New trial ordered in Longueuil racial profiling case
A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered a new trial for a South Shore man who contested a ticket on the grounds he was victim of racial profiling.
Joel Debellefeuille's legal saga began in 2009, when he was pulled over four times in one week in his hometown of Longueuil. Debellefeuille, who is black, suspected that he was being harassed because he drives a BMW.
The fourth time he was pulled over he argued with police officers and was fined for having out-of-date insurance papers and for refusing to show his identification to police.
Debellefeuille paid the fine for having expired insurance, but contested the ticket for refusing to provide ID.
Longueuil municipal court judge Marc Gravel ruled in 2010 that Debellefeuille was guilty of refusing to provide identification, but refused to take possible racial discrimination into account.
On Thursday the Court of Appeal disagreed, saying the municipal court should have looked at all the evidence in the case.
The Court of Appeal said the case could be tried again in municipal court as long as all evidence, including possible racial profiling, is taken into account.
Court testimony indicates the police officers who ran the plates of the BMW did not think a black man could have the name Debellefeuille.
"I've been here forever," said Debellefeuille, who was adopted and raised by a white family.
"I should be able to drive what I choose to drive, and I should be able to walk around without feeling any persecutions from anybody. But of course that's a world that is yet to be."
A member of Debellefeuille's legal team said the ruling is a step in the right direction.
"What's important in this case is that it instructs the lower court trial judges to take into consideration elements of racial profiling when ever they are raised as part of a defense," Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.
The case now goes before the police ethics commission.
Debellefeuille has also filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission and Longueuil police.