Quebec police ethics commissioner upholds complaints against 8 officers for racial profiling

Since Pierre-Marcel Monsanto, 44, and his family moved to Terrebonne in 2018, he says police have asked him twice per month on average to pull over without valid reason when he was running errands.

Pierre-Marcel Monsanto says he is stopped twice a month in Terrebonne

Pierre-Marcel Monsanto says Terrebonne police have asked him to pull over twice per month on average since he moved to the suburb in 2018. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

Quebec's police ethics commissioner is upholding complaints against eight Terrebonne officers for racially profiling a Black man.

The commissioner validated eight of the 12 complaints Pierre-Marcel Monsanto filed with the help of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) between September 2019 and October 2020.

Following the commissioner's decision, the police ethics committee will hold hearings on the complaints later this year or in 2023.

"I feel like my life is threatened. I'm just scared," Monsanto said. "Most of the time, my kids are in the vehicle when I've been stopped, and they're asking me, 'Papa why does this happen all the time?'"

Since Monsanto, 44, and his family moved to Terrebonne in 2018, he says police have pulled him over about twice a month without valid reason when he was out running errands.

"Black drivers are under too much police surveillance for no valid reason and it's unacceptable," Monsanto, a tax expert, said at a news conference Thursday morning. "We must end racial profiling by the police because it has become a threat to our freedom and to our safety."

The commissioner's report lists several cases where police stopped Monsanto for "routine checks." According to the report, police looked up Monsanto's name 37 times in their database between September 2018 and August 2019.

The Highway Safety Code allows police officers to randomly intercept motorists, but only when performing road traffic control duties.

Monsanto said the frequent police stops were accompanied with "hostile and threatening" actions toward him, which he attributes to racial profiling and harassment.

He said he's had to pay more than $6,000 in fines for more than a dozen infractions, such as burnt-out tail lights and distracted driving, fines he says are unfair.

In the report published on March 11, commissioner Marc André Dowd wrote "the unusual frequency of interceptions purely based on article 636 C.s.r. [The Highway Safety Code], whereas the complainant has not committed any offence, is likely to generate strong feelings of injustice in him and a loss of trust with Terrebonne police officers."

Terrebonne police did not respond to CBC's request for an interview by publication time.

Gender discrimination

The car Monsanto often drives is registered under his wife's name, prompting officers to question him, Fo Niemi, executive director of CRAAR, said.

Niemi hopes the police ethics system will acknowledge that stopping a Black man solely because he is driving a car registered under a woman's name is gender discrimination.

"He has to explain all the time that it's his spouse," Niemi said. "Sometimes, they even ask if he stays at the same address as this woman. It gets to be that intrusive."

Fo Niemi, executive director of CRAAR, says he's confident the eight police officers will be sanctioned. (Pierre Fortin/CBC)

"We need to have, in a very urgent manner, corrective action and preventive action so as to avoid Mr. Monsanto and other Black drivers being stopped, often abusively."

Monsanto said a police officer last approached him in his car on Wednesday when he was parked with the engine off outside a pharmacy.

He says he will keep filing ethics complaints so long as the police continue to intercept him wrongfully. In the meantime, he's staying close to home.

"Most of the time, as much as I can, I don't go outside," Monsanto said.

"The police officer is armed so I don't know what can happen. Sometimes, I tell my wife, maybe you'll be alone to raise our kids because when they see me, we don't know what can happen."

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.


with files from Jay Turnbull