Police not required to speak English according to Ethics Commission
Police officers are not obliged to speak English under Bill 101, even when asked the reason for their arrest, according to a decision by Quebec’s Police Ethics Commission that read, in part, “a peace officer is under no legal obligation to communicate with a citizen in English while in the performance of his or her police duties.”
The statement came as part of a ruling concerning a complaint made by a black anglophone couple from Longueuil who complained that an officer had entered their home without a search warrant.
The couple’s teenaged sons had been arrested earlier in the evening while walking home on November 15, 2013 near the Panama bus terminal in Brossard. They were ticketed for jaywalking and interfering with the work of a police officer.
Nathan Picard, his brother and their mother Dominique Jacobs noted in a complaint to the Police Ethics Commission that the officers failed to inform the boys of the reason for their arrest in English.
Commissioner Helene Tremblay responded that, according to the province's Bill 101 language law, police had no obligation to communicate in English, a decision that the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations described as one which, "could significantly curtail anglophone Quebecers' rights."
"I'm not a lawyer, I could be wrong but from what I understand if a person is put under arrest or is involved in altercation with police, they have to know the reason it's for, they have to understand," said Dominique Jacobs, whose stepson was arrested.
CRARR, in a press release issued Thursday, asserted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms include the right to be informed of the grounds of one's arrest and that the Supreme Court has clearly stated that police are obliged to ensure that accused individuals understand their Charter rights.
"We're dealing with a municipality with a significant English population, we're dealing with a police force with English as a criteria for hiring. The residents of St. Lambert, Greenfield Park, Brossard and many parts of Longueuil who are English speaking or have ethnic background should feel concerned," said Niemi.
Longueuil police are required to have a working knowledge of English, according to their website.
Longueuil police escaped criticism in another recent judgment, which saw the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission dismiss a complaint lodged against an officer who reportedly asked a black anglophone woman how long she lived in Quebec and repeatedly tell her that she should speak French.
In 2012 Longueuil police were reprimanded for repeatedly pulling over a black resident driving a BMW.