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Former Hamilton teacher stopped by police after reading a book in his car

Louizandre Dauphin, a former Hamilton high school English teacher, was reported in New Brunswick as a "suspicious black man." He was parked by the water reading a book by C.S. Lewis.

Louizandre Dauphin, a former Hamilton high school English teacher, was reported as a 'suspicious black man'

Louizandre Dauphin, who moved from Hamilton to New Brunswick for a prominent municipal government position there, went to Stonehaven Wharf to "read quietly." He was pulled over and questioned by police on his way home. (Bridget Yard/CBC )

A former Hamilton resident is making unexpected headlines this week after police in New Brunswick pulled him over and questioned him for reading a book in his car.

And he says his experiences as a black man in Hamilton weren't much different.

It was just another reminder that you can be a suspect in your neighbourhood.- Louizandre Dauphin

Louizandre Dauphin of Bathurst, N.B. was pulled over and questioned by RCMP on July 7 after he parked by the water to read a book by C.S. Lewis.

Dauphin, a former high school English teacher in Hamilton, was driving home from Stonehaven Wharf when an officer pulled him over.

The officer, he says, was in the same cruiser he'd noticed speed by him 10 minutes earlier in the opposite direction.

Dauphin took to Facebook to write about the incident and has received "lots of support" from people. (Facebook)

Dauphin says he was travelling 87 km/h in a 100 km zone.

The officer was "kind and respectful," Dauphin says, and asked where he was from and where he was going. Then the officer said a few residents near the wharf reported a "suspicious black man" parked in a white car.

"Really?" Dauphin says he told the officer. "I was just reading a book."

Dauphin moved to Bathurst a year ago to become the city's director of parks, recreation and tourism.

Being questioned about reading in his car may be new, but the overall experience is not. He's been stopped in "various locations," he says — including in Hamilton.

People called police to report Dauphin as he sat in his white Volkswagen at Stonehaven Wharf. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

About five years ago, for example, police stopped him in his Ancaster-area neighbourhood when he was three doors from his house.

The officer asked him what he was doing in the neighbourhood. He asked Dauphin for his ID, and when Dauphin provided it, took it back to his cruiser.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not.- Matthew Green, Hamilton city councillor

When he gave it back, Dauphin says he asked if he'd done anything wrong. The officer said no and let him go.

"It was just another reminder that you can be a suspect in your neighbourhood," he said.

Dauphin isn't the first to say that. Local activists have protested the police practice of street checks, otherwise known as carding, which they say unfairly targets minorities. Police data shows in 2012, one Aboriginal man was stopped 14 times.

The Hamilton police services board is currently following a province-wide directive to establish new street check regulations. 

The Office Of Independent Police Review Director, meanwhile, is investigating a complaint from Matthew Green, Hamilton's first black city councillor, who says officers questioned him as he waited for the bus.

We can't be so quick to point fingers or feel we're more exceptional than our American counterparts.- Louizandre Dauphin

"I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not," Green said of Dauphin's experience.

"The narratives and stereotypes put out there by the media and elsewhere create an irrational fear of young black males."

Dauphin read by the water, in part, to decompress after recent violence in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas.

Dauphin's overall message? It's easy for Canadians to say those issues are an American phenomenon, but Canada faces them too.

"We can't be so quick to point fingers or feel we're more exceptional than our American counterparts," he said.

His recent experience "is just a reminder that no matter where we go in this country, there can be profiling or suspicion.

"We can't be so quick to think of ourselves as any better than any other place in the world."

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