Police door-to-door visits irk Southwest borough residents
Ossie Michelin says police knocked on his door, telling him to beware of homeless Inuit
Ossie Michelin was setting up his barbecue Tuesday afternoon, when he got an unexpected knock on his front door from two uniformed Montreal police officers.
The officers were making door-to-door visits in the Southwest borough to warn people about any rowdy behaviour they may encounter in the neighbourhood.
To me, this is promoting racial profiling and promoting members of the community to be wary of Inuit in the neighbourhood.- Stephen Puskas, member of Vigilance Autochtone- Stephen Puskas, member of Vigilance Autochtone
"They told me that they are going door-to-door asking if anyone has any issues, and they started to say autochtone (Indigenous)...and they changed autochtone mid-word to itinérant (homeless)," Michelin told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"In my head, I was thinking, 'Oh no. Oh no. Please let's not do this.' I'm Indigenous myself. I thought maybe he just misspoke."
Michelin said officers went on to explain that their door-to-door visits were prompted by a large number of complaints the police department received from neighbours last summer.
"They tell me they've had a lot of complaints last year about homeless Inuit sleeping in parks and scaring people. At this point I tell them that I'm aboriginal. I'm half Inuit. I'm from Labrador," Michelin said.
According to Michelin, the officers explained they were being proactive and also work in tandem with Indigenous community groups.
The officers handed Michelin a flyer and said he could report any disruptive behaviour.
The flyer makes no mention of homeless people, nor Indigenous or Inuit communities.
It advises residents to call 911 if they see people drinking alcoholic beverages outside, loitering, fighting, disturbing the peace, urinating or blocking traffic.
"I have no issue with people going door-to-door and saying, 'Be safe, be aware,'" Michelin said.
"But it was the fact that they mentioned Indigenous people, and Inuit specifically, that really bothered me. I mean, what other racial group is this acceptable for? Who else would say, 'Oh watch out for people from this specific ethnicity because they are disturbing the peace?'"
The visit from the officers also upset Stephen Puskas, who is a member of the volunteer group Vigilance Autochtone, an organization that helps maintain relationships between Montreal police and different indigenous groups in the city.
"To me, this is promoting racial profiling and promoting members of the community to be wary of Inuit in the neighbourhood," Puskas said.
He sent a complaint letter to the police's community relations department.
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"We're not all homeless. We're not all drunks. I hate having to say that because I feel like we have to say that often, but it's a really sad state in the city where we have members in the community pushing Inuit out of the community. Where else can they go?"
Puskas added that he feels encouraging people call 911 to report the homeless is not the right approach.
"I think that's a misuse of the 911 service to begin with because that's mostly just for emergencies, not for reporting if you're suspicious of somebody," he said.
"I think that would be a negative effect for the Inuit community. It really doesn't help things get better."
Montreal police did not return a request for comment on Wednesday. A spokesperson said they are looking into the matter.
with files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak