Black Coalition files $4M class-action lawsuit over racial profiling
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2018 9:22AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2018 7:20AM EST
As Montreal police announced a new plan to eliminate racial profiling, the Black Coalition of Quebec announced it is filing a $4-million class-action lawsuit against the police for failure to act against racial discrimination.
The case is on behalf of 500 people, who say police targeted them because of their skin colour. The coalition is seeking $8,000 per claimant.
The lead claimant is Alexandre Lamontagne, who had a troubling altercation with police one night in August 2017.
Lamontagne said he was leaving a bar in Old Montreal, sober, and heading to his car. Two officers stopped him on his way.
He claims the officers bullied him and placed him under arrest, alleging Lamontagne assaulted them.
“They just jumped on me, and they put me on the ground, and they handcuffed me,” he said.
Lamontagne said one officer held his neck on the ground with his knee, and then they threw Lamontagne in jail for the night.
He was charged with assaulting a police officer and obstruction of justice. The charges were thrown out of court for lack of evidence.
“His only crime was being black,” said Jacky Eric Salvant, lawyer for the Black Coalition of Quebec.
“The police the City of Montreal – no one wants to spend money (on this),” said Salvant, explaining that it is a measure in hopes that they start taking racial profiling seriously.
It’s a last resort, said Salvant.
Police racial profiling plan
Newly-appointed police chief Sylvain Caron presented the broad strokes of the SPVM's four-year plan to Montreal city council on Tuesday.
That plan will include updated training for officers, hiring more officers from ethnic groups, and becoming more transparent.
"Each neigbourhood police station will have to sign on to this project," said Caron.
However leaders of community groups wanted clear answers about what had already been done, and specific goals for the new plan.
"What concrete measures will you take to finally get rid of racial profiling?" asked Will Prosper, a former RCMP officer and community leader in Montreal North.
Chief Inspector Josée Blais said that community policing had gone a long way toward improving the relationship between police officers and members of visible minorities.
Demands for data
Balarama Holness, who gathered enough signatures to force the city of Montreal to hold hearings on systemic discrimination, said the police force does not understand what it needs to do.
"There are people within the SPVM that do not think they are racist. They think they have a few biases that are not systematic," said Holness.
He was unimpressed with the plan the police force introduced on Tuesday.
"The plan was highly theoretical. There was no concrete, determinative program that was presented. Most people within the public assembly came to that conclusion over the last 15 years," said Holness.
He said that police need to release its data about people who have been arrested by police and why.
Holness also called on police to make a good-faith effort to understand citizens.
"The SPVM refused to go to the preconsultations that are going to be in 19 of the boroughs here in Montreal. Step one would be to start connecting and contacting the community organizations that are reaching out that want to have this dialogue," said Holness.
Lawsuit to be filed
With the presentation happening on the same day that a biracial couple presenting video of them being arrested, punched in the face, and pepper-sprayed by police because they talking too loudly while walking on St. Laurent Blvd., multiple community groups walked away from the meeting unimpressed.
Lawyer Jacky Eric Salvant said he was representing the Black Coalition of Quebec in a class action lawsuit against the Montreal police force, on behalf of 500 people who said they have been subject to racial discrimination by police.
Salvant said he would be filing his request for permission to launch a class action suit in the coming days.