Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Montreal taxi driver allegedly pulled over and fined on account of race

After David Bastien, a 25-year-old Haitian taxi driver in Montreal, was pulled over and allegedly “unfairly handcuffed” and fined by Constable Jean-Francois Croteau, concerns about why this happened and why it has happened more than once are surfacing.

On April 5, 2009, David Bastien reports that he was ordered by Croteau to pull over and provide his driver’s license. He further alleges that Croteau pulled him out of his car and handcuffed him. Croteau proceeded to issue four fines against Bastien, reports the Montreal Gazette. The fines included:

-“$638 for ‘having refused to produce for examination by a peace officer a (driver’s) permit’”; -“$169 for ‘being the driver and not behaving in a dignified or civil manner’”;-“$100 for ‘not ensuring that the inside of the taxi is clean’”;-“$169 for ‘being a driver and raiding with the taxi,’ trying to pick up another’s fare.”

Since the incident, Bastien has gone to the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Police Ethics Commission with his case against Croteau, but both Commissions are yet to hear it. According to the Gazette the complaints filed by Bastien state, among other things, that “most taxi drivers are afraid of reprisals by police and do not have confidence in the complaint procedure.” The precise evidence that Bastien has to substantiate this claim, if any, is unknown. However if proven to be true, it is a powerful proposition, especially considering that this is not the first time recently that a Montreal taxi driver has been detained and issued what seems to be an outrageous amount of tickets at once. In March and May, respectively, another officer, Constable Pierre Belanger, issued $600 in tickets to one cab driver and $2,310 in tickets to another. Both Croteau and Belanger work out of Station 21. When asked about these incidents, Commander Alain Simoneau replied that “[t]his is not a situation of racial profiling in any way,” but “application of the highway code, pure and simple.” Whether such a response will placate taxi-drivers in Montreal is yet to be seen. However, with the recent incident in Ottawa regarding an alleged police attack on a taxi-driver, drivers are being given more and more reasons to distrust the police. It seems too coincidental that all four taxi drivers in these two cases are racialized.

Posted by Ashley Paterson (Law II) (LEAP Summer Intern)

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