'Driving while Black' protesters say more must be done to stop racial profiling in Quebec

A convoy of cars and motorcycles made their way to the riding office of Quebec's premier, saying racial profiling happens in his own backyard.

Revisions to street check policies don't go far enough, advocates say

Sunday's protest denouncing racial profiling of Black drivers was the second this summer. Both the province and Montreal police have revised their policies regarding street checks, but advocates say those revisions don't go far enough. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A crowd of about 50 people drove in a convoy to the riding office of Quebec Premier François Legault Sunday afternoon demanding an end to racial profiling by the province's police.

It was the second "driving while Black" protest this summer organized by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

Since their protest in July, both the province and the Montreal police have revised their policies regarding street checks.

But advocates say those revisions don't go far enough.

"Sometimes the law can be neutral in intent, but it's in how the law is going to be applied and will be applicable in this case by law enforcement officers, either in cities or on the freeways," said CRARR executive director Fo Niemi, adding that more racial bias training is needed for police officers.

"That will determine whether the application of a neutral law creates discrimination based on race or not," he said.

Demonstrators take a knee outside the constituency office of Quebec's premier in L'Assomption, Que., on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Niemi said the guidelines, as vague as they are, would also not apply when police stop motorists without amendments made to the Highway Safety Code, and that clear, consistent guidelines for collecting race-based data during streets checks are needed.

Quebec announced changes to the Guide des pratiques policières, a reference document for police conduct, earlier this month.

In a statement, the Public Security Ministry said the changes were to ensure that stops are not conducted in a discriminatory manner.

However, the guidelines still allow police to make stops for a variety of reasons, including for the collection of information, to help someone in need or identify a wanted or missing individual.

The language used is similar to that in the new rules for street checks for the Montreal police. Chief Sylvain Caron said in July that officers must now make stops only based on observable facts and not "discriminatory motives."

About 50 people took part in the protest Sunday afternoon. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

That was in response to an independent report commissioned by the City of Montreal which found last year that Black people were four times more likely to be stopped by Montreal police, and Indigenous people five times more likely.

The convoy of vehicles departed Montreal and drove north through Legault's riding of l'Assomption, in the Lanaudière region, where they honked their horns and read a list of 10 demands.

On their way, they made a stop at Repentigny city hall, a city that has been criticized for repeated incidents of racial profiling by police in recent years. Protesters sought to show Legault, whose riding includes part of the city, that racial profiling happens in his own backyard.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.

With files from Antoni Nerestant