Montreal community groups, city councillors call for police reforms to end racial profiling
Demands include mandatory body cameras for frontline officers, policy on race-based data collection
A coalition of community organizations, backed by opposition councillors at Montreal City Hall, has announced a five-point reform plan it says will help end racial profiling by the Montreal police and embrace diversity and equity.
The groups are asking for:
- A policy on bias-free street checks by police.
- Adequate public hearing on the policy, to be held by the public security commission of Montreal.
- Mandatory body cams for all frontline officers.
- A policy on race-based data collection.
- The creation of a community advisory committee to help implement these policies.
An independent report into racial profiling in the SPVM published in October found that Indigenous people and Black people were four to five times more likely than white people to be stopped by police.
A zero-tolerance policy is essential for the SPVM, said Alain Babineau, a spokesperson for the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and a former RCMP officer.
"If you don't acknowledge that racial profiling exists ... how good are the policies going to be?"
Babineau said he's experienced racial profiling as a Black police officer, even after showing his badge to prove his identity.
"It has been my experience and that of many of my colleagues that our qualifications, our actual position, is questioned."
The first step is to acknowledge the systemic racism in all police forces, he said.
Mark Henry, president of the Jamaica Association of Montreal, said the coalition is calling for an end to systemic racial profiling by police.
"We've worked with great police in our city, but there are those who buy into that stereotype in our community."
Racial profiling is a reality for himself, his family, and for many Montrealers, he pointed out.
"I think the world is ready for a change. I think race-based data will force the government to make changes."
Street check policy coming next month
CRARR members spoke outside city hall Wednesday morning alongside members of the Jamaica Association of Montreal, Concordia University Student Union, the Black Community Resource Centre and the Association philippine de Montréal et des banlieues.
They were joined by Opposition Leader Lionel Perez and city councillors Marvin Rotrand, Mary Deros, Josué Corvil and Abdelhaq Sari.
Some of the groups' demands are already in the works. For example, the SPVM will announce a policy on street checks July 8.
Perez said he believes the new street check policy must be studied by Montreal's public consultation office (OCPM), which is independent, not only the city's public security commission.
She said the city will ask provincial and federal governments for financial assistance in order to deploy body cameras as soon as possible.
Babineau said while he applauds the decisions to unveil a policy on street checks and go forward with body cameras, it's not enough — he wants to hear police officials declare that racial profiling exists.