Montreal

Terrebonne man accuses provincial police of racial profiling after traffic stop

Terrebonne resident Leslie Blot says he is repeatedly targeted by police while driving.

Leslie Blot had previously filed complaint with Repentigny police for repeat stops

Leslie Blot says this is far from being the first time he was racially profiled while driving. (Submitted by Leslie Blot)

Terrebonne resident Leslie Blot is filing civil rights and police ethics complaints against two Sûreté du Québec officers, accusing them of racial profiling during an incident last December. 

According to Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), this alleged racial profiling incident is just the latest in a series in the Lanaudière region in recent years.  

Since 2018, CRARR has seen some 20 similar complaints involving police forces in Terrebonne, Mascouche and Repentigny. 

In this latest incident, Blot was driving his black Cadillac Escalade along a highway in Mascouche on Dec. 4 when he was suddenly asked to pull over. 

"They asked for my papers. I asked them why they pulled me over and they told me there was no reason, that I did nothing wrong, and that they just needed to check my driver's license," Blot told reporters Sunday. 

"It's pure harassment and racial profiling. … It's always the same thing and I'm just tired of this. I can't take it anymore." 

According to Blot, only moments after he was pulled over, the SQ officers asked him to open the clear plastic bag he keeps on his passenger seat — a bag he says contains nothing but a candle and holy water that he keeps in his car for visits to his mother's grave. 

That's when Blot took his cell phone out, and began to capture a seven-minute video of the rest of the exchange. In the footage shared with reporters, the SQ officers tell Blot he needs to open the bag so they can make sure there are no drugs in it. They say they were only following procedure as they saw a white substance in the bag. 

In the video, Blot then struggles to find his license, and tells officers he likely forgot it in his jacket. As he searches frantically in the car, one of the officers is heard calling him a "drama queen," while the other asks if he has a criminal record. 

Blot tells the officers that he is used to being racially profiled, and is then repeatedly accused of "reverse racism." 

After several minutes, Blot is fined for not having his winter tires on on time and police have his car towed because of that. 

"When I went to get my car back, the workers at the towing company hesitated to give it back to me because they were given instructions by the police not to give me back my car unless I showed up with winter tires to change them on location," said Blot.

"This is the first time I've seen something like this." 

But it isn't the first time, Blot says, that he's been racially profiled while driving.

"It's not safe for Black people to drive in the streets. They're always on you. I'm always scared, I always have a camera in the car because I don't feel safe when I have to deal with police," said Blot. 

Niemi said the incident is a "typical" driving while black situation, with the usual common elements. "A simple traffic stop leads to questions and allegations of drug possession, of gang affiliation and then they escalated to a non-professional verbal exchange." 

Fo Niemi, who heads the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, says he has seen some 20 similar cases of alleged racial profiling in the Lanaudière region since 2018. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

Previous complaints filed with Repentigny police

Blot was one of several Repentigny residents who accused local police of racial profiling back in 2019. That complaint referred to an incident two years prior to that in which Blot was arrested by Repentigny police and issued more than $700 in fines. 

During that incident, Blot says the officers had been suspicious of his girlfriend's car because it "wasn't from here" — it had been registered in Laval. 

"There are so many others in my area, so many other Black people, are living with the same situation for years and nothing changes," said Blot. 

Since the 2019 complaint, Repentigny police hired a consulting firm to help come up with a plan to be more inclusive and to prevent racial profiling — though community activists said that action lacked a formal acknowledgement that there is a problem that needs solving.

Blot hopes that by filing this latest complaint, he may get some answers not only from the SQ, but from Quebec Premier François Legault who has repeatedly denied the existence of systemic racism in the province. 

The SQ did not respond to the CBC's request for comment.

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.

(CBC)

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