Longueuil man takes police racial profiling claim to human rights commission

Joel Debellefeuille said he has yet again been the victim of racial discrimination by Longueuil police, and he’s asking the human rights commission to intervene.

Joel Debellefeuille says he was ticketed once again for an infraction he claims he didn't commit

Joel Debellefeuille holds up a ticket he received in Longueuil for driving with a young passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt. He claims he was alone in the car. (CBC News)

A Longueuil man said he has yet again been the victim of racial discrimination by the city's police force, and he's asking the human rights commission to put a stop to it.

Joel Debellefeuille first made headlines three years ago, when a Longueuil municipal court judge tossed out a case against him after a police officer testified he'd pulled Debellefeuille's vehicle over because he thought the black man "could not be the driver" as his last name didn't match his skin colour. 

Two officers were sanctioned by the police ethics commission in connection with that incident.

Debellefeuille said he has been stopped and ticketed again by the police in what he calls another "driving while black" incident.

"It's frustrating, it's time-consuming, it's draining, it's costly," said the 40-year-old Debellefeuille, who added he's been stopped for no reason while driving his BMW about six times.

"Hopefully me repeating this over and over will finally sink in that there's a problem with their officers."

In the latest incident, Debellefeuille was returning to a hotel in Longueuil where his family was staying.  Police approached him as he parked his car and gave him a ticket, claiming he had not been wearing a seatbelt.

He said when he looked more closely at the $126 ticket, he saw it was for driving with a passenger under 16 who wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Debellefeuille insists he had, in fact, been wearing his belt and was alone in the car.

Longueuil police get cross-cultural training

The Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) has taken up his case, and it's filing a complaint with the Quebec human rights commission.

Since 2006, the Longueuil police have taken steps to address profiling on its force, and since 2011, all officers receive training on racial profiling.

But Fo Niemi, CRARR's executive director, wants to know how officers are trained and evaluated.

"Their plan looks good on paper, but we don't know what they have done," Niemi said. "We will look at the possibility of asking for an audit of the police department, so we see how it deals with racial profiling."

Longueuil police Capt. Nancy Colagiacomo said the force will not tolerate discriminatory behaviour from its officers.

If people feel discriminated against, they are free to file a complaint with the police ethics board, she said.


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