Racial Profiling : The Commission intervenes in the case of Joël Debellefeuille in Québec Superior Court

Montréal, October 20, 2011 –The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is appearing today before the Québec Superior Court, Longueuil District, in a bid to reverse a municipal court ruling which failed to consider the defense of racial profiling in convicting a Black driver of obstructing the work of a peace officer.
Montréal, October 20, 2011 -The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is appearing today before the Québec Superior Court, Longueuil District, in a bid to reverse a municipal court ruling which failed to consider the defense of racial profiling in convicting a Black driver of obstructing the work of a peace officer.
The case dates back to the summer of 2009, when Saint-Constant resident Joël Debellefeuille, driving his BMW was stopped and questioned by two Longueuil police officers who wanted to know whether it was his car. He answered that it was possible to be Black and to drive a BMW. The situation took a turn for the worse when Mr. Debellefeuille, who had been stopped and questioned by police for the same reason in the previous weeks, refused to produce his papers.
Mr. Debellefeuille subsequently received a ticket and challenged it in Longueuil municipal court. When he appeared in court in June 2010, he found out that he was stopped because of the colour of his skin. “The car belonged to a certain Debellefeuille Joël, a Black man which did not correspond, at first sight, to the owner. Debellefeuille sounds like a Québécois family name and not from another origin,” wrote one of the police officers in his report.
In his September 2010 ruling, Longueuil municipal court judge Marc Gravel, refused to consider the defence of racial profiling and likened racial profiling to a simple breach of the Code of ethics of Québec police officers.
According to the Commission, the judge refused to exercise his jurisdictional competence. Moreover, he erred in law when he referred to the racial profiling definition used by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (Montréal police force) which is too restrictive and imposes an extra burden of proof on victims. (Montréal has since adopted the definition proposed by the Commission.) The Commission will argue that Mr. Debellefeuille should be acquitted.
In its racial profiling and its consequences consultation report released last May, the Commission put forward more than 90 recommendations to counter racial profiling and more particularly asked the government to adopt an official definition of racial profiling and that discriminatory profiling be specifically prohibited under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

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