The Montreal Police Fraternity says it’s too easy to blame its members for racial profiling
The president of the Montreal Police Brotherhood says racial profiling is “a societal issue” that goes beyond policing while testifying in a class action lawsuit Friday at the Montreal courthouse.
Asked by lawyer Mike Diomande about his stance on racial profiling, Yves Francoeur expressed frustration that “the police always bear the blame when they respond to incidents of racism allegations in the city”.
The Black Coalition of Quebec is suing on behalf of people who allege they were racially profiled between August 2017 and January 2019. She is seeking just over $170 million in damages — $5,000 per racialized person arrested without good cause.
The hearings began on Wednesday.
Francoeur has chaired the union, which represents more than 4,300 members, since 2005 and says it has always been opposed to racism, pointing to various diversity and sensitivity training sessions that have been put in place.
Francoeur says there is a fine line between racial profiling and criminal profiling that allows law enforcement officers to do their jobs and protect people.
He also said the fraternity advocates body cameras because they believe it would help its members feel better protected and would allow every part of a police interaction to be recorded.
When Black Coalition lawyers asked him how to rebuild trust between the police and the public, Francoeur rebuffed him, saying the perception he had heard from members was that there had been no breach of trust.
“Very insidious” problem
Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer and member of the anti-racism group Red Coalition, says more needs to be done to combat racial profiling.
“If you have the notion that a black person is more likely to be involved in crime, you’re going to racially profile that person,” he said.
“Diversity and inclusion have nothing to do with racism and discrimination.”
New Montreal Police Chief Fady Dagher testified in court Thursday, acknowledging in court that racial profiling is being done within his police force, but said he hopes to change the culture of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM). can.
Dagher spoke about the systemic nature of racial profiling.
“It’s a very insidious, very subtle, very sneaky problem, and you don’t realize you’re doing it,” he said. “How can I make my cops realize that they have unconscious – and sometimes even conscious – biases?”
Dagher also spoke about the SPVM’s policies and training on racial profiling and how they have evolved over time. He says the first recognized racial profiling was a problem in the early 2000s.
“I don’t think it will ever be enough. I think it will be a continuous effort that we have to make to be able to fight racial profiling,” he said.
Dagher said the key is to keep working at a deep level to change the culture of the force.
But Dagher defended arbitrary arrests, which Judge Michel Yergeau ruled unconstitutional last October, saying they were “still necessary”.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante will testify on Tuesday.
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.