(Quebec) A law will not be enough to put an end to racial profiling by police forces, indicated the Police Department of the City of Montreal (SPVM) on Tuesday.

The SPVM was in parliamentary committee to rule on Bill 14, which provides for the enunciation of “guidelines” by the Minister of Public Security to regulate random police arrests.

The police union of the City of Montreal, for its part, warned Minister François Bonnardel against an overly strict framework that would compromise the safety of the population.

In a judgment rendered last October, the Superior Court condemned this type of intervention, which it associated with “racial profiling”. The government asked the Court of Appeal to quash this judgment.

In parliamentary committee, Liberal MP Jennifer Maccarone wanted to know if the bill tabled by Minister Bonnardel would help the SPVM put an end to racial profiling.

“It is not through a single law that we can change both practices and behaviors,” replied SPVM Deputy Director Marc Charbonneau.

“It’s a mix of actions that need to be taken,” he continued, implying that he wanted more specifics in the bill about what guidelines might be set out.

The president of the Montreal Police Brotherhood, Yves Francœur, warned Minister Bonnardel about the possible guidelines.

This type of random arrest is necessary to fight against street gangs, suggested Mr. Francœur in the parliamentary committee.

“The line is very thin between the work of criminal intelligence and the supervision of the practice” of the arrest, warned Mr. Francoeur.

“To frame it too much in the context of the current violence” in Montreal is harmful, mentioned the president of the union.

The police must do their job and that is what “90% of the population” asks to live in safety, insisted Mr. Francoeur.

“Citizens are asking for active and proactive police. »

In addition, the Brotherhood painted a bleak picture of the state of manpower and troop morale.

There was a “record” 78 resignations last year and no less than 20 more since the start of this year.

“Honestly, it’s difficult,” said Mr. Francoeur, denouncing the new ethical sanctions that the government wants to impose in Bill 14.

However, according to what the president of the Fraternity has suggested, its members are already under too much pressure and these sanctions would only add to it.

He said consultations with the five psychologists in the police assistance program increased by 56% between 2017 and 2021.

Bill 14 would change the role of the Police Ethics Committee, which would become a tribunal.

“It’s over the line,” Mr. Francoeur said of the sanctions.

He rejects, for example, the imposition of sanctions such as a medical examination, an assistance program, community involvement and a social immersion course.

These are measures that “handle the workers”, which “treat the police unfairly and treat them like criminals”.

According to Mr. Francœur, this is not an ethical sanction.

The minister would be required to establish “guidelines” for police stops, including interceptions under section 636 of the Highway Safety Code, within two months of the law officially coming into force .

In the event of non-compliance with the directives, the police could face disciplinary sanctions.

Police forces will also be required to publish an annual report listing police arrests, including roadside interceptions.

Remember that last October, Judge Michel Yergeau, of the Superior Court, ordered an end to random interceptions, because they do indeed give rise to racial profiling and because the violation of the rights of those who are victims is no longer tolerable.

The judge concludes that the police forces will not be able to eliminate profiling if they are not prevented from arresting anyone at any time.

After evidence showing that “black people are at least twice as likely to be stopped as white people”, the judge concluded that “racial profiling does exist” and that it is “a reality that weighs heavily on black communities”.

In addition, the magistrate felt that he had not been shown that random arrests made it possible to improve the road safety record.

“It is not possible to conclude that this specific type of police stop, a traffic stop without real reason, is functionally linked to the reduction in the number of serious accidents, cases of impaired driving or impaired drivers. driving without a driver’s license,” he wrote.

Last November, Bonnardel appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal.

A group of elected caquistes had also filed a report in 2020 which called for an end to random police arrests.

“With respect to racial profiling, the bias in police stops based on race emerges as a major issue,” it read.

“Racial profiling during police stops is repeatedly highlighted. It affects citizens’ confidence in police forces. The existing links between police violence and racism are the other issue raised insistently, in the field of public security. »

For its part, the government nevertheless wants to keep the tool of random interception available to the police.

“Arrests and interceptions are important to secure the population, but they cannot be done with a discriminatory motive”, argued Mr. Bonnardel.

One of the committee members, MP Christopher Skeete, did not see this as a disavowal. “We’re just banning random stops on discriminatory grounds, which is basically the problem,” he said.

Furthermore, the bill aims to introduce new means to allow the police to quickly find a missing person. Officers could access crucial personal information under a judge’s order.

It could be information found on the cell phone of the missing person or the person accompanying him, said Mr. Bonnardel.

“I think that in 2023, it is important that our police officers can have this information quickly which will lead the police to react and hopefully save lives”, affirmed the minister.

Bill 14 also proposes changes in correctional matters and fire safety risk coverage plans.