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Montreal police brotherhood says it's too easy to blame its members for racial profiling

CBC News · Posted: Feb 10, 2023 6:46 PM EST

The president of Montreal's Police Brotherhood says racial profiling is "a societal problem" that goes beyond policing while testifying in a class-action lawsuit at the Montreal courthouse Friday.
Yves Francoeur expressed frustration that "police always get the blame whenever they respond to incidents involving allegations of racism in the city," when asked his stance on racial profiling by lawyer Mike Diomande.
The Black Coalition of Quebec is suing on behalf of people who say they were racially profiled between August 2017 and January 2019. It's seeking just over $170 million in damages — $5,000 per racialized person arrested without valid reason.
Hearings started Wednesday.
Francoeur has been head of the union, which represents more than 4,300 members, since 2005 and says it has always been opposed to racism, pointing to various diversity and sensitivity training put in place.
Francoeur says there is a fine line between racial profiling and the criminal profiling that allows police officers to do their jobs and protect people.
He also said the brotherhood is in favour of body cameras because it believes it would help its members feel more protected and allow every part of a police interaction to be recorded.
When lawyers representing the Black Coalition asked him how to rebuild the trust between police and the public, Francoeur pushed back saying that the perception he's heard from members is that there hasn't been a break in trust.
'Very insidious' problem
Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer and a member of the anti-racism group the Red Coalition, says more needs to be done to combat racial profiling.
"If you have this idea that a Black person is more likely to be involved in criminality then you're going to racially profile that person, he said.
"Again, diversity and inclusion have nothing to do with racism and discrimination."
Montreal's new police chief, Fady Dagher, testified Thursday, acknowledging to the court that racial profiling exists within his police force but saying he hopes to change the culture of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
Dagher talked about the systemic nature of racial profiling.
"It's a very insidious, very subtle, very sneaky problem and you don't realize you're doing it," he said. "How can I make my police officers realize that they have unconscious — and even sometimes conscious — biases?"
Dagher also talked about the SPVM's policies and training on racial profiling and how they've evolved over time. He says the force first acknowledged racial profiling was an issue in the early 2000s.
"I don't think it will ever be enough. I think it will be a continuous effort we'll have to do to be able to combat racial profiling," he said.
Dagher said the key is to keep working at a deep level to change the culture of the force.
However, Dagher defended random arrests, which were deemed unconstitutional by Judge Michel Yergeau last October, saying they are "still necessary."
Montreal mayor Valérie Plante is set to testify Tuesday.



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