Montreal·CBC Investigates

Black victims overrepresented in deadly encounters with Montreal police, CBC data shows

A CBC investigation has found six black men died during or after encounters with Montreal police between 2000 and 2017. Black people made up about eight per cent of the city's population over that period, but accounted for 19 per cent of all victims.

CBC investigation found 6 black men died during or after encounters with Montreal police between 2000 and 2017

Alain Magloire, 41, was shot and killed by Montreal police on Feb. 3, 2014 after he used a hammer to smash a window near the downtown coach bus terminal. (Facebook)

This story is part of Deadly Force, a CBC News investigation into fatalities involving police in Canada.

Alain Magloire. René Gallant. Bony Jean-Pierre. Pierre Coriolan.

All four men died during or after an intervention involving Montreal police in which force was used.

All four were killed between 2014 and 2017.

And all four were black men.

Following a six-month investigation, CBC has compiled a first-of-its-kind database of people who died during or after encounters with police across Canada between 2000 and 2017.

In Montreal, the data shows that black people are overrepresented in deadly encounters with the SPVM.

Black victims were overrepresented in cases involving the use of deadly police force in Montreal between 2000 and 2017. (CBC News)

CBC News found that six black men died during or after police encounters in the city, making up 19 per cent of all victims who died during police operations over that 18-year period.

However, black people only made up an average of eight per cent of Montreal's population over those years.

CBC News asked the SPVM to comment on its findings, but the police service did not make a spokesperson available.

A countrywide pattern

The overrepresentation of black victims isn't exclusive to Montreal.

Across Canada, CBC News found 461 victims of deadly police force between 2000 and 2017.

Forty-three were black, making up nine per cent of all the cases of deadly police force.

On average, however, black people made up only about three per cent of Canada's population over that period.

Black and Indigenous victims were overrepresented in the use of deadly police force across Canada, CBC data shows. (CBC News )

For Montreal activist and former RCMP officer Will Prosper, these findings point to a larger problem of prejudice in Canadian policing.

"People have bias against different ethnic communities," Prosper said.

"Unfortunately, we are more likely to be killed by police officers just because of the colour of our skin."

Mental health also a factor

Prosper also believes mental health is a key factor when it comes to the likelihood of dying during or after an encounter with police.

In two of the six Montreal cases, mental health or mental distress were also factors.

Mental health issues were found in more than half of all the cases involving the use of deadly police force in Montreal, cutting across all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Across Canada, almost 42 per cent of deadly force victims had mental health problems or were in distress.

"It's a serious issue," said Shawn Wilkinson, a professor of applied human sciences at Concordia University.

Wilkinson said many people with mental health issues are living productive lives in their communities, but difficult situations can arise.

"They're at times living with serious distress or breaks from reality," Wilkinson said.

"Those present a complex set of situations for not only the individual, but for family members and friends, for community members who are in the immediate vicinity, and in this case, for first responders."

Calls for more police training

Wilkinson has personally witnessed how police sometimes handle mental health issues.

His mother suffers from a form of dementia, and he's had to call 911 to get police to intervene when she was in distress.

He said he was able to meet with officers before their interaction with his mother, however, so he could explain the situation and help de-escalate it.

The SPVM ranked third when it comes to the number of cases involving deadly force, after the RCMP and the Toronto police service. The Sûreté du Québec ranked fourth. (CBC News)

Wilkinson says SPVM officers should get more training from mental health experts, and people suffering from mental health problems should get more resources.

"It's the equivalent of asking someone to build a bridge and not providing them with the proper tools," Wilkinson said.

"If we're asking people to reintegrate into communities, we need to make communities more aware, [and] we need to advocate for people with mental health problems."​

Last year, former Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet said police would receive more training on responding to people with mental health issues in crisis situations. Ideally, he said, all officers should get such training.