Quebec proposes reforms aimed at countering police racial profiling

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel presented legislation on Wednesday that includes amendments to the province's police law.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - photo credit)

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel presented legislation on Wednesday that includes amendments to the province’s police law. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada – photo credit)

The Quebec government is promising changes that would help end racial profiling by police on the province’s streets – although supporters say it doesn’t go far enough.

Quebec Public Safety Minister François Bonnardel introduced a bill on Wednesday that would include a requirement to establish guidelines for stopping motorists.

“Let’s be clear: Quebec is a welcoming society where racial profiling has no place,” said Christopher Skeete, the minister responsible for combating racism, who was available to make the announcement.

“It’s important to have the necessary mechanisms in place to make it as easy as possible for victims to denounce it.”

The proposed legislation would require police forces to provide annual information on their road stops under Section 636 of the Road Safety Act.

If their arrests do not comply with the guidelines set out by the ministry, they could even face disciplinary sanctions.

However, the bill comes close to abolishing random roadside checks altogether. (Last year, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that the practice was unconstitutional. The province appealed the ruling.)

The legislation also includes reforms to the way complaints about the police are handled by the Police Ethics Committee, giving it the power to impose new sanctions.

Critics said the police ethics committee was too slow and lacked the power to discipline officers.

The changes are “modest” in scope: civil rights group

The legislation is similar to a bill introduced by the Avenir Québec coalition government ahead of the last election.

The bill is based on recommendations from the CAQ’s Anti-Racism Task Force – although it doesn’t go as far as proposed in eliminating random stops.

Dave St-Amant/CBC

Dave St-Amant/CBC

Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said the changes are welcome but “modest.”

He said his organization plans to attend hearings on the bill to push for tougher anti-racial profiling measures and further changes to the disciplinary system.

The League des droits et libertesa Quebec civil rights group also said the changes don’t go far enough.

At his press conference on Wednesday, Skeete said the legislation was designed to strike “a balance” between protecting citizens who aim to “dodge fare” and giving police the tools to do their job.

“We believe we’ve found that balance in this new law,” he said.

For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.




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