Black with a BMW: Longueuil resident wins another racial profiling case against police
A black resident of Longueuil was the victim of racial profiling by police, according to a decision by the Human Rights Commission.
This is the third racial profiling case for Joel Debellefeuille, who first filed a complaint about discrimination in 2009 and said he’s been pulled over dozens of times in his luxury car since then.
“I don't ask for it. I mind my own business. I guess curiosity gets the cat and they see me in my car and they feel like they need to follow me,” he said.
In this case, Debellefeuile was driving his son to daycare in a new BMW in 2011 when he noticed a police cruiser in his rear-view mirror.
He said he was followed for nearly 11 blocks until he got to the daycare. That’s when police stopped and asked to see his ID.
“I asked him for what? He said random verification. I said if it was random why wasn't I pulled over two kilometres back?” said Debellefeuille.
The police checked his ID and let him go, but said he couldn't let the incident go and instead contacted the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations.
The Quebec Human Rights Commission is ordering the City of Longueuil to pay him $12,000 in damages in connection to the daycare incident, as well as update its action plan on racism.
“Enough is enough, [the city] needs to grab the bull by the horns and really address the issues that are going on in this city – which is the discrimination, racial profiling for all visible minorities,” Debellefeuille told reporters in a press conference Tuesday.
“There’s a new administration for close to a year now: new police chief, new mayor [and] I think they should make this possibly a part of their legacy,” he added.
Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, said more needs to be done.
“The action plan 2015-1017 adopted looks good on paper, but we can't find anything online what's going on, who are the people in charge, anything tangible that the city has done to address racism and discrimination in Longueuil,” he said.
The City of Longueuil isn't commenting on this case, but has until Friday to formally respond to the commission's ruling, or otherwise head to the Human Rights Tribunal.
It wasn’t Debellefeuille’s first complaint of racial profiling. In 2012, he took Longueuil police to court and won, forcing the suspension of two officers.
Debellefeuille also has another complaint in the works and said he will continue to speak up until racial profiling ends.
“I can't chase or run away from my colour. That's the issue. Those are the fundamentals behind it all, mixed with a luxury vehicle. Even if I didn't have a luxury vehicle, I can't run away from my colour,” he said.
His wife Toni Higgins added that they are taking a stand so their young son won’t go through the same ordeals.
“You just say this is something that happens and this is why we're fighting it. We're fighting it for you,” she said.