Association of Black lawyers demands investigation after Montreal police officer kneels on teen's neck
MONTREAL -- The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) says it was "shocked and dismayed" to see video of a Montreal police (SPVM) officer kneeling on a young Black man's neck.
"This is the third statement that our organization has issued in a year, which involves disheartening interactions between the police in Canada and members of the Black community," the association states. "This speaks to a disturbing trend in policing Black communities across Canada that must be addressed."
On June 10, Montreal police says it received a 911 call about a fight at Georges-Vanier High School, in the Villeray neighbourhood.
The fight, according to police, involved about 15 young people from different schools; two minors were arrested for obstructing the work of a peace officer and carrying weapons: a bottle of bear repellent and a taser.
A video was later posted to social media, showing an officer pushing his left knee down onto a young man's neck and face.
The teen, lying unmoving on the ground, is then handcuffed.
The officers search his bag and take out what looks like a taser; police have since confirmed they found a prohibited weapon inside.
At the time, Montreal police told CTV News that, “although the neck control technique is not involved in this situation, it should be noted that it is part of the National Use of Force Model,” taught at Quebec’s policing school, the École nationale de police du Québec (ÉNPQ).
“Applied in a specific context and under specific circumstances, it allows for the control of a suspect with a greatly reduced risk of injury, compared to the use of some intermediate weapons,” the force said.
The CABL points out the use of force on the teen is disturbing in light of the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police offer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
"Section 25 of the Criminal Code permits the police to use force to effect or complete an arrest," the association notes. "However, this power cannot and must not be interpreted to give the police licence to use force where none is necessary, or as an excuse to use more force than is required in the circumstances."
The CABL points out there is a growing number of cases of Black people being stopped by police and subjected to excessive force.
"The mentality that underlies this continuing trend is dangerous and destructive to the Black community and the wider Canadian society," it insists. "These actions engender a loss of trust in police and a loss of faith in the criminal justice system that cannot be underestimated."
When asked about the incident, Quebec Premier François Legault noted he was “profoundly troubled” by the incident.
However, the CABL insists action, rather than simple words, is needed to ensure there is change. It is calling for an investigation into the matter.
"We urge the police agencies across the country to review their use of force policies and train their officers around the appropriate use of force, especially when engaging with youth, and specifically youth from the Black community and other equity seeking groups," the association notes. "We encourage the police across Canada to work together with the Black community to build a better future for our communities and for our children."
Frantz Benjamin, Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) member for Viau, has also demanded the director general of the Montreal police launch an investigation into the incident.