Racial profiling: no more interceptions without cause, orders a judge

Racial profiling: stop wanton interceptions, order judge


The police will no longer be able to intercept motorists without reason, the Superior Court has just ordered in a case brought by a young black man who was arrested by the police who just wanted to check his papers. 

“As a society, we cannot wait for part of the population to continue to suffer in silence […]. Racial profiling does exist. It is not a laboratory-constructed abstraction. This is not a view of the mind. It is a reality that weighs heavily on black communities,” commented Judge Michel Yergeau at the Montreal courthouse.

In doing so, he declared that “the rule of law authorizing traffic stops without real reason…violates the rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

In his excessively detailed decision, Judge Yergeau recalled that racial profiling is “experienced as a stigma by black communities”.

“It marks both the hearts and minds of their members who perceive very early in life that the law does not apply to them as it does to others and that freedom is not guaranteed in the same way depending on whether you are black or white”, he mentioned, among other things. .

Interpellations without reason

In this case, the judge was seized of a request brought by Joseph-Christopher Luamba, a student of Haitian origin in his early twenties. Three times in just over a year, he had been intercepted without cause. After identifying himself, he was each time released without a statement of offense.

During the trial, several other people testified that they had been subjected to such treatment. And it turned out they were all black.

“As trivial as they may seem, these roadside interceptions prove intolerable to those concerned since they are based on appearances and more or less conscious prejudices associated with the color of their skin rather than on a road safety objective”, said the judge.

However, after analysis concluded that the rule authorizing interceptions without reasons was no longer necessary, since they violated the Charter. And that if the police did not want to change their way of doing things, they had to be forced.

“Charter rights can no longer be left in the wake of an improbable moment of policing epiphany,” the judge ruled. Ethics and justice must join hands to turn this page.

Modernized justice

For lawyer Me Arij Riahi, who made Part of a research team that produced an expert opinion on the case, Judge Yergeau's decision is nothing less than a “new reform that has not been seen for a long time”.

In 1990, the Supreme Court authorized the interception of motorists without reasons. However, the minority judges had warned that new social facts could change the situation.

And that is exactly what happened. Because in 2019, the highest court in the land called on all judges to understand the issue of racial profiling.

“Judge Yergeau’s decision is in a way an update [of the law]”, explains Me Riahi.

She is however certain that the case will not stop there, and that it will be quickly appealed.