MONTREAL -- Following a march by thousands of Montrealers to protest racial profiling and police brutality on Sunday, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grace (NDG) Mayor Sue Montgomery says it’s time for Montreal police to start wearing body cameras.

“A few days ago, the world witnessed George Floyd dying,” Montgomery said. “We watched in horror a viral video of him under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis. The world has rightfully erupted in anger and anguish over yet another senseless – and what looks like deliberate – death of a Black man at the hands of police.”

During a borough council meeting on Monday, Montgomery and opposition leader/city councillor Lionel Perez tabled a motion to press the Service de police de la ville de Montreal (SPVM) to wear portable cameras – an idea the city of Montreal considered a few years ago before Projet Montreal decided in 2019 (after a pilot project) that it would be ineffective and too expensive. Independent city councillor Marvin Rotrand seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously. Three of the six councillors who supported the idea are with Projet Montreal. 

“I had to tear myself away from the TV because I was watching the protests happening all over the United States,” Montgomery said as the meeting began. “This is also our problem, in this country, in this province, this city.” 

NDG has a history of police violence, Montgomery said. An unarmed Black teenager named Anthony Griffin was shot and killed by Montreal police over 30 years ago. During her former life as a journalist, Montgomery covered the police trials following the incident. 

“I witnessed the disappointment when they were acquitted,” she said. 

She also spoke of Nicholas Gibbs, a 23-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by Montreal police in August 2018. 

In the fall of 2019, a study commissioned by the SPVM revealed systemic bias within the Montreal police force. Officers are just over four times more likely to stop an Indigenous or Black person for a “street check” than a white person. The force was also the target of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of non-white Montrealers who said they were unjustly stopped by Montreal police. 

Montgomery said that community policing is essential to build trust between citizens and officers, which will be difficult to achieve in NDG now that the borough is losing its police station. 

“We need our officers in our neighbourhood, building relationships,” she said. 

Perez said he hopes the tragedy of Floyd’s death and the unanimous adoption of the politicians’ motion on Monday “will send a strong signal to the city centre administration that we can’t wait any longer.” 

On Sunday, the Black Lives Matter event in Montreal began peacefully. At one point, a line of police officers took a knee – a symbol that has come to represent protesting racial bias and systemic discrimination around the world. Protestors met the gesture with applause, but soon realized the officers only kneeled to put on gas masks, as they were preparing to spray tear gas into the crowd. The SPVM had tweeted shortly before this that they began witnessing illegal activity during the protest. 

“We need to find a better way forward than tear gas, rubber bullets, real bullets and batons,” Montgomery said.