Members of Ottawa's ethnic communities packed a police services board meeting on racial profiling on Tuesday to share their frustration and anger over the 2008 strip search of Stacy Bonds.
About 250 people filled the Confederation Learning Centre cafeteria on Woodroffe Avenue for the public meeting, where Ottawa police said a new policy about racial profiling was under development.
The board meeting had been scheduled months before details of Bonds's arrest became public, but many in attendance wanted to speak about her arrest, which is now being investigated by the provincial Special Investigations Unit.
Bonds, a 27-year-old black woman with no criminal history, was strip-searched after being arrested on Rideau Street for public intoxication — a charge stayed by Justice Richard Lajoie of the Ontario Court of Justice in a verbal ruling issued Oct. 27 of this year.
Judge calls case 'travesty'
Lajoie said it would be a "travesty to permit these proceedings to go on" because of the "appalling behaviours" of police officers seen in a videotape presented in court. Lajoie later released the video, which showed police officers kneeing Bonds in the back, holding her down and cutting off her bra and the back of her shirt as others watched.
Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry said the board and police would not be able to talk specifically about the Bonds case because it is the subject of investigation. Ottawa police were also conducting their own investigation into the incident before the SIU began its probe.
Bonds's own lawyer, Matthew Webber, had said previously there was no evidence that her arrest was a case of racial profiling, saying the case was more about basic rights and freedoms.
But the case was on the minds of many in the crowd, some of whom shared their stories of alleged profiling.
Erica Jack, a black woman in her 50s, said she is still dealing with the consequences of an arrest and charges against her dating back to 1987.
She said she was with her seven-year-old son picking up photos on Christmas Eve at a Montreal camera store that year when the store owner mistook her for a woman who had taken pictures and not paid. She said the store owner became hostile and took her credit card, and when her husband snatched it back, a clerk called police.
Jack said police put her in a chokehold in front of her son and afterward charged her with assaulting a police officer.
"Today I have that single police record, I am a woman almost 60 years old, and I have that single police record on my file," said Jack.
"The case was brought against me to prevent me filing a case against them — the very same thing that happened to Stacy Bonds. But thank God almighty that Stacy Bonds met a decent judge."
Police crafting new policy
Ottawa police said during the public meeting that they were crafting a new policy on racial profiling with the help of University of Windsor law professor David Tanovich.
Tanovich said the policy, expected to be implemented in the spring of 2011, will set clear standards and responsibilities for police.
Since the release of the Bonds video, at least two other women have come forward claiming similar abuse during arrests.
On Tuesday, the Ottawa sex workers' organization called for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate what they allege is the routine harassment, intimidation and assault of sex workers by the Ottawa police.