The Persistent Problem of Racial Profiling by Police in Montréal


In 2011, the Québec Human Rights Commission released a report that found that ethnic minorities in Québec are subject to “police surveillance that is targeted and disproportionate”. Unfortunately, many years later, racial and social profiling continues to be a problem in the province, especially in Montréal, where only 7% of SPVM officers are visible minorities, compared to 32% of Montréal’s population.

As 2017 comes to an end, it is worthwhile reflecting on the number of public incidents of racial profiling by police in Montréal that were in the media this year. Andrew Denis-Lynch borrowed his girlfriend, Helena Backa’s car, a decision that resulted in 20 minutes of police questioning and 6 police cars. Kenrick McRae, was pulled over while driving his Mercedes, handcuffed, and detained in the back of a police car while his video footage of the incident was erased. The Québec Human Rights Commission issued two rulings ordering Montréal police to pay large damages to profiled victims, a young black man and a woman of Arab-origin, respectively. Charges were laid against a police officer in the death of Bony Jean-Pierre, who was shot while trying to flee a drug raid in Montréal North, later dying as a result.

This past week, a report conducted in 2015 by experts at McGill University was finally released. The authors surveyed more than 150 police officers in Montréal and found they did not meet the anti-racial profiling objectives they had set for themselves five years prior. The author found that officers do not achieve adequate training programs, that the police force does not sufficiently hire visible minorities, fund “soft-policing” programs through which officers build better relationships with communities. The report also found that the police force lacks transparency: there is currently still no system for recording the number of racial profiling complaints received despite recommendations made in September 2017 by Social Development and Diversity and Public Security commissions in Montréal.

Montréal police have largely dismantled the resources that were put in place by former chief Marc Parent to deal with profiling issues. While the number of complaints going to other bodies can indicate the seriousness of the problem, with the SPVM failing to even collect data about incidents of racial profiling, the outlook for reform from within the force is grim.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.