(Quebec) The Legault government reopens the Police Act to regulate – and not prohibit – random arrests and fight against racial profiling.
The Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, will introduce a bill to this effect in the coming days – he was supposed to do so on Tuesday, but he will instead go to Amqui because of the tragedy that occurred on Monday. It is a new version of a legislative text that his predecessor Geneviève Guilbault had tabled in the previous mandate and which had died on the order paper.
François Bonnardel’s bill would be similar. Thus, it would extend the Minister’s power to establish guidelines and to require non-discrimination in policing. Continuing training for police officers would be improved to combat racial profiling. And the police ethics complaint process would also be more accessible, according to what the Minister of Public Security said.
However, in its report tabled in December 2020, the action group, made up of three ministers and four CAQ MPs, asked to “put an end to cases of police discrimination” and, above all, to “make the prohibition of arrests mandatory random policewomen.
“For an arrest to take place, there must be a clear reason from law enforcement. This practice does not have the force of law. The Action Group recommends that it be made mandatory, by integrating it into the police code of ethics. It will thus be possible to sanction in ethics or discipline a police officer who does not respect it. This measure will significantly reduce racial profiling, if not eliminate it,” it reads.
The co-chair of the action group, Minister Lionel Carmant, gave a personal testimony in the report: “When I was younger, I experienced racism. I was stopped a few times randomly because I was driving my parents’ car. I always said to myself afterwards that I didn’t want my children and my grandchildren to have to go through this in their lives. »
The Legault government did not accept this recommendation from the action group, while saying it was in favor of better supervision of random arrests. According to him, this tool can be useful to the police and be justified in certain contexts.
Last November, Quebec decided to appeal a Superior Court judgment ordering the end of random arrests.
In a ruling released Oct. 25, Justice Michel Yergeau said rules allowing traffic stops without real cause violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This arbitrary power serves some police officers as a “safe conduct for racial profiling against the black community”, according to him.
“Racial profiling does exist. It is not a laboratory-constructed abstraction. This is not a view of the mind. It manifests itself in particular among black drivers of motor vehicles. Charter rights can no longer be left in the wake of an unlikely moment of policing epiphany,” the judge concluded.
François Legault reacted by saying that “we have to let the police do their job” and that he trusts their judgment.
“We consider it unjustified to abolish such an important article for the police force. We think there is a way to use it better,” said François Bonnardel when confirming that the government was appealing.
The minister and his colleague responsible for the fight against racism, Christopher Skeete – who was a member of the action group – announced measures “to combat possible situations of racial and social profiling in the various police forces”. .
Among them, there is the addition of 45 hours of training to the study program in police techniques devoted to interventions with people from cultural, ethnic and Aboriginal communities. The two ministers held consultations in January in Montreal with a view to strengthening the fight against racial profiling in the police force.