Residents seek inquiry into complaints of racial profiling by Repentigny police

Residents seek inquiry into complaints of racial profiling by Repentigny police

Fo Niemi is asking black individuals — residents and visitors — in Repentigny to contact CRARR if they have had similar experiences there.

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“It was a beautiful afternoon in July 2017. I was having a barbecue with my family,” said Leslie Blot, who had been sitting in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car blowing up balloons and toys for his kids with his brother.

“A police cruiser passed by our house and circled the block three times. They finally stopped and asked us: ‘What are you doing here? You’re not from around here,’ ” Blot said.

Blot started filming the interaction with his phone and refused to give them his ID.

“I was at home,” he said. “They tried ripping the phone out of my hands.”

Blot, who is in his 30s, said the police officers questioned him because the car’s licence plate was registered to a woman in Laval and they were in Repentigny. Just before he was arrested for allegedly obstructing an officer from doing his job, Blot handed his phone to his brother, who continued filming.

“I was handcuffed, I twisted my ankle, and I lost a flip-flop,” Blot said.

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Once he was in the police car, Blot said the officers talked to his brother, took his phone and proceeded to delete the video. However, when Blot was released he was able to recover it from the deleted folder file of his phone.

Blot is part of a group of black residents in Repentigny who are asking Geneviève Guilbault, the Quebec minister of public security, to launch an inquiry into the municipality’s police department for alleged racial profiling.

On Wednesday morning, Guilbault admitted racial profiling “was indeed a recurring problem” by police in Quebec.

“There’s a committee in place with members representing different police forces that works to address the problem,” said Guilbault, referring to the Comité sectoriel issu du milieu policier sur le profilage racial.

“I am looking into changing the makeup of this committee by adding a member who would represent civil society,” Guilbault said.

Ultimately, Blot was arrested and given about $1,000 worth of tickets, but he was acquitted of all charges in August 2018.

Blot is also one of eight people who are filing or are in the process of filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner.

Helen Dion, Repentigny’s chief of police, said “racial profiling at the Repentigny police service is completely unacceptable.”

And the department’s general director, David Legault, said “the alleged claims this morning don’t represent the reality on their territory.”

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Legault said their police officers are trained to recognize the presence of diversity, to treat everyone equally and to approach community members through dialogue.

“We’ve been in a constant dialogue with these people.”

Fo Niemi, the executive director for the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR), said it’s “exceptional” that this many black individuals in Repentigny have similar experiences in which they felt targeted.

My life is no longer the same. I’ve quit school because of it and my work.”

Last October, 23-year-old Stanley Jossirain filed a complaint with the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner against 15 officers in the Repentigny police department, citing details of seven incidents alleged to have occurred over a five-month period.

“My life changed,” Jossirain said. “My life is no longer the same. I’ve quit school because of it and my work.”

François Ducas, a high school teacher in his 50s, said he was pulled over in December 2017 on his way to work.

“They told me they wanted to verify if the car belonged to me, and they said I look too young to drive a BMW,” Ducas said.

“Every time I leave the house, I’m nervous. I am no longer the same person I was two years ago. I’ve become empty,” Ducas said.

Serge Damord, who has lived in Repentigny for 17 years, said he has also gone through a similar line of questioning when he has been pulled over.

“I was asked, ‘Who does this car belong to?’ ” he said.

Jossirain, Damord and Ducas are all filing complaints and are part of the group seeking a public inquiry into the police force.

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Repentigny police said they have taken appropriate actions, such as mandating one of their officers to act as a liaison between police and the ethnic community, in September 2018.

Said Alain Babineau, adviser for the CRARR and a retired RCMP officer: “This is not a police-community issue. It has to do with illegal practices being performed by the department.”

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