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Quebec Bill on police practices facing criticism

By Joel Ceausu The Suburban, March 15th, 2023

Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel has introduced a bill to modernize police practices that will maintain the use of section 636 of the highway code.
Bonnardel tabled the omnibus bill that groups legislative amendments concerning police and public safety agencies, and aims to combat racial profiling and ensuring public confidence in police forces.
The bill obliges the Minister to establish guidelines concerning police stops. Police forces will also be required to report annually all police stops, including those under section 636 of the Highway Safety Code which allows law enforcement to randomly stop drivers without reasonable and probable cause.
In last fall’s Luamba decision, Superior Court Justice Michel Yergeau declared it unconstitutional and said it leads to racial profiling. The Legault government immediately announced an appeal, calling 636 an important crime-fighting tool.
Red Coalition anti-racism group founder who forced the police-stop issue onto the public agenda in 2020, Joel DeBellefeuille, is unimpressed. Right after announcing that the city of Longueuil was summoned to appear by the Human Rights Tribunal on contempt charges stemming from his own case, DeBellefeuille told The Suburban that reporting of all stops “should have been their first policy, their first reaction, their first response,” when former Minister Genevieve Guilbault introduced a reform bill.

Bonnardel says the bill is a major step forward in fighting racial profiling and that the measures “will provide both new and more experienced police officers with the training and tools required to adapt to the changing challenges they face.” Also included are changes to the Police Ethics Commissioner’s role, allowing investigations on the Commissioner's initiative, reviewing sanctions and adding reparations. Persons bringing complaints based on the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms will be supported by a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer through the process, and can participate in conciliation with the targeted police officer.
“It is important to put in place the necessary mechanisms to allow those who are victims of it to denounce the most easily,” said Christopher Skeete, Minister for responsible for the fight against racism, calling the measures “essential levers to improve services to citizens and to better prevent and counter racial and social profiling.” The real question says DeBellefeuille, is “will the law say ‘Hey SPVM, Hey SQ, hey SPL, how many black or racialized people are you stopping? It's already part of their job to report their data,” says DeBellefeuille, “how else do we know how many tickets they issue. Nothing appears to offer anything new.”
Meanwhile, a Red Coalition press conference outlined how Longueuil is the first municipality charged with contempt and must appear on March 23 for its failure to implement anti-racial profiling training for police and collection of race-based data, as ordered by the court judgment from DeBellefeuille's case. He says the contempt case is a driving factor in Bonnardel’s announcement.
In 2021 Guilbeault’s bill died on the order paper, but part of the plan was to roll out a province-wide program on race-based data, and the ministry asked Longueuil police to wait on its own implementation, then-Longueuil police chief Fady Dagher told the Quebec Human Rights Commission. The city later said it would not ignore a court order because of interference, and for its part, the ministry denied that it would interfere. “This bill was picked up by Minister Bonnardel, where Deputy Premier and former MSP Genevieve Guilbault left off, in her proposed Bill 18 in December 2021,” says Debellefeuille.
The real tragedy he says, “is that had Longueuil respected the court judgment and implemented the race-based data collection and training with its officers, that data, that model could have been rolled out to other police forces across Quebec two years ago… How many unwarranted stops, how many people have been harassed unnecessarily since then?”



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