Ottawa

City of Gatineau to appeal $18K fine in racial profiling case

The City of Gatineau says it will appeal a finding by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal that the arrest of a Black man in 2013 was an instance of racial profiling.

Officers arrested Black man in 2013 following domestic assault complaint

The City of Gatineau says it will appeal a ruling from Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal that a December 2013 arrest of a Black man was a case of racial profiling. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

The City of Gatineau says it will appeal a finding by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal that the arrest of a Black man in 2013 was an instance of racial profiling.

The man was arrested on Dec. 27, 2013, not long after Gatineau Police Service officers received a domestic violence call in the city's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood.

The officers were looking for a Black man who was six-feet-one-inch tall and was carrying a knife.

They'd been given the suspect's name, and the complainant had said he was wearing a black coat and grey sweatpants and had long hair tied up.

Later that evening, police arrested a man at a nearby convenience store. While he was Black and roughly the same height as the suspect, he was wearing different clothes and had much shorter hair.

The man told officers during the arrest that he believed it was an act of racial profiling, according to the decision issued by the tribunal in January. 

While he wasn't charged in connection with the domestic violence call, he was cited for disturbing the peace. He was acquitted the following year. 

Not a random stop, says mayor

In her ruling, the tribunal's commissioner ordered the city and the two officers, Éric Bélanger and Jason Bruneau, to pay the man they'd incorrectly arrested a total of $18,000.

However, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said Friday the city would be appealing the ruling.

"The police were looking for a Black man with a knife. The arrest involved a Black man, near the incident, a few minutes after [it happened]," Pedneaud-Jobin told Radio-Canada in French.

"The police felt that the person met the identification criteria. It was not a random stop."

The amount of time between the arrest and the tribunal hearing meant the two officers could not mount a full and complete defence, he added.

Police force implementing recommendations

The tribunal also recommended the city train its police officers about the risks of racial profiling and create guidelines to identify and limit it.

In an English-language statement, the Gatineau Police Service said Friday it would not be commenting on the ruling but confirmed it would be implementing tribunal's recommendations.

The force had already taken "many steps" to address racial profiling since the 2013 arrest, and will be creating an advisory board with members of various community groups in the coming weeks, wrote spokesperson Mariane Leduc.

"The Gatineau Police Service does not tolerate social or racial profiling, and any officer or employee that would act otherwise will face consequences," Leduc said in the statement.

With files from Kimberley Molina and Radio-Canada

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