Grenadian-Montrealers demand answers after police crash outdoor fundraiser

Weeks after officers from Montreal police, provincial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) interrupted an outdoor fundraising event, organizers have asked the mayor to step in.

Witnesses say about 15 officers from 3 police forces showed up during event

Man stands for a photo.
Leon Charles, owner of Greenz restaurant in Lachine, said he believes Montreal police have targeted his business in recent weeks. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Members of Montreal's Grenadian community are demanding answers from the city after a family-friendly, outdoor barbecue was interrupted by about 15 officers from local, provincial and federal police.

The event, held last month on Fête Nationale outside a restaurant in the city's Lachine borough, served to raise funds for the Spice Island Cultural Festival.

The officers from Montreal police, provincial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) showed up at around 8:30 p.m., according to Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, the vice-president of the Spice Island Cultural Day Association of Quebec.

"It was a shock," she said, while pointing out that there were several children and elderly people present. "It was like a swarm of bees coming. There were so many of them."

Raeburn-Baynes said she can't understand why such a heavy police presence — which included officers from the specialized street gang unit, Eclipse — was necessary. She says officers told them they were there because of a noise complaint.

Raeburn-Baynes and others who were there don't buy it and say this was a classic case of racial profiling.

"So, you bring the RCMP for noise?" she said. "If there was a noise, I can see [you] sending one car with two police officers, check it out, tell us to turn down the music and go on your way."

Police officers and other people stand outside.
Several Montreal police officers can be seen standing in the parking lot of Greenz restaurant, located in Montreal's Lachine borough. (Submitted by TKNR Media)

When asked about the police response on June 24, a spokesperson for Montreal police mentioned CENTAURE, the provincewide police operation meant to tackle gun trafficking and gun violence.

"In light of the CENTAURE strategy, police officers from the Eclipse unit, accompanied by partners with the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police conduct sporadic visits in different bars and and restaurants in the city," the spokesperson said, adding that they are meant to gather information and increase police visibility and the population's sense of security.

The police spokesperson added that after speaking with the organizer about the noise, the officers left without handing out any ticket or statement of offence.

CBC News later asked if there was any reason to believe the gathering had anything to do with gun violence or gun trafficking. The spokesperson did not directly answer the question but said that given the number of people present at the event, the local police station asked for backup before intervening, and that assistance can come from any group of officers.

"I had to explain to my nephew and my son, 'no, you will not get shot or Tasered' because, you know, the police come and they always have their hand [on their weapon]," said Tracy Veilleux, the festival's artistic director, who is married to a man of Grenadian descent.

"That day, they were not serving and protecting. They were scaring people."

A spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city is dedicated to fighting racial profiling, is following the file closely and will ask Montreal police to meet with organizers.

Tracy Veilleux, the artistic director for the Spice Island Cultural Festival, said the police response to a noise complaint was exaggerated. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

2 incidents in 2 weeks

The incident with police on June 24 was not an isolated one. 

Leon Charles, who owns the restaurant that hosted the outdoor barbecue on Fête Nationale, says Montreal police also entered his business last weekend during the after-party for the Spice Island Cultural Festival.

"I definitely feel like we've been targeted because for no reason, a second time, you're showing up," said Charles, the owner of Greenz Restaurant.

"If I wasn't that strong, I'd decide to close the restaurant."

A restaurant
The owner of Greenz restaurant, located in Lachine, says police showing up to his business twice in two weeks for no reason is not good for business. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

One of his biggest concerns, he said, is police ruining the reputation of his restaurant, which has been in operation for five years. He said he's looking forward to the meeting with police. 

"We need a good [image] because all we do here is good stuff and serve good food," he said.

"If they come to us, we sit down, we talk and we discuss the matter, I think we'll get the answers and know exactly where the problem lies — if there is a problem," he said.

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.

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Antoni Nerestant has been with CBC Montreal since 2015. He's worked as a video journalist, a sports reporter and a web writer, covering anything from Quebec provincial politics to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Rowan Kennedy