Black family owed $86K after Longueuil police barged into their home, Human Rights Commission says

The City of Longueuil, and its police force, should pay a black family $86,000 in damages after officers aggressively arrested their sons and barged into the family home, Quebec's Human Rights Commission said in a recent decision.

Commission also requests sweeping changes be made to the Longueuil police force

Dominique Jacobs and her family filed a human rights complaint after a 2013 incident involving her teenage son, stepson and two Longueuil police officers. (CBC)

The City of Longueuil, and its police force, should pay a black family $86,000 in damages after officers aggressively arrested their sons and barged into the family home, Quebec's Human Rights Commission said in a recent decision.

The commission is also calling for sweeping changes to how the Longueuil police force handles racial profiling cases.

On November 15, 2013, then 19-year-old Nathan Picard and his 17-year-old stepbrother say they were stopped by police after crossing the street near the Panama bus station in Longueuil, just south of Montreal.

Picard says he was punched, thrown to the ground and handcuffed, while his stepbrother was threatened with pepper spray and handcuffed without explanation.

They were cited for jaywalking and driven to their family home in Brossard. The officers allegedly entered the home and began searching with flashlights, according to the younger teen's mother, Dominique Jacobs.

"I was told to 'Shut the f--k up' when I very politely tried to bring him a piece of paper and pen [so the officer] could write down his badge number," Jacobs said at a news conference at the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Sunday.

Jacobs and her family had previously complained about the 2013 incident to Quebec's Police Ethics Commissioner. That complaint was eventually dismissed.

Recommendations for Longueuil police

The Human Rights Commission's decision — issued in December — is non-binding, but it has been brought to the Human Rights Tribunal, which has the power to force the city, and its police department, to pay the fines.

A hearing date has yet to be set, but a ruling could be made in the coming months, according to CRARR's executive director, Fo Niemi.

Fo Niemi, Dominique Jacobs, Alain Babineau (a former RCMP officer) and Joel Bellefeuille (left to right) at the CRARR offices in Montreal. I'm happy [the Human Rights Commission] decision was made, but I'm disappointed that it took five years to get there,' Jacobs said. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

If the tribunal also forced Longueuil police to update its racial profiling policies, they could become benchmarks for other cities in Quebec, Niemi said.

"In the end, it's the entire organization that has to change and adapt to diversity, otherwise we'll have to continue to have these bush fires," he said.

This isn't the first time Longueuil police have faced allegations of racial profiling.

Last year, the Human Rights Commission asked Longueuil to pay $12,000 in damages to Joel Debellefeuille — who attended Sunday's news conference — for a 2012 traffic stop they say was racially motivated. 

Debellefeuille says that, since 2009, he has been repeatedly pulled over by Longueuil police while driving his BMW. 

In 2014, the Quebec Court ruled that a Longueuil police officer had, in 2010, ''illegally detained'' Sekou Kaba, a black man who was incorrectly suspected of car theft.

The Human Rights Commission wants to see the following changes implemented:

  • Have Longueuil update its plan of action against racism and discrimination.
  • Collect and publish data on the race of people involved in police interventions.
  • Adopt measures to detect and control signs of racial profiling among officers.
  • Provide anti-racism training.
  • Promote internships and activities in diverse settings for police.
  • Ensure the recruitment and evaluation of officers takes into account cross-cultural competencies.

A spokesperson for the City of Longueuil, Louis-Pascal Cyr, said: "The city and police department take racial profiling very seriously. We have taken initiatives in the past to train all police officers on racial profiling."

Cyr was unable to offer specific detail about what that training involved, but said that it was a day-long course.

A step forward

"I'm happy [the Human Rights Commission] decision was made, but I'm disappointed that it took five years to get there," said Jacobs.

Had the incident been addressed earlier, she said, other cases of racial profiling could have been avoided.

But for Jacobs, the human rights complaint is ultimately about more than just money.

"I needed to show the boys that somebody would stand up for them," she said.

With files from Verity Stevenson

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