Montreal police pressed to collect data on racial, social profiling

The City of Montreal is being called on to "recognize that the problems posed by racial and social profiling persist" by a commission tasked with looking into the issue.

Recommendation among 31 developed through public consultations held in May and June

Activists have been calling on Montreal police to do more to address racial profiling. Here, demonstrators are seen marching in 2008. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Montreal police are being urged to track cases of racial and social profiling by a commission tasked with looking into the problem.

Collecting that data is one of 31 recommendations for fighting racial and social profiling issued Tuesday by the Social Development and Diversity and Public Security commissions, made up of city and borough councillors from Montreal and demerged cities.

In a statement, commission members said they want the City of Montreal to "recognize that the problems posed by racial and social profiling persist" and to pursue its fight against racial and social profiling "because these behaviours are neither normal nor tolerable in its public service."

The top recommendation was the creation of a public database for keeping track of details including the "perceived and presumed" racial and social affiliation of people who are the focus of police interventions.

The system for collecting this information would be developed and put in place by 2018 in collaboration with an independent research team and in accordance with standards set by Quebec's human rights commission.

Public hearings led by the joint commission in May and June heard from Montreal police, city transit police, the municipal housing authority and some 30 community organizations.

Montreal police have been accused of multiple cases of racial and social profiling and have promised a database for tracking complaints in the department's next action plan, which runs from 2018 to 2020.

The commission recommended the creation of a similar database for the city's transit police, public housing bureau, human resources department and municipal courts, among other city services.

It also wants the City of Montreal to increase diversity in the city's public service, notably in the SPVM and the city's fire department and introduce a public awareness campaign promoting diversity and the value of "living together." 

Recommendations are 'recognition that social and racial profiling exist'

Pierre Gaudreau, head of RAPSIM, a coalition of 108 groups working with Montreal's homeless population, told CBC News that he was "very happy" with the recommendations.

"It's recognition that social and racial profiling exist," he said.

In a report issued in 2016, RAPSIM said the City of Montreal and the SPVM needed to do more to prevent social profiling of homeless people

Gaudreau said his organization now plans to ensure the next city administration elected in November takes action on the recommendations in 2018.

He said the SPVM has taken steps to improve relations with the city's homeless, but more needs to be done and pressure from next administration will be crucial.

"They will take it seriously if the city and the human rights commission look at the way they act with homeless people," he said.