Municipal Court to contest a ticket given by Laval Police officers for another incident in front of his home in July 2018 (a third complaint has been filed as a result when Content later found out in a police report that he has been profiled, without his knowledge, in the police database).

In court, he was surprised to see that the City prosecutor turned out to be none other than the same City lawyer who participated in mediation negotiations in his two racial profiling cases.

Apprehending bias and conflict of interest, and the use of information she obtained during mediation (which is supposed to be confidential), he asked for her recusal, without success. As a result, CRARR advised him to end all mediation discussions with the Laval Police Department.

“Firearms are symbols of power and superiority, and no Black persons who complain about police racial profiling, abuse of power and excessive force should engage in negotiations with white police officers carrying weapons sitting across the table,” Content said.

In 2013, in a formal request to then President Jacques Frémont, CRARR had raised its objections to the Commission’s allowing police officers to participate with weapons and in full uniforms in mediation on complaints in which they are cited as respondents, due to the effect of intimidation firearms have on complainants. CRARR has repeatedly, to no avail, asked the Commission to adopt a formal policy to ban firearms and other weapons in the Commission’s mediation.

Under the Quebec Police Act, police officers named as respondents in complaints to the Police Ethics Commissioner are not allowed to attend conciliation with their uniforms and weapons.

“The Commission does not take this weapons ban issue seriously and can be perceived as being biased in favor of the police when it allows police respondents to attend mediation with their firearms, batons and uniforms,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“The Commission’s systemic practice affects Black complainants in a disproportionately adverse manner, since it is often Black individuals who file complaints of racial profiling against the police,” Niemi added.

“We don’t know why it is so hard for a human rights commission to understand the concept of safe space for people of color and end this practice which perpetuates racial microaggression,” he concluded.