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Montréal, October 16, 2020 - In its third decision in 13 months, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal addressed the under-reported problem of excessive delays by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission in its investigations into complaints of racial profiling by police services.

The issue of excessive delays is one of the many problems plaguing the Commission’s handling of complaints of racism in general, especially when these complaints involve children and English-speaking racialized victims.

In January 2021, the Tribunal will hear the Montreal Police Service’s motion to dismiss the case, on the grounds of abusive and prejudicial delays.

The case involves Pradel Content, a young disabled English-speaking Black man who was wrongfully detained with force in front of the Atwater metro station by Montreal police officers due to mistaken identity on the basis of a vague race-based suspect description in March 2014. Content was treated with abusive force by police, in spite of his visible physical disability. CRARR filed the complaint with the Commission on his behalf in June 2014.

In its decision issued last month, the Tribunal noted that it took the Commission 19 months between the start of the investigation and the investigator’s first communication with the respondents, and a total of 41 months to complete the investigation. Furthermore, although the Commission had made its decision in February 2019, it only forwarded it to the parties in May 2019, and it took another four months to bring the case to the Human Rights Tribunal in August 2019.

In its motion to dismiss the case, the City of Montreal submits that of the 62 months between when the filing of the complaint and the decision, the Commission was at fault for 41 months. The City also claims that the passage of time has affected the police officers’ memories and that it will interfere with the quality of their defence.

This issue of excessive and prejudicial delays will be heard during the hearing on the merits of the case in January 2021.

Since August 2019, the Tribunal has rendered two other decisions involving excessive delays by the Commission in its investigation of complaints of racial profiling.

In August 2019, the Tribunal dismissed the case of Amal Asmar for excessive delays by the Commission. In 2010, CRARR filed a complaint on behalf of Asmar, an English-speaking Arab Canadian woman who was then a Concordia University student, for racial profiling and abusive interception by two Montreal police officers in downtown Montreal. In dismissing the case, the Tribunal sternly blamed the Commission for the excessive and unacceptable delay of 88 months in investigating and bringing the case before it.

In January 2020, and for the same reasons, the Tribunal dismissed, a second case of racial profiling filed against the Montreal Police Service by an English-speaking Black man with mental health needs, Mark Miller. In this complaint, which was filed in 2009, it took the Commission 77 months to investigate and bring the case before the Tribunal.

In a strongly worded 113-page decision, the Tribunal sternly blamed the Commission for its failure to treat complaints with “diligence” and within a reasonable delay. Excessive delays, said the Tribunal, throw the Quebec human rights system into disrepute and undermine public confidence in the institution, especially for those who are most in need of protection.

Three other CRARR-assisted racial profiling cases now before the Tribunal also face motions to dismiss due to excessively delays. They all involve Black victims.

“Because of the excessive delays by the Commission, Black and other racialized victims of racial profiling end up losing their fundamental right to an effective protection against civil rights violations,” CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi said.

“This is a clear pattern of systemic barriers within our human rights system where racialized victims are being penalized and end up, in effect, having no access to justice. Racial profiling continues to proliferate because state agencies designed to protect victims fail in their mandate to do so, and, at the end of the day, no one is held accountable unless these victims sue these agencies for gross negligence,” concluded Niemi.