CRARR Press Release
Montreal, June 9, 2009 --- The Quebec Superior Court has thrown out a judicial review case brought by the City of Montreal against the Quebec human rights commission and CRARR.
In a decision dated June 2, 2009, Madam Justice Hélène Lebel rejected the City's argument that a person found guilty in municipal court over a city by-law cannot file a civil rights complaint against the police for having engaged in racial profiling leading to the issuance of a ticket. For the City, the filing of the discrimination complaint is tantamount to a disguised appeal.
The case involved a complaint filed by CRARR in September 2003 on behalf of a Black minor, F.F., in the East-end district of Saint-Michel, who was fined by the police for “incivilities” (i.e. using urban property for a purpose other than that for which it is designed - the youth was sitting on a small fence in front of his public housing project).
Of the many youths present, the police officers only singled out Black boys for citation; racially discirminatory comments were also directed towards these youths. In January 2004, the youth in question was found guilty by default, for failing to appear in court to contest his fine. In December 2007, the human rights commission ruled that the youth was the victim of racial profiling and recommended $10,000 in damages. Two other Black boys were also fined by the police (one of whom was under 14 and could not be fined under Quebec law); the human rights commission also recommended $10,000 for each of them.
Since the City refused to comply with the commission's decision, the case was brought before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, as with all cases of racial profiling. In August 2008, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the City's contention that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear it; the City filed for judicial review before the Quebec Superior Court, which now sends the case back to the Human Rights Tribunal for a hearing on the merit of the cases.
In recent months, the City has systematically challenged racial profiling cases on procedural grounds before the courts. To date, the City has lost despite its numerous actions to prevent the Human Rights Tribunal from proceeding.
The Montreal Police continues to apply its policy against incivilities, which has deemed in New York City and in many cities in France to be discriminatory towards youths of color and the poor. Under this policy, many young males of color, disadvantaged youths as well as the homeless have been fined for conduct deemed by the police to be “uncivil” (spitting, talking loud, jaywalking, etc.), resulting in penal (not criminal) records for many youths. Despite its application since 2001, the policy has never been the subject of public debate and evaluation at City Council.
Information : René Saint-Léger, Counsel
Fo Niemi, Executive Director
CRARR : 514-939-3342