Rights tribunal hands down landmark ruling in Longueuil racial profiling case

The ruling is "precedent-setting and raises the benchmark on the identification of and measurement and training on racial profiling in Quebec," Fo Niemi says.
Eight years after two police officers tailed Joël DeBellefeuille without justification as he drove his son to daycare, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the city of Longueuil and one of the officers to pay him $12,000 in moral and punitive damages, plus interest.
In a decision rendered Nov. 17, Justice Christian Brunel said the evidence overwhelmingly proved DeBellefeuille, who is Black, was the victim of racial profiling.

He also ordered Longueuil to collect and publish race-based data on police checks starting next year, and to train all police officers and management on racial profiling within the next two years.
Brunel also instructed the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to pay legal costs in the case, given the long delays in its handling of it.
The ruling upholds a non-binding decision by the commission in March 2018. It also goes further than that decision, in ordering the city to carry out race-based data collection.

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), hailed the decision as a legal landmark that follows eight years of efforts to seek redress in the profiling case.
“It’s precedent-setting and raises the benchmark on the identification of and measurement and training on racial profiling in Quebec,” he said.
The ruling is “the first court decision in which race-based data collection is ordered by the court,” Niemi noted.
“It has wide ramifications for public policy,” he added.
Race-based data collection “is a necessary measure in order to better document the extent of racial profiling,” as well as to raise awareness within the police department and inspire public confidence, Brunel wrote in his decision.

“In a democracy, this trust remains essential to maintaining social peace and living together. Police authorities need to be sensitive to this and engage with determination in resolving the complex issues associated with racial profiling and the prejudices and stereotypes that fuel it,” he added.
In April 2018, Longueuil refused to comply with the commission’s recommendation to pay DeBellefeuille $12,000 in damages. It also rejected the commission’s non-binding order to provide training on racism and discrimination, saying that all of its police officers had already received racial profiling training between 2012 and 2015.
However, Brunel issued detailed and explicit instructions on racial profiling training the city must provide to all police officers and managers. Subjects to be covered must include case law, conscious and unconscious prejudices among police, best practices to counter profiling, and the damaging consequences of profiling on victims, he said. The training must be updated regularly and employees’ knowledge must be tested, the judge decreed.

DeBellefeuille is scheduled to react Monday morning at CRARR’s office.
The case dates back to March 22, 2012, when he drove his then-17-month-old son to daycare, with his wife and 16-year-old niece in the car. Spotting him at the wheel of the BMW, police officers Dominic Polidoro and Jean-Claude Bleu Voua made a U-turn and followed him for 11 blocks. Outside the daycare, the officers demanded his ID and returned to their cruiser to check his licence and registration.
In 2016, the Quebec Police Ethics Committee dropped a complaint against the two officers because Bleu Voua, who had been dismissed from the force for unrelated reasons, had left the country and could not be traced. DeBellefeuille has also complained of other cases of racial profiling by Longueuil police.





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