Montreal city council adopts motion calling for immediate end to police street checks

Lindsay Richardson
This week, Montreal’s city council unanimously passed a motion demanding an immediate moratorium on random street checks.

Police there have routinely used street checks – asking for ID and other unprompted personal information – in the course of their duties.

But in August, a report was published that was critical of the practice.

According to the data, Indigenous women are subjected to random identification checks at a rate 11 times higher than Caucasian women.

Black and Arab Montrealers are close behind.

“We need to show our solidarity with citizens who have been targeted for no particular reason; their information given to the police department, so they become known to police, not because they’ve committed a crime, but because they happen to be a different race than we are,” explained Councillor Marvin Rotrand, who presented the motion with the support of nearly 20 community groups.

Although the councilors endorse and adopted the resolution on Monday, there’s one caveat: it can’t enforce it.

Montreal police said they’d answer to the street checking practices with an assessment and report in early 2020.

In October, SPVM police chief Sylvain Caron stated the issue stems from a lack of policy, rather than systemic discrimination.

Former Federal Justice Minister and Human Rights Lawyer Irwin Cotler says keeping the practice alive contradicts the notion of public safety.

“This is not a phenomenon that is limited to Montreal; it is a phenomenon one finds increasingly taking place in our increasingly multicultural urban communities,” Cotler explained.  “It doesn’t provide, in a word, for equal justice, and that has to be the raison d’etre of our justice system.”

“We need an effective justice system, but we need a justice system that is clearly non-discriminatory,” he added.

Other Canadian provinces, like Nova Scotia and Ontario, enforced moratoriums and moved to create new legislation following reports that police officers were also using racial profiling in their day-to-day operations.

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