Repentigny residents accuse police of racial profiling
Published Thursday, July 11, 2019 8:51AM EDT
Some residents of Repentigny claim the Montreal suburb's police department routinely harasses black men and they're demanding the provincial government investigate.
They're calling on Quebec's Public Security Minister to launch an inquiry into what they describe as ongoing and widespread racial profiling in Repentigny.
The residents are being helped out by the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) which called the situation a crisis.
Since last October CRARR has helped residents file 10 complaints of racial profiling with the Quebec Human Rights Commission on behalf of five men.
They allege they were stopped by police for no reason, repeatedly, all over town.
One man said he was in his girlfriend's car blowing up balloons for a picnic party when he was asked for ID and ended up being arrested and handcuffed.
23-year-old Stanley Jossirain, who has been stopped and detained, arrested, and fined numerous times said it is causing him to feel great fear and stress.
"Yes, I was targetted. In front of my house, they would stop me often before going to work or to school. They would stop me. And they knew I was on my way to school or work and they would make me wait to come in late. I stopped school. I stopped working. I stopped eating. I wouldn't sleep at night. I would cry sometimes," said Jossirain.
He said that no matter the reason police stop him, he is given a ticket for some other infraction such as talking back to officers.
Repentigny hired a community relations agent to work as a liaison between the Repentigny police and the black community about a month and a half ago, but CRARR advisor Alain Babineau, a former police officer, said that does not address what they allege are serious, legal problems within the force.
"This is not a police-community issue. This is an illegal practice. Racial profiling is illegal, not to mention immoral. But it has nothing to do with police-community relations. It has to do with illegal practices being, police practice being performed by the police department," said Babineau.
CRARR director Fo Niemi said the city needs to take a long look at its practices, and since it won't, the provincial government needs to do so.
"There are skeletons in the closet for this town, especially with racial profiling and other forms of racism in the police services. We don't know exactly how widespread it is, but we start to hear just too many people coming forward with their horror stories. So this is why we are using the Quebec police act to ask the Quebec Public Security Minister, basically, to set up an investigation," said Niemi.
The Chief of Police, Helene Dion, and the General Manager for the city of Repentigny, David Legault, reject all allegations of racial profiling and harassment.
They said they've made efforts to build good community relationships and steadfastly maintain there is no place for racism in Repentigny.
With reporting from Cindy Sherwin