Racial Profiling | Start of a lawsuit to invalidate the arbitrary arrests

Joseph-Christopher Luamba, a 22-year-old black man, says he has been arrested for no reason numerous times since getting his driver’s license. He is trying to make the arbitrary arrests of motorists by the police unconstitutional, in order to put an end to ethnic profiling.

Posted at 7:08 PM

William Theriault

William Theriault
The press

In a civil trial that began Monday, the Montrealer claims to have been arrested nearly a dozen times in total by Montreal police, Repentigny, Laval and Gatineau, between getting his driver’s license (March 8, 2019) and filing his motion with the Superior Court (November 20, 2020).

In both cases, the young man claims to have complied with road safety rules. He says he has been the victim of “arbitrary” arrests, either as a driver or passenger, and suspects the color of his skin may be a factor.

In his official petition, Joseph-Christopher Luamba asks the Court to declare “the power to stop a road vehicle and its driver without reasonable cause” “inoperative and unconstitutional”.

“When that happens, I feel nervous, but also frustrated,” he says. I ask myself why ? I have followed the rules, I have not committed a violation. I have the impression that they will often target the same people. †

“My interactions with the police are not always friendly,” he continued. They address me in a fairly direct tone. It happened several times that I had the nervousness to feel guilty even though I was completely innocent. †

His lawyer, Mr.e Mike Siméon, Judge Michel Yergeau lamented that black-skinned people were statistically more likely to be the subject of a “so-called arbitrary” arrest by police because it was “more likely to be linked to criminal activity.”

Joseph-Christopher Luamba also noted that “so-called arbitrary” police arrests were common among his friends in the black community, and even among his acquaintances of Arab descent. “My white friends are surprised to see this because it never happens to them,” the young man says. It shows that there is work to be done. †

A social problem

me Bruce Johnston, who represents the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, supports Mr. Luamba in his legal proceedings. Racial profiling is a problem “Central to the health of our society,” he argued in court.

me Johnston, who is white, used an ethnic comparison in his first appearance before the Tribunal. In all black families, he explained, parents sometimes have a conversation with their son to tell him when he will be arrested by the police. “It’s not a question for them, it will happen,” he said. Me, I’ve never had this conversation with my boys. †

It is clear that there is ethnic profiling, that there is abuse of power by the police. Their unconscious biases have a whole host of negative effects.

me Brian Johnson

He then addressed directly to Judge Yergeau, also white: “A whole corpus of studies shows that” [le profilage racial] is deeply traumatic, humiliating and terrifying. Imagine that every time you get into your vehicle you tell yourself that you could be arrested. †

Police sanctions, rather:

For mee Michel Déom, the lawyer of the Attorney General of Quebec, we must impose sanctions on the police officers who are guilty instead of invalidating the law in its entirety.

The problem is not the power [d’interpeller des automobilistes sans motif]but the application we make of it.

me Michel Déom, Attorney General of Quebec

In order to solve the unconscious bias of some peace officers, he believes it is necessary to educate the population.

“Yes, it takes time, but we have to give education a chance,” he pleaded. The seat belt and drink driving, it took almost a generation. It’s not easy, we’re talking about modifying human behavior. †

Counsel to the Attorney General of Canada, Mr.e Ian Demers acknowledged that racial profiling “is against the law, the Charter and Canadian values”. But he finds the plaintiff’s request “far too broad”.

We have to give peace officers some leeway, we have to let them do their job.

me Ian Demers, Counsel to the Attorney General of Canada

The trial continues on Tuesday, at the Montreal courthouse, and then takes place five days a week between June 6 and June 30.

More information user manual

  • 4.64
    Black people in Montreal are 4.24 times more likely to be stopped at random than white people.

    Report: Police arrests in light of the racialized identities of those arrested (2019)

    2.04
    Arab people in Montreal are 2.04 times more likely to be stopped at random than white people.

    Report: Police arrests in light of the racialized identities of those arrested (2019)

  • 4.62
    Montreal First Nations members are 4.62 times more likely to be arbitrarily arrested than whites.

    Report: Police arrests in light of the racialized identities of those arrested (2019)

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