Bathurst man's police experience rings familiar to racial profile victim

For Mary McCarthy, it's a case of déjà vu after hearing Louizande Dauphin of Bathurst was pulled over and questioned by RCMP while driving home from the Stonehaven wharf.

Woman who won racial profiling case against Shoppers Drug Mart offers support for Louizandre Dauphin

Mary McCarthy was shopping in a downtown Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart in 2011 when an employee asked her to open her backpack. She refused and staff later opened it anyway. (CBC Marketplace)

For Mary McCarthy, the situation faced by a northern New Brunswick man who was pulled over and questioned by police after reading is a case of déjà vu.

McCarthy, a Fredericton civil servant, says she felt concerned for Louizandre Dauphin when she heard the Bathurst man was pulled over and questioned by RCMP while driving home from the Stonehaven wharf. 

Dauphin said he was told police had received several calls regarding a "suspicious black man" in a white car parked at the wharf.

McCarthy says she knows too well what it feels like to be the target of prejudice based on the colour of her skin.

In 2015, Shoppers Drug Mart was ordered to pay her $8,000 after the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled she was targeted as a shoplifter because she is black.

The incident happened in Toronto in 2011, when McCarthy was living there while working on her PhD. 

The incident involving McCarthy happened at a downtown Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart store in 2011. (Google)
But she says that's not the only time she has been subjected to prejudice.

"I grew up here, you know. I am a woman of African heritage ... many odd things have happened to me, when you wonder, 'Why am I being asked these questions, why am I being stopped?' And the only logical conclusion is because I do standout because of the colour of my skin," McCarthy said.

"It's not a very pleasant feeling. I've experienced it many times."

McCarthy says she has even been asked at a traffic stop if she is owner of the vehicle she is driving.

"It's very exhausting. And I think the challenge is, at what point is your breaking point?" she said.

It's important not to internalize the prejudice, she says, and to step back an assess every situation, because otherwise people will label you as an angry person, which takes a toll.

Louizandre Dauphin went to Stonehaven Wharf to "read quietly," and was pulled over and questioned by police on his way home to Bathurst (Bridget Yard/CBC )
"It's important to hold your head high and not to be reactive but to step back and be calm because we are targeted," she said.

Dauphin, who is the director of parks, recreation and tourism for the City of Bathurst, said he had been sitting at the wharf, reading in his car and "didn`t think I was doing anything wrong."  

I wonder if visible minorities are truly free in a "free" country.- Louizandre Dauphin, Facebook post

He says the officer who stopped him said police had received a few calls "regarding a suspicious person down at the wharf."  

Dauphin posted a message to Facebook about the incident and said he's received many messages of support.

He said he isn't angry, just disappointed in the people who phoned the police to report him. 

"I'd imagine it was largely due to their suspicions of someone who is not common in the area and they might have had some preconceived notions," he said.

Dauphin took to Facebook to write about the incident and has received "lots of support" from the community. (Facebook)

"It took me aback a little bit, but again, it just reminded me that here in Canada as much as we like to turn up our noses or point fingers at our brothers and sisters in the United States, we do have to recognize that we have very ... similar problems here in this country." 

Recent events in the United States include fatal police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn., as well as the fatal sniper attack on Dallas police.  

Public urged to report suspicious vehicles

Const. Derek Black, speaking for the RCMP in New Brunswick, says police acted appropriately in this case.

When asked if the calls made to report Dauphin mentioned the colour of his skin, Black said police received one call and he has "no indication" of that detail.

"Our report indicates strictly a suspicious vehicle on the wharf. Nothing further to that," he said.

People in the Stonehaven area called police to report Dauphin as he sat in his white Volkswagen at Stonehaven Wharf (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Black says a car on a wharf could be considered suspicious and police encourage those kinds of calls from the public.

"People in that community know their community best, so anything that's out of the norm for them, or appears suspicious, we would certainly encourage them to contact police." 

According to his Facebook page, Dauphin has been living in Bathurst for about a year, having moved to the area from Ontario. 

In a post from July 2015, Dauphin speaks of the Black Lives Matter movement and reflects on racism he has experienced in his life.

"I compare and contrast my experiences of being stopped by police on the very street I lived on or, better yet, being detained by a rookie officer in the very police station where I was working in order to verify if I even belonged there, with the seemingly more frequent incidents we've seen on the news and I wonder if visible minorities are truly free in a 'free' country."

With files from Bridget Yard