News Editor & Managing Editor
Reggiany Sabrinnah Bourguillon, Fatima Diene & Blain Haile
Author’s Note: This article addresses issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, racism, discrimination and systemic racism; topics which may be upsetting to some readers.
Reggiany Sabrinnah Bourgiullon & Fatima Diene are Executives in the Dawson Feminist Union.
Blain Haile is a legal assistant coordinator at Head & Hands Legal Clinic.
A recent court ruling from the Quebec Superior Court is prohibiting law enforcement across the province from pulling over individuals without having reasonable grounds. Prior to the ruling, law enforcement exercised the power to arbitrarily stop drivers without maintaining a suspicion that they were acting unlawfully. The 170-page ruling addresses the issue of random traffic stops and racial profiling, which specifically target and disadvantage racialized communities.
Blain Haile attended the proceedings, “The court environment was very tense. The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers [...] had an all-black team of lawyers [...] I had the pleasure to meet Me Karine Joizil and McCarthy Tetrault. She truly believes in the cause. And this is what happens when passionate lawyers represent cases that are near and dear to their hearts. Having a team of all-black lawyers made this win even sweeter for the Black community. Little by little, we can see the progress and the trail of hope that is being created.”
The recent ruling challenges a precedent set by the Supreme Court of Canada, decided over thirty years ago. In R. v. Ladouceur  1 SCR 1257, the appellant was pulled over by law enforcement in a random roadside search in order to verify if the driver’s license and registration were still valid. Although law enforcement did not suspect that the appellant was acting unlawfully, the police ultimately discovered that the license had been suspended, and Ladouceur was arrested. However, the question at hand was if the random stop and ultimate detainment of Mr. Ladouceur was constitutional. Ultimately, the nine judges of the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the random stop violated Ladouceur’s guaranteed section 7 right of life, liberty and security of the person, section 8 right to not be subjected to unreasonable search or seizure, and section 9 right to not be arbitrarily detained, provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the judges ultimately decided in a 5-4 decision, that under section 1 of the Charter, the random stop constituted a reasonable limit to these rights, on the basis that random traffic stops were necessary for the safety of all, and the conviction was upheld.
Québec’s Human Rights Commission known as La commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, defines racial profiling as, “any action taken by [...] people in authority [...] for reasons of safety, security or public order, that is based on factors such as race, colour, ethnic or national origin or religion, without factual grounds or reasonable suspicion, that results in [...] differential treatment or scrutiny.”
According to Blain, “Racial profiling is simply a result of the shock when they realize that some of us actually beat the system, a system that was devised to keep us behind bars or six feet under.”
Fatima defines racial profiling as: “a way for the justice system to recreate the atrocities that happened during the segregation without using blatant extremes. It is a way to hurt the POC communities by showing a lack of tolerance and humanity that will maybe go unnoticed, and hurting black youth and black people, by targeting them subtly. This makes us fear a system that is supposed to protect us.”
Recently re-elected premier of Québec François Legault, is notorious for denying the presence of systemic racism in the province. In a press conference following the decision, Legault noted: “When we talk about traffic stops, we have to let the police do their jobs when we see the violence in Montreal, in certain neighborhoods [...] I have full confidence in our police and it’s important to support them.” Legault’s comment specifically targets communities riddled by gun violence and other crimes, yet this further perpetuates the issue of racial profiling and overpolicing in racialized communities. Alarmingly, the CAQ has legislative authority to appeal the ruling of the Superior Court.
Reggiany recounts her own personal connection to instances of racial profiling: “As a person of colour who has lived through various instances of racial profiling, it is a real thing that is oftentimes taken too lightly. It’s horrible to have to feel scared and vulnerable, and wondering if the police are there for a valid reason, or there because of my skin color, or if I am going to make it back home alive or if I am going to be killed.”
Reggiany continues, “If we as a society take a stance against racial profiling, we can truly enact change and positively impact racialized communities and people of colour by protecting their rights. It starts with us.” While this single ruling will not singlehandedly eradicate racial profiling, discrimination and systemic racism, it spearheads the battle for advantaging marginalized and racialized communities alike.
Fatima offers a widely-disseminated perspective, “When you see such things in the news, it shows a system that is targeting the group of individuals you identify with, and that is bound to make you feel unsafe. This makes a lot of us uncertain when it comes to the police and the justice system as a whole. Why support a system that is out to get us? Our only way of protecting ourselves and our futures is by aiming to change the justice system.”