In a Quebec city with repeated accusations of racial profiling, legal clinic teaches minorities their rights
MONTREAL -- A legal clinic is hoping to cut down on racial profiling by teaching Repentigny's minority groups about their rights.
Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer-turned social justice advocate, is behind the project, saying the most powerful tool a Person of Colour has when stopped by police is knowing their rights.
“It's really important that folks feel empowered because, automatically, there's a power imbalance with cops,” he said.
Repentigny police have been criticized repeatedly in the past for allegedly racially profiling. Last year, Quebec's Human Rights Commission ruled that the city should pay $35,000 in restitution to a victim of racial profiling and implement anti-profiling training. The police force recently launched a one-year initiative aimed at making their ranks more inclusive.
Dafina Savic, the project's facilitator, said more work remains to be done.
“So far the conversations we have, we do see there's definitely sincerity in the approach and a will to really put things in place so that, eventually, the police force can become a more inclusive police service,” she said.
Babineau said residents need to know what police are legally allowed to do and not do. One act he singled out is street checks.
“For a police officer to walk up to someone and ask for their identification, that's something people should know they don't have to do,” he said.
On Saturday, Babineau joined dozens of residents and advocates in an online meeting to talk about how to stay safe when stopped by police and how to file complaints.
The session was organized by The Legal Clinic of Montreal North.
“We do need to organize within ourselves and listen to what we need within our communities and be able to provide for each other,” said coordinator Aida Belmkaddem. “That's the idea; workshops for people who need it.”