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Montréal, Canada,July 15, 2008 --- Discrimination by police officers who apprehended three Black citizens in their sixties on the West Island could cost the City of Montreal and two of its employee police officers $60,000 in damages

In an important decision rendered this June, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission recommended that the three individuals, Ms. Gemma Raeburn, Mr.Peter Charles and Mr. Frederick Peters, should each receive $20,000 in moral andpunitive damages. Ms. Raeburn is president of the culinary festival A Taste of the Caribbean and a respected member of the Black community.

In November, 2004 Ms. Raeburn was cleaning her garage with her two friends, Mr.Charles and Mr. Peters, when several police officers suddenly appeared following a neighbor's call reporting a robbery in progress. Upon entering the garage, one of the police officers pointed his gun at Ms. Raeburn and Mr. Charles. When Ms. Raeburn told the police officer he would not have pulled his gun if they had been White, another officer, Roger Carbonneau, replied, “Bullets don't see color.” Mr. Peters, who was in the backyard, told the other officers who spoke to him rudely that when he was a police officer in his country of origin, the police were not be so disrespectful. Officer Isabelle Nault retorted, “If you don't like it here, why are you here? Why don't
you go back to your country?”

With the assistance of CRARR, the three filed complaints to the Human Rights Commission as well as the Police Ethics Commission. In December 2005, the Police Ethics Commissioner rejected the complaints for lack of evidence that the incident violated the Police Code of Ethics. With CRARR's help, Ms. Raeburn and Mr. Peters appealed the decision before the Police Ethics Committee, a specialized tribunal, citing serious errors in the Commissioner's reasoning such as inability to understand racial prejudice and to apply the legal standard of discrimination. In June 2006, the Committee overturned the Commissioner's decision and ordered the Commissioner to discipline the two police officers involved for violating the Police Code of Ethics.

In February 2007, the Committee rendered a decision ordering one police officer to a day suspension without pay and the other officer a three-day suspension without pay, for their “inappropriate, unseemly, indeed insulting” statements. The Committee did not conclude that the statements were discriminatory; the officers appealed that
aspect before the Court of Quebec.

In its decision, the Human Rights Commission highlighted that “the police officers Roger Carbonneau and Isabelle Nault made discriminatory statements based on race, color and ethnic or national origin while they were in a position of authority, and furthermore, during an armed intervention.”

“As citizens and taxpayers, we need to stand up for our rights and persevere to send two important messages. One is to municipal authorit ies, to say they have to better train the police and sanction all discriminatory police conduct. The second is to members of our community, who must demand zero tolerance for this kind of racially
biased behavior,” Ms. Raeburn stated.

Mr. Peter and Mr. Charles added, “We cannot let pass the fact that there are still authority figures, such as police and even the City, who believe it is not racially discriminatory to tell people of color to go back to where they came from if they are unhappy with behavior by City employees - whose salaries are paid by our

(In its defence of the police officers' statements, the City, through its lawyer, stated in a submission to the Human Rights Commission: “It's clear that the same remark would have been made to a white person, a Eurasian from Russia, an Arab from Morocco, or a Quebecker from Trois-Rivières, regardless of color. When someone absolutely insists everything is better where they come from, the natural albeit somewhat reprehensible response is to retort, “Why don't you go back there?”... one should ... be of bad faith to see in this statement any kind of racist connotation .”)

“The Commission's decision has set a new, higher threshold for monetary damages for discriminatory acts by police officers towards racial minorities,” said Mr. Fo Niemi, Executive Director of CRARR.

“It shows once again that racism is costly, when one takes into consideration the City spent on legal fees since 2005 in its defence before the Human Rights Commission and the Police Ethics Committee. That's why it is better to improve prevention, training and also the initial selection of police personnel,” he added.

The City and its two officers have until August 22 to abide by the Commission's decision. As with a number of other police racism cases, it is expected that the City will ignore the Commission's order, thus forcing the latter to bring the case before the Human Rights Tribunal.