Stop random police checks – Montreal Councillor Marvin Rotrand will present a motion at Montreal City Council on Nov.18 to halt random street checks by police. The motion invites police chief Sylvain Caron to impose an immediate moratorium on the practice of police street checks. Rotrand will also ask City Council to request the Ministers of Justice and Public Security of Quebec to propose legislation that would permanently ban police street checks in this province.
Rotrand says that media accounts, as well as the SPVM’s own research, show that blacks and people of visible minorities are disproportionately affected by spot checks purportedly carried out to deter crime in high-crime areas. “In 2019 citizens should not have to be afraid that they will be stopped by the police based on a hunch,” he says. “If I were Mayor of Montreal, I would reassure the community, and reach out to all members of Council” to put an end to this de facto racial profiling. “I find it deplorable.”
According to statistics, in Montreal, Aboriginal women are 11 times more likely, black people, 4.2 times more likely and Arabs, twice as likely to be stopped by police as are white people. To add insult to injury, when pedestrians are stopped by the police their personal information is also taken and entered into a database “without a warrant,” Rotrand notes. These individuals then become “known” to police although they may be innocent of any crime with unforeseeable consequences to their lives.
A coalition of organizations spearheaded by the Black Coalition of Quebec is supporting Rotrand’s motion and has called for immediate action to end the practice. The Black Coalition of Quebec, Jamaica Association of Montreal, Cote des Neiges Black Community Association, the Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations, the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs, and the Grenada Nationals and Association of South Asian Communities held a press conference recently calling for an end to random street checks, saying random checks “target” Black and cultural communities. “In a free and democratic society, it is intolerable that some citizens are arrested by the police because of their membership or alleged membership in a group defined by race, color, ethnicity, national origin or religion rather than for a real reason of public safety.”
Rotrand says that Judges Michael Macdonald of Nova Scotia and Michael Tulloch of Ontario reviewed similar reports (to the SPVM’s) in Halifax and Toronto. They concluded that the arrests predicated on random street checks “were not reasonably necessary and therefore illegal” and that they had a disproportionate and negative effect on the Black community and other minority communities. The veteran Snowdon district councillor would like the Executive Committee of Montreal City Council to implement an effective strategy to stop what many believe to be a discriminatory practice.
The coalition is encouraging the Government of Quebec to follow the examples of the governments of Novia Scotia and Ontario which have passed legislation banning random street checks by police. “John Tory has taken action and so have other mayors,” says Rotrand. “I am gratified by support from community organizations.” However, ultimately it will take “leadership” from the City of Montreal and a commitment to public consultation he says, as well as discussions with the police, to determine best practices to ensure public security.