Racial profiling: Quebec to appeal judge’s decision on random police stops

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Quebec will appeal a recent court decision restricting random roadside stops by police. The ruling was hailed by some as a positive step against racial profiling, but the province says it harms police work and doesn’t address the root problem.

Quebec’s Public Security Minister Francois Bonnardel made the announcement Friday alongside the Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, Christopher Skeete.  

On Oct. 25, Quebec Superior Court Justice Michael Yergeau ruled on a constitutional challenge to random stops, writing that racial profiling exists and that it’s a reality that weighs heavily on Black people.

The ruling, known as the Luamba decision, was brought by Joseph-Christopher Luamba, a Black Montreal resident who said he had been stopped by police nearly a dozen times without reason, at least half of which when he was behind the wheel. None resulted in a ticket.

“Racial profiling does exist. It is not a laboratory-constructed abstraction … It is a reality that weighs heavily on Black communities,” wrote Justice Yergeau. “It manifests itself in particular with Black drivers of motor vehicles.”

Joseph-Christopher Luamba arrives for his court challenge Monday, May 30, 2022 in Montreal. Luamba is suing the government over alleged police racial profiling.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The ruling removed what lawmakers called a “very useful” tool for police: Quebec’s Highway Safety Code Section 636, which allows officers “to carry out roadside stops without cause,” as described by Yergeau, who called the law “a safe conduit for racial profiling against the Black community.”

While some advocacy groups praised the decision as a positive step against racial profiling, the province says police also rely on Section 636 to prevent people from driving drunk, or without a valid licence. 

“Is 636 the enemy?” asked Skeete. “No. The enemy is racial profiling.”

Skeete said the province does have work to do to fight racial profiling during police work, but that doing so by removing 636 resulted from “an incomplete analysis” on how to do that. 

Instead, Skeete said the province would set up additional training for officers to identify their own racial biases. He also asked for additional screening during the hiring process, as well as enhanced public education on how people can file complaints. 

— More details to come.

— Published with files from The Canadian Press.

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