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Longueuil, other Quebec police slow in implementing race-based data framework


More than a decade after Quebec’s police forces were advised to collect race-based data on who is stopped by officers, the provincial police and some of the biggest municipal departments have yet to even start compiling the information – with one department alleged to be in contempt of a court order for failing to act.
In a 2011 report on racial profiling, Quebec’s Human Rights Commission recommended that all of the police departments “systematically collect and publish data related to the presumed racial identity of individuals during police actions,” but noted in a 2020 follow-up report that none had done so. This recently changed.
Ministry of Public Security spokesperson Louise Quintin said in an e-mail that “more than 60 per cent of municipal police forces have started feeding data with the ministry’s tool.” When pressed, she clarified that only 12 departments – 40 per cent of the province’s 30 municipal police forces – have “fully implemented” the framework as of Jan. 31, 2023, while 13 others have started the process.
All of Quebec’s police forces have had the necessary tools to collect race-based data since May 30, 2022, Ms. Quintin said, but the Police Act currently “does not make it possible to oblige police departments to collect this data.”
Last October, Quebec’s Superior Court invalidated laws that allow police to randomly pull over drivers for traffic stops, saying that such a practice “paves the way” for racial profiling. In the ruling, Justice Michel Yergeau quoted experts saying that non-white populations are disproportionately stopped by police in Montreal and throughout Canada, especially young Black men. Quebec decided to appeal the decision.
Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, a Montreal-based anti-discrimination advocacy group, said in an interview that detailed, consistent, race-based data on police stops is essential to fight racial profiling, both in court and during police training. The statistical evidence will help “to prove the extent of the practice and more specifically how the practice affects each racial group differently,” he said.
In November, 2020, Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal ordered the city of Longueuil, a Montreal suburb, to collect and publish such data annually starting in 2021. This, the tribunal noted, “is a necessary measure to better document the extent of racial profiling … to further raise police officers’ awareness of this phenomenon, and to better equip them to fight it.”
The ruling came after a case was filed by the Human Rights Commission on behalf of Joel DeBellefeuille, a Black man who was “in all likelihood” stopped by Longueuil police for no other reason than “driving while Black,” wrote the judge, who found that Mr. DeBellefeuille was a victim of racial profiling during the 2012 incident.
He is now suing Longueuil because it allegedly failed to act on the 2020 judgment, although the Ministry of Public Security did include Longueuil police among the departments that have started to collect race-based data.
Mr. DeBellefeuille’s attorneys, Geneviève and Julius Grey, filed a request for a contempt of court order on Jan. 18, seeking a $50,000 punitive fine “to be paid to a non-profit organization dedicated to combatting racial profiling, such as the Red Coalition,” of which Mr. DeBellefeuille is the founder. A judge has not yet reviewed the request.

Longueuil police, one of the province’s five biggest municipal forces, did not respond to questions from The Globe and Mail. It referred inquiries to the city, which confirmed that its police force started to collect the data and said it “will be available soon.” City media relations did not say when data collection started and declined to provide further comment because of “an imminent court action in this case.”
In a September, 2021, letter to the Human Rights Commission, obtained and shared by the Red Coalition, then-Longueuil police chief Fady Dagher wrote that the Ministry of Public Security had asked his police force to wait for a provincewide implementation of race-based data collection, which “should be ready by the end of 2021.”
Ms. Quintin said in an e-mail that the ministry “has never given and never will give instructions to a police force to defy the decision of a court,” but did not share details of the exchange between the ministry and Mr. Dagher, who was sworn in as Montreal police chief last month.
Media relations for Montreal police, Quebec’s biggest municipal force, said in an e-mail to The Globe that data collection had not started because of limitations in the force’s database system, but that a solution was found and would be implemented within “a few months.”
The Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, also failed to start collecting data. The SQ “has not yet reached this stage of the process,” which is currently paused, according to an e-mailed statement, because of continuing negotiations regarding the police officers’ employment contract. “We have good reason to believe that we will be able to resume work during the year (2023),” the statement reads.
Among major forces, those in Quebec City, Laval and Gatineau appear on the ministry’s list that confirmed they started collecting data between November, 2022, and January, 2023.
None of these departments plan to publish the data, however. Ms. Quintin said the ministry is currently setting up an aggregated database, but that no publication date has been set.
The importance of collecting race-based data during police stops was recently recognized elsewhere in the country. In September, for example, Nova Scotia’s Justice Department said it would start collecting such data to determine if racialized communities are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.
Last June, Toronto police data showed that officers use more force against Black residents than any other racial group in the city. It was the first time that such data, collected in 2020, was broken down by race, and it led to a pledge by the police chief to reduce systemic racism within the force.
List of police forces where data collection is fully implemented as of Jan. 31, 2023, according to the Ministry of Public Security:
  • City of Bromont Police Department
  • City of Gatineau Police Department
  • City of Saint-Eustache Police Department
  • Sherbrooke Police Department
  • Public Security Service of the City of Mascouche
  • Longueuil Agglomeration Police Department
  • Police Department of the City of Granby
  • Public Security of the MRC Des Collines-de-l’Outaouais
  • Quebec City Police Department
  • Thérèse-de-Blainville Intermunicipal Police Board
  • Laval Police Department
  • Memphrémagog Police Department



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