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Police Ethics Commission sees over 2,000 racial profiling complaints

By Alyssia Rubertucci, Posted Feb 16, 2022, 2:10PM EST.
Last Updated Feb 17, 2022, 9:44AM EST.

Complaints filed against Quebec police officers with the ethics commission have skyrocketed. In the span of 20 years – it’s more than doubled.
In 2021, more than 2,400 complaints were filed. Some who handle cases on racial profiling say this sharp increase points directly to systemic racism.
Number of complaints in recent years:
  • 2020-2021: 2,407
  • 2019-2020: 2,138
  • 2018-2019: 1,867
  • 2017-2018: 1,818
“It shows that people are not afraid to come out and basically speak that something had actually occurred to them. So, that’s a good thing, obviously, for them to come forward with their complaint, identify. It also shows that they’re not scared anymore to basically, you know, identify the officers, identify the police force. And then the other things. The bad thing about it is that it continues to show the systemic cycle of racial profiling,” explained Joel DeBellefeuille, civil rights advocate and founder with Red Coalition.
“It’s risen tremendously over the course of the last 20 years and if that doesn’t tell you that there’s a systemic problem with racial profiling and discrimination in Quebec as well as the rest of Canada, I don’t know what is.”
DeBellefeuille has been a victim of racial profiling and driving while Black and has been stopped by police in about a dozen incidents going back to 2009.
In 2020, he won a case at the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal and was awarded $12,000 – eight years after an incident of racial profiling in Longueuil when South Shore Police followed him and his family in the car one morning in 2012 as they went to drop his baby son at daycare.
The city was ordered to start collecting race-related data on who the police decided to pull over and giving police new training about racism and racial profiling.
“Here we are in 2022, we’re still discussing the same type of issues and there’s also the increase of police ethics cases that are being put forth,” said DeBellefeuille. “So it’s a real mix of good and bad because it’s coming to the surface.”
Marie-Ève Bilodeau the secretary-general and head of prevention at Quebec’s Police Ethics Commission says in a statement to CityNews, “the increase has been continued in the last 20 years. We don’t have a reason for it, as we didn’t do a scientific analysis. A hypothesis we have is that some cases surrounding police interventions or racial profiling are captured on video and shared on social media or in the news.”
“It’s good that the media is putting it out there. Yes, it sounds like we’re hearing about it one, two, three times a week. But again, in order to put a lid on it we have to learn how to tackle it, we have to learn how to address it. It’s only going to get worse,” added DeBellefeuille.
Only 7 per cent of complaints were investigated by the commission. In the end, the commission referred about half of them to the police ethics committee.
This court, therefore, has to judge 82 cases – which represents a bit more than 3 per cent of complaints they involve a total of 156 police officers, at the end of the 2020-2021 financial year.
“The usual amount and the usual percentage that we’ve seen over the years is that six to seven per cent of the complaints make it in front of the ethics committee board. For the last year, it was three and a half. So there are 50 times fewer cases where actually people are getting in front of the committee board. And once you get there, you face a trial. So you still have to make the proof of how the police officer actually did something that was supposed to be done so,” explained Fernando Belton, lawyer.
“For 308 complaints that have been made for 2020 and 2021 regarding racial profiling allegations against police officers. There’s not even the one that ended up in front of the Ethics Committee board, not one,” added Belton.
“It starts at the top. And if our own Premier cannot identify that there is a problem or can’t differentiate between regular racism and systemic racism, then we’re still going to be spinning our wheels in grease, and the same situation is going to continue to grow over time,” explained DeBellefeuille.
“So the more that people talk about it, the more it comes to the surface and the more we’ll be able to grab the bull by the horns and try to combat it and then end it.”


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