Montreal

Ruling that found Montreal police committed ethnic profiling thrown out over delays

A ruling that found Montreal police had committed ethnic and social profiling against a Concordia University student has been thrown out after the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal deemed delays in the process to be unreasonable.

Tribunal rules delay of 88 months between filing of the complaint and decision is 'unreasonable'

The case involves the 2010 arrest of Amal Asmar by two SPVM officers. She says she was aggressively questioned, then pushed up against the car and handcuffed. She was then searched and put in the back of the cruiser. (Radio-Canada)

A ruling that found Montreal police had committed ethnic and social profiling against a Concordia University student has been thrown out after the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal deemed delays in the process to be unreasonable.

The case involves the 2010 arrest of Amal Asmar by two SPVM officers in the early morning hours outside Alexis-Nihon Plaza.

A police cruiser pulled up beside her, and Asmar says she was aggressively questioned, then pushed up against the car and handcuffed. She was then searched and put in the back of the cruiser.

She received two fines for the incident: a $620 ticket for making noise and a $480 ticket for using municipal property — in this case, the bench — improperly. The fines were later dropped by the city.

Asmar, who was wearing a kaffiyeh (a black-and-white scarf commonly worn in the Middle East) at the time, argued she was singled out for her ethnicity and mistaken for a homeless person, who are known to frequent the area near Atwater Metro.

Asmar, alongside the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission later the same year.

In August 2017, the commission finally ruled that police abused its position of authority and arrested Asmar without cause. 

The commission said the City of Montreal and the officers should pay $30,000 in moral damages.

The city was also ordered to pay $10,000 in punitive damages, while each officer was ordered to pay $2,500. 

Decisions from the commission, however, are non-binding.

The City of Montreal took that decision to the tribunal, demanding it reject the ruling due to the "unreasonable delays."

Unreasonable delays, tribunal says

In its decision, the tribunal notes that the official complaint against the police was filed by CRARR on April 26, 2010.

It wasn't until Sept. 5, 2017 that the commission made its decision, a time span of 88 months.

After analyzing the file, the tribunal found the delays to be "patently unreasonable."

For its part, the commission argued the delays were caused by the complexity of the case and the difficult relationship between itself and the city. 

The city said it did all it could to ensure the case moved forward, and claimed the delays "undermine[d] the sense of justice and trivializes fundamental rights."

'Culture of delay'

The commission has long been criticized for its slow process.

CRARR's executive director Fo Niemi has criticized the commission for what he has called a "culture of delay."

The commission said Thursday it can't comment on the specific case because it is still deciding whether it will present a motion to the Court of Appeal.

But in a statement, a spokesperson for the commission said it is committed to improving the process.

"Reducing processing delays is one of the commission's main concerns," said spokesperson Meissoon Azzaria.

CRARR declined to comment Thursday, saying it was still studying the decision. Asmar could not immediately be reached for comment.

The SPVM said it would not comment.

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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