Montreal

Montreal police fined black man $500 as he took out the recycling. He blames racial profiling

Kenrick McRae took his recycling out Tuesday afternoon. When he returned inside, he had been fined nearly $500 by police for drinking and driving.

'Cleaning while black: an iteration of racial profiling at the highest degree,' says anti-racism group

'I am fearful for the safety of my other black brothers and sisters,' said Kenrick McRae, who believes he was racially profiled earlier this week by Montreal police. (Gretel Kahn/CBC)

Kenrick McRae, a black man who lives in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, took his recycling out Tuesday afternoon. When he returned inside 15 minutes later, he had been fined nearly $500 by police for drinking and driving.

The puzzling incident has led McRae to believe that, once again, he has been the victim of racial profiling by Montreal police. 

As McRae was putting out his recycling, he decided to stop at his car, a Mercedes SUV, to remove some cups and cans.

That's when, he said, a police cruiser stopped across the street and two officers ⁠— one male, one female ⁠— asked him who owned the SUV.

After replying that the vehicle belonged to him, one of the police officers noticed some empty bottles sticking out of the bag. One was a stout beer that he says he drank at home earlier that day.

According to McRae, the officers asked him for identification because they suspected he was under the influence.

"I said 'If you suspect that I am under the influence, please do a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer,'" McRae said in an interview Thursday at his home.

After taking this bag of recyclables out of his car, police spotted empty two bottles: one was ginger beer and the other one a stout beer he drank earlier that day. (Gretel Kahn/CBC)

According to McRae's account, the officer refused to administer the test, saying she did not have time. The officers then demanded that he identify himself or be arrested.

McRae said he saw three additional police cruisers arrive. Fearing for his safety, he handed over his identification.

"I said to myself, 'I don't want to die today,'" said McRae. "Let's say one of them is very trigger happy — what's gonna happen?"

'Cleaning while black'

The police officers took the empty bottle of stout for evidence, but left the rest of the recycling materials behind.

They handed McRae a fine for $486. In the ticket, which he showed to CBC News, the offence is described as "being the driver of a road vehicle, having consumed alcoholic beverages."

Contacted by CBC News, Montreal police refused to comment on the incident. 

McRae was arrested in March 2017 while driving the same Mercedes. He had been pulled over by police, allegedly for having lights above his licence plate that weren't working.

He began filming that interaction with police, he says, to prove that the light was in fact functional. Police handcuffed him, erased the video and accused him of causing a disturbance. 

At the time, anti-racism advocate Fo Niemi called the incident an "egregious" case of racial profiling.

McRae was fined $486 for "being the driver of a road vehicle, having consumed alcoholic beverages." (Gretel Kahn/CBC)

Niemi's group, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), helped McRae file a complaint with the police ethics commissioner. A hearing was held in June.

CRARR said Thursday that McRae had once again been the victim of racial profiling.   

"This is a case of a black man cleaning his car," said Alain Babineau, a CRARR adviser and a former RCMP officer. "Cleaning while black: an iteration of racial profiling at the highest degree."

Babineau said the actions of the Montreal officers earlier this week are an example of a "systemic problem within the culture itself of the SPVM."

McRae plans to file a formal complaint with the police ethics commissioner as well as with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

"I am fearful for my life," he said. "I am fearful for the safety of my other black brothers and sisters."

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About the Author

Gretel is a researcher with CBC Montreal and currently holds the Peter Gzowski Internship.

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