In-custody death sparks questions of racial profiling in Montreal

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David Tshiteya Kalubi was discovered unconscious in a Montreal courthouse cell on the morning of November 8th. He was transferred to a hospital where he died shortly after. Kalubi was stopped for jaywalking on November 7th and arrested for an outstanding warrant, which the BEI (Bureau des enquêtes indépendants), who is charged with investigating the death, has confirmed was for a municipal offense. He was kept at the police station overnight before being transferred to the courthouse to appear before a judge in the morning. His family have stated that they were not informed of his death until seven hours after it had occurred. When the police finally called, the family says they were first interrogated about Kalubi before being told he had died.

Little is known about Kalubi’s death at this point, and it will likely take the BEI a year to release the report from their investigation. Kalubi is said to have suffered from sickle cell anemia, although it is not clear at this point if this played a role in his death.

The most prominent concern that has arisen, however, is that of the possibility of the role of racial profiling in Kalubi’s arrest. The Black Coalition of Quebec has decried the arrest and expressed concern regarding the process for investigations into deaths in police custody. Some BEI staff are former police officers, leading to questions about the impartiality of these investigations. The BEI maintains that these units are impartial, despite the past work of some of their staff: “the investigators all share the organization’s core values of impartiality, integrity and rigour” stated a BEI spokesperson.

Concerns of racial profiling are of little surprise: 2017 has seen a number of incidents of racial profiling in the news, and a recently released report from 2015 has shown slow progress regarding racial profiling among Montreal police.

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

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