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Montreal man handcuffed, fined after SQ traffic stop; racial profiling complaint filed

By Swidda Rassy, Last Updated October 11, 2023 8:57 pm

A Black Montrealer says he was handcuffed and fined more than $1,100 after being stopped by provincial police for not wearing a seatbelt – even though he was.
Quebec anti-racism organization Red Coalition is calling it a clear case of racial profiling.
Jean-Hamilton Phillippe says he was driving home from Trudeau airport March 29 around 2:20 a.m. when he was stopped on the Champlain Bridge by a Sûreté du Québec cruiser.
“I was a little bit shocked because first of all, I was actually going to pick up some business clients and I didn’t know what was going on at that time.”
One officer allegedly told Phillippe he was being stopped because they couldn’t see if he was wearing a seatbelt and that he was leaning forward while driving.
Phillippe proceeded to show the officer he was indeed wearing his seatbelt, he says.
The officer then asked Phillippe for his driver’s licence and vehicle registration.
“A little surprised, I suggest to the officer that logically a vehicle stop should be because a person has committed an offence. He replies that no, under article 636, he does not need a reason to ask for my papers,” Phillippe said.
“I’m a very calm guy. Usually I don’t like to scream, I don’t like to do anything. So I let them do what they had to do, but I knew that it was wrong and to violate actually my rights.”
Article 636 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code allowed police to perform random checks on motorists.
A Quebec Superior Court judge decision struck down the article last October, determining the practice was arbitrary and a “safe conduct for racial profiling against the Black community.” The Quebec government said it would appeal the judge’s ruling.
Phillippe says he asked to look up article 636 on his phone, but the officer allegedly refused and threatened to arrest him.
The Brossard man says the officer then called for back-up. Phillippe was reportedly removed from his vehicle, handcuffed and placed in the police car once those additional officers arrived.
Phillippe adds four officers then searched his vehicle without his authorization or a warrant — something that’s not in the police report.
“Now, if you’re going to document your actions and you should as a police officer, you should document your step, your reasoning behind everything that you did,” Phillippe told CityNews. “And they did that from their perspective. But why do you leave the fact that you went and searched the vehicle without a warrant?”
Weeks later, Phillippe says he received three traffic tickets totalling $1,173 in the mail: $175 for failing to hand over his driver’s licence; $499 for refusing to provide a document to a police officer; and $499 for obstructing a peace officer.
Phillippe filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner but refused to participate in a “conciliation” with the officers because of the trauma he says he suffered. The commissioner’s office closed his file as a result.
“Section 147 of the Police Act clearly allows the Commissioner to accept a complainant’s reasons for refusing conciliation,” said Alain Babineau, the director of racial profiling and public security at the Red Coalition. “If the Commissioner refuses, he must give reasons for his decision. In Mr. Phillippe’s case, the Commissioner refused to accept his reasons for not participating in conciliation with the officers, and provided no justification for her decision. This is unacceptable.
“Conciliation is like someone who’s been assaulted having to go back and sit down with the assailant. Which is very traumatic in this particular case because typically you have, in this case, you have four police officers. So they’ll each have a representative, like a union rep and a lawyer. So, then you have him alone in the room with four police officers plus their representative. Very intimidating.”
The Red Coalition has filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Commissioner. The groups says it will also file a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) for racial profiling by the SQ officers.
CityNews reached out to the office of Christopher Skeete, the Quebec minister responsible for the fight against racism. A press attaché said the office would not comment on specific cases.
CityNews also reached out to the SQ for comment but did not immediately hear back.



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